Our latest icon article was suggested by Lockton Vice President Matt Haynes. Matt is well placed to give a view on the subject as he heads up the Performance sales team and it's usually he or one of his colleagues who will talk to you initially about your own car. He is also a true petrolhead and knows his cars.

Matt says “for me it is one of the most beautiful classic cars ever made, if not the most beautiful.

Everything from the elegant design to the smell of the car. I remember going to a car show when I was a very young boy and I can still smell the leather and exhaust fumes now.

Surely it has be one of the best looking cars from the sixties? Didn't Enzo Ferrari say this too!?”

Matt is absolutely spot-on as Mr Ferrari was quoted as describing this car as the most beautiful car in the world. Does praise come much higher?

If you hadn't guessed, we're talking about Jaguar's E Type, which celebrates its 60th birthday this year and remains a car which for Matt, the late Il Commendatore and many, many others, is the most beautiful car ever made.

Jaguar XK 150 sold by Bonhams £427,100

The E Type story begins in 1956. Jaguar's sporting credentials were firmly established with its XK series, in production for almost 10 years and the XK150 was the latest evolution of this successful model.

Jaguar D-Type sold by RM Sotheby's $21,780,000 – Patrick Ernzen ©2016 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

In motorsport, the C Type and latterly the D Type had achieved significant success, notably at Le Mans between 1951 and 1957 and it was the D Type that laid the foundations for Jaguar's new sports model, both being designed by Jaguar's talented stylist Malcolm Sayer. He had also penned the C Type and his use of many design principles found in the aircraft industry was fundamental in the way Jaguars looked and performed.

Interestingly, the E Type's conception was not as a road car but as a replacement for the D Type. Despite its success, advancements made by rivals had made the car less competitive after a relatively short career. A note from a meeting in January 1956 outlined the basic brief as follows.

'2½ litre engine in a 'D' type car.  The engine to give 200 hp at 7,500 rpm and a top speed of 180 mph.' Bob Blake, a key member of Jaguar's experimental team annotated that it would have an 'aluminium block [engine] with lighter brakes and wheels and a new body to be 6” lower.'

It was intended for the new car to replace the D Type and the timeline gave Jaguar's engineers around 6 months to design and test the car. The name arose from a combination of the natural alphabetic progression from C to D but also for Experimental - it's worth remembering that the C Type was originally the XK120 C (for Competition) and its huge success gave its successor the 'D'. The E Type as we know it was not therefore originally conceived as a road car – more on the origins of the name later.

The new design also featured an all-new independent rear suspension – designed to be more compact and aid traction when compared with the D Type's live rear axle and the leaf sprung arrangement fitted to the XK150. It proved to be a major success for Jaguar as the design remained an integral part of Jaguar's cars for over half a century and was last used on the XK8 and Aston Martin's DB7.

Jaguar surprised the motoring world by withdrawing from motorsport at the end of 1956, preferring to focus on its road cars. This paved the way for the prototype to begin its transformation from an engineering experiment into automotive folklore.

The parameters of the new sports car were set – size, performance expectations and key mechanical criteria and dimensions. The designers and engineers set about their task and the E1A was finished in 1957. The name officially stood for Experimental Type1 and Aluminium. The team working on the car shortened the name to E-type but this was not the official name given to the car by Jaguar at this point.

E1A was a shorter and narrower car than the D Type but broadly similar visually with aerodynamics playing their part in creating a slippery shape. The basic structure of the car used the tried, tested and successful method used in the D Type with engine and drivetrain attached by alloy frames to a central monocoque.

The engine was a 2400cc version of the XK unit and being smaller than the D Type's 3400cc unit meant that the car did not feature the power bulge in the bonnet seen in the production E Type. The car was approximately 2/3 the size of the final production car and many parts were taken from the Jaguar parts store.

This didn't include the rear suspension, which in a first for Jaguar was an entirely new independent design and this formed the basis for future models.

The car was tested extensively during 1957/58, notably by both Norman Dewis, Jaguar's chief test driver and the 1958 Formula One World Champion Mike Hawthorn, by which time the car was fitted with a 3 litre engine. The latter's critique of the car led to extensive reworking of brakes, steering and suspension which were also fitted to the first full prototypes as these had by now been built and were being tested.

