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Jaguar E-Type XK vs. Jaguar E-Type V12

Cat Calling You’re in the market for an E-type, but which one? Published: 10th Nov 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar E-Type XK vs. Jaguar E-Type V12

What The Experts Say...

Motoring journalist and Classic Motoring contributor Jim Patten has been around Jaguar E-types since a teenager and has more experience of the good and bad than most!

He reckons that although most see the purity of line of the six-cylinder cars, sharper handling and the quite phenomenal performance stacking against the leisurely drive and virtually identical performance of the bigger car, the Series 3 V12 has much to offer.

“Built on the 2+2 platform, the Series 3 offered a useful gain in interior space, allowing even the tallest drivers to be comfortable. Dynamically, it is also the better car to drive thanks to anti-dive suspension, far more efficient brakes and that sublime V12 engine.

Sadly, denied the fuel injection it was designed for (until the XJ-S), fuel consumption proved abysmal and output 40bhp down on carburettors it had to wear, performance was stifled. That exotic V12 can be costly to repair too”, says Jim.

When it comes to buying an E-type Jim Patten concedes that; “Market demands put the Series 1 4.2-litre way ahead of the game and for good reason. It’s down to an overtly sporty feel and drop dead good looks, as well as being manageable to maintain. The Series 2 offers the same experience although those ‘open’ headlights and wrap around bumpers, deny it ultimate status but, on the other hand, offers ultimate relative value.” Patten doesn’t feel that US cars are as bad as they are painted out to be. One final word of advice; “Don’t just admire an E-type, drive it and relish the reward.”

Jaguar E-Type XK vs. Jaguar E-Type V12
Jaguar E-Type XK vs. Jaguar E-Type V12
Jaguar E-Type XK vs. Jaguar E-Type V12
Jaguar E-Type XK vs. Jaguar E-Type V12
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What a wonderful dilemma to wrestle with – your dream classic is the iconic E-type and you’re a position to turn that into a reality (lucky you!). But what cat deserves house room? Common wisdom has it that it has to be the earliest of the breed but is that really the case – and who is the winner of this cat fight in 2017?

Which model to buy?

Sports or grand tourer?

The E-type is both because it evolved from the former to the latter. Essentially there’s only one S3 (V12) but a handful of XK derivatives. A year after its 1961 launch, with a fantastic 6500 sales, some of the major deficiencies of the original were mostly addressed; deeper footwells for more legroom plus mods behind the seats as well as the fitting of seat belt anchorage points. For all that, the flat floor 3.8s now command the most prices – £300,000 is not unknown now.

A further 8500 sales on, the 4.2 model was launched in late ’64, mainly to appease the essential American market where owners demanded more torque from that XK engine. The enlargement raised torque from 260 to 283lbft but it wasn’t quite so eager to rev. Other noteworthy improvements included a new ‘Jaguar’ all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox to replace the ancient Moss ’box, a Lockheed brake servo and an alternator, plus there was better seats and a vinyl covered dash.

In 1967, what became known as the Series 1½ surfaced with minor cosmetic changes such as open rather than faired in headlamps, new door mirrors and a revised safety enhanced interior featuring safety rockers instead of the glorious toggle switches. Only 5600 were made before the proper Series 2 came along in line with North American requirements.

As the majority of E-types went across the Pond, the USA had a major effect on the car’s development (and future) and, in 1969, stricter US safety laws resulted in the Series 2 models booster with a 68 per cent wider air intake (to help engine cooling), higher bumpers (for pedestrian protection) and headlights moved forward two inches. The brakes were improved and a collapsible safety steering column fitted.

Now evolving into a GT as opposed to a serious sportster, by 1971 the E-type was facing much tougher competition and Jaguar deemed a major change was needed which resulted in the S3, with that remarkable 5.3-litre, twin-camshaft, quad carb V12 engine. Admittedly, far more at home in the XJ saloon its power output at 272bhp as rated just seven horses higher than the ‘six’ (albeit now regarded as an optimistic figure for the XK) but there was an extra 30lbs of torque. In the USA, the power difference between six and twelve was a huge 101bhp because the V12 was designed for US legislation; the XK was de-toxed and detuned to around 175bhp.

