Series III E-Type Jaguar- the last of the E-Type's
The E-Type Jaguar was first introduced in 1961 to world-wide acclaim. It was a huge success for Jaguar and attained instant status as a highly desirable sports car that every enthusiast included in their "want to own" list. By 1971 the E-Type had been in production for 10 years, over 57,000 had been built in the UK and 83% had been exported around the world. However, despite regular minor updates over the years, from an engineering perspective the car was beginning to show its age.
At the same time the fuel crisis had hit the world and motorists were concerned about the high cost of petrol and environmental concerns were providing headaches for car manufacturers.
Leyland and Jaguar
From Jaguars' perspective the new operation under the British Leyland banner was also beginning to have a negative impact on the company. Jaguar had joined forces with BMC in 1966, a move that Sir William Lyons, founder of Jaguar, had hoped would provide an assured future for his company. By the end of 1967, however, the BMC side of the partnership had made a substantial loss and it was decided that the group formed by the merger of 1966 must join forces with Leyland. Leyland itself had swallowed Standard Triumph in 1961 and Rover in 1967. So, by the end of 1968, Jaguar had become part of a major group that included the names of Austin, Daimler, MG, Riley, Rover, Triumph and Wolseley. It was the first of many developments that were to bring increasing problems for Jaguar.
Then, as now, Jaguar's biggest export market was the USA. By 1971, pressure was mounting for manufacturers to reduce the emissions from their engines. Although the necessary reductions could have been achieved on the long serving XK six-cylinder engine that had been fitted to the E-Type since its introduction, this would have greatly reduced its performance.
So a new engine was needed that would meet the new American regulations but still deliver the 'punch in the back' that E-Type owners expected. The question was, what type of engine should it be? Over the years Jaguar had built a reputation for engineering innovation and this was to be a significant factor in designing the new engine. When the XK engine had been introduced in 1948, it was one of the few double overhead camshaft straight six engines available to the public.
The image of technical superiority was important to Jaguar. A V8 configuration was considered but discarded as being too common, especially in the USA where Jaguar had a big market for the E-Type. For the E-Type to retain its unique appeal, something out of the ordinary had to be developed.
The prestigious Ferrari and Lamborghini cars had created something of a mystique about V12's in both Europe and the USA so the logical step was to consider a V12 configuration. There were several advantages to this type of power unit including the fact that a V12 is significantly smoother than a V8. So the V12 became the preferred engine design for the revised E-Type. In fact, Jaguar had been working on a V12 (quad overhead cam) for some years. It had been intended for the company's return to racing when fitted to the experimental XJ13 racing car although factory sponsored Jaguars were not to be seen on the racing track till many years later.
The engine that had been designed for racing proved to be too complex and expensive for a production engine, added to which it was too big for the E-Type. Nevertheless, it was this unit that was to provide the basis of the 5.3 litre unit (single overhead cam per bank) to be fitted to the new E-Type.
Renowned engine designers (including racing engines) Walter Hassan and Harry Mundy applied their magic and developed the production V12 with a lightweight alloy block and heads. The narrow 60 degree V design enabled the twelve cylinder marvel to fit inside the narrow subframes of the E-Type. A number of small single cylinder test engines were built to test cylinder head and combustion chamber designs. Remember this was before the introduction of sophisticated computers and CAD drawing programs that are now used for such design exercises. The tests resulted in the surfaces of the V12 aluminium heads being machined flat and the combustion chambers placed inside the piston crowns. This design provided more efficient combustion, improved mid range power, helped to satisfy the anti-pollution requirements and also made for easier (and cheaper) manufacture.
Industry leading electronic ignition, four Zenith Stromberg carburettors and a free flowing exhaust system completed the revolutionary new engine package from Jaguar. This basic engine design was used to power Jaguars for another twenty five years until it was finally retired in 1995 with a six litre capacity.
Series III E-Type improvements
When the new Series III was launched in March 1971 it not only had the beautiful new V12 engine but also many other obvious differences from the Series II that it replaced. The air intake “mouth” in the bonnet was enlarged and a chrome grille had been added along with a low mounted air scoop to enhance cooling. The wheel arches were flared and extended to cover the four inch wider track and bigger wheels (up from five inches to six inches). Only a roadster and 2+2 Coupe were offered and both were built on the longer 2+2 wheelbase. In the superseded series one and two, the roadster and fixed head coupe versions had been built on a shorter wheelbase. The overall effect gave the Series III car a more aggressive stance and more "muscular" appearance.
Power steering and a limited slip differential were standard and an anti-roll bar and anti-dive geometry had been added to the front suspension along with improved brakes. The front subframes were "beefed up" to handle the power of the V12 and a four outlet exhaust tailpipe indicated that this car was different.
Inside, detailed improvements were made including a smaller leather rimmed sports steering wheel, new seats and slightly revised dash layout, improved heating and ventilation and optional retractable seat belts.
Because the longer wheelbase was used for both models, the roadster was available with automatic transmission for the first time.
Driving the series III E-Type
When the Series III was driven, owners and the media were full of praise for the turbine smooth and powerful engine. Performance was reported as being outstanding and the brakes, ride and stability were greatly improved. Some sports car purists however were critical that it had become too soft and was now a "gentleman’s sports car" rather than the true grit harsh riding sports car of old.
When the V12 Series III E-Type was introduced, the roadster version cost about double the annual wage of a factory worker in England. Despite this seemingly high price Jaguar's high performance sports car actually offered excellent value for money in its market sector and was around half the price of equivalent models from Ferrari and Aston Martin.
But times were changing and cars were becoming more sophisticated and owners were expanding their expectations. The E-Type design was over ten years old and many critics thought that the magnificent new V12 engine deserved a completely new car and were disappointed with the rejuvenated old design. Despite its Series III makeover it was increasingly apparent that the E-Type’s days were numbered. By the end of 1973 the production of the Coupe had ended and the roadster was finally discontinued in February 1975.
49 of the last 50 roadsters off the production line were painted black. (The 50th car was finished in British Racing Green for a collector). Each car carried a Sir William Lyons (founder of Jaguar) signed brass plate on the dashboard that identified it as one of the last of the E-Types to be built. It's hard to comprehend now but those last 49 black roadsters were hard to sell and dealers practically gave them away. In today's classic car market they are now highly desirable collectors items that command a very high premium.
In recognition of the importance of this legendary car the very last E-Type to be built was retained by the company.
Just over 72,000 E-Types were built during the fourteen years of production with 83% being exported around the world. 15,290 were Series Three cars and only 2,116 Coupes were built in right hand drive form. Thousands of words have been written in praise of the E-Type, both during the fourteen years that it was in production and in the years since and it has established itself as a highly desirable and readily recognised classic car.