Jaguar XK-EsEnlarge Photo
The fact that the XK-E, or E-type for non-U.S. markets, is not mostly remembered for being one of the fastest production cars you could buy when introduced in 1961 says something. The gorgeous body design by Malcolm Sayer was so good that Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful car in the world.” Combining such good looks with a race-tested chassis and engine, and you have the winning combination for the what many regard as the best sports car to come out of the 1960s.
The origins of the XK-E came from the D-type race cars, as the car used the same monocoque tub and triangulated front sub-frame that was used in its construction. The car used the same 3.8L twin cam inline-six equipped with triple carburetors that was used in the previous XK-150, as well as its four speed gearbox. The car was Jaguar’s first sports car to feature a fully independent suspension.
While the press cars would reach speeds of 150 mph, regular production cars could easily reach speeds up to 140 miles an hour. An acceleration time of 7.5 to 60 mph was quite for its time. Customers could choose between the classic roadster and the more practical coupe.
Like most sports cars, the XK-E evolved over time to remain competitive. Later in 1965, the displacement increased to 4.2L and a fully synchronized gearbox. In 1966, the less-than-lovely 2+2 Jaguar came out, the coupe-only car boasted a taller roof, a stretched chassis, and rear seats meant for children. 1969 saw the Series II XK-E come out which didn’t change too much from the original. It came with exposed headlights, larger bumpers, as well as niceties like better insulation, heated rear window on the coupes and a forgiving clutch.
The biggest change came in 1971, when the Series III was introduced. The inline-six by this time was getting choked by U.S. smog regulations, and so in order to restore some of the Jag’s performance, they introduced the 5.3L V-12 which brought performance numbers back to 1961 numbers. Also safety regulations forced larger, uglier safety bumpers and larger lights onto the XK-E, and the car lost all the charisma and charm that the Series I and Series II cars and the last cars were sold in 1975.
Overall production numbers of the XK-E reached to 72,233 over its 14 year production. Coupes and roadster numbers were closely split between the two, but about 80 percent of all XK-Es were shipped over to America. Finding one today isn’t hard, but be prepared to pay for nice examples.