Look at the Jaguar V12 E-Type. It was released when the Beatles disbanded, Apollo 13 successfully returned to Earth, Watergate began and ended, and Apple was founded. In a time when war and peace were erratic, the car had to find its way out of the slump the standard model found itself in. Something had to be done.
The man behind most of the highly successful Grand Prix engines, Wally Hassan, had left Jaguar to join Coventry Climax (a Jaguar-owned company). Along with Harry Mundy, he created a single camshaft 5.3L V12. This was Jaguar’s answer to the dated feel of its standard E-Type. However, the team faced a few hurdles before the V12 could be born and fully commercialised.
They needed to shave weight firstly, making the block out of aluminium and using a transistorised ignition. Then they needed to find a way to fit the massive engine inside. You might be thinking that it would have been an issue, but due to its V-shaped design, it easily fit into the body’s narrow subframe.
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Along with the new engine, the V12 model received an updated look. A wider, chrome-grilled mouth had been added, along with a low air scoop, to better its cooling. Wider, flared wheel arches were extended to cover the wider track. Bigger wheels were fitted to a longer wheelbase to give the car a more muscular stance. But even though it looked wider and heavier, it sported a 0 – 100km/h time of 6.4 seconds. This is around the same time as a modern-day Ford Fiesta 1.6L ST.
Although it’s broader, more pronounced presence appealed to a wide market, its design and build just couldn’t keep up with more modern vehicles at the time. And so, a giant became forgotten, only remembered among purists. In 1975, the big cat had finally been put to rest.
At the time of its rollout, the V12 went for around £2 098 (roughly R5 000 in 1970). With its design beauty becoming somewhat of a modern art piece, you can currently look to pay up to £70 000 (R1.1 million); not a bad investment if you bought one early enough or still have one from the ‘70s.
The new cat
As years went by, enthusiasts still whispered about the E-Type. They longed for something as impactful and beautifully designed. Jaguar’s answer to that was its new F-Type. It features a slight resemblance to its E-Type counterpart, albeit decades newer, but the iconic grill and slightly flared wheel arches are still reminiscent of the old cat.
The F-Type packs more power for less compared to its predecessor. Due to ever-increasing fuel regulations and environmental concerns, manufacturers had to find a way to provide the best they can by new means. It’s thanks to this ongoing pressure that the automotive industry has evolved.
Seeing how the brightest minds in mechanics and science come together to change and keep the spirit of cars alive is something to be admired.
Comparing these two cars is like comparing things in the ‘70s to technological equivalents today; you just can’t.
Back then, the E-Type’s safety and mechanical genius were considered to be the best. Today, even the simplest sports cars can outrun it from a performance aspect. If there’s one thing that stands the test of time, it’s the legacy and beauty of the E-Type.
I guess the question here wouldn’t be how do they compare; and should rather be, how do they inspire? Whether its beauty can stand the test of time like the E-Type isn’t a fair expectation either. The E-Type was made in a time when there weren’t as many restrictions and controls as today. Because of the lack of limits, a passion car was created.
The F-Type has massive shoes to fill. But in true Jaguar fashion, it decides to set its own path while still drawing from those that came before it.