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Jaguar E Type

The Gold Rush Published: 19th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar E Type

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 3.8 Roadster
  • Worst model: 2+2 auto
  • Budget buy: 2+2 or S3
  • OK for unleaded?: Usually
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L4450xW1660
  • Spares situation: Superb
  • DIY ease?: No real problems
  • Club support: Eleven out of ten
  • Appreciating asset?: Don’t wait till its 50th!
  • Good buy or good-bye?: If you get a good one...
E-type quickly lost headlamps covers but light power improved; E-type quickly lost headlamps covers but light power improved;
Coupe models were more popular than roadsters Coupe models were more popular than roadsters
2+2 rear seats are okay for kids plus makes car a sports hatch 2+2 rear seats are okay for kids plus makes car a sports hatch
They days of the cheap E-type are almost gone. Coupes (left) predictably lag behind the roadsters and on V12s, which shared the same platform, it’s not unusual to fi nd converted tip tops to soft tops Quality of the work is vital of course They days of the cheap E-type are almost gone. Coupes (left) predictably lag behind the roadsters and on V12s, which shared the same platform, it’s not unusual to fi nd converted tip tops to soft tops Quality of the work is vital of course
Roadsters naturally are the most wanted, S1 and S2s in particular but S3 can sell for up to half their prices Roadsters naturally are the most wanted, S1 and S2s in particular but S3 can sell for up to half their prices
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For the majority, the E-type is their all time favourite classic car. Better buy one now while you still can then!

Pros & Cons

Style, image, owner satisfaction, investment potential
Many bodged cars around, meek US cars, too much hype?

You’ve probably yearned for a Jaguar E-type since you were a child, but considered it a mere daydream. But don’t grow up just yet – owning an E-type has never, is never and will never be cheap – but it’s still possible to turn that long held dream into a reality. You have to be quick though, as this classic cat, now in its 50th year, is bound to soar even further in value during 2011 when the classic world marks the cat’s Golden anniversary. What are you waiting for?


Designed as a replacement for the venerable XK strain of sports cars, the E-type was the starof the Geneva Motor Show in 1961. Looking sensational and oh-so modern, the E-type was up to date under that sexy skin too, thanks to a new fangled monocoque construction with a novel tubular subframe for the engine and front suspension assemblies even if the latter was made from nothing more exotic than simple Reynolds 541 square section tubing! The E-Type used the XK150’s swift 3.8-litreengine, rated at a highly optimistic 265bhp (more like 240bhp) with Dunlop disc brakes, rack and pinion steering and a truly brilliant independent rear suspension set-up.Available in roadster, fixedhead or coupé form, the very fi rst batch of cars (500 odd righthand drive and over 2000 export builds) featured what is now known as a fl at fl oor, which rendered the footwells incredibly cramped. More spacious heel wells were soon added for needed extra room thereafter. Series 1 E-types lasted in their purest forms up until October 1964 when the 4.2 (or Series 1/1/2 as it was also known) hit the scene. This car addressed some of the signifi cant problems of the original such as poor seats, inadequate rear brakes and overheating woes. But the most critical changes were to the engine and gearbox. The former was stretched to 4.2-litres and the latter changed from the old pre-war Moss ’box to Jaguar’s own, slick unit. The added cubic inches gave more torque rather than speed but the new ‘box was a step forward. American infl uences forced a change to the E-type two years later in the ungainly shape of the 2+2 derivative. This grown up model was aimed at owners with young families. As a result, an extra nine inches were added to the wheelbase, which combined with the taller body, created just enough room to squeeze in a rear seat suitable for kids. Another sop to the Yank buyer was the option of a three-speed automatic gearbox. Purists hated the car, but if it wasn’t compared to a normal E-type the world would have loved its speed, style, and practicality. When the Series 2 surfaced in 1968, the 2+2 looked less dumpy better thanks to a re-angled front screen. Elsewhere, Uncle Sam’s increasing demands started to dilute the design purity. Safety dictated that inside, the classic toggle switches were replaced by crash-friendly rocker items and more crash padding was added to the dashboard. The Yanks also killed off those lovely, faired-in headlamps, while the cute rump was replaced by a lardier rear end and larger, relocated tail lamp clusters, which were now slung underneath highset, wrap around bumpers. On the other hand, welcome improvements included the best seats yet – they even reclined too – plus there was the option of effective air conditioning to cool the cockpit. The old Dunlop brakes were another weak spot, but they were usefully upgraded to high performance three-pot Girling items and feather light power steering became a popular option. Now suffering from middle age spread and a mid-life crisis, the Jaguar had become shadow of its former self by the time the S3 was introduced in 1971. Although sneered at by many, the S3 is perhaps the best E-type of them all, even if the Jag’s character had completely changed due to that massive and majestic 5.3-litre V12 nestling under the bonnet. With a rousing 276bhp and only a 60lb weight penalty over the old XK lump, performance was back to original E-type standards. The bad news was that the S3 was based on the stretched 2+2form, which made it fatter, softer and a whopping 145lb heavier than ever. Even though there was fulsome praise for the wonderful V12, the rest of the car was still a decade old – and it felt it. “More new wine in an old bottle” is how Autocar summed up the V12, and throughout the four years of Series 3 production, there was little in the way of development. From January 1972 a steering lock was fi tted and a year later a twin-branch exhaust replaced the four-pipe system. In February 1974 the fi xedhead coupe was discontinued, leaving the roadster to soldier on alone. And soldier it did, as the fuel crisis of that year created shortages and massive petrol price hikes (sound familiar?). This saw sales dwindle to double fi gures. In December 1974 the fi nal 50 cars were built. Known as Commemorative editions, they eased their way to customers during the early quarter of 1975.


