Since its early incarnation as ‘Swallow Sidecars’, Jaguar has always been synonymous with quality cars and classic designs
Following a post-war rebranding from SS to Jaguar in 1945 the company produced a string of legendary and iconic vehicles, starting with the XK120 in 1948. Its reputation for producing coveted sports cars has never diminished, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
As part of our Best of Marques blog series, Carphile has selected five of Jaguar’s best from early icons to the one that is destined to take the mantle, and in future rank alongside the Marque’s finest cars.
The One to Buy Now – XJS
It’s never easy filling the shoes of a bona-fide icon and the XJS had the unenviable task of replacing the E-Type. Although it took long time to make a name for itself, the XJS remained in production for over 20 years – more than any other Jaguar.
Launched in 1975, the XJ-S coupe sat on a shortened XJ6 platform. With seating for four, large boot, twin fuel tanks and 140mph performance the newcomer was very much a GT compared to the sports car it replaced.
Primarily designed by Malcolm Sayer, famed designer of the D- and E-Type, gone were the beautiful curves of the fifties and sixties as the XJ-S presented a more challenging form.
But back to that long-life. Over time, those challenging looks softened and matured. Fitted with a range of V12 and six cylinder engines and, eventually, a cabriolet joined the coupe. The 1991 facelift further softened the design, XJ-S became XJS, and the car carried a fine level of development polish as it purred towards retirement.
That early stigma stuck, which for a long time has kept prices low but the signs are that XJS prices are on the rise. With prices for a ’90s XJS start at around £7,000 it may well be the time to buy one while you still can.
The Superstar – E-Type
The Jaguar E-Type, the quintessential sixties sports car pin-up, a genuine superstar from the very start.
Developed by the department whose cars dominated sports car racing in the 1950s. It’s shape so beautiful Enzo Ferrari declared it “the most beautiful car in the world”, a headline-grabbing 150mph top speed and a price half as expensive as an Aston-Martin or Ferrari with similar performance.
Early cars came with a 3.8L engine, later to become a 4.2L engine, although the larger capacity only only really increased the torque and top speed remained the same at 150mph. In the 1970s, with the launch of the S3, the E-Type became the first car to feature Jaguar’s (now legendary) V12 engine.
In recent years prices for the E-Type have risen dramatically and good early examples have sold for over £120,000.
The Game Changer – XK120
While history may favour the E-Type in terms of iconic design, in 1948 it was the XK120 that set the sports car standard.
The 120 in the name derived from the cars 120mph top speed, it might not sound much in 2014 but at the time it earned Jaguar’s first post-war sports car the world’s fastest production car and at a launch price of just over £1000 it made the competition look over-priced.
The very first cars were built around a hand-built wooden frame, clothed in aluminium panels, this switched to a pressed all-steel construction to meet high demand for the car.
The car was successful in motorsport as well as the showroom, winning the Alpine and RAC Rallies twice in the hands of Ian Appleyard. While the C-Type, developed from the XK120, went on to win the Le Mans 24 hour Race in 1951 and 1953.
The Legend – D-Type
If the XK120 started the trend then it was the D-Type perfected the formula, putting the XK engine to good use, winning Le Mans three years in a row in 1955, 1956 & 1957.
The car’s distinctive design, with its rear fin and sweeping curves, came from an aeronautical approach to aerodynamic efficiency. That fin designed to steady the car at high speed on the long La Sarthe straights and with a lightweight monocoque centre section, the car weighed in at just 870kg.
A factory fire in 1957 destroyed nine D-Types and arguably prematurely ended production. In total only 42 are thought to have been made, with Jaguar turning 16 into road XKSS sports cars. Today that mix of motorsport success, rarity and fine curves make a D-Type among the most valuable and sought after cars in the world.
The Future Classic – F-Type
Although it only rolled off the production line in 2013, the F-Type has the performance, looks and desirability, hallmarks that mark it out as a classic Jaguar sports car.
The F-Type R sits at the top of the F-Type range, powered by a 5.0 litre supercharged V8, in coupé form the car can cover the 0-60 dash in 4.0 seconds and go on to a top-speed of 186mph. The entry V6 Supercharged model, itself no slouch, covers 0-60 dash in 5.1 seconds and has a top speed of 161mph.
Ok so we admit it’s a bit early to be speculating about how the F-Type will fare against its distinguished C, D and E-type predecessors in years to come but Jaguar fans had to wait nearly 40 years for a new leaping cat sports car. This combined with the strong public reaction and the fact that Jaguar is very much on something of a roll right now all suggest the F-Type is well on its way to achieving classic status.