The Jaguar E-type should need little introduction to Road & Track readers. Its 1961 debut changed the sports-car world forever. Its huge 150-mph top speed was almost as staggering as its relatively low $5500 price.
Enzo Ferrari called it the most beautiful car ever built. The componentry was as beautiful as its body, and it just plain worked. With fully independent suspension, power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, and a free- revving 3.8-liter triple-carbureted straight-six, the E-type was fast, comfortable, and extremely robust.
Five- decades on, it remains the aspirational British supercar. E-types appear in every top collection, including the Museum of Modern Art's, and their values still defy the laws of supply and demand. They are just that damn good.
The E-type came in three basic models or "series." Series 1 cars were built from 1961 to 1967 in both roadster (officially open two-seater, or OTS) and coupe (fixed-head coupe, or FHC) body styles, with covered headlights and taillights above the rear bumpers.In 1966, a two--two style was added, with a nine-inch-longer body and an unfortunate roofline. The 1961–64 cars had 3.8-liter XK power, and 1965–67s had the larger 4.2-liter version of the XK engine, all with triple SU carburetors. 1968 saw an unofficial "Series 1.5" version with open headlights, twin Stromberg carburetors, and other changes to comply with new U.S. regulations. Series 2 cars were produced from 1968 to 1971 in OTS, FHC, and two-- two configurations, all with the 4.2-liter six-cylinder engine, continuing with two carburetors, open headlights, and larger taillights below a single wraparound rear bumper. Series 3 cars were produced from 1971 to 1974. The big news was the 5.3-liter V-12 engine, offering the turbine smoothness you'd expect from 12 tiny cylinders. It gets a bad rap but is actually a great engine handicapped by packaging and emissions controls.
Here's the rub: Most E-types are total crap. For many years, E-types or not, they were cheap used sports cars. People could afford them but not the maintenance and repairs. If an E-type needs a clutch, the engine and transmission have to come out as a unit, necessitating the removal of the complete front subframe and bonnet. Rear brakes? The entire rear subframe and suspension have to be dropped. And they rust. Everywhere. A serious issue, given the E-type's semimonocoque construction. The engines, while robust, can have cooling and other issues.
I have managed to own some great unrestored E-types and, as an addict, am always on the hunt for another. So when I saw this 1965 FHC advertised as a one-owner, unrestored car with 23,000 miles, I had to check it out. It did not disappoint. The brakes were stuck and the fuel system was plugged with rotten old gas, but the car was a virtual time capsule. The original owner bought the E-type as his dedicated "show car." There was no way I was leaving without it. After a few months of work, it's back on the road, working brakes and all.
What to Look For:
- RUST/ACCIDENT DAMAGE - Hire a specialist to do a thorough inspection of the body and chassis. Most E-types have been rusted, hit, or both—and it is incredibly difficult to put them "right" after that. With so many for sale at any given time, you can be picky.
- PRICES - S1 cars are the most expensive; concours-restored examples are pricey but less fun. Unrestored cars are not cheap either and are like garden gnomes in the Arctic. The best bang for the buck is a great, solid, driver-level car—a decent 4.2-liter FHC should be about $100,000; an OTS, around $150,000. Too much? Cut those prices in half for a decent S2 car—and that represents a serious value. Want more cylinders? The S3 V-12 OTS cars are appreciating nicely as well, with a strong nod going to the four-speed versions, for both fun and appreciation potential.
- PARTS -A complete industry exists for anything and everything E- type. There isn't a part you can't buy. There are also plenty of ways to improve upon the E-type's performance via the aftermarket.
- FOOD FOR THOUGHT -While E-types aren't the bargains they used to be, just think of how much they would be worth if Jaguar only built a few hundred S1 cars and then quit. They would be many millions of dollars a copy, so enjoy Sir William Lyons's gift of economy of scale.