To understand the mythical atmosphere that this unique car exudes, one must appreciate the desire that the new Jaguar XKE caused in the sixties right after its introduction. When the Jaguar XKE was firstly unveiled in the market it provoked a general sensation unmatched in comparison by today’s new auto unveilings. The Jaguar XKE was simply a desired car by everyone world wide. Only 17% of the production was sold in the United Kingdom, the rest of the orders were coming in from all corners of the globe, especially the US, and waiting lists where enormous.
Folks at the Coventry plant knew by experience that the future of the new Jaguar XKE would depend on the acceptance of the public. That knowledge that they had acquired started early in 1936 when William Lyons introduced their first model, mainly with the idea to promote their XK engines, the SS100 with a 2.5 liter engine and the following year that same model with a 3.5 liter engine.
After the war and changing their name from Swallow Sidecar Company to Jaguar Cars Ltd, the SS designation was totally discontinued to avoid any association with the war. Models of the SS100 were from here on, referred to as the Mark IV. In 1948 Jaguar introduced their newest sports car, the XK120 that had a top speed of just over 190km/h. Once again Jaguar wanted to promote their XK engines that would be fitted in saloon cars. Jaguar´s intention in promoting these engines was to attract the wealthy costumers, and not manufacture the XK120 in series, but that’s not what happened! The success of the XK120 was so great that the public demanded its mass production! New XK120 buyers were lining up to get their new roadsters out and running and amazingly, in the race track it proved to be a natural born winner.
As jaguar noticed here a potential, it set aside a team specifically for competition. Soon enough this Jaguar team unveiled the racing C Type, and in its career the C Type won the Le Mans twice, in 1951 and 1953. With Jaguar´s unending search for better performance, the new D Type rolled for the first time on the race tracks in 1954. That same year, one D Type finished second at the Le Mans, but in 1957 five D Types entered the race and they all finished in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th places! Definitely an all time high for Jaguar!
By the end of the 50´s, Jaguar´s managers considered that the manufacturing of sports cars was in a secondary plane, but on the other hand, so much success they had achieved especially on the 24 hours of Le Mans that promoted Jaguar cars worldwide. The investments made on the race track throughout a decade compensated, nevertheless the D Type was showing weakening age signs against Aston Martin´s and Ferrari´s. The management at Coventry decided then to concentrate their efforts in producing a new super sports car that would maintain Jaguar´s status not only on the roads but on the race track as well! One of the prototypes, code named the E2A, clearly following D Type lines, was the forerunner of the Jaguar XKE. The Jaguar E2A was raced by Briggs Cunningham at the Le Mans in 1960. Even though it set the fastest recorded lap, it did not finish the race.
In March 1961 the Jaguar XKE was introduced to the public. Jaguar had thought of everything to make the car a success, not only on the road but in the race tracks as well! A particular Jaguar XKE, which was slightly prepared by Jaguar, reached the 240 km/h mark several times. It was elegant, innovative, fast and costing less than half the price of a new Ferrari 250 GT, BMW 507 or a Mercedes 300 SL Roadster at the time. Handling was perfect for the time mainly due to its new independent rear suspension. The unsynchronized Moss gear box was one of the first and main faults on the new Jaguar XKE, but with a bit of practice and with the XK 6 in-line engine with double overhead camshaft, delivering 265 horse power at 5.500 rpm, drivers would be compensated with the engines music to their ears.
Because of its stylish lines the Jaguar XKE got a place in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.