This car will always be a star

The E-type Jaguar, icon of the swinging Sixties, is celebrated at the Design Museum

Everyone, it seems, is re-evaluating the Sixties. In London, Tate Britain's show Art and the 60s: This was Tomorrow, examining the innovations of the period, is to be followed by E-type: Story of a British Sports Car at the Design Museum.

Everyone, it seems, is re-evaluating the Sixties. In London, Tate Britain's show Art and the 60s: This was Tomorrow, examining the innovations of the period, is to be followed by E-type: Story of a British Sports Car at the Design Museum.

"We asked ourselves, 'What was the iconic British car of the Sixties?'" says curator Helen Evenden. It wasn't difficult to settle on the E-type Jaguar: when it was unveiled in 1961, it caused a sensation. Sexy and stylish, it became the choice of the stars of the original "cool Britannia" and remains one of the defining icons of the period.

The exhibition both celebrates the triumph of engineering and aesthetics that was the E-type, and acknowledges its celebrity status. "The car is the star," Evenden says. "We want to show the design process that created an iconic object." Six immaculate cars from the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust are show the design trajectory from the Jaguar racing cars of the 1950s to the elegant final E-type version, made in 1974.

"What we found was that the designer was relatively unknown, despite the car's iconic status," Evenden says. The E-type's creator was the aircraft designer Malcolm Sayer, who conceived this sleek automotive sculpture that could top 150mph. A total of 72,000 E-types were made, and most were exported to the US.

Very few design models and sketches survive: unsurprising, perhaps, given that this was a time when ideas would often be scribbled on to beer mats. The E-type was largely conceived in the engineering sheds in the Coventry factory, proving that every design, however sexy, arises from dogged ingenuity and a lot of mathematics.

Unlike its sports-car rivals, such as the Morgan, the E-type was a sexy car designed for swingers, not chaps. Not as flash as a Ferrari, nor as exclusive as an Aston Martin, it was perfect for cruising through the social upheavals of the Sixties, when a new, upwardly mobile generation were tasting the first fruits of consumerism.

"Part of what makes the E-type so fascinating is that it does encapsulate these crossovers," Evenden says. "It fitted perfectly with the democratic liberal ethos of the time, because it brought something glamorous and fast in a completely different price bracket."

Now Jaguar is owned by Ford, and car designers face far more complex challenges. Evenden, who is a tutor at the Royal College of Art's Vehicle Design School, says that the simplicity of the E-type's design is testament to a vanished social and cultural era. "In the Sixties, you had a purer celebration of the appreciation of speed and driving," she says.

Deliciously seductive images of George Best, Twiggy and the like sitting in E-type Jags are now part of Sixties iconography. Everyone looks invincible, the optimism is infectious, the summer of love never ends, the engine purrs as you burn rubber down Carnaby Street, and everything lies in the future...

E-type is at the Design Museum, London SE1 (0870 909 9009), from next Sunday to 28 November

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

    £23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

    Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

    £14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

    Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower