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Jaguar E-Type S3 V12

Published: 14th Mar 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar E-Type S3 V12
Jaguar E-Type S3 V12
Jaguar E-Type S3 V12
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SAM SKELTON on how the E-type S3 can be given sharper claws

All E-types are desirable – it’s just that some are better loved than others. Take the S3 V12 with its magnificent engine, improved chassis and better cockpit. Yet it’s still overlooked in favour of the sharper S1 and S2 big cats. True, the bloated S3 is hardly the best looking E-type but beauty, as they say, is only skin deep.

If you’ve ever wanted an E-type on an affordable budget, the S3 is the one to go for. And with some suitable mods it can become a fantastic feline.


Unless you’ve got, or are buying a top cat of an E-type, check that the shell is sound. Don’t worry about the cosmetic stuff – check for bulkhead corrosion, especially around the battery tray. The scuttle sides contain box sections, which rot from the inside out. The rear of the monocoque also 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.

If corrosion is pretty bad, the differential can part company with the fkloor under hard acceleration.

Mechanically, the car is more durable and the V12 is almost unbreakable. 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 although full on and costly rebores are rarely on the cards.

Overheating is a problem and those that have cooked themselves ten to feel rougher afterwards – although it’s not easy to detect on a creamy smooth V12! The engine has 20 rubber coolant hoses; and coolant system runs at 15lb psi (earlier E-types are just 4lb psi), so the hoses have to be reinforced. Renew if in doubt even though some £150 for parts alone. An uprated radiator is mandatory.


The Jaguar V12 is a wonderful old engine – and in the early form in which it was fitted to the E-type, is so understressed.  Tom Walkinshaw Racing had over 700bhp for the Le Mans XJRs of the 80s, and Lister’s Le Mans XJ-S gave out 546bhp in road tune. Enough for powerboat racers to have adopted the unit too! But the Achilles Heel of this engine is that there’s very little that can be done cheaply. Performance mods on a Jag V12 are not for the faint of heart or the light of cash.

On a budget, there’s not a lot you can do. We’re informed that converting to SUs really improves the drive-ability and helps economy, while a modern electronic ignition to replace the original hopeless Opus system is a must. A session on a rolling road will yield worthwhile benefits with the car still in ‘standard’ tune.

Beware – it’s not always as easy, simple, or clever as ditching the original lump and fitting a later one for a quick power gain. The original units utilised a fklat-head design, with the combustion chamber in the piston. This ensures the valves can open fully and gases fklow far more freely save when the piston is at the top of the bore – the optimum for a tuned engine, and thus the basis of most race V12s.

Later HE engines as found in the   Series 3 XJ, XJ40, X300 and later XJSs have a revised head with a recessed exhaust valve and spark plug, to optimise efficiency in high compression lean mixture conditions – whilst this is better for fuel economy, it’s not ideal if you want to stretch your E-type much past 350bhp.

“As far as the V12 goes, the questions are simply those of space and money,” says Chris Knowles of Knowles-Wilkins Engineering. “A good exhaust system should give a 10 per cent improvement, whilst we can supply inlet manifolds, throttle bodies and ECUs for XJ-S and XJ spec engines which should offer a further 10 per cent. The above package would be £2800 fitted, whilst a good exhaust system would be £1500-2500 fitted. In terms of going further, forced induction is a sensible move but so few people have carried out this mod, it would be a case of trial and error – and it wouldn’t be cheap.” Knowles Wilkins will also install an integrated Omex engine management system onto any V12 running fuel injection – at £9000 it’s hardly be cheap, but surely the ultimate in controlled drive-ability? Power and torque subtly rise too.

Nevertheless, we’d still look at a HE spec engine as a basis for any fast road upgrades, plus the added economy will be useful. The easy option is a late 6.0 from an XJS – 318bhp out of the box, and it should drink less than the original unit into the bargain.

Whilst we’re looking at XJS bits, the Jaguarsport air filter housings (part numbers SPE 1008 and SPE 1009) offer a larger air intake than standard. They won’t be easy to find and won’t be cheap if you do, but might yield a tiny bit more oomph. Forged pistons from Rob Beere Racing might be useful for any modified V12, but at £2250 for a set we don’t recommend them unless you’re building the ultimate in fast road engines. Rob Beere Racing also offers a kit to stretch this further; with pistons, liners and gaskets suitable for engines bored out to 6.1-litres. At £3250, it’s not cheap but it should yield a tad more power and torque.

But whatever you do to your E-type, there’s one key mod that no uprated one should lack. These big cats were never noted for their cool nature – so hotting your V12 up could lead to it… well… hotting up albeit in the wrong sense. A bigger radiator and extra louvres to help disperse engine heat could be the wisest modifications you make – whilst a rad can be custom built Demon Tweeks will supply a Radtec aluminium radiator for some £880.


Thanks to the sheer torque of this engine, vast majority of S3s are autos while works okay for the road, isn’t ideal for track work. For five-speed conversions a Getrag 265 gearbox as found in the XJ40 manual, BMW’s 320i and E30 M3 are recommended. It’s a solid, strong old box capable of handling the sort of power and torque most fast road V12s will muster.

Beware though that it’s not suitable for home servicing. Getrag incorporated an anti-tamper mechanism which will damage the box if opened incorrectly. So take it to a BMW specialist for servicing. Internet auction sites will yield a useable 265 for around £600. The later Getrag 290 is a slightly stronger gearbox, but harder to find and more expensive as a result.

Tremec T5 gearbox bellhousings for the V12 are available brand new for £2590 including a speedo drive. The fitting kit is £98, gear lever position adapters are £18, and a specially cast bellhousing can be had for £620 (All figures exclude VAT). Elite Racing Transmissions supply these, and will offer a choice of fifth gear ratios for an additional £150. This unit – formerly the Borg-Warner T5 – is often used in manual gearbox conversions or upgrades to performance cars and will be more than strong enough for fast road use. 

Suspension next! The easy way is to buy a kit from a noted upgrade company such as Rob Beere Racing. The company also sells a kit which includes an adjustable PAS valve to give the lifeless steering a modicum of feel, adjustable dampers, improved steering rack mounts and cage mounts for £1285. Front torsion bars and springs can be added for £530, and both packages include an uprated front anti-roll bar.

Lanes Cars sell the uprated front ones separately for £335, and also offer a rear one for £325 to help keep the back in check. Polyurethane bushes all round should complete the package – and are freely available on the internet. Budget about £120 to go through the car from front to back. Speak to a tyre specialist about what rubber to roll on.

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