SIXTY years on ... its creation
Jaguar Magazine|Issue 206
The E-Type was the creation of one person - aerodynamacist Malcolm Sayer. He was immensley private and secretive with his work, and was also a multi-talented artist and musician.
LES. HUGHES
MALCOLM SAYER IS A LEGEND to those who know of him. While we commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the E-Type's unveiling at Geneva it presents the opportunity to introduce this reclusive, secretive and brilliant man. He changed the entire engineering status of not just Jaguars, but it has to be said, all racing cars through to today.

Sayer didn't set out to impress or reshape the world in which he worked, that came about purely as a result of his methodology and brilliant mind. That too is how we eventually got to the E-Type which set the motoring world on its ear in 1961!

So as the song goes - let's start at the very beginning.

It is important to do that because his entire working career at Jaguar Cars is interlinked with his family background.

Malcolm came into the world at Cromer, Norfolk in 1916. He was educated at Great Yarmouth Grammar School where his father taught maths and art, setting up the obvious framing point for young Malcolm's future.

At the age of 17 he won the prestigious Empire Scholarship, and attended Loughborough College (later Loughborough University) in its Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering. He earned first class honours there.

His first job was with the Bristol Aeroplane Company during WW2. He didn't see active service because, understandably, his was a reserved occupation.

Immediately after WW2 he worked for de Havilland then Bristol again.

In 1948 he went to live in Iraq to work at Baghdad University where he was to establish the Faculty of Engineering. While there he met a German professor who helped him recognise the mathematical relationship to curve shapes and identity. He managed the maintenance of the fleet of government vehicles too, then returned to the UK in late 1950.

He applied for an engineering position at Jaguar Cars, where he was interviewed by William Heynes, Chief Engineer and Technical Director who had a mathematics honours degree.

C AND D EQUALS E-TYPE

Heynes recognised Sayers' aerodynamic mathematical approach, and importantly, had been involved during Wartime with aircraft production at S.S. Cars (pre-Jaguar title) and was familiar with aircraft fuselage alloy construction.

Sayer started work at the tiny Jaguar Cars Engineering drawing office in early 1951. He called himself an industrial designer and artist, and loathed the term 'stylist' saying he was not a hairdresser.

It should be added that he was also a very talented and active musician, drawer and painter!

He was a no-nonsense person though, and worked in secrecy all of his life at Jaguar. It hardly mattered though because nobody could decipher his aerodynamic codes!

The entire basis for creating his future Jaguars was aerodynamic efficiency - although undoubtedly with his artistic side being dominant too, visual appeal was not unnoticed.

His prime concern was that a car body 'worked' both aerodynamically and visually. Some of his particular contributions included the introduction of slide rule and seven-figure log tables to work out formulae he invented for drawing curves. It is work now undertaken by complex Computer-Aided Design software.

SAYER

Anything which hindered the airflow was a no-no unless absolutely necessary. That included air ducts, winglets and ornamentation.

His first major mission at Jaguar was to create the body shape for the new XK120C - or C-Type.

It needed to be finished and tested for Jaguar's first official race entry at Le Mans in June 1951.

While a totally new and dedicated sports racer, his instruction from William Lyons was that the body must bear a family resemblance to the XK120 - three of which had raced in the classic the year before.

A C-Type won the gruelling race in 1951 and 1953 but there were more victories to come.

His creative uniqueness and exceptional talent would blossom with his next creation - the D-Type. That would lead directly to the E-Type production sports car.

The C-Type was a conventional steel chassis sports racer, except for the disc brakes it pioneered from 1952. Jaguar lightened and added refinements to win Le Mans again in 1953. Malcolm Sayer though was banking on his deep knowledge of aircraft to move Jaguar ahead of the racing pack which included Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz.

On the terrifyingly long and fast Le Mans Mulsanne Straight his D-Type would reportedly reach a top speed of 192.4 mph (309.6 km/h) ...

That was thanks to many things, but principally the aerodynamic shape of the D-Type was a breakthrough. It was beautiful to look at, light and included a radical large fin behind the driver's head for stability at Le Mans.

But, his D-Type did not have a conventional chassis, and neither does the E-Type!

Sayer had introduced the racing world to the monocoque body, and F1 and other racing cars still use his design principals.

Compared with the opposition, the D-Type and E-Type were half an aircraft!

His secret engineering debuted with the still mostly mysterious prototype known by the titles XKC054, XKC201 or XP/11.

We will never know enough about this car although it was used often, but is totally and deliberately unrecorded even within Jaguar. That is because Jaguar had no intention of revealing how radical its new car was until it showed the D-Type.

Indeed, Ron Gaudion has said that when he joined Jaguar in 1955 to build the D-Type, he was mystified by the car's construction method.

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