It’s hard to imagine the Jaguar E-type's impact in the ’60s, when the only cars that could match its reputed 150mph top speed cost at least twice as much, and many were far more than that.
Its importance was certainly not lost on the motoring press, the plaudits coming thick and fast, with The Motor labelling it ‘a landmark in sports car progress’.
The faired-in headlights of the Series 1 make it particularly attractive, but with those pretty looks comes the potential for expensive issues and, if long-term ownership is your aim, the condition of the body is the most important factor.
Rust can attack the back corners of the central tub, sills, floorpan, chassis strengthening rails and heelboard, radius arms, rear inner wings, boot floor, bonnet and lower pan.
One specialist assures us that checking the fuel-filler recess can provide a reliable guide to gauging the condition of the remaining areas you can’t see. If it’s clean and tidy, the chances are the rest of the car will be, too.
Opting for a Series 1 limits you to a choice of straight-sixes – a 3.8 and a 4.2 – rather than the Series 3’s V12, but these options suit the car and will be cheaper to service. Plus, you’re getting one of the world’s most famous, long-lived and successful powerplants.
They are also durable engines, with 100,000 miles possible with no need for major work, while largely original units have been known to rack up 300,000 miles.
The XK engine’s smoothness is so consistent that simply listening to it can be enough to judge whether it’s a good one, although a certain amount of tappet noise is to be expected.
Anything more than that, though, could signal that tappet-barrel wear has reached a critical point and a top-end overhaul is on the cards. Smokiness on the overrun may also indicate worn exhaust valve guides.
A mechanical tinkle at 1200rpm, meanwhile, suggests that the top timing chain is out, while a more distinct rattle halfway down can mean a worn bottom timing chain. Oil pressure should be 40psi at 3000rpm (although 50psi is preferable) and 20psi at tickover.
It is unusual to find an E-type that doesn’t leak a little oil, but a heavy weep from the rear main oil seal is time consuming to rectify.
While 3.8 E-types came with the traditional Moss gearbox, which did without synchromesh on first, the 4.2s had an all-synchromesh unit; either can be expected to last decades.
The same cannot be said for the suspension, with the rear assembly’s radius arms and anti-roll bar mountings prone to rust, while lower hub bearings should be well lubricated to avoid wear.
Weak or badly adjusted torsion bars at the front will let the whole nose sag and make the car feel unstable. Movement in the suspension points to worn balljoints or, more seriously, wear in the balljoint cup, which will require reconditioning.
Brake problems should be relatively easy to fix, with the most vulnerable area being the self-adjusting handbrake.
If you are brave, don’t mind travelling to the USA and are either well heeled or extremely handy, E-types can still be bought relatively cheaply. We found this Series 1 up for sale in Manhattan. Described as ‘complete and intact’ it is also in need of a lot of work, but nonetheless could be yours for just £13,252.
A much more attractive proposition can be found on our own classifieds in the form of this £50k machine. It's been completely restored and treated to extras such as Coopercraft brakes, a Kenlowe fan, Koni shocks and a stainless steal sports exhaust.
Our next choice is by some way the most expensive E-type on our classifieds, but it has covered just 15,000 miles from new and looks to be in exceptional condition. Hardly surprising, then, that the vendor is asking £165,000.
One thing you can say about E-types, though, is that there is no shortage of choice: we have more than 75 listed for sale here.
A true British icon, the E-type was a revolution when it was launched and a car that Jaguar has struggled to replicate ever since. No wonder it is one of the world’s most sought-after classics.