Car and Driver said that the best thing about the F-Type is that it’s “the first Jaguar since the original E-type to look like rolling sex.” The magazine is hardly the first to link sex appeal and the svelte cats from Coventry. The beauty of the Jaguar E-Type, which debuted in 1961, was often described in rapturous tones, which made its foibles — the mistress could be fickle — all the more acute.
A 1961 E-Type Roadster is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, along with such icons as a Smart Car, an original Beetle, a military Jeep and a Cisitalia 202 GT. At the time, assistant curator Christopher Mount said, “Because of the E-Type’s beauty and sculptural quality, its functionality, and its seminal impact on overall car design, it perfectly suits the criteria of a landmark design object.”
The Museum of Modern Art's early 1961 E-Type Roadster. (Photo: MOMA)
It’s more than fair to say the F-Type is the E-Type’s direct descendant; the name alone gives that away. It’s actually surprising that Jaguar didn’t make an F-Type (there was a C and a D) earlier.
The F-Type's door handles pop out as you approach the car. (Photo: Jim Motavalli)
It’s funny how classic car prices work. E-Types, particularly the earliest ones with flat floors and exposed hood latches, have zoomed skyward in recent years. The launch price was just $5,895, but RM Auctions recently sold a ’61 not unlike MOMA’s car for $214,000. That’s for an exceptional example, though, and the $92,025 sticker price on my 2015 F-Type S tester should buy you a very, very nice E-Type also. So you spend your money and you take your choice.
I’ve been reading Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk and was fascinated to see he bought an E-Type with the first flush of cash his companies generated. His other pre-Tesla car was a McLaren. Is there a hint of Jaguar in the styling of the Model S? I’d say yes.
The E-Type was powered by the classic Jaguar XK straight six, initially in 3.8-liter form producing 265 horsepower. Translate that to today, and my supercharged F-Type now has a V-6 producing 380 horsepower. Interestingly, it adds 100 horsepower from smaller three-liter displacement. The supercharger isn’t ornamental.
Inside the Jaguar F-Type. Note the brightly colored starter button: She starts with a roar. (Photo: Jim Motavalli)
Driving it around my local streets, the F-Type was a bit of a caged beast, like a 70-mph-capable cheetah marooned in a zoo. Have you noticed that car magazines tend to test cars under ideal circumstances? C&D raced around the Spanish countryside in its F-Type and achieved a zero to 60 time of less than five seconds.
I experienced neck-snapping acceleration as the supercharger kicked in, then backed off as my wife shrieked and stop signs, school buses and life in general intervened. Suburbia is no home for feral cats, despite occasional mountain lion sightings in the rural-urban interface.
Approach the F-Type and its knife-edge door handles pop out to greet you. Start it, and the engine roars to life — and I mean roars to something like 4,000 rpm. It’s an affectation to give the driver (possibly living in the same tamed landscape I do) a bit of a thrill. You fall into this low car, and rear vision isn’t great, though the camera and blind-spot monitor make a good substitute.
In a sign of the times, there’s a $1,200 770-watt Meridian stereo, and no CD player. The latter is making a quick exit from many test cars.
The Autobahn would be this car’s natural habitat. The F-Type is a long-legged highway cruiser that doesn’t particularly want to drive 55. It would be tons of fun on lonely state roads in Nevada, or crossing international boundaries in Europe. Fuel economy is better than you’d think, at 22 combined (19/27 mpg).
The early E-Type looked good from any angle. (Photo: Jez/Flickr)
I’ve driven early E-Types a few times, and basically they’re a lot of fun to drive, but the performance (revolutionary then) is now exceeded by even modest sports cars today. My head hit the roof in a ’67 E Roadster, and the pedals were way too small and close together for my size 12 feet.
In E-Types, the Smith’s gauges and Lucas electrics are always an accident waiting to happen. And it was not considered blasphemy at the time to take out the XK engine, with its SU carburetors, and stuff a Chevy 350 under that shapely hood. (My neighbor had one like that. Pierre owned an E-Type in Manhattan, and he says it was in the shop most of the time. “I loved looking at it, though,” he recently told me.)
I interviewed Ian Callum, design director of Jaguar and the man responsible for the F-Type (as well as the XK, SF and XJ), but we didn’t talk about current models. Instead, he was enthralled by his new/old 1962 Jaguar Mark II, then taking shape at an English shop. No purist, he was replacing the 3.8 with a 4.2-liter engine, and adding a five-speed gearbox so he could junk the horrendous Moss ‘box the car came with.
“Being a designer, I can’t leave my cars alone,” Callum told me. “Much as I admire people who restore cars and bring them back to original specifications, I can’t do that myself.”
I’m with Callum. I think I’d go for a “resto-mod” like his car, too, even though the bottom line would inevitably be higher than I'd budgeted. The F-Type is gorgeous, but I love the classic styling more. So make mine an E-Type Mark II.
Here's video on the start-up procedure for a 4.2-liter E-Type coupe. Note that the owner taps the Smiths' tach to get it to read. And this is a restored car!
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