On March 11, 2018, the 23rd annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will celebrate and honor the British icon that changed the world of sports cars forever. A full class of Jaguar XKEs will take to “The Amelia’s” field nearly six decades after the XKE’s glamorous public debut by Jaguar founder and Chairman Sir William Lyons at the Hotel du Parc des Eaux-Vives on Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
Jaguar unleashed its new E-Type upon an unsuspecting world on March 15, 1961, an engineering, marketing and design masterpiece. The E-Type, named XKE in America, was at least one full design cycle ahead of the other glamorous players in the premium high performance grand touring category. No less than Enzo Ferrari declared it “the most beautiful car ever made,” and in 1996, The Museum of Modern Art added an E-Type roadster to its permanent collection — only the second automobile ever installed in the prestigious and highly selective Manhattan institution.
The XKE is a pure blood descendant of Jaguar’s three-time Le Mans winner, the legendary D-Type. The potent D-Type’s design DNA flows through the svelte contours of the XKE courtesy of Malcolm Sayer, the aerodynamicist who also drew the sublime shapes of the Le Mans-winning C-and D-Types. Even today, the E-Type’s silhouette, born in the 180 mph cauldron of Le Mans during the ’50s, looks fresh and modern.
Though it was never meant to be a racer in the mold of its immediate ancestor, the XKE won its first race just a month after its introduction, vanquishing both Aston Martin and Ferrari. In their first entry at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, E-Types finished 4th and 5th overall in 1962! A decade and a half after its debut, and a year after production finally ceased, Jaguar’s XKE was still winning: Bob Tullius won the 1975 SCCA National B Production National Championship with a Group 44-prepared V12 XKE.
“The XKE isn’t simply one of the greatest car designs of the 20th century, it’s one of the greatest designs of all time,” said Bill Warner, founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “The XKE is so beautiful and perfectly proportioned that Jaguar’s American ad agency simply put pictures of a red coupe and roadster on a white background in their magazine ads with the tag line ‘This is the new Jaguar XK-E!’ The shape sold the car. No gimmicks, no slogans, just that perfect XKE shape.”