Jaguar E-Type Series I 3.8 Roadster sold by RM Sotheby's $440,000 – Pawel Litwinski ©2014 Courtesy of RM Auctions

The production car was fitted with Jaguar's 3.8 litre, 6 cylinder twin overhead cam engine, which grew to 4.2 litres as the car evolved through its initial 10 year run.

The car was launched at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show and this event is not only a key point in the car's history but also produced its own moment of automotive history.

The coupe, registered '9600 HP' had been loaned to various motoring journalists in secret to enable them to prepare road test reports. This left very little time for it to be delivered to Switzerland and it was driven, by all accounts mostly flat-out, from Coventry to Geneva to be delivered with minutes to spare before the car was unveiled to the world.

The reception was overwhelmingly positive (including the famous response from Mr Ferrari) – so much so, that Jaguar's founder Sir William Lyons instructed Dewis to get a second car to the show to respond to the demand for test drives. The convertible, registered '77 RW' was duly delivered overnight to a heroic welcome. The E Type had arrived and the world had most definitely taken notice.

Much was made of Jaguar's claim that the car was capable of reaching 150mph – remember, this was a time when the average family saloon was capable of around 70 and, coincidentally, the motorway network in the UK did not have a speed limit.

9600 HP was converted to right hand drive after the Geneva show and became Jaguar's press car on a full-time basis. Autocar had borrowed the car prior to its launch and, on a stretch of dual carriageway neat Jabbeke in Belgium, recorded a speed of 150.4mph. The speed was never recorded officially to qualify the car for a record and plenty has been written by authors far more expert than us about modifications that may have assisted in reaching this figure – there remains an element of mystery, glamour and of course engineering prowess attaching to that magic number so we'll say no more about how it may have been reached.

Whatever the ingredients used to crack the 150 mark, the car was an instant sales success for Jaguar, with buyers ranging from racing drivers to celebrities. Its launch price was around £2,200, which was very affordable when compared to other sports cars – Aston Martin's DB4 was over £4,000 and if you wanted a Ferrari, the California was a rather eye watering £8,300.

To give that some real world perspective, the average annual wage in the UK at the time was £960, the average cost of a family home was just over £2,500 and Ford's Anglia would have cost you around £300.

The E Type's launch coincided with the birth of the Swinging Sixties and became as synonymous with the culture of the era as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones Twiggy and the Mini – indelibly a part of history.

One of many defining cinematic moments came at the end of the decade and the 1969 movie The Italian Job featured a pair of E Types, coupe and roadster, which both sadly met their on-screen demise at the hands of the Mafia. Happily, both cars survived to this day, with 848 CRY leading a life as a racing car after filming before being acquired by the same gentleman who owns 9600 HP.

Jaguar E-Type Lightweight sold by Bonhams $8,000,000 – courtesy of Bonhams

Talking of racing, the E Type also achieved much success on track. Jaguar made 12 Lightweight cars and tested a 'low drag' version with streamlined bodywork. This car, registered as 'CUT 7' could have been a genuine rival to Ferrari's GTO but the pace of development meant that by the time it was race ready, it was no longer competitive.

Another factory Lightweight was converted to Low Drag specification at the instruction of its owner, German Jaguar importer Peter Lindner, by the factory and remains the only car to be converted officially by Jaguar. Lindner was killed racing the car in 1964 and it remained impounded for 10 years. It wasn't until 2007 that the car was painstakingly restored over a 4 year, 9,000 hour period – and we've been joined by the enthusiast who commissioned this mammoth restoration for a Q&A about the E Type; more on this later!

By the time the Sixties moved into the era of flares, platform shoes and glam rock, the E Type was over 10 years old. The original coupe and roadster had been joined by a 4 seater version (or 2+2), distinguishable by its higher and mildly awkward roofline to accommodate read passengers.

The original car remained largely as it appeared at its launch, morphing through Series 1, 1.5 and 2 evolutions with minor changes to lighting being the only obvious external signs of the changes.

