Driving — Jaguar Cars – British Sporting Heritage

The British auto invasion coincided with the British music invasion of the sixties and seventies. The automobiles offered by British car companies tended to be small two seat open air cruisers that were fun to drive and provided adequate power and handling for the period. Very few of the manufacturers from that era continue to produce automobiles today. The British roadsters manufactured today come from companies that are no longer based in Britain but carry on the names of companies long remembered as Britain’s automotive leaders.


Beginning in 1922 as the Swallow Sidecar Company, Jaguar has evolved into one of the world’s premier car companies. The early SS-100 models were the first sporting offerings from the company. Sir William Lyons, the designer and engineer of Jaguar cars, created a stunning roadster that began the British sporting car genre. Through the 1950s and early 1960s Jaguar produced several sporting cars and many luxury saloons and quasi limousines for worldwide sales.

The sporting cars for Jaguar were known as the XK models. The models evolved from the XK120 through the XK 150. Cars were either open top roadsters or coupes that provided sporting tendencies in a typically British interior of leather and wood. In 1961 Jaguar introduced the car that would create its legend in the United States. The E type or XKE was introduced as a road going version of the racing D Type that had been very successful in road racing around the world. The E type featured a long front end where the potent Jaguar straight six “double knocker” twin cam engine was placed. The truncated rear end housed the rear differential and a manual transmission with four forward gears connected the two. The Jaguar E-type became the dream car of every young boy in the 1960s.

Although some quality issues dogged the company the car was a sales hit and propelled Jaguar to the forefront of sports car technology. The straight six engine, fed by three side draft carburetors and the independent suspension provided a fast and well mannered road car that could out accelerate and out handle just about every other car on the road. A twelve cylinder engine was introduced in the E Type in 1971 and was available through the end of the E-Types production in 1974.

Jaguar remains a viable automotive manufacture today. Ownership of the company has passed from private hands to British Leyland and the British government to Ford Motor Company and now finally to India’s Tata Motors. Jaguar continues to offer sporting cars with open cockpits in the lineage of the E type, however the pure fun of the E-type has been replaced with more luxury and less sport over the years.

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