Look up the definition of a roadster in the dictionary and you will find it to be a two-seat car without a fixed roof with an emphasis on sporty handling. There was no better example of a roadster than the Jaguar Roadsters produced from 1961-1974. In fact, if one didn’t know better, one would think that the term roadster wasn’t conceived of until the Jaguar XKE hit the road in 1961.
In the words of Enzo Ferrari, the 1961 Jaguar E-Type Roadster was “the most beautiful car ever made.” Few cars are given the labels of icon and legend their first year, but the Jaguar Roadster accomplished that feat and history has not diminished that view. This car was specifically made for the American market with pursuit of the American Dream as its number one production goal and it succeeded on all counts. Imagine cruising down Route 66, the top down, the warm air blowing your hair, cruisin’ sounds coming from the stereo, life for an instant condensed to the thrill of driver and car acting as one entity. That, in a nutshell, was the Jaguar Roadster.
Its sleek, aerodynamic design was unlike anything before seen on the American landscape. Powered by either a 3.8 or 4.2-liter engine, it was capable of between 120-125 miles per hour and in 1971 the Jaguar engineers had a little fun by boosting the engine to a V12 that left the driver gasping for breath and impatient until the next drive could be taken.
Understand that the Jaguar Roadster was not built to handle windy mountain roads. Its long front end prevented it from handling the most demanding roads well. This was a vehicle designed for one thing only: getting out on the open road and feeling like you owned every inch of the landscape that you blew by. There were faster cars on the road and there were better handling cars on the road, but there were none that left you feeling “cool” like the Jaguar Roadster.
The introduction of the Jaguar Roadster in 1961 was not the first attempt at capturing the American Dream. The XK 120 produced from 1948-1954 and the XK 140 from 1954-1957 were the predecessors to the American icon and they were fine cars in their own right, but neither of them could stand up to the finished product.
Good luck finding one of these classics if this article has motivated you to try. Serious collectors are fully aware of what they own and any not gobbled up by a collector are sitting in a barn somewhere much the worse for wear. But if you have the cash and you are lucky enough to find one available, go for it! How often does a person get a chance to buy the American Dream?