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This 1961 Jaguar E-Type hides a fascinating history

by Andrew Newton
24 September 2020 3 min read
This 1961 Jaguar E-Type hides a fascinating history
Photos: RM Sotheby's

We are all very ready for 2021 to arrive – mostly, because that means 2020 will be behind us, but also because there are some milestones for car enthusiasts to celebrate next year. For example, 2021 is the Jaguar E-Type’s 60th birthday, so you can be sure there will be plenty of fanfare for “the most beautiful car in the world” (Enzo Ferrari’s words, not mine). Those that want to get an early start on the celebratory action should take a socially-distanced tour of this significant Jaguar, up for auction next month.

A factory development and press car as well as the tenth production E-Type coupe built, chassis number 860010 crosses the block on October 31 at the RM Sotheby’s London auction.

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As the history books record, the E-Type had a glorious debut in March, 1961. A barely-finished gunmetal grey fixed-head coupe, registered as 9600 HP, was driven from the Jaguar factory at high speed to Switzerland and arrived just in the nick of time for that year’s Geneva Motor Show. Demand for test drives was so high that a green roadster, registered as 77 RW, was rushed 600 miles to Geneva with factory driver Norman Dewis at the wheel.

RM Sotheby's is auctioning a rare 1961 Jaguar E-Type development and press test car_Hagerty

The curvaceous Jaguars stole the show, and over the coming months the motoring press waxed lyrical about the new cat from Coventry. Autosport called it “one of the quietest and most flexible cars on the market, capable of whispering along in top gear at 10 mph or leaping into its 150 mph stride on the brief depression of a pedal,” and praised its “sheer beauty of line which easily beats the Italians at their own particular game.”

Meanwhile, Autocar got its best recorded performance figures to date out of the E-Type and said it delivered “what drivers have so long asked for, namely, sports-racing-car performance and handling, combined with docility, gentle suspension and the appointments of a town car.” On the far side of the pond, Road & Track noted that it “comes up to, and exceeds, all our expectations.”


The 77 RW roadster is currently in the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust collection, and 9600 HP became the subject of a 2002 book, grandly titled The Most Famous Car in the World. Jaguar is also building six replicas of the Geneva Motor Show pair to celebrate the E-Type’s 60th.

Jaguar used 6162 RW for high-speed and suspension testing, making some interior changes in the process. Close examination reveals a lower floor on the driver’s side and repositioned pedals (early “flat floor” E-Types – tracked and analysed for values over time, here – have notoriously cramped footwells), revised ventilation, altered seats, and a few other minor details. The changes you can’t see included new piston rings, an aluminium oil pan, and a 3.07:1 axle ratio (compared to 3.31 in the standard car).

The chassis number of the 1961-Jaguar-E-Type-Series 1

Magazine features for 6162 RW included Italy’s Quattroruote, Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, and Britain’s Motoring News. During his test for the European magazines at Monza, famous racing driver/journalist Paul Frère hit 159 mph. Motoring News topped 160 mph in the car. It then served as a press car during the 1962 Tour de France, and by 1963 the car was in private hands. It got a ground-up, years-long restoration in the early 2010s and hasn’t been shown publicly since Salon Privé in 2018.

Will this be a world record E-Type? Probably not. Genuine Lightweights have sold well into the millions in recent years. It will, however, probably be the most expensive E-Type we’ve seen in quite some time. Two very early, very rare (Jag built about 20) U.S. market flat-floor E-Type coupes have sold in the past couple of years, one for $720,000 (£564,000) and one for $626,500 (£491,000). This example’s stellar history and unique factory features should see it to at least that much. And if you can’t stretch to such a significant example, see our Buying Guide to the E-Type.

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