Curbside Classic: 1964 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 – After 58 Years And 200,000 Miles Its Owner Is Still Driving It To The Store

1964 Jaguar E-Type

When was the last time you saw a daily driver Jaguar E-Type? The answer’s never for me. Heck, I rarely see a Jaguar over twenty years old of any variety on the streets, let alone a two-seater. So I did a double take, then a triple take, when I spotted this sitting in a shopping center parking lot.

The E-Type being one of the coolest cars of all time, they come pretty dearly these days with many buying them specifically so they can look good behind the wheel of such an icon. That’s certainly not the case here. The owner isn’t trying to be retro cool or have the fanciest collector car. He’s just getting groceries, as he does every week in his car, which of course makes him and his Jag way cooler.

We’ll look a little closer at this survivor Jag and its long-time owner after a brief survey of Jaguar and the E-Type, or XK-E as it was marketed in the U.S. (If you want to skip that and go straight to this car’s story, scroll down 9 photos to pick up the narrative.)

Clark Gable and Sir William Lyons at MGM Studios with Gable’s first XK120.


William Lyons started the company in 1920 (at the age of 20!) initially building motorcycle sidecars and branching out into automobile bodies. They built their first full vehicles in 1931, establishing an early reputation for building stylish, capable cars with aggressive pricing. Their sports cars were well-regarded, but became especially celebrated after WWII with the introduction of the XK120 in 1948.  It was a brilliant car with a very advanced engine and high-performance chassis wrapped in a curvaceous, well-proportioned body. Beautiful people liked to be seen in them, such as Clark Gable above, who bought one of the first ones.

1955 Jaguar D-Type


The first step to the E-Type was the 1955-57 D-Type race cars. These won three times at LeMans and had top finishes in many other races. It was considered revolutionary in aerodynamics and the structural stiffness of its monocoque body/chassis. It was also an early adopter of disc brakes to great effect.

Prototype E1A in 1959


Meanwhile, Jaguar evolved the XK120 into XK140 and XK150 versions. By the late 50’s it was clear the company needed an entirely new design for its production sports car. The D-type racer (and derivative XKSS) served as the concepts for the new road car. Though the bodywork looks gracefully styled, its form was designed for function over appearance. The body designer was Malcolm Sayer, whose prior experience was in aircraft design. He was not so much a stylist as an engineer, though he was the rare engineer who also possessed artistic skills and sensibilities. The elliptical theme used for the D-Type was refined further for the E-Type using aerodynamic principals, mathematical processes, and extensive calculations though not any actual wind tunnel testing. The resulting shape was beautiful but also one of the most aero-efficient production cars of its time in the early 60s.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

The suspension was as modern as the aerodynamics. The front had a double-wishbone torsion bar setup, while an independent rear suspension replaced the XK150’s leaf-sprung live axle. Inboard disc brakes can be seen to the sides of the differential.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

The chassis was also quite advanced, with a monocoque or unitized body utilizing a large front subframe for the engine and suspension and a small subframe for the rear suspension. These techniques helped make it 500 lb. lighter than the XK150 while also much stiffer.

The new E-Type caused a sensation when released in 1961 (seen above at the official launch at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1961). Demand far outstripped Jaguar’s production capacity for good reason: The stunning body covered a car that had 265hp propelling it to 60mph in 6.8 sec on the way to a top speed of almost 150mph, and still delivered 17mpg (presumably not at 150mph!). The car came standard with wire wheels, four wheel disc brakes, leather seats and the aforementioned IRS.

The list price for all this excellence was $5,595 for the roadster, which is not bad for one of the highest performance sports cars you could buy in 1961/2. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $59k, or about $20k less than a base Jaguar F-Type today. It cost about $2k more than a base Corvette, but it was more sophisticated than the C1 ‘Vette. Any Ferrari or Mercedes two-seater would have cost you twice as much or more.

Today, E-Types are naturally enough most often seen at higher-end car shows, auctions, or concours events. I photographed this restored 1967 [Series 1.5 67-68; Series 2 68-71] at the RMSotheby’s auction in Scottsdale last year sporting a stunning maroon paint job that the photo doesn’t really do justice to (the auction house photos are much better).

The pre-auction estimate turned out to be quite optimistic when the gavel went down at $114k. Later year models like the 67 don’t tend to go for as much as the Series 1 cars. At RMS’s Monterey auction last year they sold a ‘64 roadster (same year and model as our subject car) for $285k!

