What's On

E-Type Evolution Exhibition at the British Motor Museum

Monday 15th March to Monday 28th June


Event Contact Name: Tony Merrygold

Contact phone: 07802455217

Contact email: TMerrygold@JaguarHeritage.com

Location: British Motor Museum, Gaydon, Warwickshire, CV35 0BJ

Add to Calendar03/15/21 12:00 am06/28/21 11:59 pmEurope/LondonE-Type Evolution Exhibition at the British Motor MuseumBritish Motor Museum, Gaydon, Warwickshire, CV35 0BJ

The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust (JDHT) has put on a new exhibition ‘E-Type Evolution’ at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the launch of the E-Type in 1961.  It tells the story of the evolution of the E-Type from the racing C and D-types of the 1950s, to its launch at Geneva on 15th March 1961 and finishes with a couple of very successful Racing V12s from the 1970s.

A more detailed account of the evolution and development of the E-Type can be found in the Jaguar Engineering section of our website should you want to read the story in greater depth.

Sir William Lyons with E-type FHC 9600 HP – 15th March 1961 – Parc des Eaux Vives, Geneva

The museum is currently closed under COVID-19 lockdown rules and plans to re-open on Monday 17th May.  The exhibition is on the Museum Mezzanine Gallery until the end of June 2021.

Summary of the 1961 Geneva Motor Show

The Exhibition starts with a quick summary of the story of the launch of the E-Type at the Parc des Eaux Vives in Geneva,  which has now gone into Jaguar Legend.  Jaguar PR man, Bob Berry drove the Fixed Head Coupé 9600 HP to act as the press car but there was so much demand for press drives that Sir William Lyons instructed test driver Norman Dewis to drive the E-Type Roadster 77 RW from Coventry, across to Geneva, to arrive before 10:00 the following morning.

We have colour enhanced one of the famous images from the launch specially for this exhibition and it greets visitors as they arrive at the Mezzanine Gallery.  Norman Dewis is also there, on video, regaling you with the tale of what has become known as his ‘Mad Dash to Geneva’.

We have put together a very special selection of cars to show our ‘Evolution’ theme, most from our own Collection but a few that have very generously been loaned to us for the duration.

Structural Evolution from C-type to E-Type

The Exhibition explains how the structure of the E-Type evolved from Jaguar’s racing history.  The XK120, XK140 and XK150 were all built on a steel chassis with a separate body.  Racing driver Leslie Johnson entered an XK120 for the 1950 Le Mans 24 hour race, retiring after 22 hours.  This showed that the XK engine and running gear were essentially reliable, but the car needed more speed and less weight for it to be competitive.  Bill Heynes’ solution was to replace the heavy steel chassis  with a lighter, tubular steel, spaceframe which would be clothed with an aerodynamic body designed by Malcom Sayer.

The XK120C or C-type won Le Mans in 1951 its first time out.  The D-type was an evolution of this with a central body tub with very strong front and rear bulkheads replacing the C-type’s spaceframe.  A front subframe carried the engine, suspension and steering and the rear suspension and axle were fixed to the rear bulkhead.  Bodywork at the front and rear were hinged ‘clamshells’, again designed and refined by Malcom Sayer.

1960s Icon

The structure of prototypes E1A, E2A and then the production E-Type were further evolutions of this.  The D-type’s central tub became a half monocoque encapsulating the passenger compartment and the whole rear of the car, with the new Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) fixed to the bodyshell on rubber mountings.  As with the D-type the engine, suspension and steering were all fixed to the front spaceframe.

The E-Type became an icon of the 1960s, while not affordable for ‘everyman’ it was far more attainable than an Aston Martin (at twice the price) or a Ferrari (at three times the price).  It would seem that anybody who was anybody bought an E-Type or posed with one.  Some of them even collected their car from the factory at Browns Lane, providing Jaguar with a number of excellent PR opportunities.

Jaguar had long understood the value of celebrity ownership going right back to George Formby buying an SS1 in 1933 and Clark Gable buying the very first XK120 on the West Coast of America.

The full range of E-Types, Series 1, 1.5, 2 and 3

The E-Type itself went on to evolve from its launch in 1961 to the end of production in 1974.  Some of the changes were relatively minor; moving the bonnet locks from external to internal, installing dropped floor panels to increase legroom.  Both the cars on display, and the next display panel take the visitor through the major changes.

