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Jaguar E Type

Published: 22nd Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar E Type

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Fancy owning a motorsport legend for road and track use? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their names on stages and circuits, and still provide fine drives today

By the time the Jaguar E-type made its now famous debut in front of an astonished audience in 1961, the engine under the massive one-piece bonnet was already a Hero. Chain driven twin overhead camshafts operating massive valves in the hemispherical combustion chambers of an aluminium cylinder head, with no less than three massive SU carburettors, it was the stuff of legend. Born of Jaguar’s earlier – and in its own time almost as astonishing – XK sports car range, the six-cylinder motor gave a healthy 265bhp (or thereabouts) and was to go on to power various Cats from Coventry well into the 1980’s. It was ahead of its time, and bomb-proof! Like the iconic XK120, the E-type won its first race (Graham Hill, Oulton Park, April 1961) and went on to win many more. And, like the XK, the factory left it mainly to private entrants to fly the flag on the race tracks. Both Jaguars were gentleman racers, modified (and sometimes in standard trim) production cars racing for honours in the Sports and GT categories. It was left to the purpose-built factory C Type and D type prototypes to battle for outright honours on long distance circuits such as Le Mans, Spa and Sebring. Jaguar’s five wins in seven years in the Le Mans 24 Hours were all achieved with the XK engine – before the E-Type had even turned a wheel. But the E-type did show at Le Mans, fourth overall for Roy Salvadori and Briggs Cunningham in 1962 being the best result for the car. By then the days of production GTs taking overall honours had passed. Salvadori and Cunningham’s roadster version was followed home by the coupe of Peter Sargeant and Peter Lumsden, both E-types being alloy-bodied, lightweight, versions. Jaguar made a dozen of its own lightweights; with aerodynamic bodywork and 320bhp alloy block engines, five-speed ZF gearbox and improved brakes, to be operated by its chosen private entrants. Over the years, many other racers built their own versions. The six-cylinder E-type lasted ten years, with just one major engine development in 1966 when capacity was increased from 3.8-litre to 4.2-litre, before it changed character completely. By then its (first) competition life had ended. The V12 of 1971 was a very different animal. In the USA it carried on the winning tradition – Bob Tullius was the man – as late as 1975, but in the UK it fell out of fashion. That is, until the mid-‘80’s when Group C sports cars ruled the world, and Tom Walkinshaw’s TWR Racing took Jaguar’s next win at Le Mans in 1988 with the V12 powered XJR. But, the E-type’s back again - as a front runner in several of the historic racing series that pulls in the crowds, and competitors, around the country. In the Masters Series the car runs in the quaintly titled Gentleman Drivers category (what else?) whilst in amongst the Historic Sports Car Club racers Steve Tandy is currently the man to beat in Guards Trophy series. Even if you’re not motor sport inclined, then consider that a nicely turned out E-type will be a head-turner at any classic car run or meet. That’s travelling in style we reckon!

Jaguar E Type Summary


6 cylinder cars, 1961-1970: 51,900; 12 cylinder cars, 1971-1975: 15,290


Engine: 6-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.
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 with servo.

Claim to fame

Winner first time out! 4th 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, John Quick, Bruce McLaren, Bob Tullius,Walter Hangsen, Win Percy, Barrie Williams, Les Ely, John Pearson, Bill Goodall, Steve Tandy.

Where to buy

Almost anywhere. Specialists, classified adverts, race cars at auction.

What to look for

Rust all over. Engines not highly stressed, but early gearboxes can fail. Watch for leaking rear oil seal and distorted blocks caused by overheating from clogged waterways. 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-cylinder 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, five-speed gearbox, brakes) can command £50,000. Original lightweights – £100,000 plus!


Jaguar Drivers Club: E-type Register:

Classic sport

Eligible for racing in both the Gentleman Drivers category of the Masters Series (, and the Guards Trophy 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 providing performance equipment – try VSE (01597 840308;, David Manners (0121 544 4040; and SC Parts (01293 847202; Gantspeed (01507 568474; has a throttle body conversion for the V12. Eagle E-types (01825 830966; are the guys for retro conversions.).

Competitive Rating: 7

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