Feature Car 1961 Jaguar E-Type roadster

With its stunning sleek bodywork and groundbreaking performance, it was hardly surprising that the new E-Type Jaguar astonished all when it was First launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1961. his gorgeous machine attracted the attention of the whole world like no other car had ever done before, with an added bonus — it was nearly half the price of an Aston Martin DB4. Unbeknown to Jaguar’s founder, William Lyons, its designer, Malcolm Sayer, and its engineering director, William Heynes, had created what would become one of the greatest motoring legends of all time.

Rare cat

Simon Crispe purchased our featured 1961 Jaguar E-Type roadster in Inverkeilor, Scotland on September 4, 2009. He discovered that this fabulous example is one of the oldest remaining cars, possibly one of the earliest 12 known cars in existence, making it a very rare cat indeed.

His very early E-Type roadster, finished in Jaguar Cream with red leather interior, was built at Browns Lane in Coventry on April 27, 1961. E-Type number 29 rolled out of the Jaguar factory exactly six weeks, to the day, after the iconic E-Type’s March 16 launch to the world in Geneva. At that famous launch date, just a handful of E-Types had been built and, by the end of April 1961, only a very few more had seen the light of day. It was a slow beginning — while the factory worked out exactly how to make these cars — to what became a total production run of 72,500 E-Types built over 14 years.


Jaguar E-Type 29 is an interesting car in a number of ways — mostly because it is so early, had never been restored, and has a number of very rare and original features found only on the first 50 cars. hey have sometimes been described as ‘pre-production’ units because, apparently, the factory was still experimenting with build methods, and the car was being re-engineered on a trial-and-error basis as they went.

Other than the bumps and dents of 49 years and 79,000 miles (127,138km), Simon’s example was unbelievably original, with little corrosion, so almost all of its complement of 22-gauge steel body panels was still intact.

David Barnett stored the car from 2003 to 2009. A Jaguar racer and restoration specialist, he and his two sons run a workshop called ‘Classic Autosports’ in Inverkeilor, on the East Coast of Scotland. His partner, Craig McWhirter, acquired the car in 2003, precisely because it was so untouched. He planned to use it effectively as a pattern for another early car that he had purchased in pieces, with many key components missing.

Incidentally, there’s a bizarre connection between Classic Autosports and its outside-latch E-Type in Scotland, and Simon’s dear friends Jane and Byron Ballan. Simon discovered that, by amazing coincidence, Byron used to own the very same early E-Type that Craig was restoring — albeit back in Auckland in the late ’70s — and knew the car all those years before. Byron had sold it in pieces in the early ’80s, and it somehow ended up in Scotland. Small world, or what?

Dubai restoration

Simon soon came to the conclusion that his new acquisition needed to be restored carefully and sensitively, with originality as the key, but without over-restoring.

He stripped the car down in his air-conditioned garage in Dubai — it needed to be air conditioned so that he could survive while stripping down an old, dilapidated Jaguar in the 50-degree summer heat. Simon was careful to label absolutely everything, and he took plenty of photographs knowing that his memory would not help at all a year or two later when reassembling the car.

While busily disassembling the E-Type, Simon discovered even more extraordinary originality, and believes the only “damaging repairs” that had been done to the car were a poor repaint in almost the correct colour, a nasty black interior with black-look “everything”, a dreadful pair of ghetto-blaster speakers, and an eight-track music system stitch-drilled into the rear bulkhead. He also found that 99 per cent of all the fixings in this car were the original Jaguar factory fixings, sourced from three or four manufacturers that had all ceased trading in the late 1960s, including BEES, GKN, and Rubery Owen. Simon continued to meticulously catalogue all the bolts, photographing where they came from and carefully cleaning each one in degreaser before wire brushing them with his trusty Makita double-ended grinder. He then had them refinished to match the factory specification, either via black Japanning or with cadmium. Luckily, he found a platter in Dubai who could replicate these original finishes perfectly by modifying a mix of zinc plating, which is so close to cadmium and the black finish as to be indistinguishable. Cadmium plating is a nightmare today, due to the environmental concerns about its by-products, which include copious amounts of arsenic.

There was a tiny amount of rust below the rear light units, where there is a double-skin panel that ills up like a one-litre bucket if the body gaskets for the tail-lights leak, and sure enough, they had, requiring repair panels of about 150x150mm to be welded into place.

Simon’s good friend Vijay Pillai and his superb body shop team at Max Mechanical garage in Dubai stripped the finishes of the bare monocoque using a soda-blasting process that leaves all metal intact but removes every contaminant. Apparently, the body panels for these very early cars were formed on plugs made from the original handmade panels from one of the prototypes that was broken up. The panels were filled with concrete and used as the formers for the first of these pre-production cars. Hence, the it was not so good and the use of lead rather prolific.

Vijay and his team also applied the underbody Schutz coating before painting the entire car in the original Jaguar Cream, which later became Old English White. he engine and gearbox were rebuilt in Christchurch by Jaguar engine and racing preparation specialist Dave Silcock.

In May 2012, the now perfect monocoque was ready for Simon to begin reassembly. Back at home, he had prepared the garage to receive the freshly restored body with new carpet, so that he could roll around in comfort as he installed every original replated nut and bolt. According to Simon, this was the real fun part of the restoration — especially after all the years of disassembling, cleaning, degreasing filthy parts, researching, and gathering original and restored bits from all over the world into one place — his garage.

Then came the delight of heading home after a tough day (or week) at work, to immerse himself in all things E-Type Jag, reassembling everything very carefully, with it all now cleanly, freshly restored, and immaculate: he felt rather like an original Jaguar line technician must have while assembling this brand-new and very exciting car back in 1961.

