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Jaguar E-Type S3

Jaguar E-Type S3 Published: 13th Feb 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Roadster
  • Worst model: Any car that’s been poorly restored
  • Budget buy: 2+2 (auto)
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 4686 x 1676 x 1295mm
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • DIY ease?: Generally, but some bits need specialist attention
  • Club support: Superb
  • Appreciating asset?: Gradually
  • Good buy or good-bye?: The cat’s out of the bag – the E-type V12 is a true gem
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Last of the E-type family that’s more GT than sports car. While not the most desired it’s the best sorted of them all as well as cheapest way to buy this legendary big cat

When Jaguar unveiled the third iteration of its E-type in 1971 there were sharp intakes of breath. Here was a car with a wheelbase stretched by nine inches compared with its predecessor, so its cabin was as spacious as an E-type 2+2’s, things improved a little further by the car’s width increasing by an inch. Power came from an engine with twice as many cylinders as before, but to the dismay of many, the svelte looks of the original had been tweaked many say ruined – with the new arrival appearing somewhat less lithe.

Perhaps it’s for this reason that for years the S3 lived in the shadow of its forebears, and while the earlier cars still carry a significant premium, the Series 3 is now appreciated for what it is: the most usable E-type of them all.


1961 The Series 1 E-type is unveiled at the 1961 Geneva motor show; a real show stopper, its design purity and performance are unprecedented for the money.

1968 The improved Series 2 arrives at long last but already the E-type’s design is showing signs of losing its purity with performance gradually eroding away.

1971 After much testing, March sees the S3 finally introduced using this racing-derived engine and while the added power is welcomed, the entire character of the car altered. Now only a singleton platform, with a massive 10-inches-added wheelbase, is employed but there is anti-dive suspension, wider wheel arches and cooling ducts for the inboard rear brakes as compensation. However, as a result, this fat cat is a significant 270kg heavier than the lithe S1.

1972 A steering lock was fitted and in January 1973 a twinbranch exhaust replaced the boy racer-like four-pipe system.

1974 In February the fixedhead E-type is discontinued, leaving the roadster to soldier on alone during a year of massive petrol price hikes and causing sales to dwindle to double figures.

1975 In December 1974, the final E-types were built with 50 known as the now coveted ‘Commemorative’ editions. Overall, 15,000 S3s were made, with slightly more roadsters, during the car’s four year production. The S3’s best year in the UK was, ironically 1973, just when the Middle East turned off the fuel taps; 872 roadsters and 489 2+2s were delivered in the UK. In 1975 it dried up to just a handful of cars!

Driving and press comments

Compared with the six-cylinder editions that went before, the S3 is a completely different animal with its V12 engine. More of a tourer than a sports car, the S3 is bigger and more spacious than its predecessors while also being much more relaxed to drive. But it’s certainly no slouch as it can go from 0-60mph in just 6.4 seconds and it tops out at 142mph, so there’s no shortage of urge.

Indeed, there are 272 horses waiting to be unleashed, peak power being delivered at 5850rpm while the maximum torque is pegged at 304lbft at 3600rpm. Such muscle means you don’t have to change gear too often if you buy a manual, while the automatic transmission complements the V12 perfectly. However, automatics are slower because they have just three gears instead of four to play with, the change is a little sluggish and they also have taller gearing, dulling the drive. The aluminium V12 engine weighed little more than the cast-iron straight-six, but by the time the Series 3 was finished it tipped the scales at a hefty 3300lb – that was 22 per cent more than the Series 1 when launched, which weighed just 2700lb.

Although the V12-powered E-type was first shown at the end of March 1971 it would be another six months before the press got to try out Jaguar’s handiwork. When Autocar tested it the testers claimed that the lack of faired-in headlights robbed the E-type of 5mph at the top end, so it was never going to match the original car’s 150mph top speed.

