Forever Changes

Our Sheffield correspondent simply isn’t feeling the Love.

1961 Jaguar E-Type Roadster. Image: classic driver

Hit singles – a notorious equation. From that first catalytic germ to the recording studio, everyone and everything balanced; flow without compromise. Who says what works? The adoring/ paying public. Upon that melody entering your ears, it becomes trapped in your psyche; if the song is good, into your heart and soul. The melody no longer the writer’s own, it is for us to worship, hum, love… and eventually abhor.

A hit single is something of a spark, whereas albums take nurturing, time and compromises a plenty. Both, if recorded with care will last the test of time. Over-repetition however can lead to a sensory overburdening – familiarity breeding contempt. Similarities between popular music and motor cars is sometimes closer than we think. Designers over performers, technicians instead of musicians. Then add in some mystery, celebrity connections; allow that to wind through the time continuum and sixty years later we still have the E-Type Jaguar – yawn.

We all know the Modenese pig farmer pinned immortality with the free advertisement to being the world’s most beautiful car. Should Enzo have kept that to himself, half the cachet is wiped out. That the burgeoning creel baskets let slip the celebrity mackerel was inevitable. Even the clandestine prototype E1A appeared destined to succeed.

Jaguar E1A prototype. Image: caradisiac

The pastel green, race inspired bolide was Chief Engineer Bill Heynes and aerodynamicist, Malcolm Sayer’s project. Loaned by Sir William himself to none other than Lt. Col. Christopher Jennings MBE. Jennings was (in 1958) editor of weekly imprint, The Motor. Living in Wales, the High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire informed Lyons of his Brecon to Carmarthen test route. Ever the opportunist, Lyons had test development driver Norman Dewis deliver the E1A for Jennings then to sample for a weekend blast. In a confidential memo, Jennings commended E1A as a “potential world beater!”

From E1A to E2A to E-Type: the hit single recipe consisted of a steel monocoque, fully-independent rear suspension, twin-cam engine, dramatic race-bred looks. Only, once the fully realised E-Type (XK-E for the US) was delivered by Dewis overnight at breakneck speed to the Geneva motor show in March 1961, those looks had (to these eyes) become iffy. The wheels look too small in too large an arch. Side-on, the car owns the phallic symbol but exercising ones optic nerves, the car’s wholeness is challenged. Unbalanced, ungainly, somewhat piscine. Slippery, indeed but perhaps more wrasse than trout.

The E-Type was a resounding hit single. Supermodel looks: £2,097 for the roadster. Add ninety nine à la coupé. The celebrities of the day beat a path to Allesley’s door. But now the album required fleshing out in order to satisfy those lucrative export markets. And lo, the series one and a half arrived in ’67 with little obvious change. More stringent measures would follow.

E-Type Series II. mfpclassiccars

That job fell a year later to Series Two. If series One was the Rolling Stones’ Can’t Get No Satisfaction, series two became Their Satanic Majesties Request, an album even Mick Jagger described as “not very good, mainly acid-trip nonsense.” One could almost forgive any misgivings surrounding the early cars when placed alongside the version with the indicators below the bumper. Yes, it was all bit more civilised but overall, these changes made the stylus jump over the vinyl.

But we then enter the final stages of album production. Time and budgetary constraints alter many a plan. Band members’ egos may need massaging. Tempers can fly. When Series Three arrived, we had entered progressive rock. The E-Type still occupied attention, its mythology attracting sales but with this rendition, most of the integrity was lost. From its racing origins to a bloated, tequila-soaked, washed out rock star. The third series was porcine – some 1500Kgs – a good 2-300 more than the wraith-like originals. Four years of threes completed the E-Type opus with production ceasing in 1975.[1]

By then, many examples were to be found in the bargain basement. Who hasn’t heard stories of early, original E’s being bought for a song, usually due to neglect and entropy? Out of some 72,500 made over an increasingly painful fourteen years, almost fourteen hundred survive (in one form or another) in the UK.

Sixty years on, the classic car market’s Crown Jewels have been propelled to values as unobtainable now as they were to most of the populace back in ‘61. And similar to many an old rock ditty, they keep getting rehashed to ever increasing levels of apathy. Why not add that pony tail?

Image: classiccarstodayonline

Saturation kills. Akin to being beaten over the head by the assertion that Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is the world’s greatest song, anything  repeatedly rammed down our throats no longer holds those fervent emotions from the first encounter – the E has become tiresome to me.

