The E-Type was initially designed and shown to the public as a rear-wheel drive grand tourer in two-seater coupé form (FHC or Fixed Head Coupé) and as a two-seater convertible (OTS or Open Two Seater). A "2+2" four-seater version of the coupé, with a lengthened wheelbase, was released several years later.
Later model updates of the E-Type were officially designated "Series 2" and "Series 3", and over time the earlier cars have come to be referred to as "Series 1." As with other largely hand made cars of the time, changes were incremental and ongoing, which has led to confusion over exactly what is a Series 1 car. This is of more than academic interest, as Series 1 E-Types—and particularly Series 1 OTS (convertible) examples—have values far in excess of Series 2 and 3 models.
Some transitional examples exist. For example, while Jaguar itself never recognised a "Series 1½" or "Series 1.5," over time, this sub-category has been recognised by the Jaguar Owners Club of Great Britain and other leading authorities. The "pure" 4.2-litre Series 1 was made in model years 1965-1967 (earlier Series 1 models had a smaller, 3.8-litre engine with less torque). The 4.2-litre Series 1 has serial or VIN numbers 1E10001 - 1E15888 (in the case of the left hand drive OTS), and 1E30001 - 1E34249 (in the case of the left hand drive hardtop, or FHC). The Series 1.5 left hand drive OTS has serial numbers 1E15889 - 1E18368, with the hardtop version of the Series 1.5 having VIN numbers 1E34250 - 1E35815. Series 1.5 cars were made in model year 1968.
The Series 1 cars, which are by far the most valuable, essentially fall into two categories: Those made between 1961 and 1964, which had 3.8-litre engines and non-synchromesh transmissions, and those made between 1965-1967, which increased engine size and torque by around 10%, added a fully synchronised transmission, and also provided new reclining seats, an alternator in place of the prior generator, an electrical system switched to negative earth, and other modern amenities, all while keeping the same classic Series 1 styling. The 4.2-litre Series 1 E-Types also replaced the brake servo of the 3.8-litre with a more reliable unit. "The 4.2 became the most desirable version of the famous E-Type due to their increased power and usability while retaining the same outward appearance as the earlier cars."
As of the end of 2014, the most expensive regular production Jaguar E-Types sold at auction included a 4.2-litre Series 1 OTS, with matching numbers, original paint and interior, under 80,000 original miles, and a history of being in the original buyer's family for 45 years (this car sold for $467,000 in 2013) and a 1961 "flat floor" Series 1, selling for $528,000 in 2014. Special run racing lightweights go for far more still, with a Series 1 lightweight—one of just twelve built—selling for more than £5 million (+/- $7.5 million USD) in early 2015.
Being a British made car of the 1960s, there are some rather rare sub-types of Series 1 E-Types, particularly at the beginning and end of the Series 1 production. For example, the first 500 Series 1 cars had flat floors and external bonnet latches. At the close of the Series 1 production run, there were a small number of cars produced that are identical in every respect to other Series 1 units (including triple SU carbs, button actuated starter, toggle switches, etc.), except that the headlight covers were removed for better illumination. It is not known exactly how many of these Series 1 cars (sometimes referred to as for convenience sake as "Series 1.25," but per Jaguar, Series 1) were produced, but given that 1,508 Series 1 OTS cars were produced worldwide for 1967, combined with the fact that these examples were made in just the last several months of Series 1 production, means that these, like the flat floor examples that began the Series 1 production run, are the lowest volume Series 1 variant, save of course for the special lightweights.
Worldwide, including both left and right hand drive examples, a total of 7,828 3.8-litre Series 1 roadsters were built, with 6,749 of the later 4.2-litre Series 1 roadsters having been manufactured.
While the 1968 Series 1.5 cars maintained the essential design of the Series 1 models, emission regulations caused US models to lose the Series 1 triple SU carburetors; these were replaced in the Series 1.5 by less powerful twin Zenith-Stromberg units, dropping horsepower from 265 to 246 and torque from 283 to 263.