In 1964 Jaguar launched the 4.2 litre version of the XK engine in the E-Type, changing the gearbox from the old fashioned Moss box to one designed and built in-house.  Brakes were upgraded and the seats were greatly improved.  For many people the 4.2 litre version of the Series 1 E-Type is the most desirable car.

The major facelifts of the Series 2 in 1968 and V12 engined Series 3 in 1970 are also covered.


The Competition E-Types

The final display panel and two of the cars on display complete the Exhibition on a racing theme.  Although the E-Type wasn’t designed to be a racing car it had racing in its DNA and it was no surprise that it went racing almost straight after launch.  In April 1961 only one month after the launch at Geneva, three standard E-Types were raced at Oulton Park with Graham Hill taking its first win.

The two racing cars on display show versions of racing cars from the V12 engined, Series 3 era of the E-Type.

The Trust’s own Group 44 V12 E-Type was raced in the USA for Bob Tullius’ Group 44 team and after a fairly successful season in 1974, they won the SCCA Group B championship in 1975.

Alongside it is a car that started life as a 1971 Series 3 and was developed for modsports racing.  This continued to evolve throughout the 1980s and 1990s and is now powered by a 7.3 litre V12 engine, fed by six, twin-choke webber carburettors.  In 2001 it won the accolade of the World’s Fastest E-Type.

E-Type Evolution Display

We have collected together an excellent selection of cars for the Exhibition, some from the JDHT’s own Collection but we are fortunate to have been allowed to borrow three more cars to help us tell our story.

Year Car
1953 C-type NDU 289
1956 D-type 393 RW
1961 E-type Series 1 Roadster 77 RW
1963 E-type Series 1 Fixed Head Coupé YKE 374A
1966 E-type Series 1 4.2 litre PRP 149D
1969 E-type Series 2 NNH 103H
1971 E-type Series 3 V12 – The Fastest E-type in the World
1974 E-type Series 3 V12 – Group 44 Racer

1953 C-type and 1956 D-type

The cars on display start with our C-type NDU 289 and our D-type 393 RW, the bodywork of both of them was designed by Malcolm Sayer around structures designed by Bill Heynes and his chassis engineer Tom Jones.  The ‘C’ in name C-type stands for Competition as it was a competition version of the XK120.  The requirement was to reduce weight, improve airflow and reduce air resistance.  The traditional steel chassis of the XK120 was replaced by a tubular steel spaceframe for the C-type which held the engine, running gear etc.  This was clothed in Sayer’s lightweight aluminium body – the shape of which he calculated long-hand and refined in wind tunnel testing.

The D-type was an evolution of the C-type both structurally and body-wise.  Instead of a complete steel spaceframe the car was built around a very strong central tub, with a spaceframe holding the engine and gearbox and front suspension.  The rear axle and suspension were fixed to the rear bulkhead.  The body was clothed with clamshell sections front and rear and the rear fin was developed to improve high speed stability at Le Mans.

Jaguar built two prototypes, more as evolutions of the D-type than specifically part of the E-Type project.  E1A was built in 1957 and looks like a small E-Type.  The E-Type shape was starting to emerge.  The central tub was extended to include the rear of the car with Bob Knight’s new Independent Rear Suspension fitted.  The car was test driven by Sir William Lyons, Bill Heynes and Norman Dewis.  It was also loaned to motorist journalist Christopher Jennings, for a weekend in Wales, who gave Sir William very positive feedback.

E1A was scrapped in 1959 and replaced with E2A which was a much stronger construction with the IRS setup fixed to the body on rubber mounts to remove vibration.

American racing driver Briggs Cunningham saw E2A and asked Sir William if he could enter it for the 1960 Le Mans race.  It raced in Cunningham’s colour of white with blue stripes and appeared in the entry list as ‘D-type Modified’.  It retired with engine problems after 29 laps.  Its 3 litre (Le Mans spec) XK engine was swapped for a 3.8 litre one, necessitating the addition of a bonnet bulge which was riveted in place – and came to be an iconic part of the E-Type when launched.

After some time in the US it returned to Jaguar Cars where it was saved from being destroyed by becoming part of a private museum collection.  It is now in the hands of a Swiss collector who has loaned us the car for this exhibition.

