The Jaguar E-type 2+2

The Jaguar E-type ranks as one of the greatest cars of all time and an extremely valuable British export commodity. Some owners find themselves in need of enough space to carry their children or to give an occasional lift to a second passenger, and for this reason, and to increase its dollar-earning capacity, a longer-wheelbase 2+2 coupe version was put in hand, the floor re-formed to enable a Borg-Warner automatic gearbox to be fitted, if desired.

Production plans were unavoidably retarded, so instead of being released at last year’s Earls Court Motor Show the new 2+2 E-type was first shown at Geneva last month. To celebrate this important new model’s imminent appearance, Sir William Lyons threw a cocktail party on the top floor of Henlys’ Piccadilly showrooms the week before the Geneva Show opened. Afterwards coaches took the bulk of the party off to lunch at Whyte’s, while a smaller select number of guests were taken in a fleet of dignified Daimler Majestic Major limousines to lunch with Sir William at Grosvenor House. After Richard Bensted-Smith had wished the new E-type well, Sir William rose to thank all those present for agreeing to try the new car before its release and make helpful comments as to how it appealed to them, and give suggestions for possible improvements. In fact, we were not included in this scheme and had not driven the car, so we are free from blame in respect of any complaints it may occasion! In any case, we prefer to leave such matters in the capable hands of Bill Heynes and his design team. . ..

An opportunity was given to us later to try the new E-type for one full day’s motoring. E-types are not for Editors, or not or this one at any rate, and I derive what pleasure I can from rather mediocre small cars. But the Continental Correspondent has been running a staff 4.2. E-type 2-seater for more than 20,000 trouble-free miles, so it seemed logical to ask him to compare this car with the new 2+2.—W.B.

D.S.J. writes :— When the Editor produced the new 2+2 Jaguar E-type for me to try, in view of my having had a year’s experience with a 4.2-litre E-type 2-seater coupe, the first thing to do was to get mine out and put it alongside the new one to see how they differed. At a casual glance the 2+2 could he taken for a normal E-type, just as the 4.2-litre E-type can easily be mistaken fur the earlier 3.8-litre E-type, but putting them side by side and running a rule over them showed just how cleverly the Jaguar designers have achieved the new car without losing the classic E-type lines. The scuttle height is the same, but the windscreen is 1 1/8 in. taller, measured in the centre (though many handouts and write-ups quote 1 1/2 in.). This very small increase is the start of some clever and subtle alterations, for it allows the roof line to go on upwards as it goes rearwards so that when it starts to fall into the sloping tail it has got beyond the seating compartment. The wheelbase is increased from 8 ft. to 8 ft. 9 in., and this nine inches is in the seating compartment, so that the altered roof line gives headroom in the rear. This raising of the roof line, together with doors that are 8 1/2 in. longer than the normal E-type, gives easier access, the vertical height of the opening going up from 27 3/4 in. to 29 3/4 in. This extra space inside the car has allowed the front-seat runners to be raised by half an inch and an inch or two lower floor line allows foot room under the front seats for the rear passengers. The longer wheelbase and a redesign of the rear compartment provides sufficient room for a seating space behind the front seats, thus solving one of the tiresome things about the normal E-type, which is the impossibility of taking a third person with you, even for a short distance. Two small people who know each other intimately can squeeze into the passenger seat of the normal E-type, and I have often had to resort to this method in order that someone’s wife or girl friend isn’t left behind. The rear quarter-lights are half an inch shorter in length on the 2+2, but the rear window, electrically heated as on the normal 4.2-litre E-type, is unchanged.

The rear seat is shaped into two small ones and is very well padded and for one person, even a six-footer, it is completely practical to sit sideways across the rear compartment, when space and comfort are such that a long journey could be contemplated. The instrument layout is unchanged but a useful improvement is the addition of a shelf across the scuttle under the instrument panel and glove locker; this last item has a lockable lid and is ridiculously small. Instead of the hinged flaps under the scuttle on the normal 4.2-litre E-type, for allowing hot or cold air to blow down on the feet, there are now two knobs on the instrument panel that do this by remote control. Between the front seats is a useful odds and ends box, with a padded lid to act as an armrest, but on the 2 2, due to space being needed at the rear of the seats, this box is 3 1/2 in. shorter which is a pity as it now barely takes maps. The handbrake has a knob on the end to press for release, instead of the button on previous E-types. The interior width of the car is unchanged, but the luggage space in the rear is smaller; if the rear seat space is not in use the seat squab can be slid forwards on two swinging links, and at the base of the squab and behind it is a length of flooring that in the forward position fills in the gap that would appear, providing luggage space equivalent to the normal 2-seater E-type. The rear door that hinges about its left side, to permit easy access to the luggage space, now has a fixed linkage to prop it open, instead of having to pull a prop out of a rubber grommet.

