Jaguar E-type
Credit: Oli Scarff / Getty Images

Jaguar supposedly derived this car's lissome shape from a chalkboard full of mathematical formulas, and not, as it may appear, from the human Johnson. Whatever inspired its form, this car arrived at exactly the right time, in a just-beginning-to-swing Britain. No less than Austin Powers, an authority on intergender relations, chose one as his personal steed, which says just about everything you need to know about the typical buyer's priorities.

But the car became an icon, and no mere fad, because it was so good to drive. State-of-the-art items included a fast-acting double overhead-cam engine, sharp-handling fully independent rear suspension, and racing-derived inboard disc brakes. Most stunning, though, was the price: just $5,500, which seriously undercut the Astons and Ferraris of the day.

Jag made more than 50,000 E-type coupes and convertibles in three series over the car's 14-year lifespan. Our advice is to focus on the stylistically pure Series I cars, which ran from 1961 to 1968 and had a straight six engine in two displacements: first 3.8 ('61–'64), and then 4.2 liters ('65–'68). Later cars came with a V-12, which was "elaborate" (read: a pain in the ass to work on). Despite their smaller engines, the early Series I cars bring the most money.

What to watch out for: Complicated English cars might be the source of most of the world's divorces, and the E-type epitomizes all that can go wrong. Electrical gremlins are a big problem. The small mouth opening on the early cars failed to provide adequate cooling. Condensation can form inside the covered lights, and the dashboard is hard to maintain.

Resources: Jaguar E-type: The Definitive History, by Philip Porter; restoration advice:

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