Total Production: 12
The Jaguar E-Type was launched at the 1961 Geneva Motorshow and it was not long before the road-going car made its way to racing tracks. The vehicle's lineage was rooted in sports car racing, with its chassis and engine sourced from the three-time Le Mans-winning Jaguar D-Type. In production trim, the E-Type was incredibly fast and nimble, but there was room for improvement. For starters, it steel body was heavy while many of its competitors were using lightweight aluminum.
Homologation rules for GT competition dictated that the body could be modified but the chassis was to remain unchanged. A new body was formed from aluminum in nearly identical fashion to the production road car, and fitted with a separate hard-top roof with a small vent at the rear. A few of the later cars were given a full fastback coupe body.
Most of the lightweight cars were built as a steel production Roadster, then modified to lightweight E-Type specifications, which included the hood and trunk lid. Two examples were raced with a fixed head body.
Under the bonnet, the engine was given an aluminum cylinder block, which - along with the new body - helped reduce overall weight by over 200 kg. The engine, with modifications that included a Lucas fuel injection system, boosted horsepower to over 300 HP.
These lightweight E-Type's were given to privateers, some of which also received factory support. John Coombs was one of the early believers in the lightweight E-Type, as was American Briggs Cunningham, who ordered three examples. 18 examples were planned, but eventually on 12 were ever built.
One of the earliest competition outings for the lightweight E-Type was at the 1963 edition of the Sebring 12 Hour race, where two examples entered, finishing in 7th and 8th overall. In the four-liter GT class, they finished 1st and 2nd but were outpaced by the Ferrari 250 GTOs in the under three-liter class. The lightweights would prove their capabilities on the shorter circuits but were often outpaced by the GTOs on the longer courses.
Cunningham's examples were raced at Le Mans, all finished in the Cunningham colours of white with two blue stripes. During the practice session, the cars proved to be very quick and hopes were high for the race. Unfortunately, two of the three cars retired early; the third example managed to finish in 9th overall and 2nd in class.
The cars were quick, but in major competition, they were often outclassed, often by the smaller-engined Ferrari 250 GTOs.
Peter Sutcliffe of England enjoyed success with his car, as did German Jaguar distributor Peter Lindner.By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2014