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Classics In The Spotlight

In the second of a new series of articles, we're shining the spotlight on some of the most iconic classic cars of all time

In the second of a new series of articles, we're shining the spotlight on some of the most iconic classic cars of all time, tracing their history and exploring what makes them so legendary. In this edition, we're looking at just why the Jaguar E-Type is among the very best of all time.

If you are in the market for one yourself, check out our cars for sale.

Conception and birth

During the 1950s Jaguar was very successful at racing cars, not least at Le Mans. But, once that was all over, the British firm's racing department didn't have a lot to do, so the bosses told it to turn its attention to a new road car to replace the XK150.

In 1957 the first prototype was born - it had a monocoque design and used the XK's engine. It was used purely for early testing and eventually scrapped. In 1960, prototype number two came along, this time with a steel chassis and an aluminium body and a 3.0 version of the XK engine.

It raced at Le Mans and then in America before coming home to be used for testing. In 2008 it sold for nearly $5m at auction. The E-Type finally went into production in March of 1961 and it was exported first, not going on sale in the UK until July of that year.

The production car had a 3.8-litre engine, which it kept for three years before being replaced with a 4.2 unit.


A car that blew away the competition of the time

At the start of the 1960s most cars were a bit unexciting, with drum brakes and performance that was nothing to shout about. So, when the E-Type arrived with a 150mph top end and a 0-60mph time of less than seven seconds, there's no doubt that it turned some heads.

That, alongside innovations like monocoque construction, disc brakes, independent suspension and rack and pinion steering, ensured that it was out in front when it came to sports cars.

And, then, there were the looks.

'The most beautiful car ever made'

Those were the words of one Enzo Ferrari when he first clapped eyes on the E-Type. When Il Commendatore says that about a rival company's sports car, you know you've done a good job.

This, from a man whose company has made some of the most beautiful cars of all time, especially in that era. That monocoque allowed for seamless lines and a slick, low-slung profile that screamed what the E-Type was capable of performance-wise.

More than 50 years later, it still tops polls of the most beautiful cars ever made.


The most special of a most special car

Any E-Type is special and sought-after, but none more so than the Lightweight. Between 1963 and 1964, Jaguar produced 12 of these cars, plus two spare bodies.

A evolution of another limited edition, the low drag coupe, the Lightweight used, as the name suggests, a lot of aluminium, in both the body and other parts. The cars entered various races, including Le Mans.

That wasn't the end, though. Jaguar had originally planned to build 18 Lightweights and, in 2014, its heritage division set about building the remaining six - to the exact same standards as they would have been 50 years ago and using the unused chassis numbers.

They were priced at more than £1m each.


A life well-lived

There were three versions of the E-Type. The Series 2, introduced in 1968, saw the sorts of changes that many UK cars saw in that period to comply with US design safety laws.

It meant that the glass headlight covers were gone, the rear bumper became a wrap-around and the front indicators got bigger, as did the 'mouth' to aid cooling. The carbs were also changed as well - meaning horsepower was down from 265 to 246. Still a fabulous car, but you can see why the Series 1 is the most sought-after.

In 1971, the third and final version came along. The Series 3 saw big power from a new 12-cylinder, 5.3-litre engine. It had better brakes and power steering to deal with that extra oomph and the option of automatic transmission was introduced.

Not a bad way for a legend to go out, which it did in 1975.

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