In 1922, the Swallow Sidecar Company was created. Its initial aim was to produce motorcycle sidecars, and then move into passenger cars, such as the Austin 7 Swallow.
In 1935, the company name was changed to Jaguar Cars, and the improved range of cars was called SS Jaguars.
The Jaguar SS100
The first real Jaguar sports car was the Jaguar SS100, built between 1936-1940. The “100” referred to the fact that it was capable of exceeding 100 mph, something almost unheard of at that time.
Following WW2, the twin overhead cam, straight 6-cylinder, Jaguar XK engine was created.
The Jaguar XK120
In 1948, it was decided to add the new engine to a sports car. The XK120 Jaguar sports car, with the XK engine, was the talk of the 1948 London Motor Show.
The XK120 was a two seater convertible, initially with aluminium panels. The “120” referred to this models top speed of 120 mph.
In 1950, an all-steel version became the norm. A fixed head coupe variant appeared in 1951, plus a drop head coupe in 1953. It used a 3.4 litre XK engine, with an aluminium cylinder head, a compression ratio of 8:1, and two SU carburettors.
In 1949, a prototype XK120 achieved an average speed of 133 mph on a Belgian motorway.
By 1954, when production of these Jaguar cars ended, 7,631 convertibles, 2,678 fixed head coupes, and 1,769 drop head coupes were built.
The Jaguar C-Type
In 1951, the C-Type Jaguar sports car was introduced. It was also designated the XK120-C, where the “C” referred to competition. It was, in essence, a racing car.
It incorporated an aerodynamically designed aluminium body built onto a lightweight tubular space frame chassis. The running gear was that from the XK120.
Its tuned 3.4 litre XK engine had its compression ratio raised to 9:1, but it retained the two SU carburettors.
The engine in later C-Types was fitted with high lift camshafts, and the two SU’s were replaced by three twin-choke Webber carburettors.
In total, there were 53 C-Types built. It was built for racing and, in 1951 and 1953, won the Le Mans 24 hour race.
The Jaguar D-Type
In 1954, Jaguar Cars introduced the D-Type Jaguar sports car.
Like the later versions of the C-Type, it used the 3.4 litre XK engine with three twin-choke Webber carburettors.
The structural design, however, was well ahead of its time. It used a monocoque structure with aluminium body panels, and an aluminium tubing sub frame. This produced a low drag, aerodynamic profile.
The D-Type Jaguar cars were designed for racing:
- In 1954, a D-Type won the Sebring 12 hour race
- It won the 1955 and 1956 Le Mans 24 hour race
- In the 1957 Le Mans, D-Types took five of the top six places – this was the peak of its racing history
The Jaguar XK140
In 1954, the XK120 was succeeded by the XK140 Jaguar sports car.
There were minor styling changes on the new car. It was offered as a two seater convertible, a fixed head coupe, and a drop head coupe.
The standard engine was the XK 3.4 litre, with the special equipment modification as used on the XK120. The power was increased to 190 bhp.
The XK 3.4 litre engine, with the C-Type head (SE model), as used on the XK120, and developing 210 bhp, was offered as an optional extra.
The Jaguar XK150
In 1957, the XK140 was replaced by the XK150 Jaguar sports car. Like its predecessor, it was offered as a two seater convertible, a fixed head coupe and a drop head coupe.
A quick was to distinguish between the two Jaguar cars, XK140 and XK150, was that the latter used a one-piece windscreen, whilst the former used a split screen.
Both the suspension and chassis was as per the XK140, and the steering was rack and pinion.
The basic engine was the XK140 unit, with the C-Type head, producing 190 bhp. However, more common was the 3.4 SE unit, with C-Type head and larger exhaust valves, producing 210 bhp.
In 1958, the 3.4 “S” engine appeared, producing 250 bhp.
In 1960, the 3.4 litre engine was bored out to 3.8 litres, producing 220 bhp. In the 3.8″S” form, it developed 265 bhp.
When production of the XK150 ended in 1960, 2,265 convertibles, 4,445 fixed head coupes, and 2,672 drop head coupes of these fabulous Jaguar cars had been built.
The Jaguar E-Type
In 1961, the enigmatic E-Type Jaguar sports car was launched.
The Series 1 E-Type was powered by a 3.8 litre, triple SU carburetted engine used in the XK150S.
In 1964, the 3.8 litre engine was increased to 4.2 litres. The power and top speed from both these Jaguar cars was the same, although torque was increased.
Up to 1967, the Series 1 was easily recognised by its glass-covered headlights. It was offered as a two seater convertible, or a fixed head coupe. A 2+2 version of the fixed head coupe was available in 1966.
There was a transition series of Jaguar cars built from 1967-1968, between the Series 1 and Series 2 E-Types. This was referred to as the Series 1.5.
By 1968, 15,498 Series 1 3.8, 16,195 Series 1 4.2, and 6,726 Series 1.5 Jaguar cars were built.
In 1969, the Series 2 E-Type Jaguar sports car was introduced. It was easily distinguished from the Series 1 by the open headlights, and wrap-around rear bumper.
Once again, it was offered as a two seater convertible, a fixed head coupe, and a 2+2 variant. It was powered by the XK 4.2 litre engine fitted with three SU carburettors.
By 1971, 4,855 fixed head coupes, 8,628 convertibles, and 5,326 2+2 variants of these Jaguar cars were built.
In 1971, the Series 3 Jaguar E-Type launched. It was offered as a two seater convertible, and a 2+2 version, but the fixed head coupe variant was discontinued.
The Series 3 was powered by a new 5.3 litre, V-12 cylinder, double overhead cam, XK engine. It is easily identifiable by the distinctive front grille and fishtail exhaust.
I feel that the Series 3 was the most desirable of all the E-Types produced by Jaguar Cars.
By 1974, 7,990 convertibles, and 7,297 2+2’s were built.
This marked the end of the E-Type Jaguar sports car.
Perhaps this stroll down memory lane might have answered, or at least shed light on, a possible question:
“Which Jaguar Sports Car Is Your Favourite?”
However, should this question still remain unanswered, I will be reviewing, in some detail, in future articles within this website, the entire range of Jaguar sports cars which were featured in the memorable era spanning 1936 to 1974.
I hope you join me in my nostalgic travels “down sports car memory lane”.