The magazine still got 142mph out of the car though, in 2+2 form. However, the test car was fitted with a 3.07:1 differential which was a no-cost option, the standard rear axle getting a 3.31:1 ratio for improved acceleration. Up to 30mph this ratio blunted the Jag’s acceleration, but after this point the torque of the mighty V12 came into play and the car took off like a scalded cat, with 100mph coming up in just 16.4 seconds.

Despite the V12’s muscle it was very much a GT powerplant: “Anyone expecting this Jaguar V12 to have the same kind of characteristics as a V12 Ferrari or Lamborghini is going to be disappointed. The engine is not in the least sporty and although it deserves the highest praise for its incredible refinement and smoothness, it somehow turns the E-type from a kind of race-bred GT into just a terribly fast touring car”.

Autocar took the E-type to France to give it a thorough test, climbing mountains and covering huge distances at high speeds. One of the things that stood out was its refinement: “In terms of mechanical noise the engine is virtually silent.

There is no chain whine, no tappet noise, no induction roar and precious little exhaust throb. Opening a window in narrow high-walled streets enables the driver to pick up a very musical hum from the exhaust at about 2200rpm in any gear, but it is so subdued otherwise that he is unaware of it.

“The peak of the torque curve comes at 3000rpm and power falls off noticeably from 6000. The impression as the car accelerates is therefore almost deceptive and it is an easy car in which to misjudge speeds; the car gets no noisier as the speed builds up. There is a slightly busy hum, which to an ear used to six cylinders is extra busy, but from 70mph on to 140mph wind noise is by far the loudest sound and even that is by no means excessive. As a natural sort of gait about 125mph seems right, and with the 3.07 axle this puts the rev counter nicely on 5000rpm”.

With finger-light power steering and a softer demure the E-type has matured from a sports car into a GT. As Autocar remarked in its initial road test: “There are some people no doubt who feel that sports cars should have a bone hard ride, glorious exhaust note and a draughty hood. To them the V12 Roadster would be a terrible disappointment for in all these departments the car is highly refined, and in no way can using the car be considered an adventure in the traditional sports car idiom”.

Car headlined it as “BLMC’s middle class Ferrari” on its April 1971 cover concluding that the S3 was “A great engine in search of a more suitable car”, which it got in the summer of 1972 when housed in the XJ6 saloon flowing on with the XJ-S.

Autocar, summed up the general consensus on the car by labelling the S3, “More new wine in an old bottle” but cheers that we say nearly half a century on!

Values and the marketplace

It’s taken a long time but the market has now latched on to the fact that the S3 is a great car. However, part of the reason for the increase in values is they’ve been dragged up by the earlier cars becoming so expensive to buy that enthusiasts can no longer afford them, so they’re turning to the V12 models instead. That makes the S3 sound like the poor relation, but as the Jaguar Enthusiasts’’ Club’s Colin Manconi points out, the V12-powered E-type is no consolation prize as it’s the most usable of the breed as it’s the most highly developed.

Says Colin: “The ceiling for these cars is generally £100,000, although the odd exceptional car might change hands for a bit more – potentially as much as £120,000 (Alan Carrington Cars has a lovely white sunroofed Coupé subject of a 20 grand engine and transmission rebuild at under £80,000-ed). Some are advertised for more than this but whether or not they sell is a moot point. At this level such cars are really aimed at collectors who are unlikely to use their cars; they’ll be completely restored examples that are probably too good to use.

“Quite a few Series 3 owners do use their Jaguars a fair bit for touring, and to buy something suitable you should expect to spend somewhere between £50,000 and £60,000 for a really nice 2+2 while an equivalent roadster is more like £60,000 to £80,000. While these sums are not small they are quite realistic as the E-type market has corrected itself a bit over the past year, with values softening a bit. It’s largely the earlier (six-cylinder) models that have been affected by this though, as values rose very fast and things weren’t sustainable.

“Some people are still undertaking restorations and recommissioning but you have to be very careful at this end of the market. It’s easy to get caught out by taking on a project that needs more work than you think, and with restoration costs potentially very high you could end up committing to a lot of expenditure. This is why many unfinished projects come onto the market; owners realise just what’s involved in getting a project back on the road and they can’t afford it or justify the cost. Be especially wary of incomplete projects because while everything is available to restore an E-type, prices for some parts can be high and not everything is well made.

