Trends are all well and good, but sometimes tastes change. Sometimes, that change comes really quickly.
Take the Jaguar E-Type as an example. It’s one of the most famous British cars ever made, and rightly so; speak to anyone who was a car-mad child in 1961 when it was launched, and they’ll tell you of the immense impact the first sight of those sweeping haunches and cowled headlamps made on them. It also transformed Jaguar, placing the British sports car at the centre of a worldwide export success story.
But Hagerty’s view over the last couple of years is that the kids from sixty years ago are starting to fade away. If they had ever wanted to own an E-Type, they had probably already achieved their goal and had one parked in their garage. The younger money now flooding the market looked at the car, and it didn’t really flick their switches as much as the Countach, 911 Turbo and Testarossa did. We used this to explain why values of all E-Types, even those that were hugely collectible in the middle of the last decade (such as the very early outside bonnet lock and flat floor cars), were trending downwards.
But something strange is happening. This week, a Jaguar E-Type sold on Bring a Trailer for $395,000 (including fees) – about £325,000. Although it was seemingly well-restored, it wasn’t one of the most “collectible” models: a 1967 4.2-litre car in Carmen Red is nice, but not the purist’s 3.8-litre in Opalescent Silver Blue. But assuming the sale is good (and there’s a lot of online chatter), that’s not just a strong sale but a ball being knocked out of the park and into the car lot next door: it’s over $30K more than the US Hagerty Price Guide’s condition #1 ‘concours’ value.
However, it’s not an outright record. RM Sotheby’s sold a 1966 4.2 Roadster back in 2013 for $467,500. However, that was at the height of the E-Type price frenzy, and the car in question was a three-time 100-point JCNA National Champion. It’s what Hagerty calls an ‘outlier’ because it’s a one-off.
It’s easy to dismiss the latest high sale as another outlier or chalk it up to the frenzied atmosphere at Bring a Trailer. Yet there actually has been an upward trend that may have been going on below the radar. In the US, Hagerty data show that the median value for E-Types that people have called us about insurance for has increased in the last 12 months from around $90,000 to around $108,000.
We can also see consistent evidence that these ”Boomer cars” have been rising online for some time before this sale. Look at all BaT results, and there has been a marked upshift in values over the last couple of years. Back in 2018, just one Series 1 E-Type sold on the site for more than $100,000. By the end of 2020, the first few had topped $200,000. Then, in the past 16 months, things went a bit wild: a total of 13 examples sold for over $250,000 with four selling for over $300,000 in 2022 so far.
But… and this is a big but… the resurgence in E-Type values seems to be an American phenomenon. In the UK, values have been steady or even declining – the UK Hagerty Price Guide average for a Series I 4.2 Roadster reached a ten-year low in January 2021 of £91,200, a figure that has only just started to rise again. The peak, concours value for the ’67 model sold in the ‘States is £144,000 here.
Five years ago, nearly 90 per cent of the Series I E-Types covered by Hagerty worldwide were owned by drivers born before 1965. Today, that’s closer to 65 per cent.
It’s all about the numbers, says William Heynes, the UK-based restorer whose attention to detail has found his cars reaching the Pebble Beach lawn (and he should know, as his grandfather Bill Heynes designed the XK engine). “There just aren’t that many good restorations in the US at the moment,” he told me. “And those with real provenance and originality – totally factory-built bodies and a clean, accident-free monocoque – are almost impossible to find in America. Those good ones out there are very rare, and very desirable.”
The acceptance of the E-Type as a truly important collector car is also quite a new thing, Heynes noted. “Five years ago, there wasn’t as much information out there on the exact specification of the cars, but recent books have rectified this. Also, the model is suddenly being accepted into the top tier of motoring events; would a road-going E-Type have made it to Pebble Beach until the last couple of years and be accepted as a preservation car? I doubt it.”
So, are E-Types cool again, and if so, why? Maybe it’s that retro feel: the 1967 model sold on BaT combined the very best of the original car’s design – covered headlamps, toggle switches, elegant bumpers – with the torquey 4.2-litre engine. If you want a competent, beautiful British roadster, you won’t go far wrong with this.
“With disc brakes all round, independent rear suspension and a car that will out-perform modern traffic and easily reach 125-130 mph, it’s a lot of car for your money,” Heynes opined. What he didn’t say was that he, along with his partner, photographer Amy Shore, detail their meticulous rebuilds through social media. This is bringing the model out to a new generation. Five years ago, nearly 90 per cent of the Series I E-Types covered by Hagerty worldwide were owned by drivers born before 1965. Today, that’s closer to 65 per cent.
Then again, it may also just be a numbers thing. Back in 2018, values were relatively low, so many owners felt no incentive to sell. When prices started to rise, it encouraged more cars out of the garages and into the classified ads. As the values increase, so the temptation for owners of the very best cars to part with them grows too.
So, for many reasons the E-Type is one of those few cars that, in a global marketplace, is actually diverging in price depending on where it is sold. That’s something Hagerty will keep watching.