Of the "Series 1" cars, Jaguar manufactured some limited-edition variants, inspired by motor racing:The "'Lightweight' E-Type" which was intended as a sort of follow-up to the D-Type. Jaguar planned to produce 18 units but ultimately only a dozen were reportedly built. Of those, two have been converted to low drag form and two others are known to have been wrecked and deemed to be beyond repair, although one has now been rebuilt. These are exceedingly rare and sought after by collectors. *The "Low Drag Coupé" was a one-off technical exercise which was ultimately sold to a Jaguar racing driver. It is presently believed to be part of the private collection of the current Viscount Cowdray. In 2014, Jaguar announced its intention to build the remaining six lightweights, at a cost of approximately £1 million each.
Safety and emissions regulations in the North American market forced the Series 2 and 3 E-Types to lose "the original's purity, with a larger grille, wider wheel arches and bigger bumpers being added that distorted the (Series 1's) looks."
The New York City Museum of Modern Art recognised the significance of the E-Type's design in 1996 by adding a blue roadster to its permanent design collection, one of only six automobiles to receive the distinction. The MoMA XKE is a Series 1 roadster.
After the company's success at the Le Mans 24 hr through the 1950s, Jaguar's defunct racing department was given the brief to use D-Type style construction to build a road-going sports car, replacing the XK150.
The first prototype (E1A) featured a monocoque design, Jaguar's fully independent rear suspension and the well proven "XK" engine. The car was used solely for factory testing and was never formally released to the public. The car was eventually scrapped by the factory.
Jaguar's second E-Type concept was E2A which, unlike the E1A, was constructed from a steel chassis with an aluminium body. This car was completed as a racing car as it was thought by Jaguar at the time it would provide a better testing ground. E2A used a 3-litre version of the XK engine with a Lucas fuel injection system.
After retiring from the Le Mans 24 hr the car was shipped to America to be used for racing by Jaguar privateer Briggs Cunningham. In 1961, the car returned to Jaguar in England to be used as a test vehicle. Ownership of E2A passed to Roger Woodley (Jaguar's customer competition car manager) who took possession on the basis the car not be used for racing. E2A had been scheduled to be scrapped. Roger's wife owned E2A until 2008 when it was offered for sale at Bonham's Quail Auction, where it sold for US$4,957,000.
The Series 1 was introduced, initially for export only, in March 1961. The domestic market launch came four months later in July 1961. The cars at this time used the triple SU carburetted 3.8-litre six-cylinder Jaguar XK6 engine from the XK150S. Earlier built cars utilised external bonnet latches which required a tool to open and had a flat floor design. These cars are rare and more valuable. After that, the floors were dished to provide more leg room and the twin bonnet latches moved to inside the car. The 3.8-litre engine was increased to 4.2 litres in October 1964.
The 4.2-litre engine produced the same power as the 3.8-litre (265 bhp;198 kW) and same top speed (150 mph;241 km/h), but increased torque approximately 10% from 240 to 283 lb·ft (325 to 384 N·m). Acceleration remained pretty much the same and 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) times were around 6.4 seconds for both engines, but maximum power was now reached at 5,400rpm instead of 5,500rpm on the 3.8-litre. That all meant better throttle response for drivers that did not want to shift down gears. The 4.2-litre's block was completely redesigned, made longer to accommodate 5mm larger bores, and the crankshaft modified to use newer bearings. Other engine upgrades included a new alternator/generator and an electric cooling fan for the radiator.
Autocar road tested a UK spec E-Type 4.2 fixed head coupe in May 1965. The maximum speed was 153 mph (246 km/h), the 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) time was 7.6 seconds and the 1⁄4 mile (402 m) from a standing start took 15.1 seconds. They summarised it as "In its 4.2 guise the E-type is a fast car (the fastest we have ever tested) and offers just about the easiest way to travel quickly by road.".
Motor magazine road tested a UK spec E-Type 4.2 fixed head coupe in Oct 1964. The maximum speed was 150 mph (241 km/h), the 0-60 mph time was 7 seconds and the 1⁄4 mile time was 14.9 seconds. They summarised it as "The new 4.2 supersedes the early 3.8 as the fastest car Motor has tested. The absurd ease which 100 mph can be exceeded in a 1⁄4 mile never failed to astonish. 3,000 miles of testing confirms that this is still one of the worlds outstanding cars".
All E-Types featured independent coil spring rear suspension with torsion bar front ends, and four wheel disc brakes, in-board at the rear, all were power-assisted. Jaguar was one of the first vehicle manufacturers to equip cars with disc brakes as standard from the XK150 in 1958. The Series 1 (except for late 1967 models) can be recognised by glass-covered headlights (up to 1967), small "mouth" opening at the front, signal lights and tail-lights above bumpers and exhaust tips under the number plate in the rear.