“E-types are still coming back from the US, but these are more often six-cylinder cars rather than V12s. Obviously, they’ll be in left-hand drive form and such cars will always be worth less in the UK unless they’re converted to right-hand drive. If this is done as part of a complete restoration the cost will just be part of the overall job, but bear in mind that the finished car will be worth a bit less than a genuine factory-built right-hand drive E-type”.

The good news is that low-quality restorations are less of a problem than they used to be. However, if buying an older resto make sure it’s been done to a high standard; look for photographic evidence of a recognised marque specialist having done the work, although DIY rebuilds aren’t out of the question if the work is done methodically.

Colour doesn’t affect an E-type’s worth particularly, although some hues are easier to sell than others. Manuals are worth a bit more than an auto although there’s a ready market for either. The fitment of a modern five-speed manual transmission will make this car even more attractive, but what affects an E-type’s value the most – apart from whether it’s a 2+2 or roadster – is its overall condition. After that the spec makes little difference.

Nigel Woodward, managing director of CMC adds: “V12s, particularly roadsters, represent fantastic potential value at the moment. It is difficult to think of what else even comes close in terms of performance, drivability and the shear enjoyment of driving an open top V12 for the money.

“That said, this year we achieved our best price yet for a V12, an exceptional car it has to be said, but it shows that the market is appreciating these cars more and more. You tend to get what you pay for with V12s. Beware of cars that look very good value and make sure any car has a good solid history of being maintained by a respected specialist”.


As the most highly developed E-type of all, it’s a subject of great debate as to whether or not any significant changes are needed. While the possibilities are endless, many owners keep their cars as they left the factory and they’re perfectly usable as well as reliable. Some owners fit electronic fuel injection, a high-torque starter, high-flow water pump or more efficient radiator to improve reliability and usability. A modern electronic ignition to replace the original untrustworthy Lucas Opus set up (dubbed ‘opless’ in the trade) is mandatory while if the emission-tuned Stromberg carbs are worn, a kit from Burlen Fuel Systems to convert to SU instruments is said to improve drivability no end.

The chassis is also worth tweaking, to eliminate soggy handling; fresh dampers and stiffer springs will usually transform an E-type’s handling, even if you stick with factory-spec parts but the best ‘mod’ is to replace all the bushes in the IRS; pricey but transforms the drive. While the brakes were the best yet fitted to an E-type you can go further, such as Fosseway Performance upgrades (www., incidentally this E-type specialist also markets an adaptor kit to enable Mazda MX-5 seats to be installed after being re-trimmed to match the Jag’s interior.

North American market cars were fitted with a 3.54:1 differential whereas UK cars have a more relaxed 3.07:1 ratio. It’s worth fitting the higher ratio for easier cruising although it’s possible to fit the 2.88:1 limited-slip diff from the XJS; this same ratio was available on the 2+2 auto. Something that you can do in conjunction with a back axle swap – or instead of – is to fit a Getrag five-speed manual gearbox as fitted to the later XJ. It’s not an especially difficult conversion and many owners make the swap from three-speed auto rather than four-speed manual.

As we regularly stress with any classic car it’s vital to get the basics right before any upgrades. As the V12 is fast enough as it is, the best initial ‘mod’ has to be to ensure that the entire car is up to spec (geometry engine tune etc) before any tweaks are envisaged – they may not be needed.

