60th Anniversary of the 1961 E-Type Debut
Sir William Lyons wasn’t entirely prepared when he unveiled the Jaguar E-Type to the press and motor trade at the Restaurant du Parc des Eaux Vives before its debut at the Salon de l’Automobile de Genève in March of 1961. At the last minute Lyons rang up test driver Norman Dewis to “drop everything and bring over the open-top E-Type.”
The story is widely told but worth repeating: Jaguar had two Opalescent Gunmetal Coupes at the Restaurant du Parc des Eaux Vives on March 15th, the day before the big show. 885005 sat inside the restaurant for close up impressions while the high speed test car, 885002 better known as ‘9500HP’ was outside for photoshoots where Lofty stood next to it. Later in the day journalists were driven by Bob Barry on a pre-made hillclimb route. The response to the demonstration runs was so overwhelming that Sir William Lyons had Norman Dewis drive a British Racing Green Roadster ’77 RW’ overnight, from England to Geneva, to be at the hillclimb demonstration the next morning. Norman drove from the experimental shop in England at 745pm, caught the 10pm ferry from Dover and ran into dense fog in the night. By the time he got to the Swiss border, the direct route over the alps to Geneva was closed so the longer alternative drive was taken. Norman then arrived just before the 10am deadline in Geneva. He had no time to rest: ’77 RW’ was fitted with new whitewall tires, filled with fuel so Norman could give demonstration rides that day.
In total Jaguar had three cars at Geneva, one placed on a Persian rug as the centerpiece of Jaguar’s display and the two test development cars, essentially straight from the MIRA test track, outside the show for a hillclimb demonstrations.
Chassis 885005. This LHD Fixed Head Coupé was shown to the public at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show sitting on a Persian rug. In May of 1961 it was sold to Mr. Filippinetti of Scuderia Filippinetti and remained in Switzerland almost all its life. It was restored by Dönni Classic Car AG in 2002-2003 where it was found to be “built up on the structure of an already existing convertible body” as the first hand-built experimental coupe body.
Chassis 885002 ‘9600HP’. The second FHC produced refereed to as ‘Hard Top No .02‘. Used as a development car by Norman Dewis and tested at MIRA to 143 mph and later became one of the two Geneva demonstration cars. Was photographed with Sir William Lyons outside the Restaurant du Parc des Eaux Vives in Geneva. Interesting features include a lack of front bumper overriders and no center grill motif bar which was probably to aid the high-speed tests. At some point converted from LHD to RHD. Purchased by author Philip Porter in 1977 and subsequently restored by CMC Classic Motor Cars to a high standard. Philip Porter reports that 885002 still retains its LHD throttle linkage and has a unique aluminum rear hatch panel.
Chassis 850003 ’77RW’. The famous RHD roadster driven by Norman Dewis from the Experimental Department overnight to Switzerland for test drives. This car was initially prepared for MIRA high-speed testing and fitted with the first production E-Type engine R1001-9. Also used as a press car and featured in numerous early articles for The Motor and Autocar who were both able to achieve 150mph.
For the 60th anniversary Jaguar is releasing six matched pairs of restored 3.8 E-types with custom appointments including an engraved centre console by artist King Nerd, commemorative E-type 60th logo on the bonnet badge, fuel cap, chassis plate, a close-ratio 5-speed manual gearbox, Jaguar Classic Infotainment System, alloy radiator and electronic ignition.