It would be great to say that the E-type is even better than it looks – but as much as we adore it that would be a bit of white lie. It was, and still is, a fantastic machine. But things have changed beyond comprehension since 1961, and the Jag didn’t grow old gracefully like a Porsche 911. To avoid ruining the dream it’s best to lower your expectations. Even in standard trim the handling isn’t Porsche precise – it’s inherently soft while the steering is either slow and heavy or too light and lifeless when power assisted. In truth, the E-type is more GT than sports car. In terms of performance it’s a choice between the sharp alertness of the 3.8-litre XK engine, the brawnier, easy-going 4.2 or the magnifi cent V12. Purists drone about how superior the 3.8 is, but the realist rightly argues that the 4.2 – for all its design faults – is a far more usable engine. Plus it comes with the friendlier manual gearbox as well as other worthy improvements. Forget the 150mph headlines – the E-type
wasn’t quite as quick as Jag had us believe, but it was still head and shoulders above its rivals and still rapid enough to scare modern hot hatches! In the real world, a well tuned car can dash to 60mph in less than seven seconds, but the auto is signifi cantly slower. Motor even clocked one at a sloth-like 12.3 seconds! Perhaps they were testing a US-tuned car by mistake? When Autocar got behind the wheel of a de-toxed 1970 2+2 it remarked with much sadness: “The performance has lost its sparkle and the engine wasn’t as crisp as that other E-types we’ve tested.” That said, if all you want is the looks and satisfaction of Jaguar E-type ownership then it could be an advantage on our heavily speedlimitedroads while they can easy be upgraded to UK spec if desired. The V12 is an acquired taste. The engine is a true gem that almost 40 years on still amazes with its fi nesse and fl exibility. But with the extra pots of power comes a change in character. Although it’s supremely fast, it’s also incrediblylazy and top gear can be snicked in from little more than 10mph. Small wonder then, that the majority were automatics. For its size the E-type isn’t particularly roomy or comfortable, but the 2+2 still remains Jaguar’s roomiest sportster yet, and that side rear door – which returned on the current XK – offers a surprising degree of practicality. Few will use an E-type as a daily driver so fuel economy is largely unimportant. For the record, Motor returned just over 18mpg from a 2+2 auto back in 1966 but coaxed almost 22mpg out of it on a gentle run, which is about average for any six pot. In contrast a V12 was good for around 15mpg however it was used.


There are two types of E-type – cheap ones and good ones. Rarely do you fi nd the two combined. It’s tempting to buy a rough tabby with the intention of grooming it into a Persian, but this never works out, as many owners know from bitter experience. The general consensus is to spend as much as you can on the best car you can fi nd in your budget. Like for like, a roadster will always be worth signifi cantly more than a coupe – the 2+2s are worth the least, especially autos and LHDs. Ignoring the basket cases, the cheapest way to buy a good example is to look for a US ex-pat or an S3 Coupe. These start from around £16,000 and the S3 offers the best value – it can sell for half the price of an equivalent S1/S2 yet it’s the best developed E-type of them all. Between £25-£35,000 used to buy a top cat just a few years ago, but now it only budgets for solid 4.2 models and usually the S2 line up. S1s hover around the £50,000 mark and it’s common to see concours cars nudge six fi gures. They’re unlikely to catch up with DB5 values but experts, such as Harry Fulford, say that the current buoyant market will see prices rise before the E-type’s 50th birthday next year. Fulford runs E-Type UK (0845 417 1102) and reckons that S3s currently represent the best value (although he has one of the last 50 Commemorative cars up at £120K) but top interest always lies with the S1 roadsters, particularly the earliest fl at fl oors. Want a rare lightweight? That’ll be a cool £1m, then!