Other check points
  • Most V12s came as a three-speed Borg Warner Model 12 automatic, but the four-speed manual unit is more sought after. They’re both durable units, but the latter can suffer from weak synchromesh on second and third and laysha wear; check for difficulty selecting gears. If ratio changes are jerky, or there’s any slipping on the move, the auto unit needs a service with fresh fluid, filters and perhaps some adjustment of the bands. Any five-speed converts must be done well.
  • The rack-and-pinion steering is reliable, but wear in the column universal joints is normal; replacement is easy and cheap. If there are creaks from the rear suspension it’ll be because the lower hub pivots have corroded; if not greased regularly they wear rapidly or seize as a consequence.
  • Don’t be surprised if there’s detectable play in the rear wheelbearings; if there’s none at all they’ve been over-tightened and will overheat as a result. At the front, be wary of too many shims between the wishbone and ball joint; two or three is okay but any more and there’s a danger of the suspension collapsing. Fitting exchange wishbones is the easiest solution; a cheap and easy exercise.
  • Brakes should feel strong, but imbalance isn’t unusual – it’s usually caused by oil on the in-board rear discs, leaked from the diff. Fixing this is involved as the axle has to come out. The self-adjusting handbrake mechanism often seizes.

E-type fan says it’s the best

Colin Manconi has been around Jaguars for more than half a century, having been a fan of the marque since the mid- 1960s. He owns an array of classic and modern Jaguars, including a 1973 E-type Series 3 roadster that was bought when it was just 18 months old. Colin told us: “My first E-type was a 1965 Series 1 which was replaced by another 1967 Series 1 and three Series 2s, and then the Series 3. Completely original and with only 44,000 miles on the clock, only I have ever worked on the car so I know it inside out – I used to run a garage as I’m a trained engineer.

“When I first bought the Series 3 it was my everyday transport which I used for commuting, but after a few years it was put away as I focused on using other cars that I’d bought in the meantime.

“The car came out of hibernation 35 years ago, needing very little to get it back on the road. The key thing was a suspension rebuild because the rubber bushes had perished, but the car is still very original as it’s never needed any welding or paintwork – I Waxoyled it when I bought it and the car has been done several times since.

“Parts availability is superb but you need to research what you’re buying as some parts are made to a higher standard than others. Predictably, the key to pain-free ownership is regular maintenance; an annual oil change and fresh coolant with plenty of anti-freeze every two or three years should keep the car ticking over quite happily.

“Of the three different generations of E-type that I’ve owned, the Series 3 is definitely the most usable with its bigger cabin, comfier seats, decent brakes and a nice gearbox. While the earlier cars are worth more, I’d always pick a Series 3 for driving any distance as they’re so much nicer to drive.

“I’ve enjoyed some wonderful experiences with my Series 3, thanks to close ties between Jaguar and the Enthusiasts’ Club. When Jaguar celebrated 50 years of the E-type in 2011, my E-type was one of a batch that went to the Nurburgring to help mark the occasion – I got to drive my car round the circuit which had been closed to other traffic, which was a great experience.

“The previous year, Jaguar celebrated its 75th anniversary and my car took part in a run from Coventry to the Mayfair Hotel in London. That’s where Sir William Lyons, in September 1935, launched the Jaguar name on the SS 2.5-Litre saloon.

“My E-type has also been to Goodwood along with an array of other national and local events that the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club has organised or taken part in”. For more on the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club log on to

What To Look For

That wonderful engine is durable but…

Properly maintained the V12 will cover 200,000 miles with some ease. However, poor maintenance leads to overheating, so idle the engine for several minutes and watch the temperature gauge – does it rise to the occasion? Harshness points to previous problems; the long block and heads can distort through high temperatures. Because the block and heads are alloy, anti-freeze levels must be maintained; if not, internal corrosion is almost guaranteed. Check the radiator’s thermostatic cooling fan cuts in; it’s usually reliable but not always.

Low oil pressure at idle isn’t a problem, but there should be at least 45lb (preferably 55lb) on the dial at 2500rpm. Oil leaks are common as the rear crankshaft seal tends to leak; once it has failed, a full rebuild is needed, which can easily cost £10,000. Cars that have been run infrequently are especially likely to suffer from this, as the seal dries out then wears more readily.

