The Jaguar E-Type – one of the iconic cars you can build at 1/8 scale with Agora – was a 1960s classic. Modding specialist Mike Lane explains why he thinks the X-KE is still one of the coolest, or as Austin Powers might say, grooviest, cars ever made.
Even those who aren’t car fanatics would struggle to deny the exquisite good looks of the Jag XK-E. When it burst onto the scene in 1961, the XK-E was unlike anything the world had seen. Maybe it’s the simple lines, the seamless curves, the striking spoke wheels or the statement oval grille. Or perhaps the sculptural quality that magically happens when these elements are all brought together.
Whatever it might be, the XK-E Jag is indisputably a thing of beauty – a distinctive piece of automotive design with soul. Even Enzo Ferrari, no less, once described the Jaguar XK-E as “the most beautiful car in the world”. High praise indeed when it comes from the head of a rival car manufacturer.
The E-type’s aesthetic appeal would have been for nothing if the car failed to live up to its striking image once the ignition was switched on – but it didn’t disappoint. This pioneering Jag packed a serious punch for a production vehicle. It could reach speeds of almost 150 mph, and shot from 0 to 60 mph in under seven seconds. This sporty performance was helped by a sleek design by aeronautical engineer Malcolm Sayer and a 3.8-litre XK engine inspired by motor racing development.
What added to the appeal of the E-type was that all this power came with the handling and drivability of a regular road vehicle (not to mention a stylish interior). A typically cool Jaguar magazine advert from the time captured the combination of performance and comfort nicely with the phrase, “Domesticated. Not declawed.”
Rock and roll stature
The buzz around the launch of the Jaguar XK-E was extraordinary. Unveiled to the world at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, it captivated the public imagination immediately with its futuristic yet classic design, and its impressive specifications. The XK-E soon became a must-have accessory for the world’s glitterati. Anyone who was anyone wanted a piece of the action.
Among the celebrities who owned an XK-E were movie stars Steve McQueen, Charlton Heston and Britt Ekland. There were big names from the world of music too, such as Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and Elton John. Even royalty got in on the act, with Princess Grace of Monaco being a notable XK-E aficionado.
Star of the cinema
As well as bringing a big dose of style and sophistication to the real world, the XK-E also added star quality to a diverse roll of movies. This camera-friendly car has been one of the most sought-after accessories for film-makers through the decades.
In the Italian 1968 cult film Diabolik, we see the XK-E pushed to its limit as it speeds and swerves while being shot at from a helicopter. And two XK-E are part of the entourage in the stylish mountain road scene in The Italian Job – although the fate of these cars at the hands of the Mafia is a hard watch for any XK-E fan (as you’ll know if you’ve seen the film). There’s a rather less distressing movie outing for the XK-E in Austin Powers: Goldmember. Austin’s Union flag-painted coupé must surely be one of the most extravagant XK-E of them all – and what better tribute could there be to a British icon of the swinging 60s.
Power to the people
While the rich and famous swooned over the Jaguar XK-E, what was really special about this car was its surprising affordability for the average person on the street too. It was certainly no budget set of wheels, but with a price tag of $5,670 on its first release (roughly $54,000 in today’s money), the XK-E wasn’t wildly out of reach for the general public.
This took the XK-E out of the niche category of shockingly expensive, exclusive supercars and into the mainstream – extraordinary for such a vehicle so powerful and stylish. And this wide accessibility only served to cement the XK-E’s era-defining cultural status, and to boost its aura of coolness.
Perhaps what’s most remarkable about the Jaguar XK-E is that it has stuck as a cultural icon. It was certainly a car of its time, tapping into that heady 60s spirit of glamour and freedom like no other back when it first appeared. But six decades later, the XK-E is still regarded as one of the most stylish, creative and thrilling cars ever to have existed.
Today, XK-E are highly prized and worth a small fortune, especially the most revered Series 1 models. There’s even a programme called Jaguar Reborn, which sees the car maker restore original XK-E to modern standards. One sign of the vehicle’s continued high esteem was that a converted electric XK-E was the wedding vehicle of choice for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in 2018.
The Jaguar XK-E really is a car for everyone, from royals to regulars, and it remains as treasured now as when it astonished the world back in 1961. It is, arguably, the epitome of automotive style and for many, it remains to this day the coolest thing on four wheels.
Mike Lane creates hand-made mods and accessories for a range of partwork models, including Agora’s Jaguar XK-E. These are available to buy at mikelanemods.com.
Header image source: depositphotos.com