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Monday, March 2, 2015

Meet the Jaguar E2A Prototype: Father of the E-Type


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Jaguar E2A Prototype photo

Jaguar had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans five times in the 1950s with the gorgeous C-Type and D-Type. Jaguar boss William Lyons particularly liked the Malcolm Sayer-designed lines and curves of the D-Type, and wanted to put its technology and good looks to use in a viable road car.

This would be the legendary E-Type of 1961. But before that, there was one experimental racing prototype that bridged the gap between ‘D’ and ‘E’. That was the E2A.

The E-Type would take the world by storm when it was first shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961. By 1960, though, the shape of the E-Type’s nose had already been formed on the experimental E2A. The tail, meanwhile, was more reminiscent of a D-Type.

 This one-off car also had independent suspension at both ends like the E-Type eventually got, but the engine had shrunk to 3.0 liters (down from 3.8) to comply with FIA regulations for prototypes.

Jaguar E2A Prototype racing photo

Jaguar no longer had a factory racing program by the time of the E2A, so the car was given to the prestigious American Briggs Cunningham team to campaign. It debuted at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the talented pair of Walt Hangsen and Dan Gurney doing the driving.

 The brand-new Jag faced stiff competition from the Ferrari Testarossas and the Maserati Birdcages and retired with mechanical trouble. It was not to be victory number six for Jaguar.

After Le Mans, Cunningham fitted a 3.8-liter engine and campaigned the E2A in the U.S. The car won at Bridgehampton and finished on the podium at Road America before going to the West Coast, where it was driven by none other than Bruce McLaren and Jack Brabham.

 It wasn’t suited to the shorter tracks there, however, and didn’t impress. The E2A’s racing career had mixed results, but its
place in the Jaguar lineage is hugely important.

 Like most race-bred Jags, it is stunning to look at. Thankfully, it was saved from destruction and made its way to collectors. It last sold at auction in 2008 for just under $5 million.