Pardon our gushing but it’s not everyday one sees a Jaguar E-Type series 1 (1961 – 1968) roadster casually parked in a 30-minute green zone, top down, one window rolled up and the other down. It’s an XKE to most of us but the official designation is E-Type. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s one of the most groundbreaking automotive designs of the last fifty years of the 20th century, as indicated by this early promotional film.
Yes, it’s an English car, built in Coventry, deep in the heart of the West Midlands, so here’s where the reliability jokes go including the one about the electrical system being made by Joseph Lucas a/k/a “Prince of Darkness.” We don’t really care because this thing is just so thrilling to behold standing still and we’re not even taking into account the fact that, when it works, it’s capable of nearly 150 mph.
It’s more than a car, it’s a symbol of an era, as conjured up in the Austin Powers (“Oh beee-have and get into my Shaguar”) series and in numerous pop songs including Jan & Dean’s “Deadman’s Curve”
When an XKE pulled up on the right
He rolled down the window of his shiny new Jag
And challenged me then and there to a drag
With the guys for quite a while
Oh, we been thinkin’ ’bout starting up a club
That shows some class and style
And we’ll get the finest cars
Let’s not forget The E-Types, a rock band from Steinbeck country — Salinas, CA — who made some noise in the wake of the British Invasion. Here they are on the Santa Cruz boardwalk performing their almost hit, “I Can’t Do It,” in fine fashion. There’s also a modern era Swedish Eurodance artist who calls himself ‘E-Type’ (real name: Bo Martin Erik Eriksson). We’re talking long-lasting brand equity with that sobriquet.
Almost concurrent with our Jaguar discovery was an encounter with a very different kind of car from the same time period: a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500XL convertible finished in Wimbeldon White and (very) red vinyl interior. The zaftig Ford, powered by a 390 cubic inch V8 (vs. E-Type’s 3.8 liter/232 cubic inch straight 6), makes no pretense of being a sports car, despite the bucket seats and floor mounted (automatic) gear selector. The big Ford weighed 3800 pounds, the Jaguar is 1,000 pounds lighter.
Still, we think that Galaxie is pretty cool, with its giant tailights, grinning grill, quad headlights and gratuitous chrome and
The E-Type wears but one marker indicating the manufacturer. “Jaguar” on its hind quarters is the only type in evidence and there’s the cat emblem in the middle of that gaping maw of a non-grill. “E-Type,” (or XKE) isn’t inscribed anywhere on the car — no wonder there’s ongoing confusion about the proper designation. The Ford, on the other hand, is a rolling billboard. There’s no doubt as to what it is: a big ol’ brassy car with lots of heft, swagger and bright ‘n’ shiny stuff.
While these two are a study in mid-century contrasts we like them both a whole lot. We’re quite smitten with the Jaguar; it’s sophisticated and sleek yet vexingly temperamental. The Ford is broad, bawdy and brash — and will start up more often then not. What’s not to love about that?
Click here to see the notorious suicide attempt by Mad Men‘s Lane Pryce, played by Jared Harris, whose plot to do himself in was thwarted by an uncooperative E-Type. Talk about stereotyping! Jay Leno has one that he claims works well as you can see here.
And while you’re at it, see if you don’t agree that the man who drives a Galaxie 500XL “has got what it takes, a real flair for elegance, confidence and sophistication personified” in this copy- heavy Canadian commercial.
We found a clean ’64 Galaxie 500 XL convertible, equipped with a 390 cubic inch V8 just like ours, in nearby Beaverton, OR for a mere $16,000. Seems like a bargain and you can bet it’ll start when you really, really want it to. If your preference is to roll the dice and spend a wad of dough, we’d suggest this ’64 XKE that’s on offer in swanky Beverly Hills for $98,500. It could save your life should you ever want to end it.
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