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Jaguar E-Type

Jaguar E-Type Published: 3rd Apr 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar E-Type
Jaguar E-Type Looks fast but only ‘works’ E-types just made it to 150mph
Jaguar E-Type
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What was the Jaguar E-type really like when new back in the 1960s? Stuart Bladon recalls some vivid memories of several fab felines – but did it really do 150?

Maurice Smith, editor of Autocar, came into my office one morning back in July 1965 and said: “I’m going to see Charles; do you want to come?”. I was terribly busy, with a Road Test going to Press next day, but I knew Charles Haywood was very ill in a hospital at Amersham and I owed it to him to go along and try to cheer him up. Charles had been Midland Editor of the journal (The Midlands was so important back then that magazines had dedicated staff up there-ed) when I joined in 1955, had introduced me to Road Testing, and had taken me as his ‘assistant’ so work could wait this time.

Bird puller

Maurice and I went down to the car park together, and as it was a beautiful day we quickly put the hood down on his E-type. Ever the showman, he changed down into second gear and fl oored it. The Jag’s exhaust changed from a burble to a purposeful roar, and the car simply rocketed away. The girls stopped and gawped at us in unconcealed admiration. In no time we had leapt up to 60mph.

We enjoyed a highly pleasant drive, chatting and joking; but there was no humour when we parked the E-type at the hospital and found the private ward where Charles was languishing. He was suffering from stomach cancer and was clearly desperately ill.

“Ironic, isn’t it, Stuart,” he said, “when you think what we went through with those Jaguar XK150s in Belgium (high speed tests-ed), and now for me to fi nish up like this?”. Maurice invited me to drive on the journey back to the offi ce. We were back in the offi ce in time for a late lunch, and only a few weeks later we were attending Charles’s funeral. My involvement with the E-type had started at its initial launch, when the technical editor, Harry Mundy, decided to take me with him to help cover the 1961 Geneva Motor Show. Among the many people there I recognised Sir William Lyons, founder and head of Jaguar. Suddenly there was a great stir and this magnifi cent, fabulously low and long, sports car arrived. There was the inevitable scrum to take turns to sit in it, and when I was able to climb in I was absolutely enthralled by it, and delighted when only a few days later, back in England, I was road testing it at the MIRA test track.

Fast or flight of fancy?

Our test E-type was the same left-hand drive Coupé in gunmetal grey, registration 9600 HP, which I had seen fi rst at Geneva. I was amazed at the acceleration it provided. We did timed runs to 130mph on the one-mile straight, reached in only 33sec from rest – astonishing for the early 60s. Did it really do 150mph, as published in the Road Test though? It was fi tted with the optional Dunlop R5 Racing tyres, had a rather special ‘loose’ engine, but after a number of runs the calculations of time taken for the quarter-mile showed that it hadn’t quite made it. Then his assistant went off alone, and did two more runs, returning to say that it had made a best one-way speed of 151.7, which gave it a ‘mean’ two-way fi gure of 150.4. It was quite wrong for this test to be done with only one person on board – tests were always ‘two up’ – as well as being unsafe for the driver to be trying to concentrate on timing at the same time.

Perks of the job!

As soon as the test appeared, our md wanted one; and although he was running a policy of extraordinary meanness against the staff, his E-type convertible arrived in October 1961. After a couple of years, including a long holiday trip to the south of Italy, he began to tire of the car’s unsuitability for his wearying commute to and from home in Beckenham, and passed it on to Maurice Smith for the second half of the fi ve years’ service as one of the journal’s staff cars. On a number of other occasions I was able to borrow it, and driving it was always a special delight. I was asked to share coverage of what was then the RAC Rally in November 1963. Rally coverage was always great fun, the RAC was a truly major event, and this one was going to involve enormous mileage so I was delighted when Bob Berry agreed to lend me an E-type fi xedhead to use to cover the rally. We went right up to Scotland, back through Wales, and down to the fi nish at Bournemouth equalling over 2000 miles in a few days; but all did not go well.

The appalling weather was the worst problem – with torrential rain in Wales resulting in many fl ooded roads (sounds familiar-ed). Perhaps we shouldn’t have driven through the fl oods, but we had a job to do, and there were few possible detours to avoid them. At one time my photographer, the late Ron Easton, let out a cry that his camera was sitting in a lake of water on the back fl oor! Seat belts had been fi tted, and I suspect that the water was coming in through the bolted lower mountings. The other problem was on the undulating roads in Scotland, when the exhaust pipes would frequently ground.

I had many other E-type adventures, including assisting Maurice Smith on the Road Test of the new model with 4.2-litre engine, when Jaguar engineers were shocked to see that we were testing the car with one of the headlamp cowlings broken. It had been hit by a stone, but Maurice wasn’t going to let that spoil his day of testing. “It’s ruined the aerodynamics,” complained the Jaguar people. Another test which went smoothly was when I accompanied the newly appointed technical editor, Geoff Howard, on the test of the 2+2. We fl ew with the car to Basle, and did the test fi gures on the Basle Autobahn, but the high roof 2+2 was considerably slower than the two-seater, and never looked as sleek with its lengthened roof and windscreen rake. Shortly before the editor’s car was sold off in January 1966, we were having a discussion over lunch at the Jaguar factory in Coventry about this amazing car and its probable successor, the XJ-S – which you can read about elsewhere in this issue. I’ll relate my views on it at a later date…

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