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Jaguar E-Type V12

Jaguar E-Type V12 Published: 6th Nov 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar E-Type V12

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Manual Roadster
  • Worst model: LHD autos
  • Budget buy: As above
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L4686 x W1676 mm
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • DIY ease?: Generally pretty good
  • Club support: Typical Jaguar
  • Appreciating asset?: Yes, S3’s time has come
  • Good buy or good-bye?: It’s a top cat with a V in its bonnet
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Last of the E-type line that was discontinued 40 years ago, and remains largely shunned over earlier XK models. However renewed interest in the V12 has caused values of this unfairly slated cruiser to lately rocket

Happy birthday E-type! We use the word ‘happy’ advisedly because this December, 40 years ago, saw the final cars roll off the famous Browns Lane production line. The Series 3, or V12 was never the most iconic E-type and remains overlooked by many – despite being more usable thanks to its longer, wider bodyshell and superior engineering. These later cats may not be as sleek as the Series 1, or even the S2, but the S3 now has value and that lovely V12 engine on its side.


1961 The Series 1 E-type is unveiled at the 1961 Geneva motor show but after a decade this Coventry Cat is now no longer the sex kitten it once was. It was all due to US demands to make the car safe and more refined, while at the same time the competition had hotted up during the 1960s. Also, people’s tastes were starting to significantly change.

1965 Unlike the XK engine, which was a road-going engine that was forced into motorsport, the V12 was designed originally with racing in mind. Costing some £3m, initially the engine was a quad cam, before a simpler ‘top end’ was designed. It was first run that May, installed in a MK 10 and the final development saw 272bhp.

1971 March sees the S3 introduced with the engine and while the added power is welcomed, the entire character of the car changed. Using the 2+2’s platform, with a massive 10-inches-added wheelbase this time plus anti-dive suspension, wider wheel arches and cooling ducts for the inboard rear brakes, the S3 was no longer mean and lean; an increase in weight of 270kg over the original sees to that.

1972 A steering lock was fitted and in January 1973 a cleaner twin-branch exhaust replaced the previous far too boy racer-like four-pipe system.

1974 In February the fixedhead model is discontinued, leaving the roadster to soldier on alone. It did that all right thanks to the fuel crisis of that year, which saw shortages and massive petrol price hikes and as a result sales dwindled to double figures.

1975 In December 1974, the final cars were built. Just 50 of these were made, known as Commemorative editions, and these eased their way to customers during the early quarter of 1975. Some 15,000 S3s were made, with slightly more roadsters, during the car’s four year production, although remember that the vast majority went abroad. The S3’s best year in the UK was, ironically, 1973, just before the Middle East turned the fuel taps off; 872 roadsters and 489 2+2s were delivered in the UK. In 1975 it dried up to just four cars!


Compared to the earlier six-cylinder E-types, the V12-powered replacement is a completely different animal and definitely more a softer handling tourer rather than an out-and-out sports car. That’s not to say the S3 E is a soft touch. The V12 certainly scalded this cat, and gave it back the urge that had been lost over the years.

There’s no shortage of grunt; it’s just that it’s now provided in a different manner. With 304lbft of torque on offer (that’s what many modern diesels kick out), there’s no need to stir the gearstick, so the E-type is a two-gear (and once rolling, one gear) car. The V12’s party trick remains the ability to start from walking pace in top and power all the way to just over 140mph (No road tune E-type really hit a true 150!), passing 110mph in just over 36 seconds according to one road test.

Small wonder that the Borg Warner Model 12 automatic was fitted to the majority of S3s. While the V12 is usefully high geared (23mph/1000rpm), economy will never be a strong point; expect 16-18mpg even when fairly pussy-footing around.Overdrive was never available, even as an option and today some enthusiasts fit a five-speed manual gearbox to make the car even more long- legged and slightly more frugal.

Handling had softened with age and, compared to, say, a 911 of that era, the E-type was always a lot soggier. The XK E-types feel tauter although it’s all relative to the car’s age. As a GT the S3 is deceptively easy to drive fast. Thankfully the brakes, once an E-type concern, cited Autocar, “were now beyond criticism”.

While that longer wheelbase body did the S3 no favours style-wise, it certainly helped in the cockpit, which is usefully roomier as well as being far more civilised than any previous sports Jag. As Autocar remarked in a 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”.

In general, the initial enthusiasm for the S3 waned quite quickly as rivals matched and sometimes beat the plump middle-aged spread E-type which was always praised more for its V12 engine than anything else.

Car headlined it “BLMC’s middle class Ferrari” on its April 1971 cover and was slightly disappointed to discover the E-type wasn’t really the racey Ferrari-eater it could have been, while in 1973 the same monthly now considered the S3 “... a bulky and outdated package” that was “awkwardly sybaritic” concluding it was, “A great engine in search of a more suitable car”(Like the XJ-S? ed). The same year a more milder Autocar, as it was back then, summed up the general consensus by labelling the S3, “More new wine in an old bottle”.


As the V12 is hardly slow our first step would be to ensure that the car is up to spec before starting any mods. It’s possible to fit electronic fuel injection (a later XJ-S unit can be fitted, try AJ6 Engineering for details), and a ‘high torque’ starter to improve reliability and usability and the latter is a particularly good idea. Decent electronic ignition to replace the original Lucas Opus set up (‘opless’ in the trade)is mandatory while going a stage further, a modern mapping system for the ignition with a quite simple ECU greatly improves economy and flexibility.

What To Look For


* Look for poor panel fit, corrosion and kinked chassis tubes from low-speed knocks. Check for even panel gaps and make sure the bonnet isn’t distorted.

* Lift bonnet and check for bulkhead corrosion, especially around the battery. 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 rots, especially the B-posts 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.

Three Of A Kind

Any car that had to replace the E-type was on a hiding to nothing and the XJ-S was further saddled with those odd looks. And yet this often slated car was an entirely better bet in many departments, thanks to its XJ6-derived chassis. Most were autos and last of the line cars were boosted by 6-litre V12 power. A superb, cheap GT that remains much underrated and many jump a generation for the XK8.
FERRARI 400/412
FERRARI 400/412
Is there any car available anywhere that has more cachet than a Ferrari – and one with a V12 under the bonnet at that? Long unloved, the 400 and its successor the 412 offer seating for four, understated looks and fabulous urge, but the thirst and repair costs can be a killer and there are too many neglected examples about to catch out the unwary. But a good one can be fine value indeed.
If it’s peerless build quality that you crave above all else and 24-7 dependability, then this is the classic GT for you. Stylish and understated, the R107 Merc SL was in production for nearly two decades, with a choice of six-cylinder or V8 powerplants. All cars should have hard or soft tops, so you can use the SL all year round and many owners happily do. Excellent specialist network may be the decider.

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