By lex, on December 10th, 2010
The Economist reminds us of an upcoming celebration:
PETROL-HEADS of a certain age may have noticed that the 50th anniversary of the Jaguar E-Type sportscar is imminent. Within the motoring world, it will be the cause for much ballyhoo and dewy-eyed nostalgia. But before getting caught up in all the hoopla, your correspondent—wizened enough to have been around when the iconic car made its debut at the Geneva motor show in 1961—would like to contribute his two-pennyworth of personal experience on why the E-Type really was the most innovative piece of automotive machinery of its age.
The most extraordinary thing about the E-Type was not just that its wind-cheating aerodynamic shape—at least in fixed-head coupé form—endowed it with one of the lowest drag coefficients for a mass-produced car ever. Nor was it simply the fact that the novel independent suspension at the rear, as well as at the front, allowed it to skate round corners like nothing before, while disc-brakes on all four wheels could bring it so abruptly to a stop. Nor even was it the powerful twin-cam engine, with its racing heritage, that could propel the car to 150 miles per hour in an age when the fastest most cars could manage was little more than half as much.
All those features, and more, would have been enough to make the E-Type a classic. But what turned it into an icon that has endured for 50 years was the simple, yet remarkable, fact that it cost only half as much as anything comparable. In short, it put extraordinary motoring within the grasp of ordinary people.
Which allowed at least one ordinary person of my close personal acquaintance to roll one on a diminishing radius turn on Old Annapolis Road in the spring of 1981. The car’s ability to skate around corners notwithstanding. As usual in this sort of affair, there was a woman involved.
Still, she was a sexy beast, and I loved her rather too well.
The car, I mean.