Seeing one in motion will always evoke stronger feelings than seeing a pampered example, pristinely plonked on grass at a show. Of course those original examples are now borderline pensioners and the motoring journalists are overwhelmed (once again) by increasingly faint echoes of Swinging Sixties culture; expect to see the usual fawning stanzas and poetic license play on.

The E-Type turns sixty then: I shall celebrate not by playing a Beatles, Stones or Who album but by listening to a different affair, one that concertedly skews those touchy-feelings. Forever Changes by an American outfit named Love was released in 1967, central in the E’s storyline. Claimed to be titled upon an overheard conversation; “You told me you’d love me forever!” The answer from her stern faced lover cut deep. “Forever changes.”

The record groove makes the stylus skip with disdain. Enough said.

Editor’s note: A further meditation upon Jaguar’s sexagenarian will follow after the weekend.
[1] While the official cessation of production was announced in early 1975, the final E-Type was built the previous year. The Series III E-Type will be profiled separately later in the year.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

41 thoughts on “Forever Changes”

  1. I certainly felt The Love when, as a teenage hitch-hiker, I was given a lift in a Series 1 coupé over the Hog’s Back.
    There was only room to reach 140mph, but it was enough to convince me this was the pinnacle of GT achievemnt.

    The best iteration was probably the roadster as close to the D-Type as possible, minus the dorsal fin.
    I felt so proud that it was British, although my part in its creation was entirely imaginary.

  2. Thank you Andrew for a clear sighted look at this classic. I will admit to loving the car (though sadly always from afar) but the narrow track has always bothered me too; maybe Daniel can get busy on Photoshop (again)?
    Interesting to learn that Porsche followed the pricing differential for soft top and coupe with the Boxster and Cayman. From what I recall at the time it was regarded as a sign of their marketing genius, to charge more for a car with less, and yet decades earlier…
    Have you seen what Jaguar have just announced with their 60th anniversary rebuilds? To my eyes it’s less egregious than the Porsche 911 Targa 4S Heritage Edition 2021.

    1. Good morning Andy. I previously tinkered with the E-Type Coupé in an attempt to correct its rather awkward looking canopy and shut-lines management. Here’s the original and my revised version:


      I added more rake to the windscreen and A-pillar, lengthened the doors, made the B-pillar more upright, altered the wheel arches and bumper ends, and lowered the waistline to align with the base of the windscreen. (Another oddity of the original is the misalignment here.) I’ve put a subtle ‘coke-bottle’ curve in the rear side window. This detail needs more work, not least to allow the door window to wind down, but you get the general idea.

  3. “Alone again or “ from “Forever Changes” is one of my favourite songs of all time. Just saying…

  4. A thoughtful meditation on the beguiling charms of the E-type, thank you Andrew. Like you, I never bought into that “world’s most beautiful car” hysteria. The Series I car had, as you identify, serious aesthetic flaws, which were merely exchanged for different ones on later models.

    The analogy with popular music is an apt one. The E-Type was instantly, arrestingly attractive and appealing, like a record that rockets up the charts to the number 1 position. With repeated exposure, the superficiality of its appeal becomes evident and one quickly tires of it.

    It’s instructive to contrast the E-Type with its successor, the XJ-S. The latter was dissonant, challenging and uncomfortable, and in no way an immediate hit. However, much longer exposure to it revealed its nuanced subtlety and rewarding details that were not immediately apparent.

    That’s not to dismiss the E-Type out of hand. It was a tremendous achievement for Jaguar and there was nothing to compete with it at the price. But, stylistically, it was too obvious and trying too hard.

    Is it possible to achieve a no.1 hit that has both instant and enduring appeal. Yes, of course, and Jaguar did so brilliantly with the 1968 XJ6.

    1. Interesting comment about the XJ-S Daniel. I was 11 at the time, and remember the outrage that it wasn’t as beautiful as the E-Type. As you say, it’s matured remarkably well. “Dissonant, challenging and uncomfortable” are all words that would apply well to current BMW design in particular, so do you think in 40 years time van Hooydonk will be having the last laugh, and if not, why not? (I am firmly against current BMWs, btw, but it did make me wonder).

  5. One day I will listen to the Beatles albums but to understand them I´ll have to listen to other music from the period. Otherwise I will be judging the work by today´s standards (not enough hi-hat, of course). In a similar vein, the E-Type is a car whose initial and medium-term impresssion was shaped by the context as much as the object in isolation. You need to soak up the high street of 60s cars and then consider the E. Otherwise it appears in images to be a tube on wheels. Coming from the other direction, seeing the E in motion dramatically alters one´s impression. Some cars and the E is one of theme are transformed by the relation of the vehicle to a moving background (if one looks at the car and follows it). Seen like that it takes on another character and I have to say, it is very beguiling and elegant. The DS, 2CV and the XJ do this – other cars that I can think of do this less or not at all, despite their static charms.

