More of a grand tourer than its sportier forebears, the Jaguar E-type Series 3 has finally come in from the cold. Here’s how to find a good one
How much to pay
• Project £13000-18000 • Good £60,000-78,000 • Concours £80,000-120,000 •
Running costs ★★
DIY friendly ★★★
Run a poll on the most beautiful car of the 20th century or the greatest car ever made, and the Jaguar E-type is guaranteed to be in the top three. However, the model that everybody has in mind is the original car, the Series 1, with its enclosed headlamps, narrow bodyshell and straight-six engine. The final iteration, the V12-powered Series 3, has always been considered the poor relation.
In some respects little has changed, because the earlier cars continue to be more sought after than the S3. Yet as values of the former have gone stratospheric, so the latter has also become much more valuable. These later cars have also begun to be appreciated for what they are; fast, comfortable grand tourers that are (fuel consumption aside) more usable than their forebears thanks to a much roomier cabin.
Whereas the six-cylinder E-types came in roadster, coupé and 2+2 forms, there was no V12 coupé, so you’ve got a slightly ungainly tin-top or a much more visually appealing convertible. Unsurprisingly it’s the latter that’s the most sought after, but any good Series 3 is worth buying. And there’s the rub; not all S3s are as good as they seem, so here’s how to make sure you don’t get caught out.
Your AutoClassics Jaguar E-type Series 3 inspection checklist
As you’d expect, the V12 is unstressed and will happily cover 200,000 miles or more between rebuilds – as long as it’s looked after. It’s not an engine that’ll take neglect, with overheating and blown head gaskets par for the course on unloved cars. The key is to let the motor idle for a few minutes once it’s up to temperature, keeping an eye on the temperature gauge, while during the test drive you should make sure the engine pulls smoothly from low revs.
Maintaining anti-freeze concentration is key if internal corrosion is to be avoided; once this happens, the coolant passages get blocked and the engine overheats, leading to blown head gaskets. Make the usual checks for a white emulsion on the underside of the oil-filler cap.
Expect to see 45lb (even better if it’s 55lb) on the oil-pressure gauge at 2500rpm. Leaky rear crankshaft seals are common, especially on cars used only very sparingly; replacing them means a full engine rebuild. It’s possible to rebuild an XK powerplant yourself, but only if you’re skilled.
There are 20 coolant hoses fitted to the V12, and they perish over time. While a set of new rubber hoses isn’t expensive, fitting them is time consuming because of poor access. They must also be reinforced, because the cooling system is pressurised; while the early E-type’s system was held at 4psi, the V12 runs at 15psi.
The original rubber fuel lines will probably have been replaced by now; if not, they’ll all need to be renewed, as they perish. If the engine won’t run happily it may be because the rubber diaphragms in the Zenith-Stromberg carburettors have perished. New ones are costly, but will probably transform the way the V12 runs.
Some Series 3s are fitted with a four-speed manual gearbox, yet most came with a Borg-Warner three-speed auto. Both transmissions are strong, but weak synchromesh is common on the manual, given away by a horribly notchy gearchange – especially when cold. Unlike the gearboxes fitted to earlier E-types, everything is available to rebuild a V12 transmission.
It’s no scarier where the Borg-Warner box is concerned; rebuilds are no problem and the cost isn’t too bad. Just check for any slipping or jerkiness when changing ratios; it may be that a full service will fix things, meaning there’s no need for a rebuild.
Suspension and brakes
The S3 came with rack-and-pinion steering, and this doesn’t generally give problems other than the two universal joints in the steering column wearing. Replacing them both is cheap and easy though.
If the lower hub pivots in the rear suspension aren’t greased regularly, they’ll wear and/or seize; listen for creaking, which gives the game away. Everything is available to make things good. Play in the rear wheelbearings is essential; if there isn’t any, they’ve been overtightened and will overheat.
Up front, check how many shims there are between the wishbone and ball-joint. Two or three is fine, but if there are more than this there’s a danger of the suspension collapsing. The best fix is to fit exchange wishbones, which is a cheap and easy exercise.
Expect the brakes to feel reassuring, but oil can leak from the diff onto the in-board rear discs. Repairs are involved; the diff has to come out to fix this. A lack of lubrication leads to the self-adjusting handbrake mechanism seizing up, but putting things right is easy enough.
Poor panel fit and corrosion aren’t rare, and neither are kinked chassis tubes from minor impacts. The latter is given away by bonnet misalignment, so check for uneven panel gaps. The radiator support panel may also be damaged – evidence that it’s been used as a jacking point.
Few Series 3s are original, so establish who has done any restoration work; many of these cars have been completely rebuilt by now. Be wary of home restorations, as a full rebuild requires a jig and if one hasn’t been used the bodyshell may well be distorted.
Check for corrosion in the battery tray, box sections in the scuttle sides (repairs here are complicated), rear of the monocoque, B-posts and chassis-strengthening rails; also check for filler in the sills. The rear radius arm and anti-roll bar mountings corrode, and so do the double-skinned rear wings, wheelarch lips, and top and bottom of each door.
The E-type’s cabin trim wears well, but if any parts are needed you’ll have no problem sourcing high-quality new items. It’s the same story with the exterior trim, as the brightwork can be replaced; mazak bits such as door handles and taillamp housings tend to be pitted.
Unrestored cars suffer from poor earths or brittle wiring, which is easily fixed with emery paper or fresh looms. The heater motor suffers from failed circuitry or seizure through lack of use, but access is easy as it’s next to the battery under the bonnet. Check that the radiator’s thermostatic cooling fan cuts in; it’s usually reliable but not always, and failure can lead to major bills.
- 1961: E-type Series 1 is unveiled at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show.
- 1968: Series 2 arrives.
- 1971: E-type Series 3 goes on sale.
- 1972: A steering lock is now fitted.
- 1973: A twin-branch exhaust replaces the previous four-pipe system.
- 1974: Fixed-head coupé is discontinued, leaving the roadster to soldier on alone; then, in December, the final cars are built. The final 50 are sold as Commemorative editions.
The E-type Series 3 is a superb grand tourer, and there are some fabulous examples around – but there’s also a lot of rubbish dressed up to look good. Clocked cars are common, so don’t be taken in by claims of minimal mileage. If buying a restored example ask to see photographs of the work in progress, as many rebuilds are bodged.
These cars are rarer than you might think, as only 7990 roadsters were built along with 7297 coupés. However, the survival rate is good, and most examples are cherished. On that note, club membership should lead you to a really good E-type, and it’ll give you an opportunity to talk to existing owners to see what Series 3 ownership is like.
Beware ex-US cars changed to right-hand drive, and 2+2s converted to roadsters. Most conversions are fine, but values are lower; RHD chassis numbers start IS.10001 (roadster) and IS.50001 (2+2); LHD cars are numbered IS.20001 (roadster) and IS.70001 (2+2).
Cars with sympathetic upgrades are sought after. The most desirable tweaks include electronic fuel injection, a high-torque starter motor, and a high-flow water pump or more efficient radiator to improve reliability and usability. Electronic ignition is also worthwhile, and so is a thermostatic electric cooling fan. The chassis is worth tweaking, too, while just fitting fresh dampers and stiffer springs will usually transform an E-type’s handling.
The V12’s thirst has put many people off buying an E-type Series 3, but with most of these cars doing no more than 2000-3000 miles each year, the fuel consumption isn’t really that big a deal. Although very different from the E-types that preceded it, the Series 3 remains a hugely desirable classic – and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics
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