Jaguar E-Type (1961-1975)

Article by Mark Trotta

As beautiful today as when it was introduced in 1961, the Jaguar E-Type was designed by aerodynamics engineer Malcolm Sayer. It was a huge sales success, with the majority of cars shipped to America, where they were sold as the Jaguar XKE.

Jaguar E-type History

Jaguar E-type Series 1

The original XKE was offered in two models, the open-air roadster and fastback coupe, the former featuring a side-opening rear hatch. Glass-covered headlights were neatly tucked into the fenders. The long hood curves slowly down to the small oval air intake. The original thin chrome bumpers have been described as cats whiskers. With a sticker price of $5,595, the XKE was slightly more expensive than a Corvette, and half the price of a Ferrari.

Aside from the engine and transmission, the XKE was a completely new car, with the chassis based on Jaguar's D-type race car. The monocoque center section is frame-less, gaining rigidity from its fore and aft boxed sections.

Up front, the square-tubed sub-frame held the engine, steering rack, and suspension. The front section was bolted to the center section. The rear sub-frame held the limited-slip differential, rear brakes, and rear (independent) suspension. Rubber-mounting the aft end to the center reduced gear-whine and road noise.

Standard equipment on all models included all-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and a triple-carburetor DOHC motor.

Power to the rear wheels was sent through U-jointed half-shafts, which also served as upper control links. This efficient design was used previously on Lotus racing cars, and also on it's Elite model. In another two years, Zora Arkus-Duntov would adopt it for the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray.

The entire front section of the E-type hinges forward to reveal the 3.8 litre motor, originally seen in the Jaguar XK120. The DOHC six-cylinder was fitted with three S.U. carburetors and produced 265-horsepower. A manual four-speed transmission with no first-gear synchromesh was the only unit available. With 3:31 rear-gearing, the 2,700-pound XKE roadster could achieve top speeds of 150 mph.

Jaguar E-type History

Although commonplace today, the four-wheel disc brakes found on the E-type were an innovation in 1961. The rear rotors and calipers were mounted inboard, saving space and helping weight distribution. This design was used only after years of testing, to ensure that heat generated from the brakes wouldn't effect the rear differential.

1965 Jaguar E-type

A minor engine redesign included an increase in displacement to 4.2 litres, improving driveability and giving better low-end torque. Oil consumption, an issue on the earlier 3.8 motors, was remedied by using better piston rings.

1968 Jaguar E-type interior

The generator was replaced by an alternator, and the electrical system switched to negative-ground. A much requested full-synchromesh transmission finally arrived. Inside, the dashboard was changed from aluminum to a black finish, and seats were more comfortable.

Jaguar E-Type 2+2 Coupe

It was Jaguar's hope, by adding two small rear seats and additional storage area, that they may attract buyers looking for a "family" sports-car. The 2+2 XKE coupe was added to the line-up in the Spring of 1966.

The four-seat version was eight-inches longer and rode on a nine-inch longer wheelbase than the coupe and roadster models. An automatic transmission, previously unavailable due to space constraints, was offered. With a taller roofline and extra cargo-space, the 2+2 coupe was a more practical car than the other models, but proved to be less popular.

Jaguar XKE Series 1-1/2 (1967-1968)

To comply with U.S. safety regulations (Jaguar's biggest market), the transitional Series 1-1/2 cars were brought about between 1967 and 1968. Cosmetic changes included the loss of the original LeMans-style glass-covered headlamps to more upright and exposed headlamps.

Jaguar XKE History

Under the hood, a pair of emission-calibrated Zenith-Stromberg carburetors replaced the previous three SU carbs. Power was reduced from 265-hp to 246-hp.

Jaguar XKE rebuild carburetors

Read: Zenith Stromberg Carb Rebuild

Other changes included the smooth polished cam covers were now ribbed and painted black. Twin electric fans were added to help cooling. In the seven years produced, over 38,000 Series-1 XKEs were sold.

Jaguar E-type Series 2 (1968-1971)

From the front, Series-2 E-types are recognized by a larger grille opening and re-positioned front signal-lamps. Larger taillamps sat under the rear wrap-around bumper. Brakes were upgraded, and radial tires would become standard equipment.

1969 Jaguar E-type coupe

Interior changes included dash-mounted toggle switches replaced with "safer" rockers. Air conditioning and power steering were available as options.

Jaguar E-type Series-3 (1971-1975)

In trying to meet North American emission standards, as well as keeping up with rivals like the Porsche 911 and the Chevy Corvette, Jaguar upgraded the XKE with a V-12 engine in 1971. At that time, only Ferrari and Lamborghini were offering 12-cylinder production cars.

1970 Jaguar XKE V-12

Flared wheel arches, wider tires, and cross-slatted front grille identify the Series-3 XKE. Two versions were offered, the 2+2 coupe and the roadster. Both models were built on the 2+2 chassis, necessary to accommodate the longer twelve-cylinder engine.

Bigger, vented brakes were added, and power steering became standard. Options included automatic transmission, leather interior, and air conditioning.

Jaguar V-12 engine

Claude Baily, one of the members of the original XK design crew, is to be credited for developing Jaguar's first twelve-cylinder engine. Trying to be more competitive at Le Mans, a V-12 motor was secretly built and tested in the mid-sixties. A five-litre, quad-cam engine was mounted behind the cockpit of an open two-seater car, and used much of the same chassis/suspension as Jaguar's D-type. This motor served as the basis for the production V-12.

The 1971 Jaguar V-12 production engine used a bore and stroke of 90mm x 70mm, displacing 5343cc (5.3 litres). A tried and proven 60 degree slant between the two cylinder banks was used, giving even crank throws for a smoother-running engine. The aluminum block held a forged-steel crankshaft with seven four-bolt main bearing caps. With aluminum heads, the motor weighed just seven pounds more than the six-cylinder it replaced.

Although the new motor was only three inches longer than the 4.2 litre six, it was significantly wider. Two pairs of Zenith-Stromberg carburetors helped the single-overhead cam V-12 produce 272-horsepower at 5850 rpm. Despite the car's 3,380 pounds, it was still quite fast. 0-60 mph times of the day were clocked at 7.5 seconds.

Like all big-engine cars of the mid-seventies, sales went down as gas prices went up. The last of the E-types, Jaguar produced just 5,290 Series-3 models from 1971 to 1975.

Jaguar XKE history


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