My practical knowledge of V12 engines is rather limited, never having owned one and only having driven a handful of cars powered by such an engine, these being Lincoln Zephyr, Atalanta (with the Lincoln Zephyr engine), Lagonda, Packard, Ferrari and Lamborghini. In racing circles I have stood close to, and enjoyed the music of a great number of V12 cylindered engines, from Auto-Union, Mercedes-Benz and Delahaye in 1938/39, every racing Ferrari engine from the first 1 1/2-litre, through the 4.9-litre to the present 5-litre sports engine, and in recent times the Honda, the Eagle-Weslake, the BRM and the Matra, so that I now have a permanent ringing in my ears and the mention of a V12 engine immediately conjures up the shrill “Yeow… Yeow…” of a Matra, or the mechanical whirring of a Ferrari or Lamborghini.
Consequently I was a bit disappointed when I passed a Series III Jaguar ‘E’-type in the prototype shop at Coventry and only realised the engine was running because I could see the alternator cooling blades going round! The designers of the Jaguar V12 engine were quick to point out that I had spent too much time around fussy racing engines and not enough time around civilised production engines, which was true but amusing coming from these two men who were behind the successful Coventry-Climax racing engines.
To digress, I used to listen to the V8 Coventry-Climax 1 1/2-litre engine start on the touch of the button and tick over at 1,000 r.p.m. and think what a splendid production sports car engine it would have made, 4 camshafts, 32 valves, fuel injection and all. The smoothness, silence and silky running of the new V12 Jaguar engine is really impressive and even when you go round the back and listen at the four megaphone-type exhaust tail pipes there is only the merest whisper of sound while the engine is ticking over.
Of the ‘E’-type Jaguar, I have had more than adequate experience, covering around 150,000 miles, so it was with great interest that I looked around the new Series III model. First set-back was the fact that all ‘E’-types are now being built on the 2 + 2 wheelbase of 8 ft. 9ins., the original 8 ft. wheelbase ‘E’-type being finished. I cannot say I have ever been greatly enamoured of the 2+2 long wheelbase ‘E’-type or the styling of the 2+2 body, but the roadster in the new long wheelbase is interesting as there is now a useful luggage shelf behind the seats and it lifts up to reveal compartments on each side of the transmission tunnel that are deep enough to contain the Editor’s “road-test Rolleiflex” among other oddments. The longer wheelbase also means that the roadster now has the longer doors of the 2+2.
The monocoque steel body is basically as before, although the line under the tail has been deepened as there is now an 18 gallon petrol tank (long overdue) and the wheel arches have flairs on them to accommodate a wider track front and rear and Dunlop low-profile tyres as first appeared on the XJ6. From the front bulkhead there is still a square-section tube framework running forwards to carry the front suspension with the engine sitting in the middle of the cradle, but it has been completely re-designed to accommodate the 5.3-litre V12 cylinder engine, and while doing this the anti-dive front suspension geometry of the XJ6 has been incorporated and much more steering lock has been made available, while power-assisted steering is now standard. Ventilated brake discs are used on the front and there are cooling air scoops to the rear brakes which are still mounted inboard on each side of the differential. Suspension is unchanged being all-independent by longitudinal torsion bars at the front and coil springs at the rear. The V12 engine really fills the under-bonnet space but it was sad to see the return of a separate water header tank, as used on the original 4.2-litre ‘E’-type, for if my experience is anything to go by it will rust through and leak. The 1970 ‘E’-type had a much more satisfactory radiator layout.
Having started with efficient radiator cowl openings devoid of any form of fancy grille on the ‘D’-type and carried it through to the ‘E’-type it is depressing to find the Series III has a decorative bird-cage grille stuck up its nose. The rather staid and dull-looking bolt-on pressed steel wheels are now standard, but knock-on wire wheels are still available as an extra. Having built the fixed-head coupé since 1961 with no way for hot air to get out of the tail, apart from opening rear quarter windows which cause an intolerable wind roar at 100 m.p.h., Jaguar have at last built in an air-flow system with an outlet grille on the tail. They do learn in Coventry, albeit rather slowly!
