Jaguar E aIn 1961 Jaguar unveiled the E-type, the best looking car in the world. It wasn’t just me saying that, Enzo Ferrari held the same view. Since then Jaguar has been continually trying to recreate that moment with cars like the current F-type, which it promised would be the new best-looking car in the world but which turned out to look just like everything else. Even nearly six decades later the E-type is breathtakingly gorgeous, right up there with the Lamborghini Miura, BMW’s 507 and the original Ferrari California.

Now Jaguar has had a seriously good idea. It has started building E-types again. Just like they were, only this time with electric drivetrains. It’s a throwback to a time when cars not only looked good, but also looked different from other cars.

So why were cars so much better looking back then?

Jaguar E cPart of it is legislation. Cars these days have to meet a raft of requirements imposed by different countries and when you’re making a car for the world market you have to meet the requirements of all of them. Safety legislation imposes many necessities on the design, not just how it will stack up in an accident, but also positioning and brightness of tail lights and brake lights, angles at which indicator lights are visible and structural performance of the roof in a rollover. Even the placement of the speedometer is covered by laws.

Emission legislation also dictates a slippery body. A current Commodore slides through the air easier than the old Kingswood and therefore requires less fuel to stay in motion, pushing out less emissions. The thing here is that cars are now largely designed in wind tunnels and one car maker’s wind tunnel is going to yield much the same result as another, thus cars tend to look the same these days. Let’s face it, how many people could pick Jaguar’s F-type from a Nissan 370Z without reading the badges?

Jaguar E bAnother part of it is that the car industry is conservative. It has to be when mistakes are frequently measured in hundreds of millions of dollars. So when one company sees what’s working for another it will likely embrace the same philosophy – if the Cayenne is working for Porsche then the F-Pace has to work for Jaguar. Etcetera.

All this adds up to an eye-glazingly boring car market. Even up there in six and seven-figure territory. Auctions of exotic cars are proving that buyers are far more interested in the 1960s and 70s, even the 1950s, than in anything produced, well, mass produced anyway, in the current century.

“I don’t buy new cars,” 39-year-old Norwegian fashion designer Kristian Aadnevik told the New York Times. “They all look the same.”

He has a collection of eight cars, none of which dates from later than 1971, and is currently restoring a 1961 Jensen 541S coupe. “For me, it’s for fun,” he said. “I don’t do it as an investment.”

Jaguar E dAnd the experience of British pop star Ed Sheeran (26) is instructive. He bought an Aston Martin DB9 and drove it through his home town. And hasn’t driven it since. He told American radio show ‘Breakfast Club’ that he became uncomfortable with the whole experience and immediately gave the car to his manager’s wife on a long-term loan.

And now Jaguar has got the message. It has just announced the E-type Zero, an all-electric car built around the 1968 Series 1.5 Jaguar E-type Roadster, enclosed headlights and all. It will never be a big seller but in terms of collectability that’s a very good thing indeed. Maybe one day it will be worth as much at auction as an original 1961 3.8-litre Mk 1 roadster.

And maybe now that Jaguar has done this BMW will relaunch the gorgeous little 507. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we got a second bite at the Miura?

Published September 2017

 

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