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“The most beautiful car ever made”. Enzo Ferrari.
A much-used quote without a doubt, though it is not recorded whether ‘il Commendatore’ also admitted it was a third of the price of his own often slower and less powerful products. Their relative price differential 50 years down the road only emphasises what fantastic value these Cats represent over their equine rivals.
As it gently matured, the E-Type gradually put on a small amount of weight - it happens to the best of us - but Jaguar took positive action to address this and the general public’s evolving more discerning tastes by introducing the V12 engine for the Series 3.
Developed from an original design by Claude Baily intended for the still-born XJ13 racer, Jaguar’s new V12 was taken on and reworked by no less an engineering giant than Walter Hassan (returning from duties on the Coventry Climax F1 programme) who teamed up with the equally legendary Harry Mundy to produce this simply magnificent power plant.
The proliferation of cylinders from 6 to 12 was matched by an increase in both power and torque, though by substituting the original engine’s iron block for aluminium in the 5.3 litre V12, weight increase was limited to a mere 83 lb and (as if by magic) external dimensions grew by just a few inches.
The 272 bhp and 304lb ft of torque produced resulted in a genuine 150mph and (more relevantly perhaps) a 0 to 60 time of just 6.4 seconds, making the Series 3 the fastest accelerating E-Type ever, while (also as if by magic) adding only 1 mpg to the fuel consumption of the outgoing 4.2 litre ‘six’.
With more than half a canny eye on the market Stateside, a longer wheelbase allowed more room internally whilst flared arches and multiple ‘pipes added visual muscle (in fact the vast majority of Series 3 E-Types ended up on the other side of the pond, making an original UK RHD machine a rare beast nowadays). Ventilated brakes and uprated suspension reigned in the extra performance while power assisted steering made the car far more usable, especially as tyre width increased.
One of several classics recently released from the Johnson Kane Collection in West Sussex, this particular S3 has just been carefully re-commissioned after a six year slumber in professional storage. As a result of remaining idle there are certainly improvements that can be made but the basic mechanics of this E Type are very impressive. Indeed, a remarkably positive initial test drive prompted an exploratory MOT test which was carried out at the end of last week. This uncovered just a couple of minor issues: a malfunctioning horn and windscreen washer, and low brake fluid.
All of these have now been rectified and the car therefore comes to market with a fresh 12 month ‘ticket’ – something any potential new owner will no doubt take significant reassurance from, as will the knowledge that the quality of Jaguar’s engineering means that their products can be gently shaken from a long nap and immediately present themselves as essentially ‘ready to go’. Leave a Ferrari alone for more than a month and it normally requires a full rebuild and a letter of apology before agreeing to anything like actually ‘starting’.
As you might expect then, OFM 400M drives very well indeed with excellent oil pressure and no signs of over-heating even in heavy traffic. The clutch is smooth and bites at half travel whilst the silent transmission offers slick and precise changes. The power steering works correctly and on the move this Jaguar is sure-footed and (crucially) devoid of any unwanted rattles – purring along in a manner that allows us to insert the obligatory cat metaphor at this stage.
During the re-commission process the car was meticulously inspected for corrosion but only a few minor cosmetic areas revealed themselves - mainly on the bonnet. As ever, our extensive photo gallery aims to show the condition of the car ‘warts and all’ and we have paid special attention to capturing any blemishes and small dents as well as the all-important underside.
That said, the overall cosmetic presentation is still remarkably strong, with the paintwork showing very few chips and marks overall and lovely ‘lived in’ period shine. All the glass wear and lamp lenses are free of cracks, scratches and clouding, and whilst a fair proportion of the chrome-work would benefit from some attention, at least it is all present and correct.
The wire wheels likewise would handsomely repay some basic and inexpensive tlc, and whilst all four tyres have plenty of tread remaining, an advisory comment on the MOT points out that the offside rear is slightly perished and should probably be replaced before too long – or certainly before testing out that 150mph top speed anyway.
The interior offers (to our eyes) a lovely patina with the seats especially displaying the perfect ‘gentleman’s club’ visuals with only the driver’s seat back requiring a small repair on the entry side. The off-side foot-well carpet is worn - indeed a full new set of carpets would smarten up the overall feel on the interior considerably - but the trim panels, door cards and dash are all in terrific order.
The service history is limited, although the car has enjoyed substantial amounts invested with minimal use from the early 2000’s.
This auction therefore represents a great opportunity to own a legend of British motoring in its ultimate form; more space and pace from the fantastic V12 power plant, coupled with the very rare manual option. OFM 400M can be enjoyed now and improved when time permits, or brought back up to show condition relatively easily as a rock solid restoration project. Jaguars in this condition are increasingly rare and we are already jealous of the new owner who will have the pleasure and the privilege of taking it on.