I never really liked the looks of the E-Type, and I never really liked its mythos, either, so for many years I held a grudge against what some call the most beautiful car ever made, what others call the greatest car ever made, and what many would call the most iconic sports car ever made. Like a true hater, I hated it. But I’ve reformed.
Being a shallow bastard, I judged E-Types by their appearance and the too-long, overdrawn hood kept me from considering the car for any other quality. The whole mystique of the E-Type Jaguar kept me forever at a distance as well. They always seemed to be owned by nostalgic old men with too much money for toys. I wanted to grow up and be wistful, but I never wanted to be so painfully obvious as to be a wish-it-was-the-sixties E-Type owner.
It wouldn’t be stretching the truth to call the E-Type Jaguar one of history’s most popular cars. Not popular in the way that Toyota Corollas and VW Beetles populate the globe with production volume, but popular in that the E-Type exists in the collective unconscious. People can probably go on and on about how beautiful they are, or how the drive, or how temperamental they are, but it seems to me that what does the E-Type the most favors is its indelible bond to the 1960s. Perhaps it was its public racing career from Le Mans to Dead Man’s Curve; perhaps people saw some of the sexual revolution in its styling; perhaps it was part of maturing Euro-chic in America, especially after the Brit Invasion. Whatever it was that bound the E-Type to the 1960s at the hip, baby boomer America treasured its memories of the Sixties and its automotive icons are also the best remembered old cars.
I never really wanted a car that would turn heads, and with so strong a reputation and with so long of a hood I was sure that every E-Type was payed for with vanity, so the E-Type seemed to always be a car to hate.
I never dreamed that someone might just like the look of an XKE, and I couldn’t imagine someone loving a Series III V12 car just for how the car feels on the road. Such is the life autofrei – cars get altogether too heady and overthought.
So part of me now holds a slight affection for Series III E-Types. They’ve lost some of the 1960s magic that leaves me thinking of old rich dicks, but they still have much of the classic underpinnings that perpetuate the cult of the E-Type: the neutral chassis, the big engine, the vintage feel and upkeep.
To learn the history of the E-Type, check out Ate Up With Motor’s account – it turns out that the author is a big fan.
For a less riveting account, HowStuffWorks has, obviously, a special article devoted to Series III E-Types.