My parents certainly were tolerant of my boyhood fascination with automobiles. It was bad enough that instead of watching TV, I was building 1/25 scale models; and instead of studying, I was sketching tomorrow’s designs. My appetite for reading, which began when my dad took me at age 6 to the New York Public Library, was fed by devouring every car magazine that came into the house.
Perhaps the greatest display of parental tolerance occurred every year around September. My extremely patient mother would drive me to the local new-car dealers, where I would collect all the new car brochures I could. (In retrospect, I have a much better appreciation of how difficult it was for my mom to constantly fight off salesmen with the line “it’s for my son; he loves cars; we’re just looking”).
The annual New York Auto Show, held during the 1960s and ‘70s in the NY Coliseum at Columbus Circle, was another opportunity to add to the pile. My father loved going to the show anyway, so it was a natural for him to take me. I would sit in bed at night and pour through the pages of the sales literature, memorizing models, colors, and engines.
This, uh, obsession of collecting new car brochures continued as an adult; eventually, there were boxes and boxes of it, hardly touched by me. When I moved for the umpteenth time in the late 1990s, I cried uncle, called a good friend whom I knew would appreciate the horde, and gave it all away (Steve H., is it still in your good care?)
Well, I gave almost all of it away. There were a few, very few, pieces which were too precious to let go. This Jaguar XK-E brochure from 1967 fascinated me from the moment I picked it up. Forty-nine years later, it is just as fascinating, maybe more so. First, let us acknowledge that the Jaguar E-Type (funny to see proof here that the U.S. market did indeed call it “XK-E”) is one of the most beautiful cars ever; it consistently makes Top Ten lists when votes are tallied for best designs. (Enzo Ferrari allegedly called it “the most beautiful car ever made”). The brochure is a beautiful piece of artwork on its own, displaying this magnificent automobile.
There were no Jaguar dealers on Staten Island where I grew up, so although I have no direct recollection, I must have picked up this piece at the New York Auto Show. I’m certain I’ve had it since it was new. Compared to the typical American car sales brochure, the photography, imagery, and colors were like nothing my teenage eyes had seen before.
Start with the cover photo, showing the new 2+2 sitting on a dirt-strewn pier, surrounded by dock workers. Who were these guys? Models hired by the ad agency? I doubt it. Unlike every other car in this brochure, the primrose yellow car is RHD, so this one was likely taken in the mother country.
Opening up the booklet (it’s six pages, three on each side, folded twice), there are two photos of a red coupe and black roadster. Your eye is drawn to the wood steering wheel, chrome wires, whitewall tires, and “JAGUAR” license plates. It is impossible not to swoon over these cars. The page between these two is devoted to the 2+2 model; pictures highlight the rear seat, automatic transmission, and ample luggage space. The text provides the line for husband to deliver to his spouse: “The XK-E 2+2 thus becomes the Jaguar family coupe.”
The award for most-interesting-photo-ever-in-a-car-brochure may go to the red roadster, what, on safari? What photographer was brave enough to stand behind the lens, while several dozen bulls loitered in the background? Was it the job of the two guys on horseback to drive away the herd should they decide to charge? (I would have chosen another color for my vest.) At least the Jag, with its dirty blackwalls, looks like it was driven, not trailered, to the location.
The back page provides all the specs you could wish for. My young brain could not pronounce “monocoque”, and didn’t know its true meaning for years. And the list of optional equipment, taking up four lines of text, sharply contrasted with the typical American car brochure, which needed several pages to describe all the add-ons.
I’ve always wanted an E-Type; like many other collector cars, their affordability always seems to be just beyond reach, as their values continually climb. In the meantime, I’ll happily stare at my 1967 XK-E brochure (make mine the red coupe please).
All scans of the “Jaguar 4.2 XK-E Coupe, Roadster & 2+2 Family Coupe” brochure are from the copy in the author’s collection.