March 1961 saw the introduction of the Jaguar XKE to the world – an event that ushered in the Golden Age for the venerable XKE series. Boasting an engine that could do an amazing 265hp, and at half the price of a Ferrari or Aston Martin, the Jaguar XKE took the automotive world by storm.
Heralded as one of the most stunning cars ever made, the Jaguar XKE combined beauty and brawn to reach a very impressive 240 km/h. Sleek lines and a powerful engine gave the Jaguar XKE a refined pedigree, unmatched by competing cars at the time. This is made even more amazing considering that the sticker price of this car is half of that of its competitors.
Fresh from victories by C Types and D Types at Le Mans, the engineers at Jaguar’s head plan in Coventry used the knowledge gained from the race track into the design and manufacture of production machines. The engineers decided to completely overhaul the aging XK 150 line while retaining the superb XK engine. These were the seeds of the XKE line, which combined the best technology and design of the era with raw horsepower to create what is arguably the greatest road legal car ever created. Although the XKE was intended primarily as a road going car, it soon proved its mettle on the raceways of Europe and America.
The first XKE models made its appearance at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961, amid tight security and secrecy. The car has the same powerful six cylinder 3.8 litre engine as found in the XK, with dual overhead camshafts that could do a whopping 265hp. For the first two years the XKE came as a two seat coupe and a convertible, with newer configurations released in the future. The mid 60s saw the XKE undergo several changes such as the enlargement of the engine to 4.2 litres, triple SU carburettors and a high-tech all-synchromesh gearbox. Brakes were upgraded and more comfortable seats added.
‘66 saw the arrival of the Jaguar XKE 2+2 models with a longer wheelbase for added stability and a higher roofline for more interior space. The following year saw headlamp covers removed and the engine tweaked to meet strict new US Federal emissions regulations. Other minor cosmetic changes included the rounded polished camshaft covers being replaced by black ribbed covers to give the car a more industrial look.
After meeting US Federal emissions specifications, the engineers at Jaguar had to send the beloved car back to the drawing board this time to make changes demanded by the new US Federal road safety regulations. Among the changes that came out of this were rearranged headlamps, wrap around bumpers. and the enlargement of front and rear taillights.
Although they were costly and unpopular, Jaguar management back in Coventry knew that such changes were necessary to continue the success they’ve been enjoying in America. As a concession to Federal safety standards, the engine’s power was reduced and a larger motor intake with twin electric fans attached to the radiator were installed to improve engine cooling. The braking mechanism was also overhauled in the name of safety and the original toggle switches replaced by safer rocker switches.
1971 saw the introduction of the Jaguar XKE Series 3 with a 5.3 litre V12 engine. In addition to the bigger engine the Series 3 also had a larger wheelbase for added stability. Other changes include a chrome grill on the engine hood mouth and a wider track. Power steering also had to be added to handle the increased weight from the large V12 engine. The flared wheel arches give the Series 3 its unique look.