Series 1 and 2 E-Types

The red E-Type Fixed Head Coupé from our collection takes the evolution to the next stage.  Originally Sir William’s plan was only to make a roadster version of the E-Type.  Sayers’ body calculations were given to metal worker Bob Blake to make up the panels.  Having built up the body for the Roadster, Blake thought it would also look good as a Coupe.  Without being sanctioned by Sir William, he made another body and worked up the roof, rear wings and rear door.  One day Sir William spotted this in the corner of the workshop and accosted Blake, ‘Did you do this?’  Yes replied Blake, to which Sir William said, ‘I like it, we’ll build it’.

It was Coupés that were the original two cars planned for the Geneva Motor Show launch, one for the stand in the Motor Show and 9600 HP as the press car in which it was planned that PR man Bob Berry would take all the press out for their test drives.

Next to this is a 1966 Series 1 E-Type which outwardly looks the same as the earlier one but represents the first major upgrade to the car.  The 3.8 litre engine was replaced by a 4.2 litre version, the power remained the same but torque was increased so it pulled better at lower revs.  A new Jaguar designed and built gearbox replaced the aged Moss box that had no synchro on first gear.  The brakes were uprated and the early, small, bucket seats were replaced with bigger, better, adjustable, more comfortable seats.  For many E-Type owners this is the most desirable version as it retains the aesthetic purity of the original with faired-in headlamps and slim sidelamps, and it is a much better car to drive, smoother gear-change, better brakes and extremely comfortable for long distance touring.

Group 44 V12 E-type and the World’s Fastest E-Type

The cars on display finish with a pair that both represent the Series 3 incarnation of the car and the later racing history.  In 1971 Jaguar launched their 5.3 litre V12 engine in the E-Type and it went on to power the large XJ Saloons, XJSes etc.  The 2 seater Coupé version was dropped and only a 2 seater Roadster and the 2+2 Coupé were built, both on the extended floorpan of the 2+2.  The Series 3 is the best car for taller drivers as there is much more legroom and headroom in both versions.

Initially V12 sales in the US were slow so British Leyland (Jaguar’s owners at the time) signed up Bob Tullius to race the V12 E-Types under his Group 44 team banner.  Following a fairly successful season in 1974, Group 44 won the SCCA Group B championship in 1975 with the V12 E-Type.

The final car on display started life as a standard V12 E-Type and was raced extensively in the 1980s and 1990s in the ‘Modsports’ category.  It evolved over a period of 20 years, with its engine growing in size from 5.3 to 7.3 litres, now fuelled by six, twin-choke webbers.  The car has many bespoke parts including suspension and braking system and, helping to deliver the power to the tarmac, it has a rear wing from an XJR9 and a bespoke front splitter.  In 2001 it was timed at 184 mph winning it the accolade of ‘ The World’s Fastest E-type.’


The JDHT doesn’t just preserve our collection of cars for the nation but in our archive we also preserve Jaguar related documentation, advertisements, artworks and other artefacts – a number of these are on display in this exhibition.

1961 E-type Roadster 77 RW
in front of 2011 Painting
by Ian Cook – PopBangColour

In 2011, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the E-Type the Trust commissioned local artist Ian Cook (PopBangColour) famous for creating paintings using model cars, to produce a painting of 77 RW.  He started this on the evening of the Gala Dinner and finished it in time to unveil at the end of the dinner.  This is on display with 77 RW parked in front of it, whenever possible.

We filmed Ian Cook’s work and a time lapse view of his creative efforts is on our YouTube channel.

77 RW is booked for a few outings during the duration of the exhibition so won’t be on display all the time.

We have a special display explaining the work of aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer, who was responsible for the body design of the C, D and E-Types, which includes a number of wind tunnel models.

A series of adverts have been reproduced on the mezzanine wall area.

We also have a complete V12 engine on display.  The sectioned V12 engine that the JDHT owns is fuel injected not carburetted.  Fuel injected engines were fitted to the XJ6 saloons and the XJ-S that replaced the E-Type, but never to E-Types.  We are grateful to XK Engineering in Shilton who have loaned us their display engine which has the correct four Stromberg carburettors fitted.  This normally stands in their own reception area welcoming visitors to their site.

The exhibition is included in the normal British Motor Museum admission.  Museum entry is £14.50 for adults, £12.50 for concessions, £9 for children (5-16 years) and under 5s are FREE.  There is also the option to Gift Aid or donate your entry fee and get an Annual Pass in return, at no extra cost.