3.8-litre cars have leather-upholstered bucket seats, an aluminium-trimmed centre instrument panel and console (changed to vinyl and leather in 1963), and a Moss four-speed gearbox that lacks synchromesh for first gear ("Moss box"). 4.2-litre cars have more comfortable seats, improved brakes and electrical systems, and an all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox. 4.2-litre cars also have a badge on the boot proclaiming "Jaguar 4.2 Litre E-Type" (3.8 cars have a simple "Jaguar" badge). Optional extras included chrome spoked wheels and a detachable hard top for the OTS. When leaving the factory the car was originally fitted with Dunlop 6.40 × 15 inch RS5 tyres on 15 × 5K wire wheels (with the rear fitting 15 × 5K½ wheels supplied with 6.50 X15 Dunlop Racing R5 tyres in mind of competition). Later Series One cars were fitted with Dunlop 185 - 15 SP41 or 185 VR 15 Pirelli Cinturato as radial ply tyres.
A 2+2 version of the fastback coupé was added in 1966. The 2+2 offered the option of an automatic transmission. The body is 9 in (229 mm) longer and the roof angles are different. The roadster and the non 2+2 FHC (Fixed Head Coupe) remained as two-seaters.
Less widely known, right at the end of Series 1 production, but prior to the transitional "Series 1½" referred to below, a small number of Series 1 cars were produced, with open headlights. These Series 1 cars had their headlights modified by removing the covers and altering the scoops they sit in, but these Series 1 headlights differ in several respects from those later used in the Series 1½ (or 1.5), the main being they are shorter at 143 mm from the Series 1½ at 160 mm. Production dates on these machines vary but in right hand drive form production has been verified as late as March 1968. Exact production numbers of these later Series 1 open headlight cars are not precisely known. They are not "rare" in the sense of the build of the twelve lightweights, but they are certainly uncommon; they were not produced until January 1967, and their production ended that same summer, with the Series 1.5 production beginning in August 1967 as model year 1968 models. These calendar year/model year Series 1 E-Type 's are identical to other 4.2-litre Series 1 examples in every respect except for the open headlights; all other component areas, including the exterior, the interior, and the engine compartment are the same, with the same three SU carburetors, polished aluminum cam covers, center dash toggle switches, etc.
Following the Series 1 there was a transitional series of cars built in 1967–68 as model year 1968 cars, unofficially called "Series 1½." Due to American pressure the new features were not just open headlights, but also different switches (black plastic rocker switches as opposed to the Series 1 toggle switches), de-tuning (using two Zenith-Stromberg carburetters instead of the original three SUs) for US models, ribbed cam covers painted black except for the top brushed aluminum ribbing, hood frames on the OTS that have two bows, and other changes. Series 1½ cars also have twin cooling fans and adjustable seat backs. The biggest change between 1961-1967 Series 1 E-Types and the 1968 Series 1.5 was the reduction in the number of carburetors from 3 to just 2, resulting in a loss in horsepower from 265 to 246 and a loss in torque from 283 to 263. Series 2 features were gradually introduced into the Series 1, creating the unofficial Series 1½ cars, but always with the Series 1 body style. A United States federal safety law affecting 1968 model year cars sold in the US was the reason for the lack of headlight covers and change in dash switch design in the "Series 1.5" of 1968. An often overlooked change, one that is often "modified back" to the older style, is the wheel knock-off "nut." US safety law for 1968 models also forbid the winged-spinner knockoff, and any 1968 model year sold in the US (or earlier German delivery cars) should have a hexagonal knockoff nut, to be hammered on and off with the assistance of a special "socket" included with the car from the factory. This hexagonal nut carried on into the later Series 2 and 3. The engine configuration of the US Series 1.5s was the same as is found in the Series 2, and per the JCNA Judges' Guide, "only MY '68 E-types are true Series 1.5s."
An open 3.8-litre car, actually the first such production car to be completed, was tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1961 and had a top speed of 149.1 mph (240.0 km/h) and could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) in 7.1 seconds. A fuel consumption of 21.3 miles per imperial gallon (13.3 L/100 km; 17.7 mpg‑US) was recorded. The test car cost £2,097 including taxes.