1964 Jaguar E-Type

So you can imagine my surprise one day at work when I spotted a Series 1 E-Type sitting in that shopping center parking lot. And the Jag wasn’t in a swanky part of town, where one might expect to occasionally see a classic European hobby car out and about on a weekend. This was in industrial east Houston, across several railroad tracks from anywhere that could be considered a fashionable district.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

The fact that this was obviously no show car only made it more intriguing and its charmingly imperfect condition took away nothing from its inherent beauty to my eyes.

Just look at that expressive face and try not to love it. Count the number of windshield wipers while you’re at it.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

It looked like a car that gets driven and I really wanted to know the rest of the story. With the window down, I thought the owner might be close at hand. He was nowhere to be seen, though, and I had to live with the mystery.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

Some mysteries aren’t meant to persist. A couple months later I was driving in the same part of town and saw the Jag sitting in a driveway. The owner was closing the gate that leads to the garage preparing to leave. Of course I quickly parked and accosted him with enthusiastic questions.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

The answers were well worth the wait. This gentleman has owned the car since 1966! Not quite the original owner, but close enough. It has basically been a daily driver the whole time, though he is retired and doesn’t drive as much these days and splits his driving with two other classic cars (which he showed me: a ’78 International Scout and ’66 M-B 280SE owned since 1970 that’s even nicer than the Jag). It has about 200k miles and is unrestored, though it has been repainted once and could probably use it again.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

The engine is original, but has been rebuilt.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

And what an engine it is! The XK Six engine had been introduced along with the XK120 car in 1948. Its dual overhead cams and hemispherical combustion chambers were unusual for its price class in the 1940’s and the initial 160hp rating was enough to propel the car to 120 mph (hence the name). The original 3.4L displacement was used through the end of the XK150’s run in 1961, though a 3.8L version became optional in 1958.  Still fed by three SU carbs and making 265hp and 260lb-ft, the 3.8 became the standard engine in the new E-Type. 1964 would be the last year for the 3.8 when displacement increased to 4.2L in 1965. It was replaced in the E-Type by a new V12 in 1971 for the car’s final iteration (Series 3 1971-74).

When originally engineered, Lyons directed that the engine should not only be technologically ambitious, but also visually handsome. The XK engine delivered on both counts and reliably made extraordinary levels of smooth, responsive power for its size and era. And it would be hard to find a sexier looking mill from any time.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

The owner confirmed that he had driven it to the grocery store the morning I first found it. Like all good auto caretakers, he parks it as far away as possible from other vehicles. I mean like seriously far away, as he has done for 58 years and counting.

Another thing that struck me that day was when I showed the photos to a coworker. He’s thirtyish, not a car guy, and when it comes to classic cars wouldn’t know a Jaguar from a Jalopy. He looked and said, “It’s kind of goofy looking and ugly. Like a cartoon car.” What?!? How can the sexy and sinewy silhouette that has spurred the imagination of multitudes be lost on the younger generation?

Perhaps it’s not so hard to fathom for a cohort brought up on front-wheel-drive cab-forward jellybeans, space-optimized minivans and SUV’s and four-door pickup trucks. The E-Type defies their sense of automotive proportions with its wildly long hood and narrow track accentuated by skinny wire wheels tucked under and partially concealed by the low wheel openings. Apart from having four wheels, it shares practically nothing in common visually with modern vehicles, even sports cars.

1964 Jaguar E-Type

Apparently that’s me shadow flexing. No, my arms aren’t that big and my head’s not that small.

Even in 1961, the E-Type was a very distinctive car and its unique look continues to power its popularity among enthusiasts if not, apparently, the general public.

The owner of this fine ’64 will also attest to its general excellence and reliability. He fell in love with the car 58 years ago and doesn’t intend to end that marriage anytime soon. He has no desire to own any modern cars, so he’ll keep driving it around town with the few lucky people who see it witnessing, whether they realize it or not, the world’s coolest grocery getter.

photographed in Houston, TX January 22, 2023

related reading: 

Curbside Classic: Jaguar XK-E Series II: The Stuff Of Dreams, The Source Of Nightmares by Dave Skinner

Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: Jaguar E-Type 4.2 Series II – “Sooo Beautiful” by PN

1961 Jaguar E-type Proves Every Bit as Great as It Looks – original December 1961 Car & Driver road test