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Jaguar E-Type

Jaguar E-Type Published: 1st Aug 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar E-Type
Jaguar E-Type
Jaguar E-Type
Jaguar E-Type
Jaguar E-Type
Jaguar E-Type
Jaguar E-Type
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Why not own a...? JAguar E-type

If ever a car was a nailed on classic, it’s got to be Jaguar’s E-type. Launched almost 60 years ago and eternally recognisable, this Coventry cat had classic status written all over it before the term was even coined. For a great many enthusiasts it’s still their dream car – if they had the money!

True these Jags aren’t bargain buys anymore – that ship sailed a while back – but certain versions are not exorbitantly priced either and you can sleep relatively easy, if you take the plunge, knowing that your investment will be a pretty sound one, so long as you do it right.

Model choice

There’s three generations (actually four if you count the introduction of the 4.2 in late ’64) and all sport different qualities and peculiarities.

The original 3.8 is the E-type at its most virile and most say best, with the 4.2 less rev happy and not so eager. However, it’s an all round improvement, thanks to a lustier engine (dictated mainly by the American market) a, newer, nicer gearbox and much improved seating.

Less obvious enhancements included more effective rear brakes, cooling system mods to counter overheating and AC electrics.

The Series 2 of 1968 ushered in a raft of styling, convenience and safety improvements including new seats and switchgear, new look lights, a revised frontal with a larger ‘mouth’ to aid cooling, plus new Girling brakes. The car subsequently became more GT and less sporting even though the basic ingredients remained the same. The previous year the Series ‘1/1/2’ was slipped in quietly . An interim model, less than 6000 made, identified by the naked headlamp cowls.

Finally, there’s the S3 which while being E-type in appearance it didn’t quite feel the same due to that big and beautiful 5.3-litre V12. Based upon the stretched 2+2 platform (even the Roadsters) the E-type had become larger, fatter and more GT than sports car – the fact that the bulk of S3s are autos was further testimony to that.

Of the numerous body configurations, seemingly everyone still yearns for a Series 1 open two-seater, with the fixedhead coupé hard on its heels.

Sadly, the family friendly 2+2 still drags its heals way behind, which is a bit of a shame as they represent the best value for money and are surprisingly practical. True, the looks never flattered the E-type but the shape became more acceptable with the Series 2 once the windscreen rake and roofline were tweaked. If you want an S3 it’s the 2+2 or nothing!

Can’t leave out the left-hand drive US E-type even though many dismiss them – but with 95 per cent shipped across the Atlantic you can’t ignore them! The chief problem lies in the emissions-strangled XK engine fi tted to S2 cars clipping the power down to 175bhp or so but this can be easily addressed, as can the lower gearing.

Yet the benefits are several and not purely their lower prices. Opt for a ‘dry state’ car and they come with a bodyshell rust free in the main. So check out California, Arizona or go further afield to Australia and also gain right-hand drive, at the same time.

Very often the cost of purchase and repatriation is less than having a rusted out hulk restored, let alone having any mechanical work done.

Incidentally, S3s suffered little from Stateside changes as emission-friendly Strombergs were already fitted to the V12. The differences are mostly cosmetic; bigger bumpers and so on.

Behind the wheel

The handling isn’t Porsche precise, being inherently soft, and more GT than sports car yet the E-type is still a thrill behind the wheel with a choice between the sharpness of the 3.8-litre XK engine, the brawnier, but easy-going 4.2 or the sheer torque and might of the V12.

Purists go on that the 3.8 is the sharper, superior engine but the 4.2 – with its better gearbox – is far more usable and if you’ve never driven a 3.8 you wouldn’t know the difference.

Have you driven or been driven in an E-type? That’s the first question because if the answer is no on both counts then where it originated from may not bother you. The first obvious thing about driving an imported E-type, apart from the position of the steering wheel on the ‘wrong side’, is the awkward accelerator pedal. Close to the transmission tunnel it does make for awkward operation and something that Jaguar never remedied but you get used to it and the benefits of a left hand drive, if you motor a lot in Europe, may well be compensation.

So what’s the truth about the lack of performance from the detuned engine? Until the Series 2, all exported E-types sported the same power output and if outright performance is not critical then perhaps you will not be too bothered about the lack of that other carb or a paltry 175bhp – and here’s why.

Equipped with a lower 3.54:1 axle ratio, a US E-type is still more than nippy. Sure, standing start times are appreciably down – with the 0-60 dash about as fast as a 3-litre Capri or TR6 – but the far more relevant in-gear times are in fact superior until you breach our legal limit; Autocar’s, 1968 fi gures against a UK 2+2, show that the American alternative was half a second faster from 30-50mph and 40-60mph both in top and third gear!

The upshot is that unless you intend to constantly red line your E-type, you probably won’t know the differences apart from a much fussier engine sound due to the gearing of 21.4mph as opposed to ‘our’ 24.7mph. The answer is to swap it to a 3.07:1 ratio (such as S3 axle) , or fit a five-speed gearbox which may be best solution of the lot Autos don’t feel much different but again, you can fit the later XJ four-speed auto if you wish.

Making one better

Dealing with the Federal felines first, the most obvious mod is to return the engine back to standard spec. It’s essentially a carb and maifiold swap over; a new set from SU costs well over £3000 so you may wish to fit good used ones. Note – MkX/420G carbs will not fit as everything is wrong from the inlet manifold to the electric choke!

Modifying an E-type for modern use doesn’t appear to affect values so long as any upgrades are accepted ones. The general opinion is that the brakes, especially on pre S3 cars, can do with beefing up. Specialist Derek Watson offers a conversion kit that also alters the geometry, the kit also includes better brakes and stronger stub axles for example while Woodham Mortimer (previously J.D. Classics) has launched a brake upgrade kit comprising a sixcylinder calliper system at the front, with vented disks and upgraded rear callipers.