The cars submitted for road test by the popular motoring journals of the time (1961) such as The Motor, The Autocar and Autosport magazines were specially prepared by the Jaguar works to give better-than-standard performance figures. This work entailed engine balancing and subtle work such as gas-flowing the cylinder heads and may even have involved fitting larger diameter inlet valves.
Both of the well-known 1961 road test cars: the E-type Coupe Reg. No. 9600 HP and E-type Convertible Reg. No. 77 RW, were fitted with Dunlop Racing Tyres on test, which had a larger rolling diameter and lower drag co-efficient. This goes some way to explaining the 150 mph (240 km/h) maximum speeds that were obtained under ideal test conditions. The maximum safe rev limit for standard 6-cylinder 3.8-litre E-type engines is 5,500 rpm. The later 4.2-Litre units had a red marking on the rev counter from just 5,000 rpm. Both test cars must have reached or exceeded 6,000 rpm in top gear when on road test in 1961.
Production numbers from Robson:15,490 3.8s
The Series 2 introduced a number of design changes, largely due to U.S. design legislation. The most distinctive exterior feature is the absence of the glass headlight covers, which affected several other imported cars, like the Citroën DS, as well. Unlike other cars, this retrograde step was applied worldwide for the E-Type, not just to Americans living under the authority of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.
Other hallmarks of Series 2 cars are a wrap-around rear bumper, re-positioned and larger front indicators and tail lights below the bumpers, an enlarged "mouth" which aided cooling but detracted from the Series I design purity, twin electric fans, plastic rocker switches in place of the Series I toggle switches, and, of course most importantly, a material downgrading in performance resulting from a switch from the three SU carburetors used in Series I models to a mere two "smogged" Stromberg carbs, reducing horsepower from 265 to 246 and reducing torque from 283 to 263.
A combination steering lock and ignition key was fitted to the steering column, which replaced the dashboard mounted ignition switch and charismatic push button starter. A new steering column was fitted with a collapsible section in the event of an accident.
New seats were fitted which allowed the fitment of head restraints, as required by U.S. law beginning in 1969. The interior and dashboard were also redesigned; rocker switches that met US health and safety regulations were substituted for toggle switches. The dashboard switches also lost their symmetrical layout.
The engine is easily identified visually by the change from smooth polished cam covers to a more industrial "ribbed" appearance. It was de-tuned in the US with twin Strombergs and larger valve clearances, but in the UK retained triple SUs and the much tighter valve clearances. (Series 1½ cars also had ribbed cam covers). This detuned engine produced 245 hp (183 kW), a drop of 20 hp.
Air conditioning and power steering were available as factory options.
Production according to Robson is 13,490 of all types.
Series 2 production numbers:
Official delivery numbers by market and year are listed in Porter but no summary totals are given.
The E-Type Series 3 was introduced in 1971, with a new 5.3 L twelve cylinder Jaguar V12 engine, uprated brakes and standard power steering. Optionally an automatic transmission, wire wheels and air conditioning were available. The brand new V12 engine was originally developed for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was equipped with four Zenith carburettors. The final engine was claimed to produce 203 kW (272 hp), more torque, and a 0-60 mph acceleration of less than 7 seconds, but this bhp figure was reduced in later production. The short wheelbase FHC body style was discontinued, with the Series 3 available only as a convertible and 2+2 coupé.
Performance was competitive with contemporary luxury marques:
The newly used longer wheelbase now offered significantly more room in all directions. The Series 3 is easily identifiable by the large cross-slatted front grille, flared wheel arches, wider tyres, four exhaust tips and a badge on the rear that proclaims it to be a V12.
Cars for the US market were fitted with large projecting rubber bumper over-riders (in 1973 these were on front, in 1974 both front and rear) to meet local 5 mph (8 km/h) impact regulations, but those on European models were considerably smaller. US models also have side indicator repeats on the front wings. There were also a very limited number of six-cylinder Series 3 E-Types built. These were featured in the initial sales procedure but the lack of demand stopped their production. When leaving the factory the V12 Open Two Seater and V12 2 ± 2 originally fitted Dunlop E70VR − 15 inch tyres on 15 × 6K wire or solid wheels.
