It’s not easy in the case of a Jaguar E-Type coupe, even if you are as brilliant as Raymond Loewy.
As we mark the 60th Anniversary of Jaguar’s seminal E-Type, it’s interesting to recall the story of one particular 1966 4.2-liter E-Type coupe, one of two Jaguars restyled and customized by world-renowned industrial and automotive designer Raymond Loewy (the E-Type is the only one remaining; the other was created from a 1955 XK140, which was demolished in a fire in 1957).
Pichon-Parat of Sens, France, accomplished the substantial coachwork redesign on Raymond Loewy’s E-Type Jaguar. The car was owned and driven by Loewy while he lived in France and Monaco.
Loewy’s accomplishments are many and varied; His industrial and graphic design portfolio includes the uniquely tapered Coke bottle, and among his well-known current and past logo designs are those of British Petroleum (BP), the Shell Oil Company, and the United States Postal Service.
He designed everything from office equipment to locomotives and the exterior colors and graphics on Air Force One, the President of the United States’ official aircraft.
His best-known automotive design work was for Studebaker, including his assembly and spearheading of the team that designed the Studebaker Avanti of the early 1960s.
The E-Type that Loewy purchased and chose to redesign is a “second generation” 1966 Series I coupe with the 4.2-liter engine and 4-speed manual transmission.
The production E-Type was styled by Jaguar owner and patron Sir William Lyons and aerodynamicist/designer Malcolm Sayer (although Sayer always insisted his cars were designed by the wind, not really by his hand or idea).
Of course, the car has long been considered a design icon, with examples on display in countless museums and collections worldwide; many consider it to be among the most beautiful sports car designs ever; reputedly including a gent named Enzo Ferrari, who is quoted as saying such.
Loewy’s E-Type was left mechanically stock; in the process, the car was shortened fore (25 cm) and aft (12 cm) in terms of overall length, and a new nose encompassed a dual headlight treatment; the quad lights were mounted behind clear plastic covers.
Successful or otherwise you must admire him for having the guts and gumption to attempt to improve upon the timeless E-Type’s sinuous, feline shape and detailing.
This Jaguar embodies many interesting details, and Loewy’s concept certainly changes the looks of the car, even though you’d never mistake it for something other than an E-Type.
Did he improve it or not? It’s a matter of personal taste; we suspect most would say not. His redesign and the look are very mid-60s.
Raymond Loewy’s E-Type Jaguar saw the original radiator opening dispensed in favor of a large ovoid-shaped metal grille, which likely improved the E-Type’s marginal cooling capacity.
The factory taillights were replaced with Chevrolet Corvair units frenched into the quarter panels, and the dual exhaust pipes that normally exit just below the rear license plate splay outward exiting the tail of the car at approximately 45 degrees angles.
A unique Perspex “spoiler” was mounted at the trailing edge of the roof.
Loewy placed a large, red foglight in the aft cabin aimed out the rear window; rear-facing single brighter-than-a-taillight foglights are common in Europe.
The interior remains otherwise stock, save the mounting of a large, chrome flashlight on the center front console.
When offered at auction sale in 2010, the car was original, somewhat patinated, yet in far better nick than the average barnfind, and exactly as designed by Loewy and constructed by Pichon-Parat.
I drove it briefly, and it felt in generally solid mechanical condition, although it needed servicing and brake system refurbishment.
The car was consigned for auction sale by the family of the third owner, the late architect and automotive designer James Murray Hunt, who studied under Loewy early in his career.
At some point, Loewy sold the car to another individual in France, who owned it for some time, before advertising it in The New York Times (or The Wall Street Journal).
Hunt spotted the advertisement in 1970, purchased the car sight unseen, and imported it to San Diego, California, where he owned it for the rest of his life. It spent 40 years hidden away in Hunt’s garage and was considered lost by much of the motoring and automotive design communities.
The custom one-off, designed by Raymond Loewy, was offered publicly for sale for the first time since 1970, at a Bonhams auction in mid-2011. It sold for $128,000 including buyer’s premiums and commissions.
I’ve learned that the anonymous new owner did not enjoy the car’s patina and originality and has since given it new paint and a full cosmetic restoration, making me think that Loewy would either be proud or disappointed that the original handiwork has been freshened up.
Photos of Raymond Loewy’s E-Type Jaguar Courtesy of Bonhams