On the 3.8-litre E-type the motif on the rear door merely says “Jaguar,” while on the 4.2-litre E-type it says “4.2-litre Jaguar.” The new 2+2 has the same motif and I feel it is a pity that the job was not completed by a motif reading “2+2 Jaguar.” Apart from the longer side doors and windows the only outward addition is a chrome strip on each side from the base of the windscreen along the top of each door.

Opening the two bonnets, which appear to be identical, the first thing I noticed was that the alternator now has a cover over it to protect it from engine heat and road dust, while the windscreen washer fluid is now in a plastic container instead of the vulnerable glass bottle used previously. Most important is an extra strip of spongy rubber added to the bonnet along the line where it is supposed to seat on the lower rubbers when in the closed position. On my 4.2-litre the sealing around the front-wheel arches when the bonnet is closed is very inadequate and road muck covers the air filter, carburetters, battery and other under-bonnet items. When the hinged bonnet closes down it is supposed to make a seal with various lengths of rubber, but like the household refrigerator light that goes out when you shut the door, the E-type bonnet sealing cannot be seen to be working, or not, until dirt and grit appear in the engine compartment. The 2+2 has improved sealing, but the method of attachment is still poor; thin steel strips clamp the rubber to the body panels by means of aluminium pop-rivets and a ridiculously thin coat of black paint covers. everything. In 25,000 miles the paint has given way to rust and the aluminium rivets have corroded and become unpopped so that the rubber sealing strips have fallen off. Even on the 2+2 test car, with 5,000 miles on the odometer, there was far too much rust and corrosion appearing on bolts and small things under the bonnet. It is agreed by everyone that Jaguar do a remarkable job in producing the E-type for a comparatively low price (for the price of a Ferrari you can have three E-types!), but it would appear to be done by skimping on detail finish in places where it does not show. The external finish of the body and the cockpit are beyond criticism, but when you start delving down into the mechanism you get a bit depressed after a year of hard use. A pampered E-type that spends most of its life in a heated garage and is never driven in bad weather or on bad roads, would no doubt not give cause for despair, but cars should be built for use.

My 4.2-litre engine has given no cause for criticism, apart from heavy oil consumption until 10,000 miles had been done, and the 2+2 uses an identical power unit, the test car using oil as mine did in its early days. It now has the legend “Use only Super Shell 10w/40” on the filler cap on the exhaust cam-box, whereas my engine is prepared to accept any make of oil. As the test car was fitted with a Borg Warner automatic transmission there is an additional dip-stick alongside the engine oil dip-stick. There are improvements to the heat shields between the engine compartment and the cockpit, but until one drives a 2+2 in really hot weather its effectiveness cannot be judged. While motoring in Italy and Sicily last year the cockpit heat in my car became unbearable, most of the heat being from the handbrake, which soon becomes too hot to touch, and from the gear-lever. It is like having a two-bar electric fire switched on in the cockpit, and the only way for the heat to get out is by opening a side window or a rear quarter-light. This is impracticable if you are motoring fast, as the wind noise becomes impossible. With all the windows closed the wind noise at 100 m.p.h. is impressively low, so one is reluctant to spoil this in order to get rid of the cockpit heat. The answer at the moment seems to be to remove more and more clothing! Porsche or Mercedes-Benz-type extractor slots in the rear of the roof would seem to be the answer.

Driving this nearly new 2+2 E-type immediately after my own 2-seater E-type coupe with 25,000 hard miles on the clock made me realise how mine had gradually worn itself out in small ways, Everything on the new car was that much tauter, the doors did not rattle, and the rear door did not flutter and the suspension did not give out knocks and tappings. It is not that my car has reached the point of needing everything renewing, but it was interesting to feel the difference between a taut E-type and a loose E-type. From the driving seat you are not conscious of any difference between the 2-seater and the 2 +2, but with the Borg Warner automatic transmission the method of driving was very different. The Borg Warner is controlled by a lever on the floor between the front seats that moves fore and aft in six positions, reading from front to back, P-R-N-D2-D1-L, and they are Parking, Reverse, Neutral, Drive for High and Intermediate gear, Drive for High, Intermediate and Low gear, and Lock position for locking the transmission in any one gear, thus frustrating the automatic selection. By pressing the accelerator pedal down to full throttle a kick-down switch is operated that will cause the transmission to change into a lower ratio, depending on the r.p.m. and the lever position. You can either put the lever in D1 and let the automatic mechanism do all the changing up and down using Low, Intermediate and High gear, or in D, when it uses only Intermediate and High, so you can play tunes on a combination of the kick-down switch and the lever position, but by the time you have done all that you might just as well have a proper manual gearbox, except that the Borg Warner has no clutch pedal to operate. Personally I am not sold on the Borg Warner automatic gearbox, for if you are going to drive the car properly it is anything but automatic, relying on a lot of stirring about by the driver. The ZF all-syncromesh gearbox on the 4.2-litre E-type, which is also available on the 2+2, is more than adequate, being quite pleasant to use, though not a gearbox in the Porsche 911 sense of gearboxes. With only three ratios in the Borg Warner the E-type does not give of its best, even though the hydraulic torque converter is supposed to fill in the gaps. With this transmission the final drive is 2.88 to 1, as against 3.07 to 1 with the ZF manual gearbox, and this was the first noticeable difference I experienced. For the 2+2 Automatic did not feel anything like so lively between 90-110 m.p.h. as my own car. I find that the 3.07 to 1 axle that the gearing is about spot-on and 100 m.p.h. comes up on any short straight without recourse to third gear and peak r.p.m., but the higher axle ratio with the automatic transmission gave a feeling of being slightly over-geared.