Despite its lofty status, modifying an E-type for modern use doesn’t appear to affect values – as long as the upgrades are the accepted ones. As with any Jaguar, it’s essential that the E-type is in top shape before you even think about enhancing it so make sure the suspension bushes, dampers and brakes are all spot on. The general opinion is that the Jag’s brakes, especially on pre S3 cars, can do with beefi ng up. Later assemblies can be installed or there’s the option of a kit from the likes of Coopercraft. As long as you don’t mind a harder ride and less comfort, a general stiffening of the suspension with harder dampers, springs and bushes turns the E-type into a real handler. Derek Watson offers a conversion kit that alters the front wishbone mounting point (as used on the works cars) and modifi ed steering arms to maintain camber and Ackerman angles under hard cornering. The kit also includes four-pot calipers and ventilated discs with stronger stub axles. The whole lot costs around £1000. Engine wise, the 3.8 is the classic – it makes as much power as the 4.2 but not as much torque. It is possible to bore and stroke the 4.2 up to 4.5-litres (4.7 is the maximum we’ve heard of). Jaguar blue-printed its road test cars to achieve 150mph – and so can you. Make sure that everything is lightened and balanced for the best results. Today, 300 bhp is a reality for a roadgoing engine while retaining SU carburettors. Spot-on ignition systems are worth more than a set of fancy camshafts. Consider electronic and, if you can spend money, have the system mapped. Our advice would be to lighten the fl ywheel to 19lbs and fi t Series 3 XJ6 inlet valves and pistons – they’re actually 8.75:1, slightly lower than the 9:1 as standard, but they’re a better piston. With a little skimmed from the cylinder head, the 9:1 will soon be back. Series 3 XJ6 (on injection) camshafts also have a better than standard profi le. D-type profi le camshafts are the best for road use – they’re available from Guy Broad at around £300 a pair. The V12 is very quick but the carburettors are awful. A complete fuel injected XJS engine could be fi tted although there will be some diffi - culty with ancillaries. Burlen Fuel Systems offers an SU conversion (all new, genuine SU parts) that improves both performance and economy no end. Reckon on around £750 for the parts. Decent electronic ignition to replace the Lucas Opus set up (known as ‘opless’ in the trade) is also a worthwhile fi tment. The gearbox on the 3.8s had the threesynchromesh, best replaced by the later (1964-on) four-speed all synchro unit. This costs up to a grand second-hand, though! A fi ve-speed gearbox conversion is popular, especially with a US-style 3.54:1 diff. Note that the gearbox on regular cars (ie not 2+2) was a short mainshaft type and so overdrive could not be used. Due to its compact length, the use of other types of gearbox is restricted. CJ5, Toyota Supra or Getrag units will fi t fairly easily, but further modifi cations may be needed. The V12 will need the toughest ‘box in the book so look to the CJ5. On a 2+2, the auto transmission tunnel allows the XJ6 overdrive to be fi tted. E-types need to be kept cool and, even on a standard car, an uprated radiator from the likes of Radtec is a very sensible fi t for peace of mind.

