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Jaguar E2A, a pre-series E-Type at Le Mans 1960

Months before the E-Type appeared in 1961, the Jaguar E2A prototype participated in Le Mans 1960 under the banner of the American Cunningham team

Without a doubt, the 1961 Jaguar E-Type is not only one of the great icons of British motoring, but also one of the great sports cars in history. An already classic design from its very birth. Protagonist of constant praise for its engineering and design. In short, a complete masterpiece that also meant a decided commercial step forward for the Coventry house.

Not surprisingly, tens of thousands of units of the E-Type were produced until 1974. Date on which it said goodbye to dealers after having even had a resounding 12-liter V5.3 version. Thus, it is logical to think that any precedent, prototype or previous study of this model should be a particularly recognized piece. However, the Jaguar E2A remained degraded for decades.

What's more, even the brand itself seemed interested in keeping it or claiming it properly. In fact, for four decades it was without much pain or glory in a small British museum. All this while those responsible for it endured hints about the authenticity of that Jaguar that, even, were seen only as an exotic racing version derived from the E-Type.

Obviously, an error of large proportions because, after all, it is just that series GT that derives from the E2A. A prototype put in the races by which the final design of 1961 was tested, thus transcending the D-Type and that attempt to put it on the streets that was its XK-SS version. But let's go in parts. In this way, the best thing will be to move to Le Mans 1955. Possibly the greatest moment of glory for the D-Type, reaching first place and not falling from it for three consecutive years.

jaguar e2a

However, financial problems clouded the horizon as, just a year later, William Lyons had to close the competition department. Not surprisingly, financial problems were besieging the company, having to delegate its circuit work to the Scottish squad Ecurie Ecosse. In fact, precisely at that time something similar had happened to Lancia with F1. And it is that, despite having the sensational D50, the state of his accounts made him forget any participation in the premier class. In fact, the single-seaters were sold to Ferrari along with a transfer of personnel that included Vittorio Jano himself.

At this point, Jaguar concentrated on developing a new model with which to replace the long-lived XK-120 and XK-150. However, many of the engineers who worked on brands like this were not simple workers. far from it, their passion for racing made them enthusiastic designers, always willing to go further without taking accountants too much into account. In this way, William Heynes - maximum person in charge of design in the British house - launched the development of a prototype known as E1A.

jaguar e2a

Created based on a monocoque chassis that would serve as the starting point for the future E-Type, it also featured aluminum body panels. A refinement that had to be dispensed with in future evolutions. Not only because of the price of the material, but also because of the difficulty inherent in its molding. Nevertheless, the E1A included other innovations such as independent rear suspension as well as new adjustments in the block of 3,8 liters already produced by Jaguar. Obviously, all this with the aim of winning at Le Mans. Supplying various units to Ecurie Ecosse.


For the 1959 season in the World Cup for Makes, the design of the Jaguar E1A was already finalized. In fact, all that remained was to assemble a small series and coordinate with the collaborating squads. However, still using outsourcing the management of the brand was not willing to spend a single pound on anything to do with the competition. In this way, William Lyons forced the closure of the E1A project, causing his engineers to focus solely on the development of the imminent E-Type.

And boy, to a large extent that had already happened. Not in vain, thanks to this truncated prototype, the future GT already had a perfectly studied monocoque chassis. In addition, in the mechanical section they had managed to extract almost 300 CV to the classic Jaguar block with six cylinders in line. In fact, this was the case even having reduced the displacement to three liters. Of course, the use of fuel injection was key. Therefore learning more about this element in order to replace the everlasting carburettors.

In short, the E1A had already fulfilled a fundamental role as a previous step to the E-Type despite not having managed to set foot on the competition tracks. However, when in 1960 Jaguar technicians They already had at their disposal up to three pre-series units of the future street model, the assembly of a competition model was allowed in order to carry out test work similar to that experienced with the E1A. Thanks to this, in February of that same year the Jaguar E2A already existed.

What's more, right at this point is when the story begins to accelerate. And it is that the new prototype pleasantly impresses Briggs Cunningham during a visit to the Coventry factory. Widely recognized for his work managing competition teams, this American managed to persuade William Lyons to lend him the E2A in order to compete in Le Mans. From this moment on, Norman Dewis -mythical test driver at Jaguar, having developed models for more than thirty years- began a frantic set-up of the prototype with the aim of arriving ready for the 24 1960 Hours of Le Mans.

jaguar e2a

Finally, the mechanics remained in a six in line with 3 liters and 295 CV at 7.000 revolutions per minute forged in aluminum. In addition, the monocoque was also made of this alloy, although steel was used for the front subframe. All this to leave the group at 875 kilos, being decorated with the classic decoration of the American teams based on two blue bands on a white background. Ahead, a track where they would have to see the Ferrari TR 59/60 or the Maserati Birdcage.

jaguar e2a
Bruce mclaren

At this point, the duo formed by Walt Hansgen and Dan Gurney launched into the race. Of course, after six hours the Jaguar E2A had to retire due to engine problems. After this, the prototype returned to Coventry, where it was fitted with a 3.8-litre engine in order to compete in the United States. In fact, there it was piloted by Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren. The latter in the iconic Laguna Seca circuit. However, at the end of the season the Jaguar E2A ended up back at the factory. Being used as a test car and minor races for several years.

After this, in the mid-sixties the old and transcendental prototype ended up practically forgotten in a Jaguar factory warehouse. A really delicate point, where could have easily been scrapped had it not been for the Camden Collection. Place where it was kept for forty years until its auction in 2008, even recovering the 3-liter engine used in Le Mans 1960.

What's more, although the aerodynamic fin had been lost, its original wooden mold was found. A methodical conservation work that, over time, has left us the Jaguar E2A in perfect condition. One of the most interesting pieces for sports motoring of the XNUMXth century.

Photographs: Bonhams / Jaguar

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Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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