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“Since then I have been able to road-test the V12 E-type over an appreciable mileage. It remains an unforgettable motoring experience and one is reminded that there must have been more than one girl who promised things to a man on account of his E-type, only to find that it turned out to be a Series-E Morris Eight...” Motor Sport, January 1972
Different times without a doubt but surely an icon of British sports car design none the less. 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 tastes by introducing the 5.3 litre V12 engine for the Series 3 of 1971. Developed from that fitted to the still-born XJ13 racer, this proliferation of cylinders was matched by an increase in both power and torque, though the new engine’s aluminium block helped keep the weight increase over the original iron blocked six cylinder to a mere 83 lb. and the cars external dimensions grew by but a few inches. The 272 brake horse power and 304lb ft of torque produced resulted in a 0 to 60 time of 6.4 seconds, making the Series 3 the fastest accelerating E-Type ever, while somewhat surprisingly adding only 1 mpg to the fuel consumption of the outgoing 4.2 litre ‘six’. 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.
Originally configured as a left hand drive roadster, this Series 3 was first supplied to the British Leyland distributor in New York on 19th January 1973, having left the Browns Lane production line on 10th November 1972. The Heritage Certificate on file confirms this information and that its original colour scheme was ‘Primrose’ paintwork teamed with black trim, a combination it still sports today. Repatriated to the UK by renowned specialists ‘The E-Type Centre’ and registered in November 1998 the Jaguar has had just one private owner since then. No ‘quick flip’, the E-Type Centre’s workshop diligently went through the car effectively converting it to right hand drive UK specification. Aside from the obvious cockpit modifications, home market wipers and bumpers were substituted for their US equivalents, the large obtrusive indicator lights fitted to satisfy American legislation were removed and the associated bodywork this entails was carried out.
Fast forward to 2006 and somewhat unhappy with the E-Type’s performance, the owner entrusted it to Jaguar specialists Watjag of Bakewell who after diligent investigation work recommended an engine rebuild be undertaken. One hundred and sixty-five hours and £12,000 later the V12 was once again purring as it should with new pistons (balanced with their rods), liners, valves, guides, bearings (just +10 on the crankshaft) and a myriad of other bits and pieces all nicely run-in. The work is extensively documented in the Jaguar’s history file - well worth a read.
With twelve new spark plugs recently fitted, the engine fires easily from cold and the choke could be quickly dispensed with allowing the big V12 to settle into a smooth as polished silk (not sure you can actually polish silk) 600 RPM idle, burbling through those fabulous quad chromed tail pipes. Though not warmed up, the engine’s oil pressure was showing as a reassuring sixty PSI. With a new clutch fitted at the time of the engine rebuild, it bites positively and early in the pedal’s travel while the gearbox engages smoothly with no untoward noises. The impression is of a mechanically sound machine that has ‘had the money spent on it’ already and we would have no qualms encouraging anyone to test this for themselves.
Structurally the body seems in good condition both up top and underneath though there are a few imperfections that have obviously developed over the past twenty years and a selection of these are shown in the photo gallery. The fit of the closing panels is pretty good – we’ve seen better but also seen a lot worse - though if one were being critical, the bonnet is a little tight to the scuttle though they haven’t actually made contact and some adjustment may improve things. The ‘Primrose’ paintwork has been well applied with no evidence of runs or orange peel and we suspect a good polish would bring it up nicely.
Being for the most part relatively new, the chrome-work is in very good condition throughout with no dullness or pitting evident. The surround to the radiator air intake has picked up one or two dents along the way but all the other bright-work seems straight and true.
The chrome wire wheels (five of) and their associated ‘Jaguar’ logo hub nuts are very presentable with no nasty scrapes or dings while the tyres look to be about half worn or less. All the light lenses be they glass or plastic are in good, unmarked condition and the windscreen is free from chips or scratches.
A top quality cloth hood (or roof if you prefer) is fitted and appears to have spent the majority of its life folded away under its canvas cover; there is no wear or fading evident and the very slight creasing to the rear window may need nothing more than a few hours in the sun to relax it. Some attention might be required to get the various Velcro tapes to grip one another and seat the fabric correctly.
The interior is in pretty much universally great condition with very good black carpeting to match the nicely ‘lived-in’ perforated leather seats which are supple and un-cracked but perhaps getting towards benefitting from some hide feed. The centre arm rest has dried out a little more and its need for feed is more urgent. There is a slight nick to the back of the driver’s seat caused by unobservant stowing of the hood. The driver’s door pull/arm rest has been refinished and this is starting to flake off though this should not be too difficult to remedy.
The factory leather rimmed, matt finish alloy spoked steering wheel is also in great condition and small enough (thanks to power assistance) to aid ingress and exit from the delightful cockpit. The dashboard is well thought out and arranged though the dials could do with a little cosmetic attention to their rims and sealing gaskets. The boot trim, boards and spare wheel are all in place along with the ‘ring spanner’ for the USA specification wheel spinners.
Under the bonnet the engine is (as one might expect from its rebuilt status), tidy, dry and well ordered; while not exactly A Series simple, it actually struck us just how un-intimidating the classic Jaguar V12 power unit is when dressed with good ol’ carburettors and distributor ignition. Its surroundings are in places a little care-worn with a few chips to the correctly body coloured engine frame and some staining here and there but a happy morning with some elbow grease would doubtless improve things significantly.
As mentioned, the underside looks solid with sharp seams and intact protective coatings. There is a little bit of surface rust on some suspension components and evidence of some less than careful jacking up of the car but nothing significant.
Since its return to the UK, the Jaguar has had regular but limited use, covering 400 to 500 miles per year, though it has been consistently MOT tested and has recorded an impressive eleven straight advisory free passes since 2006. Though not legally required to be, the E-Type is MOT tested through to June next year. Please note that the Personalised Registration number on the Jaguar is being sold with the car and its current V5C is on file.
We feel this V12 E-Type offers a great opportunity for both enjoyable use and satisfying minor improvement.