Jaguar E type 3.8 ‘61 & Ferrari Maranello ‘96 Review by Stefan Chaligne
There are 35 years that separate the first E Type from the 550 Maranello and yet the philosophy behind the two cars is quite similar. Two amazing designs which draw admiration rather than aggression from onlookers and fellow road users.
These cars possess long line forms and few sharp edges and with their limited front and rear overhang they seduce in a way that the supercars of today no longer do. As for the Ferrari 458, the Porsche 911 and the Lamborghini Gallardo, they are too obviously dedicated to speed in order to try and hide their ambition to dominate the road. In reality they are only really welcome on racing circuits.
The aesthetic beauty of the great grand touring cars, like the E Type and the Maranello, is that they generate a different type of dream, one that is almost accessible. There is no longer an excessive emphasis on their mechanical power. This leads us to another paradox; a 550 Maranello at full speed is less shocking than a Porsche 997 Turbo undertaking the same exercise, although both cars break the law to the same extent. It is very probable that a Jaguat E Type evoked the same reaction when compared with a very rare Ford GT40 street version, which was too wide, too threatening, too obviously souped-up.
The miracle of the E type and the 550 is that thanks to the limpidity of their extraordinary design, one forgets that they belong to the 4 or 5 most powerful cars of their time, with 265 and 485 horsepower respectively. Even more surprising, in its own family, the E type is extraordinarily sober when compared to the XK 150 from 1957, not to mention the transition from the 550 to the 512 TR built in 1992, of which I am, however, a fan ; a caricature of a car which sums up the disco years. In order to be accepted by the public, a beautiful car design has to spring from a simple idea without artifice. How can one find this delicate balance? The cars of the 1960s are a highpoint in the history of sportscar design ; they are more user friendly than the cars of the previous decades, yet are not the overtly luxurious status symbols of the museum quality cars of the 1930s. From the 1970s onwards the sports car becomes heavier and more voluminous and only the addition of horsepower offsets the associated lack of agility and the emergence of the electronic era.
The 550 Maranello, even it does not possess the agility of a ballerina, does to some extent belong to this lost Eden. Having said that, it does not mimic the preceding decades. It is a car of its time with a strong identity. It is both elegant and refined and its interior is quite sumptuous without being too opulent; its Jaeger monochromatic dials are placed under a lightly curved leather lunette, the central console is just as harmonious and perfectly separates the wonderful seats upholstered in Daytona leather. This all echoes back to the E Type and its legendary aluminum console placed between two minimalist bucket seats softened by their leather covering.
Should one be pessimistic about the most recent tendencies in sports car design ?
The answer is clearly no. The weight trend has begun to reverse, hundreds of kilos of weight have been shed and the designs have again become more subtle The last Jaguar F type and the Mercedes SL confirm this return to a Golden Age. Even the Lamborghini Avantador, with its monumental dimensions, is quite graceful despite its colossal strength.