E-type Jaguar among classics on show at today's Terribly British Day at Queanbeyan Park

Declan O'Keeffe and the E-Type Jaguar. Picture: Keegan Carroll
Declan O'Keeffe and the E-Type Jaguar. Picture: Keegan Carroll

If there's a more gorgeous car in the world, then Declan O'Keeffe has yet to see it.

But he admits to a little bias because the former Canberra engineer, now retired, is fortunate enough to own an E-Type Jaguar.

And one in brilliant signal red paintwork with a tan leather interior, no less, and with the preferred 4.2-litre straight-six cylinder double overhead camshaft engine.

Mr O'Keeffe's car will be one of a dozen or so locally-owned E-types, together with a host of other famous marques from the "Old Dart" including Austin, Morris, Triumph, Rolls Royce, Morgan and Bentley, at the 46th Terribly British Day today, in Queanbeyan Park, between 10am and 2pm. Any donations on entry will go to charity.

It was 60 long years ago next month that the Jaguar E-type sports car was unveiled to the public for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show.

Declan O'Keeffe, with his E-Type Jaguar. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Declan O'Keeffe, with his E-Type Jaguar. Picture: Keegan Carroll

And very few cars have caused such a worldwide sensation since. It was rumoured - but never confirmed - that even Enzo Ferrari was gob-smacked by its beauty.

Part of the adoration for the then-new Jaguar sports car was its astonishingly affordable launch price, compared with its obvious rivals from Ferrari and Aston Martin (which were double the cost).

Suddenly, the exotic became financially accessible.

The very classic sports interior of the E-Type, with its wooden steering wheel and aircraft-type switchgear. Picture: Keegan Carroll

The very classic sports interior of the E-Type, with its wooden steering wheel and aircraft-type switchgear. Picture: Keegan Carroll

So across the globe, everyone from bank managers having a mid-life crisis to the hoi-polloi of the time, including Princess Grace of Monaco, Steve McQueen and Frank Sinatra, lined up to buy and be seen in this swoopy, race-bred and rapid British sports car, offered in enclosed coupe or glamorous soft-top form.

For those unfamiliar with automotive history, the 1960s was a time of stodgy British cars such as the Morris 1100 and the Humber Sceptre.

The E-Type landed among these like it had arrived from another planet.

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It was a car so ahead of its time it continued in production, its shape largely unchanged, for 14 years. Jaguar produced 72,584 of them, with the V12 convertible model arguably its crowning glory.

The E-Type was the successor to the C- and the Le Mans-winning D-Type models, both with impeccable racing credentials.

It looks the way it does because it was designed by an automotive engineer who was also an aerodynamicist.

During World War II, Malcolm Sayer worked on improving the wind-cheating efficiency of fighter aircraft from de Havilland and Bristol, long before any computer-aided design came along. When he joined Jaguar, he brought that aero knowledge with him, and applied it to the next sports car.

The E-type's chrome wire wheels, with racing-type single "knock-off" nut, encompassed four-wheel disc brakes, rare for the time. Picture: Keegan Carroll

The E-type's chrome wire wheels, with racing-type single "knock-off" nut, encompassed four-wheel disc brakes, rare for the time. Picture: Keegan Carroll

The E-type was partly designed by mathematics and through visual observations of optimum airflow. Tufts of wool were taped to the body of prototype models and Sayer would then drive alongside and monitor how the wool was affected by the airflow over the chassis.

Mr O'Keeffe, like so many, had been excited by the E-type design since he was a child.

His car, as luck would have it, was offered to him some 14 years ago when a Sydney buyer who had first dibs on it withdrew.

The six-cylinder engine of the E-type provided it with excellent performance, and a V12 followed later. Picture: Keegan Carroll

The six-cylinder engine of the E-type provided it with excellent performance, and a V12 followed later. Picture: Keegan Carroll

As is often the case with classic cars, his E-Type has had a curious and circuitous past as it was originally built in left-hand drive, which suggests it was built in Coventry for export to Europe or the US. market. It was converted to right-hand drive in Western Australia, and so diligently and faithfully only an expert eye can pick it.

A suggestion to those patrons visiting the Terribly British Day is they should ask - ever so politely, of course - an E-type owner to raise the bonnet and open the rear hatch. Very few production cars "reveal" the way the E-Type does - and very few have since.

Prepare to be amazed.

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This story The E-Type Jaguar is still gorgeous after 60 years first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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