The V12 has 20 rubber coolant hoses; check they’re not perished because replacement can be involved; the water rails and carburettors have to be removed to renew some of them. They also need to be to the correct specifi cation; the coolant system runs at 15lb psi (earlier E-types are just 4lb psi), so the hoses have to be reinforced.

Left or right?

Until earlier generations, US cars don’t suffer any performance drop. Beware ex-US cars changed to right-hand drive though, and 2+2s converted to roadsters. Most conversions are fine, but values are lower. RHD chassis numbers start IS.10001 (roadster) and IS.50001 (2+2); LHD cars are numbered IS.20001 (roadster) and IS.70001 (2+2). Many conversions forget the details such as switchgear and dial repositioning and look for attendant bodges to the wiring.

Is that body still beautiful under all that gloss?

  • It takes a special skill TO restore any E-type and a fair few ( both DIY and specialists) haven’t been done too well – even if they look it. Most have been restored; standards vary so ask who did the work and what was done; also ask for plenty of photographs. Be wary of cars that have had major home restorations because without the proper jigs employed the bodyshell may have distorted as a result.
  • Bonnet misalignment occurs through the latter; because this section is so huge, check for even panel gaps and make sure the bonnet isn’t distorted. Look for poor panel fit, corrosion and kinked chassis tubes from low-speed knocks. Also ensure the car hasn’t been jacked up where it shouldn’t have been; the radiator support is sometimes wrecked through this, with the radiator potentially pushed into the bonnet. All panels are available at a cost.
  • Lift the bonnet and check for bulkhead corrosion, especially around the battery tray and check the front chassis frame. The scuttle sides contain box sections, which rot from the inside out. By the time corrosion is visible outside, the inside is rotten, with repairs very involved thanks to the complex structure.
  • The rear of the monocoque also rots, especially the B-posts, bulkhead and chassis strengthening rails; sills are durable but check for filler. Get underneath and look for corrosion around the rear radius arm and anti-roll bar mountings. Finish by checking the double-skinned rear wings for rust, along with the wheelarch lips, plus the top and bottom of each door.
  • A good E-type specialist can spot the numerous missing details which turn a good resto into a great one, such as the hood which was originally vinyl; mohair may now be used but is said to not fit as well.

Three Of A Kind

Corvette Stingray C3
Corvette Stingray C3
If you want visual drama then look no further; there’s no mistaking the Corvette. Glassfibre bodywork ensures rotten panels aren’t an issue while a 5.7-litre V8 offers grunt aplenty. Maintenance costs are surprisingly low too, but all cars are left-hand drive only. However, purchase and running costs are low, spares availability is superb and there’s a vibrant club scene within the UK too.
Jaguar/Daimler XJC
Jaguar/Daimler XJC
Until recently you could pick one of these up for peanuts but values have shot up over the last couple of years and to buy something good you’ll have to pay at least £20,000, although the best cars are now worth twice this. Those values are still low compared with the E-type though, and if you take the XJC route you’ll have a car that’s effortlessly stylish, eminently usable and highly unusual too.
Mercedes SL
Mercedes SL
If it’s peerless build quality that you crave, then this is the classic. Stylish and understated, the R107 Merc SL was in production for nearly two decades, with a choice of six-cylinder or V8 engines. Like the S3, it;s more a GT than sports car but a 24/7 propostion while the roomier SLC coupé is a proper 2+2 and cheaper to buy. Being a Mercedes, parts and specialist support is brilliant.


For a long time many E-type fans bought a V12 because they couldn’t afford anything else, but the cat is now out of the bag and classic car fans are appreciating this E-type in its own right. With great specialist and club support, the S3 makes huge sense on many levels; these cars are surprisingly usable, even on the longest journeys. Perhaps the only problem is the size and complexity of that V12; in fine fettle it makes the car, but buy badly and the costs will quickly add up. Low-mileage V12s abound, but check the history because clocked cars aren’t rare. Similarly, restored examples are sometimes claimed to be original, but with so many truly cherished cars out there, many run on a money-no-object basis, finding something worth buying really isn’t difficult.

Classic Motoring

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