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Jaguar E Type

Published: 8th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar E Type

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Fancy owning a motorsport legend? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their names on rally stages and race tracks,and still provide fine drives today

The E-Type’s arrival at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show had almost the same effect as if aliens had landed in Switzerland. That long, thrusting, sexy bonnet, smooth rear, and a promise (not quite realised) of 150mph made the new Jaguar the sports car to die for. And, just like its predecessor, the XK series, the E-Type was a first time out victor on the race track, Graham Hill winning the GT Trophy race at Oulton Park in April 1961. From then on, motorsport was inexorably linked with the big cat. With the XK series engine – reputably designed by Walter Hassan and William Heynes during fire watching duties on the roof of the Jaguar factory at Coventry during WW2 – giving a claimed (but somewhat optimistic) 265bhp from 3.8-litres, plus disc brakes all round, and an independent rear suspension that survived until the XK8, the Jaguar E-Type had the makings of a very successful competition car. In the main Jaguar left it to private entrants to show the flag, albeit with a bit of help from Browns Lane. The Americans were quick off the mark with Briggs Cunningham the top man – and on the other side of the Atlantic, John Coombs. Aware of the importance of the Le Mans 24 Hours (with five wins behind them) Jaguar did prepare a car for the French race in 1962, Roy Salvadori and Cunningham finishing fourth, the all-time highest E-Type placing at the race. But to keep pace with the top car of the day, the Ferrari GTO, the big cat was really too heavy; and although private entrants went to great efforts to pare things down, usually by using aluminium for the massively weighty bonnet, they invariably had to give way to the prancing horse. Then Jaguar set about making the ultimate E-Type - just a dozen competition ‘Lightweights’ were made by the factory, complete with streamlined, all alloy, bodywork, 320bhp aluminium block engine, ZF five-speed gearbox, and improved brakes, which were always poor in road trim. Briggs Cunningham’s competition E-Types finished 7th and 8th at the 1963 Sebring 12 Hours (with Ferrari filling the first six places) and the American entered three factory-supported cars for Le Mans. Again, it was a Ferrari party, with the sole surviving E-Type coming in ninth. In truth, the six-pot Jaguar was a production sports car that became a tremendously successful club racing car - forays into rallying were in the main not so clever - but it was never on a level with purpose-built sports racers like the FerrariGTO, and the Daytona Cobra. It was also the time when prototypes were becoming the race winners. Off the track, steady progress of the evolution of the E-Type continued through a decade, a better, quicker, slicker gearbox and then the torquier 4.2-litre engine being the major development, before in 1971 the beast changed its character completely with the introduction of an, all alloy, V12 power unit. By the time the V12 appeared the E-Type’s motorsport life was almost over. That is, except that in its very last year of production (1975) Bob Tullius took the big engine car to a class championship title in the USA - and the engine itself was to be the inspiration for the classic V12 unit of the Jaguar XJR that was to win the World Sports Car title in 1987. Now, like many icons of that hairy production sports car era, the Jaguar E-Type has found new life in historic racing, particularly in the GT Sports category of the Masters Series and the HSCC’s Classic Sports Cars, where last year Les Ely took honours. And, surely an E-Type has still got to be the ultimate style machine for a classic run?

Jaguar E Type Summary


Six cyl cars, 1961-1970: 51,900; 12 cyl cars, 1971-1975: 15,290


Engine: Six-cylinder, in-line, with iron block and aluminium head; 3781cc/4335cc; triple SU carbs, twin chain driven overhead camshafts.
Power: 265bhp. 12-cylinder, Vee formation, all alloy; 5343cc; four Zenith-Stromberg carbs, single chain driven camshaft to each cylinder bank.
Power: 272bhp.
Gearbox: Four-speed manual (auto option).
Drive: Rear wheels.
Suspension: Front independent, with wishbones and torsion bars.
Rear independent with wishbones and coil springs.
Brakes: Disc front and rear.

Claim to fame

Winner first time out! Fourth at Le Mans 1962; class wins at Sebring; numerous race wins world-wide; USA champion 1975 (V12); champion historic sports racer; occasional classic rally wins.

Famous names

Graham Hill, Roy Salvadori, Jack Sears, Briggs Cunningham, Stirling Moss, Dick Protheroe, Jackie Stewart, John Quick, Bruce McLaren, Bob Tullius, Walter Hangsen, Win Percy, Barrie Williams, Les Ely (and many, many, more!).

Where to buy

Almost anywhere. Specialists, classified adverts in this magazine, race cars at auction or at the track.

What to look for

Rust all over and bodged repairs! Engines not highly stressed, but early gearboxes can fail. Watch for leaking rear oil seal and distorted blocks caused by overheating from clogged waterways.Worn IRS set up. Most spares and body parts readily available, but one of those massive bonnets is expensive!

What to pay

Early cars, esp. ‘flat floor, sixes more valuable, 2+2 models lowest. Six-cyl cars from £13,000 (but could be costly to restore) to £35,000. V12’s cheaper than sixes. Concours £50,000-plus. Re-built six-cylinder ‘retro’ cars with upgrades (power steering, fivespeed gearbox, brakes) can command £50,000. Original lightweights are easily £100,000 plus!


Jaguar Drivers Club: E Type Register:

Classic sport

Eligible for racing in both the GT Sports category of the Masters Series, and the Classic Sports Cars championship of the Historic Sports Car Club.

Maintenance, tuning and sport

Over 300bhp is possible from the six-pot engine, 400bhp from the V12. All the know-how is still there, with several specialists selling performance equipment - try VSE (01597 840308; www.vseengines. com), David Manners (0121 544 4040; and SC Parts (01293 847202; Gantspeed (01507 568474; has a throttle body conversion for the V12 unit. Eagle E-Types (01825 830966; are the guys for upgraded, effective retro conversions.

Competitive Rating: 7

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