Today, 300bhp is a reality for a road-going XK engine still retaining its SU carbs; S3 XJ6 head and pistons with D-type profile camshafts is a good fi rst step before it gets expensive. E-types need to be kept cool and an uprated radiator allied to modern electric fans is a very sensible fit for peace of mind. As overdrive was never offered, you need to look at five-speeds; failing this you can fit an XJ12 axle ratio to quell the revs.

Maintenance matters

The majority will have been restored by now and while there are many lovelies out there better than new, there’s also a lot of poor rebuilds, carried out by both keen DIYers and so called experts, simply because they are complex and expensive classics to make good.

Yet by the same token, don’t buy into the myth that a Stateside rebuild is not as good as one in the UK. It is all down to the specialists not where they are based. E-types vary greatly and a lot of this is due to the proper attention they get – or not as the case may be. Having a thorough service and sort out (geometry settings, rear IRS bush replacements and so on) by a good specialist is money well spent as it will improve any E-type no end and fully complement further performance improvements planned – or perhaps make them quite unnecessary!

We reckon that with sensible ‘running improvements’, such as fitting a quality electronic ignition or better still, a complete ‘123 distributor’ set up and a robust cooling system, any E-type is better pressed into regular (if not daily) service than being left idle and sulking in the garage for long periods.

I restored one

Regular contributor Jeff Bailey restored a 1970 S2 E-type roadster sourced from the US but unseen. “When it arrived back in England, I instantly knew I’d bought a pup. If it had been a Cortina of the same vintage in this condition, it would have been scrapped right there and then!”, says Jeff. He first tried to sell it, but with no takers and $25,000 sunk into the project, Jeff, together with petrol-headed friend got stuck in, not only to restore it but add improvements such as a 4.4-litre, Weber DCOE engine. Bailey admits the pair really didn’t know what they were taking on although got a good idea when the body shop boss warned, “it will fight you all the way because it’s an E- type and each one is different”.

After three intensive years, it was finished. “If we’d taken advice from a reputable specialist, we may have decided to cut our losses, or, better still, not bought our basket case at all and invested in a properly sorted car from a dealer who has a reputation to preserve,” is Jeff ’s advice who reckons he probably broke even in the end although admits to have never been brave enough to properly add up the bills “but they constitute a wad nearly two inches thick…”.

How Many Lives are Left?


If you’re a stickler for originality have a car checked by an E-type expert or contact an owners’ club giving the chassis numbers. The left hand-drive models gain a nought with the series beginning 1E10001, for example. Watch for poor conversions (bodged wiring, instrument location etc). E-types are pretty complex cars and if you are new to them even a moggy may feel purr-fect so it’s best to try a few to set a reliable benchmark.

Body & Chassis

Most E-types have been restored by now. Rebuild standards vary so find out who did the work and what was done. Be wary of cars that have had major home restorations, as without the proper jigs, the shell may have become distorted along the way.

The biggest rust traps are around the tub, chassis sections and particularly the rear suspension radius arm mounts, located to the back of the floorpan. Others include the sills, floorpan, door skins and bulkhead panel. By the time corrosion is visible outside, the inside is rotten as a pear and proper repairs are very involved.

Running Gear

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 E-type experts). Check the universal joints on the steering and the bushes for excessive play.

It’s not uncommon for the IRS rear suspension to spew oil out and over the inboard rear brakes. Wheel bearings are often wrongly adjusted.


The XK engine, if looked after, can cover 100,000 miles without too much trouble. Be prepared to write out a cheque for at least £4000 (more like five grand) for a decent full-on pro rebuild though.

The biggest problems are corroded waterways, overheating, worn timing chains, silent tappets and oil leaks, especially from that well-known Jaguar weak spot, the rear crankshaft oil seal. Oil pressure should be 35-40lb when hot at normal speeds.

It is rare for a V12 to need rebore but as they are so smooth it’s diff cult to detect poor running; ie duff plugs, leads, etc.

The car’s timeline

E-type introduced using the XK150’s 3.8-litre engine harnessed by Dunlop disc brakes, rack and pinion steering and a truly brilliant independent rear suspension set up.

4.2 (or Series 1/1/2 as it was also known) addressed some of the significant problems of the original but the most critical changes were the 4.2-litre engine, the old pre-war Moss gearbox changed to Jag’s own, and better brakes and seats.

Longer wheelbase 2+2 coupé announced that spring boasting a three-speed automatic gearbox option.

Unofficially called the Series 1/1/2; a unique interim model, it was introduced in August and less than 6000 made. The headlamp cowls were removed but the headlamps remained in the same position.

Series 2 launched. 2+2 is more streamlined, general facelift while interior is revamped on all. More welcome improvements include better Girling brakes.

V12-powered S3 introduced. A steering lock was fitted and a year later a twin-branch exhaust replaced the four-pipe system.

What to pay

Prices have fallen back a little but you get what you pay for with any E-type. Ignoring basket cases, the cheapest way to buy a good example is to look for a US ex-pat or an S3 starting around £20,000. Reckon on £40K upwards for UK and top cats now sell for six figures and more than £200K for a flat floor S1 roadster, not least because soft tops sell for double the price over a fixedhead. Expensive, but restoring an E-type is also a pricey business (see right). A US S2 fixedhead, converted to right hand drive, albeit still running on twin carbs, should be yours for around £35,000; LHD 2+2 autos are usually affordable as US cars can be valued two-thirds the price of a regular right-hand drive version.

Here’s six of the best reasons to buy one

  • An undisputed icon
  • Good choice of models
  • Brilliant owners’ clubs
  • Excellent specialist support
  • Still value for money and affordable (certain models)
  • Immense owner satisfaction

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