What To Look For

  • Don’t be besotted by those looks. Love is blind and it’s easy to ignore all the faults that the majority of E-types will display. Don’t buy the fi rst car you see and drive a few to get a feel for the thing, as cars will differ due to their age, condition and so on.
  • The good news is that the E-type has an army of devotees and a small industry behind it to ensure that it lasts for another half century. Whatever part you need is available, plus there’s a raft of top specialists that can help with buying, repairing and restoring. All you need to do is add money, which can reach six fi gures for a no-holes-barred restoration.
  • According to E-type expert Nick Goldthorp at Classic Motor Cars (01746 765804) of Shropshire, most cars are of pretty average condition due to previous restoration work. He reckons that out of 20 he sees, only one will be good enough for retail.
  • As seductive as the E-Type’s shapely and sexy curves are, that feline fuselage is a rust trap of the fi rst order, and there are many lovely looking cars out there that are simply bodged with fi ller and a splash of underseal. If you don’t know what to look for then have the car checked by a reputable E-type expert. It will save you thousands and your sanity in the long run.
  • Most E-types have been restored. Rebuild standards vary so fi nd out did the work and what was done. Also ask for plenty of photographs. Be wary of cars that have had major home restorations, as without the proper jigs the bodyshell may have distorted.
  • The biggest rust traps are around the tub, chassis sections and particularly the rear suspension radius arm mounts, located to the back of the fl oorpan. When corrosion sets in, the entire area can rip-out under fi erce acceleration! So take your overalls with you and have a good crawl underneath.
  • Other vital yet vulnerable areas include the sills, fl oorpan, door skins and bulkhead panel. At the rear, the wheel arches (double skinned on Series 3 cars) suffer as do the lower quarters and the boot fl oor.
  • Take all the time in the world when examining the engine frames, particularly for accident damage, stress fractures and rot, especially at the lower suspension mounts. Also look at the panel between the bottom frame/bulkhead mount with an equally critical eye.
  • Lift the bonnet and check for bulkhead corrosion, especially around the battery tray. The scuttle sides contain box sections, which rot from the inside out. By the time corrosion is visible outside, the inside is rotten as a pear – and proper repairs are very involved thanks to the complex structure.
  • The classic horny bonnet represents a third of the car’s overall size and its condition is critical. Replacements are available from Jaguar but at over £4000, not exactly cheap. Don’t bank on a kerbside fi t by lunchtime. With end trimming, hinge shims and a lot of experience, even a good bodyshop or Jaguar specialist can take days just to get it to fi t correctly.
  • Also ensure the car hasn’t been jacked up where it shouldn’t have been. The radiator support is sometimes wrecked as a result of this.
  • Rear tailgate rot is only a moderate worry, unlike roadster boot lids. Check the valance panels and the spare wheel well for the tin worm.
  • Here’s an easy way to determine the condition of the car – inspect inside of the fuel fi ller fl ap!
  • Many E-type experts say this region is often missed on a quick once-over and it can tell you a good deal about the car. Splashes of stone chip paint and underseal in the engine bay are other pointers.
  • The XK engine is quite a simple unit these days and, if looked after, can cover 100,000 miles without too much trouble. Be prepared to write out a cheque for at least £4000 for a decent full-on rebuild though.
  • The biggest problems are corroded waterways, subsequent overheating, worn timing chains, silent tappets (this usually means they have closed up in service resulting in a head-off decoke job to re-shim them properly) and oil leaks, especially from that well-known Jaguar weak spot, the rear crank oil seal.
  • Oil pressure should be 35-40lb when hot at normal speeds. Listen for rumbling crankshafts and watch for smoking under power, which signifi es a worn bottom end.
  • The radiator and hoses should be in showroom shape, otherwise all engines boil very easily. Many specialists have developed enhanced cooling systems that are well worth a look.
  • The V12 has 20 rubber coolant hoses! Make sure they’re not perished because replacement can be involved as the water rails and carbs have to be removed to renew some of them. They also need to be to the correct specifi cation too – the coolant system runs at 15lb psi (earlier E-types are just 4lb psi). A full set costs £150.
  • A quality anti-freeze is paramount for any Jaguar lump. The aluminium V12 corrodes, especially around the cylinder heads. However this tough old lump is unlikely to ever need a full on rebore due to wear (60lb oil pressure is the order of the day if it’s in decent shape). Again, if the rear crankshaft oil seal has let go, then that’s an all-out job – and it’s a hell of an engine to remove.
  • Spotting a misfire on a 12 cylinder is never easy and the Lucas ‘Opus’ system was dubbed ‘opless’ soon after the V12’s launch. Luckily there are improved aftermarket replacements available that are worth fi tting.
  • Gearboxes, both auto and manual, are extremely strong but again, lack of oil changes and abuse are not uncommon. Nor is transmission whine or jumping out of gear.
  • Clutch changes are a major job but apart from the usual checks there are no specifi c problems. Amazingly, overdrive was never available, although Jaguar experimented the idea. As long as you use the automatic car’s transmission tunnel, then an XJ6 system can be made to fi t – but most folks go for a fi ve-speed instead these days.
  • The independent rear suspension deserves a medal for long service. Lack of greasing or soggy mounts will lead to rear-steer. The complex coil-over shocks and inboard disc brakes mean rebuilds cost in excess of £1000. Save up and steel yourself to do it as the transformation to the handling is worth it.
  • The front suspension is a torsion bar type with top and bottom ball-joints. The bottom joints are current parts so no worries here but the top joint seat is cast into the upper wishbone. If changing the ball-pin does not take out all of the play, an exchange arm is the answer.
  • Damper and spring health is vital to maintain the handling and ride qualities, so don’t scrimp on replacements if you need them. Modern polyutherane suspension bushes and uprated dampers (Gaz are well liked) really sharpen the car up no end.
  • The torsion bar front set-up needs to be checked for wear and correct height (the latter can be adjusted, but it needs to be done by somebody who knows their E-types). Check the universal joints of the steering and the bushes for excessive play as deterioration ruins the handling.
  • E-type brakes need to be in A1 condition to perform adequately and, as any Jag owner knows, seized handbrakes are a way of life
  • The self-adjusting design was always a joke but it often seizes through lack of greasing. Try to roll the car on a level surface and see if it quickly grinds to a halt. Fixing this should just require freeing off and a re-grease.
  • It’s also not uncommon for the IRS rear suspension to spew oil out and over the inboard rear brakes, which does their effectiveness no good at all. Wheel bearings are often wrongly adjusted and set too tight.
  • S2s benefi ted from better brakes, which can be substituted on earlier cars, while the original Kelsey-Hawes brake servo was never that effective and worth upgrading
  • .
  • We expect to see an E-type on wire wheels – made stronger on S2 cars after regular reports of breakages. Listen for clonks or clicking and check the spokes for breakages and looseness.
  • As both V12 versions shared the same body and wheelbase dimensions, you sometimes fi nd home-built convertibles. They are nothing like as good as the real thing and there are many bad conversions out there.
  • Beware of ex-US V12s changed to right-hand drive as well as those 2+2s converted to roadsters. Most conversions from left to right are fine, but values will be a bit lower. Right-hand drive chassis numbers start IS.10001 (roadster) and IS.50001 (2+2); LHD cars are numbered IS.20001 (roadster) and IS.70001 (2+2).
  • It’s not a hard car to swap over – the essentials and all parts are readily available, but many are done on the cheap – extending existing wiring rather than using a proper right-hand drive loom and that sort of thing. There again, the Sterling/ Euro parity means that left-hookers are making good money, so why convert it?
  • Good E-types cost big money, but if you don’t mind picking one of the less popular variants then you may be able to afford one. The least desirable car is the 2+2 Series 2. It’s hardly the best looker, but it’s the most practical with a much roomier cockpit. In US de-tox state it’s not a great goer, but if all you want is the looks and key job then it could be worth it.
  • Automatic transmissions were mostly fitted to the V12s and they’re an acquired taste. It certainly dents the values – and performance – on six-cylinder cars. But again, Jaguar manual transmissions are rarely the slickest so you may prefer self-shifting after all.
  • The heater motor suffers from failed circuitry or seizure through lack of use, but access is easy as it’s next to the battery under the bonnet. Improved types are available.

