Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ranting Stan's Sunday Drive: Jaguar E-type

If there is one car that evokes the sixties more than the Mini, it would have to be the E-type Jaguar. It came to be thought of as the ultimate symbol of masculinity, a phallic symbol in the eyes of many, but with that long graceful bonnet and curvaceous rump I can only think of it as feminine - as all cars are to me.

But there was nothing feminine about the E-type when it came to performance. Originally fitted with a six cylinder 3.8 litre engine, the E-type was a macho performer with a top speed approaching 150 mph. The E-type was priced and built in numbers that made real super car performance attainable by more people than ever before.

The engine increased in size to 4.2 litres in 1964 - though with no real benefit to performance - and to a 5.3 litre 12 cylinder in 1971 which, with the addition of power steering gave the aging supercar a new lease of life. Production finally ended in 1973 when Jaguar released the XJS.

The E-type was available as a 2 seat roadster or coupe with a 2+2 version of the coupe added to the range in 1966. The dashboard of the E-type was typically sixties supercar with a bewildering array of dials and switchgear located in the most awkward of places. Ergonomics was still just a theory back then. The car was about as environmentally unfriendly as it is possible to be returning a fuel consumption in the mid to high teens - if you were lucky - but it's sheer beauty outweighs that aspect in my view.

My own personal experience of an E-type, however, was not a good one. It was the early 1980's and a friend of mine borrowed his dad's E-type for the day. We drove to Brighton - top down, sun shining - and I got sunburned. Worse was yet to come as my mate duly "pulled" some floozy from Maidenhead and decided to take her back home rather than me - leaving yours truly stuck in Brighton.