The 1961 Series I Jaguar E-Type, also known as the XK-E in the United States, is an automotive legend that continues to captivate enthusiasts and collectors around the world. Its iconic design, high-performance capabilities, and engineering innovations made it an instant classic when it was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1961. Let’s explore the full history of this remarkable model year that set the stage for the enduring legacy of the Jaguar E-Type.

Predecessors and Inspiration:

The Series I Jaguar E-Type was a direct successor to the legendary Jaguar XK150. It inherited design elements and technical innovations from the XK series, particularly the XK150’s proven inline-six engine and the foundation of its chassis. The XK150 had already established Jaguar’s reputation for producing high-performance sports cars that were also comfortable and elegant for touring.

Unveiling and Instant Acclaim:

The E-Type’s unveiling at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show was nothing short of a sensation. The elegant yet aggressive design, penned by aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer, turned heads and garnered immediate acclaim. Enzo Ferrari himself reportedly called it the most beautiful car ever made.

The Series I E-Type was available in two body styles – the open-top Roadster and the Fixed Head Coupe (FHC). The Roadster featured a sleek, convertible design, while the FHC offered the elegance of a fastback coupe.

Monocoque Construction:

One of the key technical innovations of the Series I E-Type was its monocoque construction. The body and chassis formed a single, integral structure, enhancing rigidity and reducing weight. This design choice contributed to the car’s exceptional handling and performance, making it a true driver’s car.

Powertrain and Performance:

The 1961 Series I E-Type was equipped with a 3.8-liter inline-six engine derived from the XK150, but further refined for the E-Type. This engine featured triple SU carburetors and produced an impressive 265 horsepower, allowing the car to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 7 seconds and reach a top speed of approximately 150 mph (241 km/h).

Independent Suspension and Disc Brakes:

Another aspect that set the Series I E-Type apart from its contemporaries was its advanced suspension and braking systems. It featured independent suspension on all four wheels, improving ride comfort and handling. Additionally, the E-Type was one of the first production cars to be fitted with four-wheel disc brakes, providing superior stopping power and enhancing safety.

Interior Luxuries:

Inside, the Series I E-Type boasted a luxurious interior with high-quality leather upholstery and refined detailing. The car’s instrumentation was elegantly arranged, providing the driver with essential information at a glance. The steering wheel and gearshift knob were made from polished wood, adding a touch of opulence to the driving experience.

Public Reception and Pop Culture Impact:

The Series I E-Type quickly became a symbol of the 1960s’ spirit of innovation and progress. It epitomized the era’s fascination with space-age aesthetics and futuristic design. The E-Type’s presence in popular culture, including appearances in films, television shows, and music videos, further solidified its status as an icon.

Racing Success:

The Series I E-Type’s racing potential was evident from the outset. In 1961, a Lightweight E-Type prototype was developed, featuring aluminum body panels and further weight reduction. It participated in various motorsport events with notable success, including a class win at the 1963 12 Hours of Sebring.

Evolution and Improvements:

Over the course of the Series I production, which lasted until 1964, the E-Type saw several improvements. In 1964, the 3.8-liter engine was replaced with a more refined 4.2-liter inline-six, offering increased torque and smoother power delivery. The 4.2-liter engine was available in both the Roadster and the FHC variants.

Introduction of the 2+2 Coupe:

In 1966, Jaguar introduced the 2+2 Coupe version of the E-Type, featuring a slightly lengthened wheelbase to accommodate additional rear seats. While the 2+2 Coupe retained the iconic E-Type styling, it offered a more practical option for buyers seeking a combination of sports car performance and increased passenger capacity.

Transatlantic Success:

Its combination of stylish design, performance, and relatively affordable price attracted American buyers, contributing significantly to Jaguar’s success in the North American market.

The End of an Era:

Despite its enduring popularity, the Series I E-Type production eventually came to an end in 1964. It marked the conclusion of an era defined by Jaguar’s commitment to producing sports cars that embodied a perfect harmony of elegance and performance.

Legacy and Collectibility:

The 1961 Series I Jaguar E-Type remains a highly coveted collector’s item to this day. Its timeless design, advanced engineering, and historical significance ensure that well-preserved examples fetch premium prices at classic car auctions.

Restoring and maintaining a Series I E-Type requires a dedication to preserving its original character and attention to detail. Specialist restoration shops and dedicated enthusiasts ensure that these automotive masterpieces continue to grace the streets and events of today’s automotive landscape.

Continuation and Homage Models:

In recent years, Jaguar has paid homage to the Series I E-Type with special continuation models and limited-edition releases. These modern-day tributes stay true to the spirit of the original, celebrating the timeless design and engineering excellence that have made the E-Type an enduring symbol of automotive artistry.


The 1961 Series I Jaguar E-Type represents a defining moment in automotive history, embodying the aspirations and innovations of an era defined by progress and elegance. With its sleek lines, high-performance capabilities, and technological advancements, the E-Type remains an icon of British motoring excellence, captivating generations of car enthusiasts and leaving an indelible mark on the automotive world. The Series I E-Type stands as a testament to Jaguar’s commitment to crafting timeless, beautiful, and high-performance cars that transcend mere transportation, becoming rolling works of art and symbols of automotive passion for all time.

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