For decades the Jaguar XKE Series III V12 has lived in the shadow of its forbearers – but is there merit in buying the final incarnation?
Let’s face it – the third-incarnation of Jaguar’s XKE (E-type) was far removed from the world-changing mantra offered by the 1961 original. Bloated and hefty, comparing the Series III V12 to William Lyons' innovative concept is like paralleling 1950s Elvis Presley to his '70s alter-ego.
By 1971, the XKE was in the midst of middle-aged spread. It no longer wished to roar through Soho on a crest of revs, loiter outside nightclubs, or powerslide within a plume of its own tire smoke. Rather, it fancied taking a leisurely yet comfortable tour across the Swiss Alps, after stopping for a lengthy lunch and copious serving of wine on route.
The drivetrain had developed over the car’s lifespan, but there was a massive change when the re-styled Series III landed in worldwide showrooms. For starters, an all-new 5.3-litre V12 lurked under the hood, mated to a silky-smooth automatic gearbox and uprated brakes. Power steering was now an option and cabin space had been enlarged, let’s say for the boisterous American…
It wasn’t just the potential clientele who were fat, either. Love it or loathe it, that V12 brought in enough clout to leave rivals diving for the nearest hedgerow. Churning out 272bhp from 12 plump cylinders with more torque than most battlecruisers, the beefy frame could propel itself forward to 60mph from a standstill in 6.8 seconds. Not bad for a luxury GT cruiser laced with leather and posh bits.
Developed for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and fitted with Zenith carburettors, the final generation XKE could breach 150mph without breaking a sweat. Although these figures may appear lacklustre by today’s standards, sportscars of the time would have their owners sweating like Vegas Elvis on a squash court beyond 100mph. MGB owners could but dream, whereas most Mustang custodians were shaken to death over 90mph.
Still, despite these achievements in mechanical prowess, the classic car scene has forever been obsessed with tarnishing the Series III’s lineage. The styling updates are constantly lampooned, whereas the engine remains vilified by Coventry’s steadfast XKE brigade.
The reason? It’s different. That’s all it can be – the rakes, haunches and curves are still ever present, whereas acceleration and handling can still contend with counterparts three decades younger.
The best bit? A Series III V12 sells for far less on the open market, making it something of a bargain. The Jaguar badge is still up front, the heritage is still there and you've got 12-cylinders instead of six. Late models retail for around half of what a good Series I will set you back. Should be enough of a saving to run it, the 5.3-litre colossus chomping through a gallon of fuel every 14 miles...
While it would be foolish to try and reason against the obvious flaws – including the American-spec rubber bumper mounts, Jaguar’s XKE Series III showcases the 1960s orts that we yearned for, blended with grown-up charm offered by the likes of Maserati or Mercedes.
Perhaps the turning point for Jaguar’s muted yet dignified design flare – of which we still drool upon in contemporary society – what we actually have here is XJ-S running gear under XKE bodywork. Who in their right mind would say no to that? Think of it like automotive Doctor Who. The Series III is very much a case of ‘meet the new boss. Pretty much the old boss’.
Got you interested? Great! We've got a great example for sale here. Having had only two owners from new, and boasting rude health to the full degree, this one is a tad pricey at $175k. But we do have others from only $55k...
Gallery: 1973 Jaguar XKE