World events this morning continue to operate like shit spewing through a wire basket — the GOPers in Wisconsin pulled a nasty fast one; Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi still maintains law and order while torturing journalists; civilians are still dying in greater numbers throughout Afghanistan; the Dalai Lama calls it quits; and coffee prices spike as globe warming fries the beans.
However, here’s one item that up to now has escaped my eye — Jaguar’s iconic E-Type roadster celebrates its 50th birthday this month.
Cool shades of Steven Terrance McQueen!
(Illustration found here).
During my formative youth, the two most-manly vehicles were the US corvette and the UK’s Jaguar, and although I openly gave great praise to the high-powered Chevy version, the continental, cool and sophisticated secret dream went overwhelmingly with the Jag.
The long sleek body, the throbbing engine and the intellectual masculine contours gave my teen-age brain the wobblies.
Jan and Dean in 1964 and Dead Man’s Curve — a nasty, metal grinding jaunt between the ‘Vette and XKE: “Well, the last thing I remember, Doc, I started to swerve and then I saw the Jag slide into the curve…”
Bad driving to lose to the bulky ‘Vette.
TheÂ New York Times last week gave the old XKE its due.
A few snips in appreciation:
The Museum of Modern Art in New York ratified the E-Typeâ€™s significance in 1996, adding a blue roadster to its permanent design collection. It was only the second road car so honored, following a 1946 Cisitalia 202 GT.
That engine, an in-line 6-cylinder on which Jaguarâ€™s postwar fortunes were built, had its origins in World War II.
According to another of the many legends surrounding the carâ€™s creation, it was born of discussions that took place while Lyons (later Sir William) and three key engineers, William Heynes, Walter Hassan and Claude Baily, performed fire warden duties on the lookout for German bombers.
They had long hours to discuss the principles and details of the best engine they could imagine.
From these brainstorming sessions emerged the twin-cam XK engine, whose output, durability and smoothness became legendary.
The engine was a world-beater on racetracks in the early 1950s, and because of continuous refinement and development it was still an impressive power plant in 1961.
Displacing 3.8 liters and producing 265 horsepower, it gave the E-Type a top speed of 150 m.p.h. and accelerated to 60 m.p.h. in less than seven seconds, according to reviews of the period. (Some credit, of course, goes to the carâ€™s aerodynamic form.)
The E-Typeâ€™s price — $5,595 for the roadster and $5,895 for the coupe in the United States, equivalent to about $42,000 today — was about half that of an Aston Martin or a Ferrari.
Stylistically, the car appeared to come from the future.
With its dramatic oval face and sleek body, as feline and predatory as the Jaguar name promised, it arrived into a world of tailfins like a jet fighter among prop planes.
â€œIt is impossible to overstate the impact the E-Type had when it was unveiled,â€ said Ian Callum, the design director of Jaguar Cars, who as a young man fell under the spell of the E-Type and the XJ6 sedan.
The E-Type was the successor, as its name suggested, to Jaguarâ€™s C-Type and D-Type racecars, both of which had accumulated brilliant competition records, including a string of wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 1950s.
To some observers, the shape seemed more biological than mechanical.
Herbert Muschamp, the former architecture critic for The New York Times, described it in 1996 as â€œblatantly phallic.â€
Robert Cumberford, a critic and historian of automobile design, tagged it â€œPhalliform Perfection,â€ which might be a good name for an alternative band.
I never, ever saw the E-type in that light — a phallic symbol?
How to you orally pronounce phallic?
Just shut up, put the car in gear and let’s get back to some real news.