The history of one of the lead designers of the E-type

Malcolm Sayer


The designer of the Jaguar E-Type

This is our tribute to a great man and engineer over the years we have had the privilege of restoring more than a few of his iconic cars.

Malcolm was a gifted mathematician and academic, he graduated with first-class honours from Loughborough College in Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering.   After University he went to work for the Bristol Aeroplane Company, studying aeronautics and looking at ways of improving the efficiency and design of significant WW2 aircraft, particularly the Blenheim and the Beaufighter; and developing his expertise in aerodynamics as applied to mechanical design.

He joined Jaguar in 1951, where he was involved in designing the first post-war British sports/racing car capable of challenging the supremacy of Mercedes and Ferrari, which had been dominant since before the war. His unique method combined logarithms and complex mathematical formulae to plot the precise intricacies of 3D shape and volume to develop the optimum aerodynamic curve. Some of his particular contributions were the introduction of the slide rule and seven-figure log tables to work out formulae he invented for drawing curves, work which is now undertaken by complex Computer Aided Design software.

The first car in which he was involved was the C-type Jaguar which won Le Mans first time out and then for three years running. 1952 saw the design of the Jaguar D-type, which like the C-type used a relatively small engine aided by aerodynamics, and went on to become the worlds most successful sports/racing car. To surpass the C-type, Sayer then designed the revolutionary (on account of its monococque body construction hitherto only used in aircraft) D-type Jaguar which was one of the most successful racing cars of all time – winning Le Mans in 1955, 1956 and 1957. On the Mulsanne straight, the D-type could achieve a speed of 192.4 mph. In 1961 full time production of the road going E-type Jaguar, aerodynamically and mathematically designed by Sayer, commenced. Production lasted until 1974 with 72,000 cars being produced.

In 1965, he designed the Jaguar XJ13, a mid-engined Jaguar sports racing car that was intended for competition at Le Mans. Cost constraints and a rule change at Le Mans meant the XJ13 was never driven in international competition, but it exemplified all of the classical Sayer sophistication in aerodynamics as his earlier designs. In 1971 the XJ13 prototype was brought out of storage to help promote the new V12 E-type but it was largely written off in a major crash. Even today, many of the design elements associated with the E-type Jaguar can be found on the company’s cars. The long bonnet, haunches over the rear wheels and the stance are all features incorporated into Jaguar’s XK8 coupe.

The Jaguar E-type became an icon, and in the words of the New York Museum of Modern Art, where an E-type is on permanent display.

More information can be found on his Foundation pageThis is an extract of an article published on his Foundation page. Read more here


Our E-types

Just a few of the E-type we have restored, or are for sale here on our site