Five decades ago, inside a grand villa off Lake Geneva, Jaguar unveiled the E-Type. Journos got so heated that Sir William Lyons ordered another be delivered from Coventry for demo runs. Test driver Norman Dewis did the honors.

Dewis took the boss's order seriously, and drove all night to bring another E-Type to Switzerland, where Lyons had him whisk enraptured media types off on hillclimb runs nearby. The journos gleefully submitted, rather than return to the Geneva motor show in progress. Why would they return? They already had a first-draft of copy etched into their brains by Dewis's good hands, and the sound of the E-Type's straight six rung in their ears. Later that year, the E-Type debuted at the New York auto show, to a similar response. Britain had invented the "swingin' '60s" and the rest of us had to catch up. Enzo Ferrari called it "the most beautiful car ever built."


Jaguar's archivists note that at launch, the E-Type cost £2,256 15s, including tax (and, of course, the optional wire wheels), the equivalent today of just £38,000. That's around $62,000 at today's exchange rate.

At a top speed of 150 mph, the E-Type, like the XK120 before it, was the fastest production car in the world, thanks to its 3.8-liter six, which produced 265 hp and 260lb/ft of torque. The body shape was the work of Malcolm Sayer, an aeronautical engineer who'd previously worked on the Le Mans-winning C and D-Type racers. The E-type stayed in production for 14 years, moving around 70,000 units.

Happy 50th, baby.