Written by independent automotive journalist Tom Jensen
From its public debut at the Geneva Auto Show in March 1961, the Jaguar XKE has delighted both skilled drivers and those who appreciate fine design, elegance and style in a high-performance sports car.
The original Jaguar XKE, or E-Type as it was known, dazzled the critics with its mixture of sleek, sensual lines, British refinement and outstanding road manners.
When the display model arrived at Geneva just 20 minutes before its scheduled unveiling, it caused such a stir that Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis was told to drop everything in England and drive all night to deliver a second E-Type to Geneva for press rides.
The design of the new British sports car was a stunning success. No less an authority than the legendary Enzo Ferrari described the E-Type as “the most beautiful car ever made,” while the celebrated automotive journalist Henry N. Manney III famously called it “the greatest crumpet collector known to man.”
“Stylistically, the car appeared to come from the future,” wrote Phil Patton in the New York Times in 2011, while Jaguar was celebrating the car’s 50th birthday. “With its dramatic oval face and sleek body, as feline and predatory as the Jaguar name promised, it arrived into a world of tailfins like a jet fighter among prop planes.” Appropriately enough, Patton’s story was titled, “The Jaguar E-Type Is Still an Object of Desire.”
Oh, yes, it was an object of desire – and still very much is. In this case, though, the beauty was far from skin deep. Mechanically, the XKE broke new ground, too, with such radical innovations as an aircraft-style monocoque chassis, inboard disc brakes and a powerful 3.8-liter inline 6-cylinder engine mated to a quick-shifting 4-speed transmission. In short, this Jaguar represented a revolution in both sports-car design and technology.
So significant is the E-Type that even today, 57 years after its introduction, one is on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the vintage sports-car world, the Jaguar XKE is prized and adored by collectors.
And at the 2018 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction on Saturday, January 20, bidders will have the opportunity to purchase one of the most desirable E-Types ever built: A first-year E-Type roadster from 1961 (Lot #1392), trimmed out in Opalescent Dark Blue paint over a stunning red leather interior.
Manufactured on June 22, 1961, this E-Type comes equipped with all the features collectors covet in early examples of this model: welded hood louvers, flat floors and outside bonnet latches.
According to the consignor, VIN #875132 has undergone a painstaking and meticulous restoration done to the absolute highest standards. This E-Type was completely disassembled, with a team of master craftsmen paying strict and careful attention to documenting the process as they went about their work.
First, the body was stripped to bare metal and given a full rotisserie restoration. Then it was restored and repaired with metalwork and lead where needed. All the chrome trim and body parts were attached to the Jaguar while it was still bare metal to ensure proper fit and quality.
Next, the body was primed, sealed and finished in a base coat of Opalescent Dark Blue, which was then clear-coated. That was followed by color sanding and buffing to a deep, lustrous finish, to highlight the elegant and sensual lines of the car. The brightwork was replated to show-quality and reinstalled.
As you would expect, the mechanicals were treated to a painstaking and historically accurate restoration that included restoring or replacing the 4-speed manual transmission, clutch and hydraulics, along with new rubber, grommets and seals.
Naturally, the interior leather was replaced by master upholsterers in the correct red color, which provides a chic and dynamic contrast to the deep blue paint.
Did we mention that this was an early-production car? According to the Jaguar Heritage Trust, production of left-hand driver E-Type roadsters – “Open Two-Seater LHD” in Jaguar lingo – began with VIN #875001, and this one is VIN #875132. It really is one of the very early examples of its kind to be built.
With its spectacular restoration, early serial number and stunning color combination, this E-Type doubtless will provide the wow factor that sophisticated collectors are looking for in a top-quality classic British roadster.
And, yes, it’s every bit as beautiful and breathtaking as it was in 1961.
For up-to-date information on this vehicle, click HERE.