Launch of the Jaguar E Type
By the beginning of the 1960s, Jaguar needed a new car to replace the XK series. Improvements such as disc brakes and a styling facelift had helped to rejuvenate the range but there was no disguising its age. The time had come for the E Type a car that was an absolute sensation at its Geneva Motor Show launch in March 1961.
One of the greatest attractions of the E Type was its perceived racing heritage. The cars shape and many of its structural features were direct adaptations of the D Type Le Mans racers. The D-Type, unlike its C Type predecessor, used a monocoque construction which provided great strength coupled with light weight. Although simplified somewhat for the E Type, this stressed skin construction was still recognisable in the bulkhead behind the engine, in front of the windscreen and in the deep sills. It was obvious too where the styling for the E Type had come from. The old and upright look of the last of the XKs had gone and the D Types influence was clearly visible.
For the suspension only detail changes were required at the front to adapt Jaguars existing double wishbone and longitudinal torsion bar arrangement, which had been well regarded ever since it was introduced on the Mark V. At the rear though something new had to be done in place of the XKs heavy cart sprung rear axle, and that was the introduction of independent rear suspension (IRS).
Jaguar did have some limited experience with IRS, having tried it on a small experimental military vehicle during World War II. Later it was also tried on the D Type, but only once in an actual race.
For the new car, erring on the side of caution such was its departure from the companys previous systems the suspension was rather heavier in construction than might be expected of a sports car. That in itself was an indication that the E Type was first and foremost regarded as a road car rather than a replacement Le Mans contender.
In the braking department Jaguar were already well known for their pioneering work on disc brakes in place of drums. By the time the E Type was launched, Jaguar had nearly ten years of development and experience, and the systems had been greatly improved and simplified. One pair of quick change pads per wheel ensured that the callipers were of a more reasonable and manageable size than those seen on the previous XKs.
For the engine, the existing XK unit was more than adequate, particular in its most recent 3.8 litre 265 bhp guise as found in the XK150S. 260 ft lb of torque at 4000 rpm meant that there was plenty of low down torque, which also made it easy to forgive the slow change, long throw and non synchromesh first gear in the rather archaic gearbox.
The cars performance was breathtaking at the time. One of the press cars 9600HP, a fixed head just managed the magic 150 mph. The new rear suspension gave the car excellent road holding and a level of ride and comfort that was unheard of for a performance car. The shape was stunning and the price unbelievable: at 1,480GBP it was around half that of an Aston Martin, and a third of the price of contemporary Ferraris.