At 4.30pm on March 15, 1961, the eve of the opening of the Geneva Motor Show, Jaguar boss William Lyons had arranged for a number of automobile celebrities, enthusiasts, racing drivers, Jaguar dealers and, of course, automotive media people to assemble inside the Restaurant du Parc des Eaux Vives. Here, at the centre of one of the city’s foremost parks, a large plywood box had been placed in the middle of the room.
On Sir William’s command, the top of the box was raised and the sides were lowered. Out came the first E-type ever publicly shown, this E-type Coupé no. 885005. After a moment of silence came an eruption of cries and exclamations of appreciation by all attending, demonstrating for the first time the huge admiration for the E-type that would continue for months to come.
As photos show, many of those attending literally began to crawl over and under the exhibited car in order to gather the utmost technical details of the ‘E’. Possibly no other sports car’s unveiling had ever created such an emotional stir among the spectators.
In photos, Sir William standing next to head of PR, EW ‘Bill’ Rankin, with 885005 in the foreground, can be seen beaming with pleasure of the apparent success created by his newest creation. Thus, 885005 was the first E-type ever shown to the public, and was the first to create the emotion that would persist throughout the Geneva Show, where it was placed on the Jaguar stand. This was the car that created those emotions that have remained until this day.
Only afterwards were photographers and other media led outside to find an identical E-type Coupé 885002 with the English registration 9600 HP, standing in the driveway ready for the cameras. In conclusion, although 9600 HP was the much more photographed car, the very first E-type ever to be shown publicly was 885005.
What’s more, as was confirmed by many indications discovered in more recent years during an extensive restoration, the car is strongly believed to have originally been conceived as an open two-seater but then used by the Jaguar Experimental Department as the experimental structure for the design of a coupé.
In 2011, for the 50th anniversary celebrations of the unveiling of the Jaguar E-type, 885005 was again displayed on Jaguar’s stand at the Salon International de Genève. It was also shown at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, Pebble Beach and the third Schloss Bensberg Classics, winning significant prizes.