In 1961 after years of speculation, Jaguar uncaged the ultimate cat, the XKE. This car was so outstanding that all the other cars paled before it. It was the last of the great racing cars that could be driven on the road. The performance was wild and exciting yet the car exuded beauty and luxury.
The magnificent body was designed in a wind tunnel by Malcolm Sayer, an outstanding aircraft designer. It was crafted of 20-gauge sheet metal with welding monocoupe construction. This allowed savings in weight since there was no heavy frame. There were many innovations introduced in this car.
The first model introduced in 1961 was the Series I E-type. It was fitted with 3.8 liter 6 cylinder engine with twin overhead cams, and three SUHD8 carburetors. This configuration produced 265 h.p. The car had a 4-speed transmission, 4-wheel Dunlop disc brakes with the rear discs fitted next to the differential to reduce the unsprung weight, and independent 4-wheel suspension. In 1964 the 3.8 liter car was replaced by the 4.2 liter car. The main improvements were an increase in torque, and a much needed, a fully synchronized gearbox. An alternator replaced the generator which resulted in a negative earth system rather than a positive ground. Also, the interior was changed considerably with matte black replacing the stylish but reflective aluminum dash.
In 1968, the E-type's frontal shape was altered to comply with the new U.S. regulations. The new model was called the series 1 1/2. The headlights were moved forward 3 inches and the covers were removed. The turn signals and brake lights were changed and a 4-seat version coupe (2+2) was introduced. These changes to satisfy the U.S. regulations cost quite a few miles per hour in top speed and extra fuel consumption.
The Series II model, introduced in 1969 was cut down to size in performance by U.S. regulations. The regulations became dictatorial over the bumpers, lights, interior and exhaust emissions. This was the beginning of the end for the E-type. The top speed dropped to 120 mph, and Jaguar had to make some changes to restore the performance.
In 1971 in order to pep up the Big Cat, the V-12 engine was installed and known as the Series III. With the additional weight and bulk, the car became an exceedingly fast tourer rather than a racing sports car. The Series III was smooth and silky with ultra-light power steering and an automatic transmission option. The car produced 325 h.p. without the emission controls but only 272 h.p. in the U.S. version. Even the V-12 engine, the sizzling performance of the original E-type version was unmatched. The policy of Federal strangulation became more intense until in 1974, production of the E-type was discontinued.
In reviewing the progression of the E-types, history records that the first E-types were probably the best pure sports car ever built; the series I, 4.2, was the best all around version. Contemporary road tests recorded a top speed of 153 mph. (180 mph. with the optional 2.88 to 1 axle), 0 to 60 in 6.8 seconds and 0 to 100 mph and back to 0 in 20 seconds.
Currently, good E-types are available in the $30,000 range for roadsters with the coupes averaging about 75% of the roadsters. Some Concourse roadsters are selling in the $100,000 range. Although rare, good, solid un-restored original cars are occasionally found in the $15,000 to $20,000 range. Project cars are available in the $10,000 to $20,000 range. However, extensive metal work may be required since these cars had a propensity to rust badly.
The Big Cat is recommended as an investment car both due to its potential profitability as well as the thrill of driving the ultimate CAT.