Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Jaguar E Type: Meeting your childhood heroes

Let's just agree that if you are a car enthusiast, there is probably some point in your life you thought about owning a 1960's Jaguar E Type (or "XKE" as it was referred to in the U.S.).  Well, that was true for me and has been for a long time. Having always loved convertibles, yet fearing old British sports cars, I had considered many options through the years, including beautiful cars like the Triumph TR3A, the MGA, the Austin Healey 3000, etc. But nothing quite was going to scratch the itch of owning a Jag E Type. Well, this year, I finally did something about it.

I went to the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction in January 2017, wit the intent of looking at a few British cars, including an XK-140 and  TR3A. But then I saw several E-ypes in the line-up and figured I could get a good deal.  As it turned out, I should have waited one more car, as a fully-restored Series 1 E Type sold for a very low price. As it is, though, I am very happy with my 1969 (Series 2) 6-Cylinder E Type in red paint with black interior. The Jaguar Heritage certificate shows the the numbers of the engine, frame, transmission, all match as per original factory build. It was originally a Primrose Yellow exterior with Cinnamon interior.  That's nice, but I don't see myself returning it to original. I like the classic red and black.

Someone once said that you "shouldn't meet your heroes"... meaning that you may be disappointed. And in this case, I wasn't sure at first. But after some work to get the brakes in better condition and after some work on the valves and head, it drives smoothly and has nice torque down low. It's a bit cramped, suggesting that the English drivers of 1969 weren't over 6 feet tall (neither am I, so my 5-9" frame works just fine in there). The car was apparently reconditioned back in the late 80's or 90's and it is obvious that these cars didn't have much value back then, because some of the body work was done without the greatest attention to detail or originality. Looks great on the outside, but the underside, particularly of the bonnet, leaves something to be desired.  Details count, but in this case, I bought her to be a car that gets driven, not as a show car.

I do find that the pedal position is a bit odd (slightly to the left of center) and the pedals have a softness that make it feel as if your throttle and brake inputs are muted. But the clutch has a nice take-up and the 4-speed manual transmission is a pleasure to click through.

Overall, this hero lives up to its billing, mainly for its timeless proportions and beauty and its smooth low-end torque. Summertime cruising along California's Highway 1 will be perfect for this one. And oddly enough, without trying, somehow my garage now has three British sports cars in it.


  1. Please comment a bit more on the areas of cornering, suspension feel, and structural rigidity. Jaguar went to a lot of trouble with inboard brakes and independent rear links. I’m wondering how it turned out. When new, do you think the car was outstanding compared with competition such as Healy, Lotus, and Triumph? I can imagine that big front cowl shakes quite a bit.

  2. Hi Tom, I can say that the car has a softness in cornering while stilling fairly rigid. I don't have enough time in a Healy or Triumph to compare, but one thing I have never noticed is cowl shake. Then again, I'm not throwing it super hard into corners. Comparing it to my 1968 Datsun Roadster and my 1967 Corvette roadster, I can say that the Jag is far smoother on turn-in, it handles potholes and bumps very nicely, but presents more body roll than the smaller, stiffer Datsun but less so than the heavy Corvette. My guess is that in 1961 it was better than most out there but by 1969 others had definitely caught up.

  3. Thanks! Very helpful, and I’ll continue to try for a test drive. I drove a couple of hours to look one over but it barely made it around the block, it was running so badly. The cramped space is a big factor for me. I’ve heard series III stretched it a bit but haven’t found one to try yet...

  4. I myself owns a Jaguar XFR and the maintenance is killing me!

  5. Let's just agree that if you are a car enthusiast, there is probably some point in your life you thought about owning a 1960's Jaguar E Type (or "XKE" as it was referred to in the U.S.). View 1961 Jaguar E-type Photos from Car and Driver. Find high-resolution car images in our photo-gallery archive.