The evolution of E-Type as a racer

10th September 2017
Adam Wilkins

Unlike the C- and D-Type that came before it, the Jaguar E-Type wasn’t born to be a racing car. Its forebears were designed to take on Le Mans and other high profile motorsport events, but the E-Type was more aimed at touring.


It was very well received at its Geneva launch in 1961 thanks to its stunning looks and relative affordability compared to rivals from Aston Martin and Ferrari. But when the FIA created a GT category for production sports cars, the E-Type was a perfect fit. It was only natural that it would follow its predecessors into competition. At the Goodwood Revival, we’re able to witness the E-Type’s evolution from road-going tourer to ever more advanced competition car.

The E-Type’s first competitive outing was one month after its Geneva debut, and like the early E-Type racers at Revival, it looked much like a road car converted for the circuit. The venue was Oulton Park and the drivers were Graham Hill and Roy Salvadori. The former came first, the latter third split by an Aston Martin DB4 and with a brace of Ferrari 250 GTs behind all three British cars. The E-Type had further wins at Silverstone, Brands Hatch and here at Goodwood, establishing its mettle as a racer.


By 1962, the E-Type got more serious as a competition car with the introduction of the Low Drag. It was penned by Jaguar’s chief designer and pioneering aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer. As the name suggests, the shape was more slippery with a more steeply raked windscreen, reshaped roof and rear panels. Other visual identifiers include the cooling ducts for the rear brakes. While it retained the road-going E-Type’s steel subframes, aluminium was used for the construction of some body panels. Mechanically, the 3.8-litre engine had a wide angle cylinder head, as per the D-Type. The result of all of that was an increase in the car’s top speed of 20mph.

While this was going on, Jaguar was working on the mid-engined XJ13, so campaigning the E-Type was left to private teams. The first such car carried the famous CUT 7 registration and was raced by Dick Protheroe in period.


The Lightweight E-Type of 1963 was an evolution of the Low Drag, but for the fact that (with one exception) they were based on open-top cars but all featured hard roofs. It went further with the aluminium construction than the Low Drag, using the lightweight material for its entire monocoque construction and for the engine block. Thanks to its wider wheels and stiffened suspension, it the most aggressive looking E-Type, and that translated to performance that beat rival Ferraris on a number of occasions. It chalked up victories at Goodwood, Snetterton and Silverstone as well as a class win at the Sebring 12-Hour.

Jaguar had planned to build 18 Lightweights in period, but only produced 12. The ‘missing’ six were built by Jaguar’s heritage division in 2014 to the exact specification of the original cars.

The Revival offers a chance to see them back to back and pick a favourite. Which would you take for some laps around the circuit? 

Photography by Pete Summers and Tom Shaxson

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