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Why Buy a Jaguar XKE E-type : In the Beginning


The Jaguar XKE (known as the E-type in Britain and most the rest of the world) was introduced at the Geneva Salon International Auto on Wednesday March 15, 1961. The original factory coupe that drove all the way from Coventry, England to Switzerland the day before the show and was then tidied up and presented to the press is still in existence. It has been restored to pristine condition by the noted Jaguar expert and writer, Philip Porter. The story of that car is told in his book “The Most Famous Car in the World“.

Given its sleek lines it is not surprising to learn that the XKE was shaped by a former aircraft engineer, Malcolm Sayer. The performance pedigree of the car can be traced to the Le Mans racing Jaguars of the 1950’s, the C-type and D-type. The E-type however was designed first and foremost as a high performance Grand Tourer rather than a race car – a car designed to get you comfortably across the Continent in speed and style. The reception of the new Jaguar was wildly enthusiastic, both because of its looks and its 150 mph performance. It is said that Enzo Ferrari himself called it the most beautiful car in the world – and indeed it was exhibited in New York as a work of art in modern design.

I have always had a thing for cars – my Dad always talked about MG T’s, Austin 7’s and the big American cars like the Auburn Speedster. The XKE, with that long sensual shape just seemed the perfect blend of implied power and agility coupled with style and sophistication. As a kid, and moving around  from Canada to the East Side of San Jose, California there were not a lot of these cats around in my life personally, but I was able to get some hands-on appreciation of them through Matchbox cars and plastic models. In high school I was an autoshop kid – learning how to service and rebuild American V8 engines, Holley carbs and the like.  I  also helped my Dad with his plane – a de Havilland Tiger Moth, a model which he had learned to fly in the war and picked up as a wreck in New Zealand. That was my first experience on a ‘rebuild’. There and in college I owned, worked on and restored a number of smaller British sports cars for fun and profit  including  the usual selection of MGA, MGB, Healy 100/6 and Spitfire. I learned a little about the E-types from a guy who rebuilt then mechanically for profit. Right after college I actually took a serious test drive in a tired looking XKE coupe that was for sale at a used car lot in San Jose. The car had a somewhat balky shifter and a notable clang from the rear end after every shift. Despite all that I never got over the feeling of power and control that came with hitting the gas and accelerating down the onramp and onto the 280 Freeway – thinking I could actually buy this beautiful car. Indescribable and addictive! However, not a practical car for someone who was about to move from California to Canada for graduate school – so I bought a BMW sedan instead. I would eventually spend time there and in the UK before coming back to California. In Canada I got a bug for Triumphs of the Tr3 and Tr6 sort for  restoration, but it was slow going due to all the rust and I sold the last project to a neighbor when I left. He is still working away on it! With the dry relatively rust-free climate and fairly decent supply of restorable sports cars in California I could realistically indulge my desire to have something fun and interesting to work on and drive on the weekends. I did a number of cars, but, an XKE still seemed like too much of a stretch in terms of a hobby car (I was not about to sell one of these if got one I liked was I). Acquisition costs, parts cost and the challenge of the mechanical work on a car I had little experience with…

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