    1. Richard, I think you have hit the nail firmly on the head. I saw a S1 Coupe on the M4 “the other day” (ie probably about two years ago…) and it looked tiny, but elegant and graceful in motion, in huge contrast to the contemporary brick sh*thouses sharing the road. As a child of the 1950s, the E type was far and away the sexiest car you were ever likely to see; the roads were filled with grey porridge of the Standard 10/Austin A50 ilk and one simply never encountered something like a 275GTB. There was simply nothing comparable; a big bang of flash, speed and noise and general new, groovy Sixties-ness. You had to be there to get it.

    2. Hi Peter. You’re not wrong about the E-Type’s diminutive size in comparison with present say models, especially in its width:

    3. Wow, it looks almost Suzuki Cappuccino-esque in that photo!

    4. Another dull saturday night in the COVID doghouse… Anyone want to have a bit of fun?

      Richard mentioned high street. I’ve got something for 3 Saville Row, 30 January 1969…
      Some interesting mobile artifacts were on the street, as captured this brief 20 minute film. What can we spot? (and the music was great too).

      4:49 – Lamborghini GT 350
      5:05 – E-Type Roadster (and Rover P6)
      6:43 – Poking it’s nose out. 1969 Riviera with optional cornering lights? No, not quite, I’m stumped…
      12:14 – Mk X and ????

      I think there’s an R16 in there somewhere…

    5. I´d rather have either a Toyota GT86 or a Suzuki Cappucino than the current Jaguar. Or a Daihatsu Copen. Or a Fiat Barchetta. Or a Mazda MX-5. It´s moot now but a smaller Jaguar sports car in the MX-5 size range would have been good and maybe more accessible.

  6. Morning Andrew. Nice to see a different view on the E-Type. One of my old bosses had one, he replaced it with a Datsun 240z which I thought looked a lot better. The only E-Type that looks good to me was the fatter series 3 with the flared arches, chromed steel wheels, and that lovely, sublimely smooth, V12. I know that may upset some purists who’d only ever consider an early series 1 with the flat floor pan as THE E-Type, but I’ve said it now 🤣

    1. I believe Henrik Fisker went on the record claiming the S3 actually was the most attractive of the E-types. You’re not all alone.

  7. Nothing like the E-Type to stir up controversy!

    I’m just glad it happened. Likewise Arthur Lee’s masterpiece – I went straight to the CD drawer and it’s now playing on my rigged-up bricolage of a temporary home entertainment system.

    Not sure what Bill would think…

    It did make me think that Quad (or The Acoustical Manufacturing Company, to give it its proper title) was perhaps the Jaguar of consumer electronics; British, the vision of one man with some very talented helpers, every product highly significant and relatively affordable, and still thriving[1] under Asian ownership.

    [1] Rather better than Jaguar at the moment.

    1. It is indeed – an OA12. I’ve also got a pair of earlier OA4s in need of a major rebuild.

    2. I’m very jealous! Sonabs were wonderful speakers although not fully appreciated or understood in the UK. I has a pair of OA14s and I greatly regret their loss. Top marks for the Quad as well.

  8. Familiarity needn’t breed contempt if the item is truly outstanding. I’ve been listening to Astral Weeks ever since its’ release, and will never tire of it.
    I wasn’t a huge fan of the ‘E’ when it arrived, partly because of the unresolved side-glass on the Coupe, and partly because the curves of the ‘D’ were missing. The narrow track wasn’t an issue, as most cars had narrow track in those days. By the time the (defaced) Series 11 arrived I knew that the Series 1.1/2 was worth saving up my money for, since the typical Jaguar rate of depreciation might bring one within my reach.
    I never thought it was the most beautiful car in the world – that would be the 250GT SWB or the Muira….

    1. It’s interesting, despite loving or liking almost all of Van Morrison’s output Moondance and Hymns to the Silence (so 1970-91) I’ve never quite “got” Astral Weeks, not matter how many times I’ve tried. Steely Dan’s Aja, however, after over 40 years of listening – wow!

    2. Andy: Aja is quite the piece of work and no mistake. It’s virtually perfect. Maybe (runs away hurriedly) too much so? Either way, for me it’s ‘The Royal Scam’ – when it comes to ‘The Dan’…

  9. Thanks Andrew, a very well wrought article, I very much enjoyed the original approach you took to very familiar subject matter.

