|Nine out of ten cool cats who expressed a preference reckon this is the most glamorous, sensual car of all time.|
Nine out of ten cool cats who expressed a preference reckon this is the most glamorous, sensual car of all time. And is that any wonder? There aren’t enough superlatives in the dictionary to do the E-type justice; if grown men had car posters on their bedroom walls, this Jag would grace most of them.
All those clichés about setting the world alight are true; this car really did rewrite the rulebook.
With looks, pace, power, engineering and heritage, the Jag also offered an extra quality – relative affordability. While Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche et al had worthy rivals, they were much more costly. That price differential has remained; a superb E-type can now be valuable, but an equivalent DB4 or 250GT will cost rather more.
Jaguar historian Philip Porter runs the E-type Club. He owns several examples himself, and says: ‘There’s a huge spread of values from £5000 up to £200,000 – or £1million for a genuine Lightweight. At one extreme you can buy a 2+2 project and at the other a superbly restored, heavily upgraded Series 1 roadster. Fixed-heads used to be around half the price of roadsters but that gap has narrowed considerably. Series 1 FHC projects are still £9-12,000, while roadsters are £10-17,000. Influences on values include structural integrity, completeness, engine displacement (unless a very early car, the 4.2s are worth a shade more at present), matching numbers and LHD or RHD.
The 1961-1971 E-type’s iconic XK unit is renowned for its durability as long as it’s looked after. Capable of giving 150,000 miles between rebuilds, the straight-six isn’t especially stressed unless regularly thrashed – and few owners drive hard.
Get it up to temperature before testing; listen for any knocks or rattles. Check for oil leaks as well as exhaust smoke; expect a few wisps on start-up, but things should soon settle. Once fully warm, look for at least 40psi on the pressure gauge with the engine turning over at 3000rpm.
Make sure the cooling fan cuts in on tickover. If the temperature gauge needle keeps climbing, the engine may well have overheated once: evidence of a blown head gasket is white ‘mayonnaise’ on the oil filler cap. If the motor is smoking badly or it’s very rattly, it’ll need total rebuild – but don’t panic. You can rebuild one at home for around £2000, or pay double this to get it done professionally. If you go DIY, the XK engine is the easier to revive of the pair.
The V12 that arrived in 1971 is an all-time great; properly kept it’ll do 200,000 miles. Poor maintenance leads to overheating, so idle the engine for a few minutes and watch the gauge. Harshness points to previous overheating having distorted the long block and heads. These are alloy, so anti-freeze must be maintained otherwise internal corrosion is guaranteed, leading to a less-efficient cooling system that ensures even worse overheating.
Low oil pressure at idle isn’t a problem, but check for at least 45lb (preferably 55lb) at 2500rpm. Leaks are common at the rear crankshaft seal; once it’s failed, a full rebuild is needed. A specialist charges £4000+, or you could do it yourself for £600 – if you’re skilled. Cars that have been run infrequently are especially likely to suffer from this, as the seal dries out then wears more readily.
The V12 has 20 rubber coolant hoses; the replacement of perished ones is very involved as the water rails and carbs have to be removed. They must also be to the correct reinforced spec; the coolant system runs at 15lb psi (earlier E-types are just 4lb psi). A full set is £143.50.
The original rubber fuel lines will now be brittle, while the Zenith-Stromberg carbs go out of tune when their diaphragms perish. Rebuilt carbs are the best solution; there are four at £350 each. Incidentally, the V12 happily runs on unleaded, as hardened valve seats were factory fitted.
There’s little to worry about here, but listen for clonks that signify worn universal joints or whining that betrays a dodgy diff. Fixing the former is straightforward; the latter is less easy and rather more costly with a replacement diff costing £750. Gearboxes are also strong, but the recalcitrance of the Moss unit on 3.8-litre cars is legendary. It’s noisier than the later one, too, so don’t expect a box that’s especially easy or pleasant to use, particularly when selecting first or reverse. Expect to pay £900 for a rebuilt transmission, whether it’s a Moss unit or a later one.
Most V12s have a three-speed Borg Warner Model 12 auto, yet the Jaguar four-speed manual is more sought after. They’re both durable, but the latter can suffer from weak synchro on second and third; check for difficulty selecting gears when cold. Expect to pay £400 for an exchange unit.
If ratio changes are jerky on the auto, or there’s any slipping, a service involves fresh fluid, filters and band adjustment. For an overhaul, budget £1100. Clutches, diffs and driveshafts are durable, but check for vibrations, clonks or whines.
SUSPENSION, STEERING AND BRAKES
Jack up each wheel and rock it diagonally, feeling for wear in the bushes and bearings. If there is no play at the rear, the bearings have been set too tight and will probably overheat and fail. There are some in the hub as well as the lower fulcrum; a little play in each of these can lead to what feels like an alarming amount of movement at the wheel, but it should be no more than an eighth of an inch or so.
Remove the rear wheels and look at the axle cage mountings, which can perish or break. If you’ve already driven the car by now and it feels rather lively at the back, it could be due to rear-wheel steering as a result of the wear. While you’re under there, ensure there’s no oil leaking from the diff onto the inboard rear brakes.
Any signs of trouble and it’s an axle-out job to sort. If there are creaks from the rear suspension, it’ll be because the lower hub pivots have corroded; if not greased regularly they wear rapidly or seize.
At the front there shouldn’t be nearly as much play, but don’t be surprised if you can detect a small amount. If it’s bearing wear, that’s easy to sort, but it might be worn lower wishbone balljoints. These act directly on the wishbone, which can be shimmed only so much before replacements are needed at a little over £100 per side.
The rack-and-pinion steering is reliable, but wear in the column joints is normal; replacement is easy at just £65 for the pair. The brakes should feel very strong, but imbalance is usually caused by that oil on the discs we mentioned. The handbrake can also give problems; the self-adjusting mechanism often seizes through lack of greasing. Try to roll the car on a level surface and see if it quickly grinds to a halt; if it does, fixing is simply a case of freeing off and lubing.
Although steel wheels were standard, chromed wires are now fitted to many V12s. The usual checks for damaged spokes and worn splines are essential; this is especially important with a V12 because of the torque generated.
It’s easy to overlook the differences between the various iterations of E-type, but they’re highly significant. Buy the wrong car and you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. Also, don’t get taken in by the glamour of the roadster when the coupé is more affordable and every bit as good to drive.
Original right-hand-drive cars are a lot rarer than you’d think. Around 85 per cent of production was exported, so many right-hand-drive cars have been converted from left-hand drive at some point. Just ensure the car you buy is what it claims to be. Check it has the correct engine and that it’s not a roadster which left the factory as a coupé. The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust is invaluable in providing details of the car’s original spec. Philip Porter’s book Original Jaguar E-type (details in books listing), will highlight any inconsistencies in the specification.
If the car does need work there’s no need to fret about parts availability, because everything is available to revive an E-type, no matter how tired. With the right tools and enough time, a competent home mechanic can tackle just about any job that’s likely to crop up. Crucially, there’s no such thing as
a bargain E-type. It’s quite common for someone to buy an example that’s priced at £20,000 below what would be expected. Then the new owner starts delving and discovers that to get the model up to the standard they were expecting, it needs £50,000 spent on it.
Few cars at any price are as rewarding to own or drive as a well-restored E-type. And there’s the rub; it must be properly renovated if it is to give any pleasure – and there’s a huge amount of enjoyment to be gained from E-type ownership.