UK bound

By the end of 2013, the car was ready, warranted and drivable, but it lacked the interior, soft top, and final painting of the external panels for concours-ready presentation. Simon decided to send the E-Type to the UK for very exact finishing by a marque specialist in the earliest cars — Classic Motor Cars, or CMC, as it is known. He had first read about CMC back in 2008, in a great book by Phillip Porter titled he Most Famous Car in the World. The car Phillip referred to in his book is known as’ 9600HP’ — it is the only surviving prototype E-Type, and it was restored by CMC. hat was a silver-grey fixed-head coupé built in December 1960, the actual car that completed the famed 150mph (241kph) dash in France and the principal launch car at Geneva in March 1961. When the motoring world was going crazy over the new Jaguar, Enzo Ferrari reportedly described it as, “he most beautiful car in the world”. It went on to become the official press car for Jaguar and was eventually sold, thus escaping being dismantled as all the other prototypes had been. It survives to this day in the UK.

CMC is the pre-eminent specialist in the restoration of the early cars and boasts a large number of them in its completed restoration-project list. CMC finished many of the component rebuilds for Simon, such as the window-winder regulators, wiper rack, and correctly marked windscreen with the 1961 Triplex logo, as well as providing a constant supply of special parts as needed. After its uneventful voyage to Shropshire, the team at CMC spent several months completing the car and road testing it around the Shropshire countryside in the summer of 2014. Simon collected the car in early June, and his friends at Emirates airline air freighted the very precious cargo back to Dubai, where it arrived late in June.

Wedding bells

By late 2014, Simon’s eldest daughter’s wedding was well in focus, and a not-unexpected request was made for one E-Type to be available in New Zealand on March 7, 2015, for wedding-car duties. Without further ado — and despite pleadings from the Dubai Emirates Classic Car Festival Concours d’Elegance organizing committee not to ship the car — it left Dubai late in October and arrived in perfect time for some very happy days. The first of which was its display at the 2015 Ellerslie Intermarque Concours d’Elegance as part of the New Zealand Classic Car stand, followed by the wedding a few weeks later.

These proud moments will last with Simon forever; however, he says this year’s Masters Class win at the 2016 Ellerslie Intermarque Concours, with a total score of 550 out of a possible 590 points, has been the greatest thrill of his 45 years of motoring.

Fine style – a picture from the original sales brochure. Simon soon came to the conclusion that his new acquisition needed to be restored carefully and sensitively, with originality as the key, but without over-restoring. These engine bay pictures are testament to Simon’s meticulous attention to detail. Prized possession, an original sales brochure.

There are major differences between the first 500 cars and rest of the Series I, 3.8-litre cars between 1961 and 1964, of which 15,000 were made. These most obvious differences are as follows.

The bonnet locks via a T-bar key — with one socket on each side. The T-bar key is inserted from the outside, via a small chrome-covered aperture at the back of the bonnet, into a little lock unit on both sides that hooks the bonnet down into place. This is the reference to ‘outside-bonnet- lock’ cars that is the main differentiating point of these first 500 E-Types. There were 385 LHD roadsters, 91 RHD roadsters, 20 LHD fixed-head coupés, and just four RHD coupés. The internal lock devices were fitted to all subsequent cars. The last outside-lock cars were made in September 1961.

The substructure supporting the bonnet is totally different from car 501. It is possible that industrial action at the factory towards the end of 1961 was responsible for the pause at the end of the production of the first 500, when the design team at Jaguar rethought a number of design aspects to both make the cars cheaper to build, so as to maintain the extraordinary low price, and account for early customer feedback.

The louvres in the bonnet are welded. As the original suppliers of the bonnet did not have the machinery to press the louvres into the single-piece centre panel of the bonnet, the louvres were spotwelded into the bonnet panel.

Rare Butler number-plate lights were apparently only on the first 40 to 50 cars (including Simon’s). This car has original Dunlop brakes; later cars had Girling systems.

The boot hinges are tiny single-cast units, and it is thought only around 40 cars had these single-bar units, which would bend in a gust of wind, generating a number of repair claims. The balance of the first 500 had double hinges on each side, and post-500 items were different again, with a solid, heavier single hinge.

There are lots of minor differences under the bonnet — including the engine breather, which is a spiral-wound alloy pipe that discharges onto the ground, while later cars fed into the air cleaner, and the fact that the voltage regular has an alloy cover — later cars had a plastic one.

1 Stripped tub in Dubai 2010

2 Body soda blasted

3 New bulkhead panel fitted

3 Reassembly begins May 2012

4 Tackling the dash wiring

5 Drivetrain installed

6 Ready to ship to UK

7  Airfreight from London to Dubai


ENGINE Jaguar straight-six
CAPACITY 3.8-litre (3781cc)
BORE/STROKE 87/106mm
VALVES  Two per cylinder, double overhead camshaft
MAX POWER 198kW at 5500rpm
MAX TORQUE 353Nm at 4000rpm
FUEL SYSTEM Triple SU carburettors
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual
SUSPENSION F/R  Independent by torsion bar and wishbone, anti-roll bar / Independent by twin coil spring and wishbone with radius arms, anti-roll bar
STEERING Rack-and-pinion
BRAKES F/R Disc/Disc
WIDTH 1657mm
HEIGHT 1225mm
TRACK F/R 1270mm/1270mm
MAX SPEED 241kph
0–100KPH (0-62MPH) 6.9 seconds

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