The Jaguar E-Type – A true British motoring icon

Posted on November 24th, 2011 by James Luckhurst

The Jaguar E-type will be presented with an Engineering Heritage Award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers today (Friday 25 November). This British classic, which Enzo Ferrari called ‘the most beautiful car ever made’, will join the world’s first railway locomotive, the Vulcan Bomber and Bletchley Park’s Bombe code-breaking machine on the list of award winners. The E-type will become the first and only automobile to win a Heritage Award, which celebrates Britain’s greatest engineering feats.

The most advanced sports car in the world upon its release in 1961, the Jaguar E-type became one of the most enduring symbols of the Swinging Sixties, with celebrities from Tony Curtis to Brigitte Bardot among its 72,000 owners. The engineering behind the E-type is equally impressive. Designed and manufactured in Coventry, the car could reach speeds of up to 150mph – unrivalled for a car on sale to the general public – and its sleek, curvaceous design was shaped by the emerging field of automotive aerodynamics. The E-type also pioneered breakthrough engineering technology – its combined monoque spaceframe would later be adopted by Formula One.

I have enduring memories of E-type journeys. The first was as a passenger, being driven across London by an eccentric uncle. My memory is sketchy but I think he nicknamed the car Ada. She was yellow and very high profile, so I was probably at an age where it was mildy embarrassing to be this much ‘on view’. Uncle George was a church organist, and I remember him telling me he had been warned by his vicar not to park too close to church when playing for funerals, as the sight of Ada might have been a bit inappropriate or off-putting for mourners.

More recently, in 1997, I had a chance to drive an E-type, and I can remember the thrill that came with switching on the ignition, engaging D for Drive and nosing out onto the road. We were supposed to be doing a twin test of the E-type versus the then brand new XK8, but I think the latter malfunctioned on its way to us, so we were unable to review the two side by side. The E-type was, of course, amazing to drive, with all that engine under such a big long bonnet – and so good looking, too.

The Jaguar E-Type – A true British motoring iconI would definitely concur with Professor Isobel Pollock, President Elect of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, who will be presenting the award to the E-type today. She said: “The E-type is truly one of Britain’s greatest engineering triumphs, defining a decade and putting the Midlands car industry on the world stage. This award is in honour of those Coventry engineers and designers that produced the fastest, most advanced sports car in the world on its release. We also want to give recognition to Jaguar, which continues to act as a standard-bearer for UK manufacturing to this day. ”

I also agree wholeheartedly with Mike Beasley, former managing director of Jaguar, in recognising that the E-type remains one of the most iconic cars ever made. “Its design and engineering continue to inspire the Jaguars of the future,” he said. Well, long may it occupy such an important place in British automotive history!