Three Of A Kind

Porsche 911
Porsche 911
In many ways the nemisis of the Jaguar, the 911 came along two years later and remains in production to this day. It’s changed massively over the decades but the fundamentaldesign and basic character have remained – and no supercar is as practical or dependable. There’s a massive choice of models to suit all budgets and tastes with excellent aftermarket support. Compared to the Jag, the 911 was always the more hardcore.
Mercedes-Benz SL
Mercedes-Benz SL
If it’s peerless build quality that you crave, then this is the classic for you. Stylish and understated (in contrast to the E-type), 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. Although not in the Jag’s league for desirability or sensation, the sensible Merc smacks of value, logic and sheer good taste.
Aston Martin DBS
Aston Martin DBS
In its day the DBS was double the cost of the Jaguar – today it’s the other way round! There’s no doubt that the DBS is the last of the old school Astons that remains affordable, although prices are beginning to soar due to the rise in DB5/6 values. The DBS6 is considered sluggish, while the V8 is regarded as the one to go for. The Modelremained in production into the 1980s so there’s real chance of buying an original in good order.


The E-type is a car most of us would kill to own – but you need to remove those rose-tinted specs before parting with your hard earned cash, otherwise the new love in your life will leave a bitter sweet taste. Do it right and you’ll have one of the most desired classic cars ever and one that can only hold its value. With an E-type, you invariably get what you pay for.

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