Growing up there were only two cars we dreamed of owning…. Vettes and XKEs I, of course fell in love with the Jaguar. The XKE was introduced in 1961, at the time when Porsche was still producing the “Bathtub” shaped 356 series. The “E Type”, as it has come to be known, has has been on every designer’s all time “Top Ten” list ever since. When it was introduced in 1961, no less a person then Enzo Ferrari said it was the most beautiful car ever made. The slippery monocoque design of the E Type was a natural progression from the very successful racing D-Type which Malcom Sayer also designed.
Under the hood the car was all performance. An inline six cylinder,double overhead cam engine with three 2″ S.U. carburetors delivering a stock 265 HP. The factory boasted that the car did 0-60 M.P.H. in 7 seconds, a quarter mile in 17 seconds and had a top end of 150 M.P.H. To stop the car it had four wheel power assisted, disc brakes. The suspension was fully independent, with a torsion bar front end. The car was sold for a fraction of the cost of a comparable Ferrari or Aston Martin. The production ended in 1975 after over 70,000 cars had been built in various forms.
The car we are currently restoring, was one that I acquired in the early 70’s to settle a debt. The owner had a shunt (as the English would say) with the car and couldn’t afford to fix the damaged hood. I fixed the car and returned it to the road and was delighted with the car.
Shortly after getting this car on the road I was invited by a friend to attend the Mt.Equinox Hillclimb. After the smoke cleared on the Saturday, of the two day event, I was in second place overall beating out many high powered race and exotic sports cars. The Jag and I returned to Equinox with much success and capturing “Fastest Time of Day” several times. Subsequently the car was raced at Bridgehampton, Lime Rock and at the “Grand Bahama Vintage Grand Prix”. I then acquired and started racing my SCCA “Bugeyed” Sprite and the XKE was retired from racing. Ten years ago we disassembled the car to restore it with the hopes to race it once again.
For years Jaguar has tried to produce a successor to the E-Type, a tall order – to build a car that is distinctively Jaguar with ‘drop dead’ good looks and inspiring performance. I was asked to compare the newest Jaguar, the F-Type, to my old friend a 1965 XKE. Well……….how might you compare the 1961 F1 Ferrari of Phil Hill to the Red Bull cars of today. New cars simply do everything better. The trick is not to insulate the driver from the feel of the road. The F-Type is a ‘kick’ to drive. I drove the 330HP V-6 version (also available with a V-8) which delivered smooth and impressive acceleration. The brakes were sensitive and easily modulated. The car handled as if it were on railroad tracks. The exhaust produced a crisp note that let you know that the engine was winding up. Cosmetically, the car is a real ‘crumpet catcher’. When compared nose to nose you can see the feline heritage. But at the end of the day, I still love my XKE. We have been together since 1974. We have raced together at Bridgehampton, Lime Rock, Mt. Equinox and even the Grand Bahama Vintage Grand Prix. Driving home and once out on the highway, I stabbed at the ‘go pedal’ . The car roared in response, the nose rose up and the car took off. Easy to see why I love driving this car so much.