    For me the E-Type was a stunning achievement seen in context – looks, performance, value.

    Of course its not perfect, the very high standards it is held to and judged against- and in some respects falls short of – seem to me to reflect just how far above its weight it was able to punch.

    Coupe for me please if you would be so kind.

  10. The E-Type will be with us to kingdome come. I read somewhere the best entry ticket to classic car ownership would be an MGB, it’s reasonably attainable, simple sturdy mechanics, there’s plenty of them and with a large fan based community helping out. You can buy an entire bodyshell from British Motor Heritage and have it fitted out with restored or new old stock mechanics provided by an entire cottage industry. I’d say the Jag is the next car up that ladder. With Jags there were never a problem finding motors or axles or people who could mend them, it was always a question of finding a bodyshell in good condition. I think there are newlt built tubs available for the E-Type and all the mechanicals are practically off the shelf. I see no reason for it not to survive in very large numbers for the next sixty or hundred years. I’d say it is one of very few cars that will survive no matter what, just because it is so loved and cared for and with an actually eternal appeal. To that list I would add cars like the Austin-Healey Sprite and MG Midget, the Triumph Spitfire and TR’s, the Porsche 911, the Volkswagen, the Citroën 2CV, the Land Rover. I’d take a good guess and say there are more 2CV’s running around on English roads than there are Morris Marinas in registred and running condition. Don’t give the E-Type such a hard pass, just imagine how much joy it gives to so many people?

  11. The commentariat; justifiably the measure of what is presented to them, and I thank you one and all for your comments. DTW retains a wonderfully diverse character which is a huge part of the appeal. When writing this piece I wasn’t in a particularly bad mood, per-se but nor did my mood feel particularly good either. Moreover, since writing these words, I didn’t wish to stir things up too far and certainly hope I haven’t. I now look at the E-Type and conclude the car itself is not fully to blame, either but I stand by comments on the car’s overall stance – just my point of view after all. More so the communal journalistic response who fawn over the ideas the E-Type generate. Never having been part of the Swinging Sixties clouds my judgement somewhat I suppose.

    Where else but this fine establishment can we start off dismantling what is otherwise heralded an automotive icon to sharing musical influences and the equipment to enjoy such characterful recordings? Throwing in some cars with equal longevity just adds more spice to the mix. I fully appreciate Ingvar’s comments; the E-Type has given me happy hours of contemplation – in the past. Nowadays, rather like Jaguar itself, the E-Type doesn’t shine for me as it did.

    1. It’s a fine gang of criminals gathered here, I feel very much at home in this crowd, and I enjoy the company immensly.

  12. I’m pretty sure you’ll find the E-type on any list that sums up the definitive cars of the sixties. It’s a good looking car, no doubt, but the most beautiful car in the world? I doubt it. Limiting myself to the sixties I prefer the Alfa 33 Stradale, Dino 246 GT and Ferrari 250 GT SWB over the Jag. These examples carry very different price tags, though

  13. The Series 3 was only produced in long wheelbase form, both the coupe and the convertible. I always thought they lacked a stripped swb roadster in the line-up? Imagine a re-invented Speedster, no ad-ons whatsoever, only SWB, fitted with the XK-engine only. Preferably in some hotted-up specification, perhaps using it as a testbed for fuel injection. I think it could’ve been a minor hit in its last years compared to the boulevard cruiser V12. Remember, it was also in the same timeframe as the MGB GT V8, which was the MG’s last hurrah.

    1. Ingvar – I like the idea of an “end of days” Speedster, but it was probably too much to hope for in these desperate days of industrial paralysis. Getting even the core products out was an ordeal, as demonstrated with the slightly later XJ-C.

      The E-Type followed a similar development trajectory to the XK120 / XK140 / XK150, evolving from a raw high-performance car to a softer grand tourer with each upgrade. Going back to basics would have made for an exciting final iteration.

      Returning to the E-Type, at least Jaguar did a good job of the Series 3, unlike MG with the appallingly half-hearted MGB GT V8 you mention. That sorry car had an engine downrated with low-compression Range Rover cylinder heads to allow the use of as many four cylinder components, or easily substituted existing parts, as possible. Aftermarket V8 conversion specialist Ken Costello was doing far better, years before.

      The E-Type Series 3 got wider tracks, anti-dive suspension geometry, ventilated disc brakes, and a host of other improvements which were far more than might be expected given that average production for the final four years was less than 4000 per annum.

      My suspicion is that Jaguar maintained the tradition of introducing a new engine in a sports car rather than a saloon, as owners would work them harder, but be more sympathetic to failures. The practice continued with the AJ-6, first offered in the XJS in 1983.

