Buying a Jaguar E-Type

The icon that is the Jaguar E-Type made its sensational debut at the 1961 Geneva motor show and has been hailed as the most beautiful car ever made. I love the E-Type and I’ve always wanted one for as long as I can remember, however, when buying a car that is up to 50 years old, those ‘rose tinted spectacles’ have really got to be removed and clear thinking must ensue.

A Short History: The Jaguar E-Type was a replacement for the XK sports cars and was available in 2-door roadster or FHC variants. The E-Type used a monocoque with a tubular sub frame for the engine & front suspension assemblies, utilised all-independent suspension, Dunlop disc brakes and rack & pinion steering. It was initially powered by a 3.8 litre, inline 6-cylinder engine producing 265 bhp which was superseded by a 4.2 litre producing approximately the same bhp but with increased torque. Later models from 1971 used a 5.3 litre V12 engine.

The majority of the E-Type was exported to the USA and the Series 1 cars (some say the best & the purest) lasted until 1964 when the Series ’1 ½’ was introduced. The Series 1 ½ addressed some of the earlier models ‘shortcomings’, i.e., inadequate rear brakes, overheating & uncomfortable seats amongst other niggles. One of the first modifications on the earliest Mk 1 E-Types was the introduction of footwells rather than the flat floor on the early production panels. A 4.2 litre engine was introduced along with a better Jaguar gearbox which was slicker then the old Moss type.

Various modifications were made to the E-Type during its life, a lot of them forced upon Jaguar by US Federal demands and a lot of these modifications definitely spoiled the car as it got fatter and heavier and was effectively outdated by the start of the 1970′s – what was once a raw, fast car had become bloated and lacked pace, although it was more refined & reliable. An upgrade to a 5.3 litre V12 engine in 1971 soon saw the E-Type fight back as a performance car, albeit as a fat cat GT rather than a ‘serious’ sports car. The 1973 global fuel crisis sealed the thirsty V12′s fate and subsequent models, XJS, etc, although good cars in their own right, were pale imitations of the original E-Type ethos.

What to look for: Like all British cars of the 60′s & 70′s the main thing to look for is RUST – and unfortunately on an E-Type there can be lots of it! That lovely, feline body is a serious rust trap and there are quite a few cars out there that have been bodged. If you are intent on buying an E-Type, have the car checked by an E-Type expert – this may cost some initial money but will save you (lots of) money in the long term.

Vulnerable areas are:- Tub, chassis sections, rear suspension radius arm mounts, rear floor pan, sills, whole floor pan, door skins, bulkhead panel, wheel arches (double skinned on Series 3 cars), engine frames and the bonnet. However as a plus point, nearly all panels are available to purchase – if you can afford them – a replacement bonnet will cost around £4000 – it then needs expert fitting and a Jaguar specialist will take at least a day to fit one with the ensuing costs!

Mechanical items are quite simple, the biggest problems are overheating, blocked waterways, worn timing chains, rear crank oil seals, silent tappets (indicating they have closed up in service & will need the head off to re-shim & decoke – not cheap). E-Type have also known to suffer from worn bottom ends, rumbling crankshafts and an engine rebuild will cost around £5000 from a specialist. The V12 likes the correct level of antifreeze & if this has not been maintained the aluminium cylinder heads can corrode. Also check for leaking rear oil seals as it’s an engine out job to fix – expensive. The E-Type is prone to overheating, so ensure radiators and all hoses are in tip-top condition – an uprated radiator with electric fan is a big bonus.

Manual & Auto gearboxes are usually tough but abuse and irregular oil changes will shorten their working life. Gearboxes can whine, but can go on for a long time like this. Suspension units, both front & rear, if looked after & greased regularly are very robust but worn springs & shocks really affect the handling of a fine sports car – ensure these are up to scratch & don’t skimp on cheap replacements. Ensure brakes are kept in 100% condition plus get used to seized handbrakes plus the rear suspension can cover the inboard brakes with oil

Conclusion: Show me someone who wouldn’t want to own an E-Type and I’ll show you a liar, but like a lot of things in life you really do get what you pay for. Don’t be seduced by those svelte, sexy looks. A ‘cheap’ E-Type will soon become a nightmare money pit & leave coupes converted to roadsters well alone. Buy the BEST you can afford, (good cars may cost upwards of £50000), get it checked by an E-Type expert and dial in some money for repairs/refurbishment and you will have a gorgeous, sexy supercar that will turn heads everywhere you go, plus it will work out a lot cheaper than buying a rough example with the intention of ‘doing it up’.

Steve C Williams is an online businessman, entrepeneur and internet marketer. He is a long-term eBay seller and a firm believer in self-empowerment & improvement. He is a guitarist/musician & loves old, classic cars.

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