The Jaguar factory claimed that fitting a set of Jaguar XJ12 saloon steel-braced radial-ply tyres to a V12 E-Type raised the top speed by as much as 8 mph. The production car was fitted with textile-braced radial ply tyres. This fact was reported by the editor of The Motor magazine in the long-term test of his E-type edition dated 4 August 1973, who ran a V12 fixed head for a while.
Robson lists production at 15,290.
Series 3 production numbers:
Two limited production E-Type variants were made as test beds, the low drag coupe and lightweight E-Type, both of which were raced:
Shortly after the introduction of the E-Type, Jaguar management wanted to investigate the possibility of building a car more in the spirit of the D-Type racer from which elements of the E-Type's styling and design were derived. One car was built to test the concept designed as a coupé. Unlike the steel production E-Types, the LDC used lightweight aluminium. Malcolm Sayer retained the original tub with lighter outer panels riveted and glued to it. The front steel sub frame remained intact, the windshield was given a more pronounced slope, and the rear hatch was welded shut. Rear brake cooling ducts appeared next to the rear windows, and the interior trim was discarded, with only insulation around the transmission tunnel. With the exception of the windscreen, all cockpit glass was perspex. A tuned version of Jaguar's 3.8-litre engine with a wide-angle cylinder head design tested on the D-Type racers was used.
The only test bed car was completed in summer of 1962 but was sold a year later to Jaguar racing driver Dick Protheroe. Since then it has passed through the hands of several collectors on both sides of the Atlantic and is now believed to reside in the private collection of the current Viscount Cowdray.
Peter Lindner, the Jaguar distributor in Germany, had his Lightweight modified by the factory to include the Sayer low drag roof and rear panels as part of an effort to win the GT class at LeMans. Lindner's car was more than a match for the Ferrari 250 GTO but mechanical problems forced it out of the race. Lindner was later killed in a racing accident that demolished his car, which has recently been restored.
Jaguar waited too long before committing to a racing program in earnest and what could have been a world champion in 1962 was not competitive by 1965.
Twelve cars plus two spare bodies were made by Jaguar.
In some ways, this was an evolution of the low drag coupé. It made extensive use of aluminium alloy metal, in the body panels and other components. However, with at least one exception, it remained an open-top car in the spirit of the D-Type to which this car is a more direct successor than the production E-Type which is more of a GT than a sports car. The cars used an aluminium block tuned version of the production 3.8-litre Jaguar engine with 300 bhp (220 kW) output rather than the 265 bhp (198 kW) produced by the "ordinary" version. Factory-built lightweights were homologated by Jaguar with three 45DCO3 Weber carburettors in addition to a Lucas mechanical fuel injection system. Early cars were fitted with a close-ratio version of the four speed E-type gearbox, with some later cars being fitted with a ZF five speed gearbox.
The cars were entered in various races but, unlike the C-Type and D-Type racing cars, they did not win at Le Mans or Sebring but were reasonably successful in private hands and in smaller races.
One lightweight was modified into a low drag coupé (the Lindner/Nöcker car), by Malcolm Sayer.
Another lightweight was modified into a unique low drag design (the Lumsden/Sargent car), by Dr Samir Klat of Imperial College. Along with the factory LDC, this lightweight is now believed to reside in the private collection of the current Viscount Cowdray.
Many were fitted with more powerful engines as developments occurred.
On 14 May 2014, Jaguar's Heritage Business announced it would be building the six 'remaining' lightweights. The original run of lightweights was meant to be 18 vehicles; however only 12 were built. The new cars, using the unused chassis codes, will be hand built to exactly the same specification as the originals. Availability was prioritised for established collectors of Jaguars, with a focus on those who have an interest in historic race cars.
Bob Jane won the 1963 Australian GT Championship at the wheel of a "lightweight" E-Type.
The Jaguar E-Type was very successful in SCCA Production sports car racing with Group44 and Bob Tullius taking the B-Production championship with a Series-3 V12 racer in 1975. A few years later, Gran-Turismo Jaguar from Cleveland Ohio campaigned a 4.2-litre six-cylinder FHC racer in SCCA production series, and in 1980 won the National Championship in the SCCA C-Production Class, defeating a fully funded factory Nissan Z-car team with Paul Newman.
The 1986 UK black comedy film Car Trouble centers around a 1965 E-Type.