      And now a commercial break:

    2. What became of these £2866.68 six cylinder Series 3s?

      The best I can find is that ‘very few’ were made. According to Motor from 3 April 1971 they were all in US specification with a 9.0:1 compression ratio.

      I reckon everyone found the extra £255.89 – about 40% of the price of a Mini 850, and bought the V12

    3. Robertas: There are I believe at least two 4.2 litre Series III’s documented as still in existence. There may be more. It was offered – on paper at least, and it featured in the early sales literature, although I very much doubt many were either built or sold. There were no cosmetic differences, apart from badging. I believe all surviving cars were fixed-heads.

    4. Considering the small difference, it’s no wonder most people payed up for the V12. Had the price difference been any bygger, I think there would have been a business case. But it’s interesting the small demand for the sixes made Jaguar simply withdrawing it from production.

  14. Here’s a link to a 2006 documentary film about Arthur Lee and Love called “Love Story”,which coincidentally I watched just a few weeks ago.

  15. I can see an evolutionary bloodline from D Type over XKSS to XJ13 with the E as a sidekick of which the Lindner Nocker is the most attractive, at least to my eyes.

    1. In the text of the article, the author mentions that in loaning the E1A prototype to Christopher Jennings and his wife, Lyons was being ‘opportunistic’. That is one reading of the matter. Another, and one I’d espouse was that Lyons simply wanted a second (impartial) opinion, because he was far from convinced that this was the direction of travel he ought to embark upon. This is something I will return to in a forthcoming piece, but I think, a significant one in the unvarnished telling of the E-Type story.

      Another point worth noting is that when the E-Type was subjected to wind tunnel testing (long after it had ceased production) aficionados were aghast at its far from brilliant drag coefficient. What they forget is that by the time the car entered production, Sayer’s exacting shape had been altered in detail. Indeed, the fixed head model had little to do with him at all – it being for the most part, the work of Bob Blake (with Lyons’ at his shoulder). Sayer did draw up a fixed head E proposal, and unsurprisingly, it looked a lot more akin to the “Low Drag” competition Coupé as seen above.

  16. Forever Changes is (like Astral Weeks) a masterpiece. I never tire of either. Arthur Lee and Love documented the fragmentation and disillusion with the summer of love in ’67 in songs while entirely of their time, mange to sound timeless – and nowadays, incredibly redolent. Astral Weeks, from a song writing perspective is narrower, (it being very much centred in time and place) but the themes and language remain incredibly lambent and resonant. The final track on Forever Changes is the one for the ages though…

    Mind you, both artists recorded records that followed, which some aficionados (of my acquaintance) suggest were even better. I wouldn’t offer a comment on that, although Morrison’s Veedon Fleece was a fine LP. (Prefer AW myself though…)

    Fun Astral Weeks fact: Apparently, Van the Man, having written the songs and completed the vocals, left the arrangements pretty much entirely to the session musicians’ discretion, who were mostly from a jazz background. Puts a slightly different slant on proceedings.

    To follow on from Daniel’s astute musing upon the appeal of the XJ-S vis-à-vis E-Type, I previously compared the XJ-S to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, versus the E-Type’s “Dark Side of the Moon”, but if we are to accept Mr. O’Callaghan’s observation of “dissonant, challenging and uncomfortable”, perhaps we ought to be comparing Scott Walker’s “Scott 4” to “Tilt”?

    1. I’m quite happy with the fact that ‘Astral Weeks’ was as much Lewis Merensteins’ work as Morrisons’. Don’t laugh, but the first time I heard ‘Madame George’, on John Peel on a Saturday afternoon, I missed the intro and had no idea who Van Morrison was. With a name like ‘Van’ he was either Dutch, like the painter, or American, like actor Van Heflin.
      Currently Astral Weeks is on the CD player in the car (which doesn’t go anywhere) and The Street Choir is on the CD player in the bedroom, so any mention of Morrison means I have ‘Domino’ playing in my head for ages….

  17. I found an interesting picture on https://www.imcdb.org

    Here’s a link to the image:

    https://www.imcdb.org/vehicle_6262-Jaguar-XK-E-Hearse-1967.html

    I stumbled across IMCDB (Internet Movie Cars DataBase) recently when trying to identify cars from the film The Ipcress File. The site also covers TV series.

    If you visit the site don’t be put off when you see a caption that doesn’t appear to match the car in the picture; it will be a car in the background.

    In addition to see which cars appeared in a film, the site shows which films a particular model has appeared in.

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