Jaguar E-type was first unveiled at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, and it was a sensation. By combining Malcolm Sayers’ cool aerodynamic design with Sir William Lyon’s intuitive styling, it was one of the most beautiful sports cars of the 1960s. It mixed high technology, sweeping beauty, and refined performance. Now, over five decades later, Jaguar’s F-TYPE SVR is continuing E-type’s legacy and launches in Geneva this year – but it’s time to see where it all began. This is the story of E-type’s iconic Geneva debut.
The first E-type seen by public eyes was hand-built prototype 9600HP. This was the E-type that turned a million heads. Before the launch itself, 9600HP was lent discreetly to a few journalists – Autosport’s John Bolster, Motorsport’s Bill Boddy, The Telegraph’s John Langley and The Times’ Harold Nockfolds – to prepare their road test features in the UK. With the launch scheduled in Geneva, this left precious little time to transport the car to its big reveal.
So, in true dramatic fashion, the E-type was driven flat-out from Coventry, by Jaguar executive Bob Berry, to the Parc des Eaux-Vives in Geneva - arriving just 20 minutes before the big reveal. “Good God, Berry,” said Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons as the car was vigorously wiped clean and put on display. “I thought you were never going to get here.”
Demand for test drives was so high that Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis was told to ‘drop everything’ and deliver another E-type – open-top demonstrator 77RW – to Geneva. He drove through the night, arriving to great applause from the eagerly awaiting press.
Immediately after the Geneva launch, 9600HP was converted to right-hand drive and used as a UK press car – most famously for the Autocar road test in which it topped 150mph on the Belgian autoroute outside Jabbeke. Available as a sleek coupé or impossibly glamorous convertible, the E-type was an instant success; its balance of sports car performance with every day usability rewrote the rulebook. As Autocar’s 1961 review said: ‘It offers what drivers have so long asked for.’ E-type had made a name for itself, and it all started in Geneva.
F‑TYPE – E‑type’s spiritual successor – is now continuing the story. F‑TYPE SVR, our fastest series production Jaguar ever, is debuting at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. But it’s more than a Geneva launch that the two cars have in common. Just like E‑type, F‑TYPE SVR brings together advanced technology and head-turning looks, sports car spirit and everyday usability.
Some 55 years after Sir William Lyons first revealed the E‑type, the newest F‑TYPE is set to create a sensation of its own.