It’s 1961 and you’re after a sports car. A jaw dropper - you’re ready and you’ve got the money (or you can find it).
How about a Ferrari 250 GT at £6,500 (£135,000 today) or an Aston Martin DB4 at around £4,000 (£83,000)? Great choices, but perhaps you’ll wait until the Geneva Motor Show to see if anything else pops up. It’s a huge amount of money after all.
And then the revelation. A combination of Malcolm Sayer’s exquisite, cool and aerodynamic design was matched with William Lyon’s visionary styling was unveiled to an astonished public.
This first, publicly unveiled E-Type (9600HP) had been shown to a few leading motoring journalists for their road test features and then was driven from Coventry to the Parc des Eaux-Vives for the public unveil, arriving with just twenty minutes to spare. In these days of stage managed, multimedia launches that it hard to imagine
So here it was. A 3.8 litre straight six giving 265 bhp at 5.500 rpm with 240 pound feet of torque. An exquisitely styled body, a gorgeous interior and cutting edge technology combined to offer an irresistible package. Oh, and it would do 150 mph as well. In 1
The automotive norm at the time was a mixture of drum brakes, live rear axles, and very average performance. This fantastic creation arrived with a monocoque construction, rack and pinion steering, independent front and rear suspension and disc brakes.
And it was £1,500 (£31,000).
You can imagine the impact. The future had arrived, and it was (relatively) affordable. It’s like someone landing a UFO at the NEC today amongst the Skodas and Hyundais and telling you it was possible for you to own one. Everyone went crazy. Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis had to drop everything and drive through the night to deliver another E-type (a roadster) to meet the demands of the press and public.
So now we’re 55 years on - and the enthusiasm remains undimmed. Those of us who own them, work with them (yes, we count ourselves lucky indeed) still feel the wonder. And in a world of increasingly homogenised euro boxes, this maverick streak of genius from the automotive establishment resonates more than ever.
Drive one, and people let you out at junctions. People smile. You smile. Kids wave. It’s part of the fabric of our automotive history that is woven into the future too - as people restore, develop and improve what stunned the world in 1961.
And still does today.