After sixty years, an iconic sports car had a quiet homecoming to the show where it all began

March 15, 1961. An agitated William Lyons stood waiting for his driver to appear. The Geneva Show was about to open, and Jaguar had no car. Oh, there was a static model on the stand, covered by a large crate. But the running car, which was to be the heart of Jaguar’s reveal to the world, was nowhere to be found.

Finally, with twenty minutes to spare, the car rolls up. It was the 9600 HP, one of a few running prototypes of Jaguar’s forthcoming E-Type, the car that would be the darling of the sports car world in the 1960s.

Sir William Lyons introduces the E-Type at Parc des Eaux Vives in Geneva

Sir William Lyons introduces the E-Type at Parc des Eaux Vives in Geneva

Lyons comment to the driver, PR Executive Bob Berry, as he climbed out of the car? “Good God, Berry, I thought you were never going to get here.”


But any anxiety and frustration soon fell away as the press mobbed the little car and the ride along schedule quickly filled. Lyons would soon call back to Coventry and demanded that another running prototype, the R77 roadster, then out being tested by Norman Dewis, be driven immediately to Geneva.

And so began a marathon overnight journey across the Channel, across Belgium and France and finally, the next morning into Geneva with the exhausted Dewis looking for “A bit of tea and a rest.” No such luck. Dewis was immediately handed a full slate of press ride alongs and he, along with Bob Berry spent the day tearing around Geneva showing off the E-type to assembled press and dignitaries.

Enzo Ferrari was attending the show, and reportedly pronounced the E-Type “the most beautiful car in the world.”

The three cars went their separate ways after the show, with a great debut at the New York show. They would not be reunited for another sixty years until a photo opportunity in celebration of the E-Type’s sixtieth birthday occurred at Wappenbury Hall in 2021. By that time, they were museum pieces, in private collections. The 9600 HP belongs to Philip Porter, who wrote an excellent, and exhaustive book about the car.

The three Geneva cars from 1961 reunite in 2021 for photo op

The three Geneva cars from 1961 reunite in 2021 for photo op

This year, the 9600 HP returned to Geneva, carefully shipped, not driven. It arrived with little fanfare and was parked quietly in a line of priceless classics. The world has moved on, but the cars are reminders of a more analogue, and manual world, where machines were monitored by gauges and by the human ear, the human nose, and the human touch, and some would say, were closer to the human heart. Overly romantic? Probably. But we’ve got no problem with that.