Jaguar E-Type Series III V12 Roadster sold by RM Sotheby's £189,750 – Andreas Wimmer ©2019 Courtesy of RM Auctions

1971 saw the introduction of the Series 3. This saw the 6 cylinder engine replaced with Jaguar's new V12, 5300cc engine and styling featured a larger front grill, flared wheel arches (allowing for a wider track) and the removal of the 2 seater coupe, with only 2+2 and roadster being available.

Some 6 cylinder pre-production cars were made but the final vehicle was made very much with the lucrative USA market in mind. Despite the original car being hugely popular amongst the Hollywood elite, many buyers were put off by the “lack of cubic inches” and the V12 was designed to address this.

The final E Types were made in 1974 – by Jaguar at least and this is by no means the end of the E Type story, or indeed ours…

The E Type continued to be a hugely popular car and as it passed into classic status, numerous companies began restoring and in some cases upgrading cars to factory and a more modernised specification. The 1980's saw values swell, as with many classic cars and they continue to be a sought after classic car today, with values continuing to remain strong.

Jaguar themselves recognised this and, in 2014, announced that it would build the six remaining Lightweight cars from the original run of 18 as only 12 were made over 50 years earlier. They eventually made a total of seven, including a prototype which was used for promotional work before being refurbished by the factory and sold to a fortunate private collector.

Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Continuation sold by RM Sotheby's $1,710,000 – Darin Schnabel ©2019 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

The cars were assembled at the firm's Browns Lane site under the newly formed Jaguar Heritage arm of the company and subsequent continuation runs have included the XKSS and C Type models, using original and unused chassis numbers for the former after its original production run was cut short in a fire at the factory in 1957.

Now housed at the former Peugeot works in Coventry, Jaguar Classic Works has continued to offer restoration services and produce continuation cars, including the recently announced run of 12 E Type Series 1 cars restored to original specification to celebrate the car's sixtieth anniversary, the first of which are appropriately named 9600HP and 77RW – although we can't help but be slightly sad that it's unlikely that they could be driven flat-out from the UK to Switzerland as their ancestors were.

A couple of thousand words don't seem to do justice to the E Type. Its appeal goes beyond motoring enthusiasts so perhaps that's the most fitting legacy – even people who aren't necessarily into cars beyond a means of transport appreciate its beauty and understand its importance in not just motoring history but arguably the history of the twentieth century.

Glenmarch - Jaguar E-Type auction tracker

We've been able to spend time talking to a Jaguar enthusiast and one-time keeper of several significant E Types. Peter Neumark is a founder of Shropshire-based restorer Classic Motor Cars and a genuine petrolhead and we're grateful that he's taken the time to talk to us. You can read our interview Q&A here.

Lockton are proud partners to The Jaguar Enthusiasts Club, providing members with protection for both their E Types and indeed any other Jaguar. If you are fortunate enough to own one of the most beautiful cars ever made, then talk to us today.

Glenmarch - Top Jaguar E-Type auction results

Model Result Auction House Location Date
Series I 3.8 Fixed Head Coupe $720,000/£518K RM Sotheby's USA 25.08.18
Series I 3.8 Roadster €582,400/£495K RM Sotheby's Italy 27.05.17
Series I 4.2 Fixed Head Coupe £214,300 Bonhams UK 26.06.15
Series I 4.2 Roadster $467,500/£336K RM Sotheby's USA 21.11.13
Series I½ 4.2 Fixed Head Coupe £90,000 Silverstone Auctions UK 30.07.17
Series I½ 4.2 Roadster $187,000/£135K RM Sotheby's USA 16.01.14
Series II 4.2 Fixed Head Coupe AU$244,000/£134K Shannons Australia 23.02.21
Series II 4.2 Roadster £128,800 Historics UK 29.11.14
Series III V12 Coupe CHF92,400/£71K Oldtimer Galerie Switzerland 29.12.18
Series III V12 Roadster £203,100 Bonhams UK 26.06.15
Lightweight $8,000,000/£5.76M Bonhams USA 18.08.17
Lightweight Continuation $1,710,000/£1.23M RM Sotheby's USA 24.10.20