Like many car enthusiasts I have always been attracted to the flowing sensual lines of the E-Type Jaguar. Since I was a boy the E-Type has been an icon of highly desirable motoring that was always out of my reach, way too expensive and exotic to be a reality in my garage. Over the years the occasional glimpse of an E-Type Jaguar, quietly purring along the highway, gracing the lawns of a car show or blasting around the race track was enough to set stir my imagination and desire to be an owner and not just an observer.
In 2000 I purchased and restored my first classic Jaguar, an XJ12C, a rare V12 powered coupe version of the popular series II XJ saloon. Full details can be found at my Jaguar XJC web pages. It was a magnificent car and further stirred my desire to own what I consider to be the ultimate collectible and useable Jaguar..... the E-Type.
First I had to decide which model E-Type to buy - roadster, coupe or 2+2? Series I, II or III, 6 cylinder or V12, manual or auto? Budget was an important criteria along with suitability for regular use, good road manners and comfort. I settled on a 2+2 Coupe because they provide the best interior room, reasonable storage space and comfortable all season motoring, while fitting into a reasonable price bracket. I looked at series I & II fixed head coupes and was very surprised how cramped their interior was and how difficult they are to get in and out of. The very short doors and low roof line makes for a very confined passenger area when compared to the more spacious 2+2 which utilises the longer wheelbase. The roadster, while being the most desirable, was a lot more expensive and well beyond my budget. Roadsters usually achieve prices of around 40% to 60% more than a 2+2 Coupe, in the equivalent condition.
The series III E-Type attracted me because of its more aggressive profile provided by the flared guards, wider wheels and wider track than the earlier cars. In comparison the series I and II cars look fragile and unstable when viewed from the front or rear. The series III also provides a more comfortable ride, better brakes and the sophistication of power steering and a smooth changing auto. Selecting the E-Type that suits you is a very personal choice but I am very pleased with my choice.
Then there is that magnificent V12 engine that powers the series III E-Type! My previous Jaguar XJC was also powered by the same engine and I am a big fan of the silky smooth performance provided by Jaguar’s all alloy twelve cylinder marvel. It’s relatively easy to maintain and as long as it is looked after correctly the V12 is almost indestructible and will provide very reliable service for a couple of hundred thousand kilometres before potentially requiring a rebuild. In fact the V12 easily outlasts Jaguar’s six cylinder engine.
I wanted a comfortable, well equipped smooth riding gentleman’s sports car and that’s pretty much what you get with the series III version of the E-Type. Some people prefer the original classic lines of the series I and II but for me it was definitely the more aggressive looking V12 powered 2+2.
Finding my E-Type
For several months I searched classic car magazines, the internet, industry and personal contacts for an immaculate, fully restored Jaguar series III E-Type Coupe. I was prepared to pay a good price for a top car but couldn’t locate one that met my standards.
The cars I did look at were in average to good condition but they all had the same problem, unrealistic expectations from the owner. Regardless of whatever work the cars required they all wanted top dollar. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind paying top dollar, but none of the cars I saw justified the high asking price. Just because its a collectible car does not automatically qualify it for a high price, especially once you understand the high cost of repairs and restoration. Two years later some of those cars were still for sale and their owners wonder why?
I suppose we all tend to turn a blind eye to blemishes and problems when selling but when buying we tend to notice them all and you have to allow for potentially costly restoration work.
Eventually I became so frustrated with the overpriced, poor quality cars on offer that I went back and purchased the first car that I looked at! After inspecting several cars I realised that this was the best of the lot, and despite needing further work, it offered reasonable value. It had not been advertised and belonged to the proprietor of a Jaguar repair garage that had previously fixed a few items on my Jaguar XJC. I indicated my interest in buying an E-Type and after some negotiation we agreed on a price. The car had just undergone a bare metal external repaint and minor mechanical overhaul. It had chrome wire wheels, a rather rare electric sliding metal sunroof and some of its history was known. It had been in storage for a long time before being rebuilt over a period of four years and it became obvious later that this storage was not done well and caused many problems with the car.