We covered US E-types last month in great depth (back issues available) but a brief mention is still worthwhile because they are (in Classic Motoring’s view) unfairly wronged. Yes, there is a power deficiency but the lower gearing mostly compensates to the point where there is scant difference in real world ‘in gear’ rather than stop watch acceleration times; the only change is the notably buzzier nature of the now higher revving (4.2) XK engine.

Autocar’s test figures against ‘our’ 2+2, show that American E-types were half a second faster from 30-50mph and 40-60mph both in top and third gear! So unless you intend to cover ton up trans continental tours, you may find it quite acceptable or you could fit a five-speed gearbox (costly but effective) to enjoy the best of both worlds.

To sum up, the 3.8 is the E-type in its most purist and sharpest form, the 4.2 became better to live with and the S3 V12 at its best as a GT, small wonder then that the bulk are automatics.

What’s the best to drive?

A question of character

Because of the V12’s sheer size, the 2+2 platform had to be used on all versions but now with increased width and track which means if you want a fixedhead you are stuck with the rather bulbous shape, totally destroying the purity of line of the original although it improves accommodation, particularly luggage.

The other major advantage of the larger footprint S3 over earlier versions is that the handling is better with a much more planted feel – numb power steering excepted. Furthermore, the V12 is a much more relaxing and cultured cat on long journeys than any of the ‘sixes’ which while certainly feeling more eager (in 3.8 guise anyway) is no quicker. And dare we say that given the way most of us drive our classics on today‘s congested Gatso governed roads, the difference between the two can be, frankly, over exaggerated? It’s best to try as many as you can to compare the difference in character for yourself.

Another reason the V12 is the more chilled out cat is due to the amazing flexibility of that magnificent engine which could drop down to walking pace in top gear before powering all the way up to 150mph or so. Effectively a ‘two-gear’ car, no wonder many S3 were autos where it suit’s the car well – unlike the XK alternatives.

 

Owning and running

E for easy – and expensive

The thick end of half a century on but even seasoned mechanics remain frightened of that mighty V12 and it certainly looks intimidating after all these years. But if correctly serviced (it’s hardly high tech) it will last a good 200,000 miles before a re-build is required, and that’s longer than the XK.

Fuel economy of the fattest cat can be around 14mpg but Jag enthusiasts who can afford any roadworthy E-type probably won’t be fazed by an extra tenner or so when their cat’s on the prowl as even a six-cylinder will struggle to break 20mpg.

The benefit of the earlier cars is parts availability as so many components are shared not only with saloon Jaguars but also other British Leyland marques. Apart from anything else, 57,000 XKEs were made compared with 15,000 V12s which justifies more specialist support for the six. So if you want the easy life a six gives it but, there again, the S3 E-type didn’t break any new ground and that V12 lasted well into the 1990s so it’s even-stevens.

Neither an easy or difficult car to care for at home, specialists say you can spot a top restoration a mile off and this is where the vast majority of home builds come unstuck as experience counts here.

Price-wise, the XK models will always be worth the most but the gap has closed considerably over the last few years with new-found respect being give to the S3. Top cats can be £200,000 (add another 100K for flat floor models) with the V12 half this but the parity between S2 and S3 cars can be as little as ten grand at around £50K plus and a fair few experts are now reporting that values have levelled off and unlikely to rise significantly in the future.

US versions are the lowest priced of them all and you should pick a half fair one up from around £25,000; North American cars can be half-to-two-thirds of a regular right-hand drive E-type, in general; basically it depends how correctly they have been converted. There’s also a lot of poor RHD conversions, carried out by both keen DIYers – and so called experts – simply because E-types are complex and expensive classics to restore. Signs of a poor job are LHD wiper parking indicator switch on wrong side of steering, switchgear and the dials in wrong location, plus clutch/brake reservoirs not switched around. A LHD E-type is fine on our roads and perhaps better to keep original for future residuals.

And The Winner Is...

Why you… the lucky owner – of course – as any E-type is worth having. The six-cylinder cars have what some may consider the most ‘vintage’ feel but in objective terms the V12 has better performance, brakes, handling, ride and much lighter if lifeless (powered) steering. It’s also more relaxing, quieter and has more space and a better boot. Against this, the V12 doesn’t not have the picture perfect and kudos of an earlier E-types or that more agile ‘cat on hot bricks’ feel. As we said at the start, what a wonderful dilemma to wrestle with!



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