The only noticeable difference in handling was a feeling of under-steer on long fast bends with the 2+2, compared to a very neutral-steer on the 2-seater, presumably brought about by the longer wheelbase and consequent moving of the c. of g., but I found this a rather desirable change. The 2-seater will oversteer at speed but you have got to be very brave (or foolhardy) to reach this point on the public roads and for all normal high-speed motoring the steering is very neutral. Outstanding was the reduction in noise level, by means of sound-damping, for the 2-seater coupe is quiet anyway but the 2+2 was noticeably quieter from both engine noise and road noise aspects. One disadvantage I found in using the 2+2 was that it was impossible to open or shut the rear quarter-lights from the driving seat, and adjustment of these is vital to interior temperature, especially to get the heater flowing properly in cold weather. In the 2-seater it is a simple matter to reach backwards and open or close the hinged quarterlight while driving along, but on the 2+2 it meant stopping, unless you had someone in the back. The front seats are unchanged and still have the ridiculous little hinged distance pieces at the back of the runners for altering the rake of the seat-back. Not only do you have to get out to do this, but there are only two positions for the seat-back and I defy anyone to notice the difference, the range of adjustment being so infinitesimal. However, the seats themselves are good, and give excellent support in all directions and are very comfortable. I did two short 25-mile journeys sitting in the back of the 2+2 while the Editor drove, and discovered a depressing feature. With either of the rear quarter-lights open exhaust fumes were sucked into the rear of the car and five miles would have been more than enough. Quite why this should happen is hard to explain, but by the blue haze on the rear bumpers and over-riders it would seem that the slight alterations in the body shape have set up some peculiar aerodynamics. In the front seats these fumes cannot be sensed, and it does not appear to happen on the 2-seater coupe, as my bumpers and over-riders are unblemished. Sitting in-line in the rear, with my feet under the passenger’s, seat was all right except that I could not move and 25 miles was too much, but sitting in the left hand part of the rear seat with my legs across and into the well behind the driver proved very comfortable, the back and sides of the rear compartment being nicely padded, so that 25 miles was no hardship at all.

To talk of the 2+2 as a 4-seater E-type is all wrong I feel, unless you intend to carry two small children, but as a 2-seater with more than adequate room to take one or two extra persons down to the pub, or out to the circuit from town, it is excellent and does away with one big criticism that I have of the 2-seater coupe E-type. This 2+2 arrangement is what I specify for a usable GT car; not that the E-type is a true GT car even in 2+2 form. The handling of all E-types does not come up to my specification for a GT car, and you only have to rush down a twisty, bumpy, mountain-like descent to see what I mean. The E-type becomes a big, gormless car when you do this. However, with 265 b.h.p. you do not have to rush madly round corners, and up mountain passes, you proceed in a series of shattering squirts from hairpin to hairpin, using 2nd gear. To my mind the E-type Jaguar is a very nice, refined, touring car for Touring in the Grand manner, and that does not mean Gran Turismo.

This new 2+2 Jaguar E-type is going to be the answer for a lot of people, and unless you have just parted with a 2-seater E-type coupe, you would not know the difference when driving it, and I feel that Sir William Lyons’ engineers have once again done a splendid job. Jaguars are not necessarily the World’s best cars, but they do represent value-for-money and the company does not produce bad ones. The prices for the 2+2 in this country, which includes Purchase Tax for the Government, is £2,245 8s. 9d. for the manual gearbox model and £2,385 12s. 1d. for the Borg Warner transmission model, and if the Coventry craftsmen had got on with their work instead of going on strike this new Jaguar model would now be selling in great numbers, for it would have been on show at Earls Court last October. In his annual statement Sir William had cause to reprimand his workers for being the cause of the delay in the appearance of this new model. Now that it is in production, as a supplement to its classic brother, let us hope that the workers will build the 2+2 model with all speed, for there are bound to be a lot of buyers.-D.S.J.