Basically it was a very neat, good looking car that required further detail work to make it a top car. The exterior was excellent, the interior good and the engine bay OK but showing signs of its thirty years on the road. It was a genuine original car that needed someone to bring out its full potential.
A not so happy new owner
The car was registered and ready for the road so I took delivery and tried to enjoy owning my dream car. Reality hit in the first week when it failed to start and cut out while driving a few times. The original Lucas Opus electronic ignition system was at fault and this was replaced with a more reliable modern alternative (Crane) which quickly rectified the issues. I soon realised that I now owned a sports car and I couldn’t stop comparing the E-Type to my previous Jaguar XJC grand tourer, which was a beautiful, spacious, luxury saloon that cruised quietly and comfortably. They were both made in the same factory, only a couple of years apart, and were powered by the same engine and gearbox and utilised the same rear suspension but they were worlds apart on the road!
The E-Type was narrow, had minimal storage room, it was hot inside (no air conditioning), the power steering was too light and you could feel and hear every bump and pebble on the road. Had I made a mistake? Was this icon of motoring history not for me? My biggest problem was that I kept on comparing it with the XJC and it took months to accept the E-Type for what it was - a highly desirable gentleman’s sports car - not a perfect car but definitely a piece of motoring history. I had never owned a “sports car” before and it took me a while to adjust to this new experience and accept its “character”. I am told that the earlier six cylinder E-Types are even harsher riding, less comfortable and not as practical as the series III.
To restore or sell?
After a couple of months of ownership crunch time arrived! I had a very well presented original E-Type that looked excellent from the outside but being the fussy bugger that I am I was not happy with the car as it was, there were just too many things wrong with it and I had to decide what to do. I could learn to live with it and drive it as it was - or I could cut my losses and sell it - or I could bite the bullet and complete the rebuild that it deserved.
After much deliberation I eventually decided to finish the restoration that the previous owner had started and turn the car into what it should be. The details and photos of this comprehensive and costly restoration are contained in the rest of this web site.
Owning my classic dream car
Once the restoration was completed and the car was returned to the road, I started “bonding” with my now almost perfect toy. I was apprehensive at first and listened for every little noise and constantly watched the gauges for any sign of trouble. For the first thousand miles I was paranoid that something would go wrong to reinforce the reputation for unreliability that 1970’s Jaguars have had to live with
After a few minor teething problems I slowly began to relax, accepted the thumps from the suspension and noise from the tyres as normal for a sports car, and stopped watching the gauges. The water temperature and oil pressure were spot on and the engine performed beautifully. I had a new stainless steel exhaust fitted and began to enjoy the music of that magnificent V12. I gradually adapted to driving an E-Type, while other road users in their mundane, modern plastic machines looked on in envy. Finally I fell in love with the car and began to take pride in ownership.
After running the engine in I took the car for a quick 200 mile run down the winding Great Ocean Road and over the twisty roads of the Otway Ranges before returning home via Geelong. For the first time I explored the legendary road holding, acceleration and braking that the E-Type is famous for. I arrived home with a huge grin on my face and finally felt satisfied with my choice to own this magnificent series III V12 E-Type Jaguar.
Replacing my classic E-Type
After five years and 15,000 kilometers of trouble free motoring I decided that it was time to move on to another beautiful Jaguar sports car. The V12 E-Type had given me no trouble and I really enjoyed driving and displaying the car, but I was after a new experience and this time I didn’t want to undertake a restoration. The E-Type went to a very appreciative new owner in sunny Queensland and I took possession of a 2000 Jaguar XKR Coupe with R features. The XKR is powered by Jaguar’s powerful 4 litre supercharged V8 and is the modern equivalent of the E-Type. A totally different beast, but the XKR is a sexy, standout supercar just as the E-Type was in its day. If you study the two photos below you will notice that the designers of the XKR retained more that just a passing resemblance to the E-Type - Jaguars most famous sports car.