As the 4.2-litre XK six-cylinder engine is still available in the new Series III ‘E’-type, although you only save £256 and gain about 3 miles per gallon, it was interesting to look at a six-cylinder version. The engine looked almost lost in the V12 space. However, Jaguars have taken advantage of the extra space to redesign the oil filter layout, and it now hangs downwards on the right side of the crankcase instead of sticking out at right-angles and anyone who has had occasion to change an ‘E’-type oil filter element will know what I mean when I say I gave three hearty cheers, but ten years is rather a long time to get around to making an improvement. Rather like that awful old Jaguar gearbox that dragged on from 1948 to 1965 and the dreadful Jaguar steering that was not put right until the XK 140. Although Coventry seems to take a long time to get around to doing something, when it does it is usually sound enough, and the eventual appearance of the V12 engine in 1971 is accompanied by the knowledge that it is not an experimental one-off or a nine-day wonder, but a volume production unit that is here to stay, but not as long as the XK six-cylinder, one hopes.
The first V12 Jaguar I chose was a white coupé with normal 4.2-litre type gearbox, so that I could make a direct comparison with my own ‘E’-type, and then I borrowed a blue coupé with automatic transmission, a system I still cannot stomach on a car meant for driving. With only three ratios I always find I want the one that isn’t there, or the automatic is doing something I didn’t want it to do, and by the time you have messed about with “hold-levers” and “kick-down pedals” you might just as well have a good four-speed manual box, and the 4.2-litre ‘E’-type has a very good manual box which still satisfies me after five years.
Sitting in the V12 the only obvious changes are a rev-counter red-lined at 6,500 r.p.m. and the smaller-diameter steering wheel, which is dished and has a leather-covered rim. Starting the engine does little to change the scene for it ticks over at 600-700 r.p.m. just like the six-cylinder, but a prod on the throttle pedal makes the tacho flick up in a much more lively fashion. As you steer out of a parking space the power-steering comes into its own, having already noticed the impressive wide-tread, low-profile tyres and the smaller diameter steering wheel, and as the six-cylinder engine has sufficient low speed torque to pull away from minimal r.p.m. without having to be careful with the clutch, there was no noticeable difference with the V12 engined car.
The view through the windscreen remains unchanged so that ambling quietly along waiting for the oil and water to warm up, you would not know you were driving anything but a normal 4.2-litre six-cylinder ‘E’-type. However, once out on the open road you soon become aware that this is no ordinary ‘E’-type for the rev-counter will go round to 6,000 r.p.m. and more with no fuss whatsoever, whereas the 4.2-litre six-cylinder lets you know when it is going over 5,000 r.p.m. Throughout the whole afternoon I spent driving the two 12-cylinder ‘E’-types, I found myself continually commenting that I would never know there was a V12 engine under the bonnet, especially when cruising about in a normal leisurely “seven-league-boot” fashion, but now and then there would be occasion to pull out and squirt past some traffic and in the 70-110 m.p.h. range it really did come into its own. My reflexes and judgement being well attuned to ‘E’-type performance in this speed range I soon found that the V12 did not need anything like the time and space I was subconsciously allowing for overtaking, which made me realise how rapidly it was accelerating, making it an even safer and more long-legged car than the old six-cylinder.
There was no opportunity to reach anything like maximum speed, quoted by Jaguar as 150 m.p,h., and as I have never had my own ‘E’-type at maximum in England, such a figure is academic anyway. When the weekly magazines road-tested the original 3.8-litre ‘E’-type in 1961, they recorded a very dubious 150 m.p.h., a figure that no private-owner I have met has ever approached. My first 4.2-litre coupé had an honest maximum of 143 m.p.h. and the present 4.2-litre roadster has to struggle to get over 130 m.p.h. My own loss of 13 m.p.h. is accounted for by a number of things, an increase in the size of the radiator cowl opening, un-faired protruding headlamps, air-swirl around the open cockpit, and a slight loss in horsepower with the latest engine which does not use oil at all, unlike the early ones which used more oil than petrol. Jaguar cured the oil consumption by attention to valve-gear and piston rings, but at the cost of more friction and a small power loss. In 25,000 miles with the 1970 roadster I have not missed the lack of top speed on more than two or three occasions, and those have been on European motorways; in England I would never know the difference; it gets up to 125-130 m.p.h. more than adequately.
Now, if the production V12 will do an honest 150 m.p.h., as distinct from a “road-test” 150 m.p.h., it will mean that 130-135 m.p.h. will come up effortlessly, and to me that is honest usable speed from a touring car. A Ford GT40 or the Mercedes-Benz C111 is another matter, they give almost instant 150 m.p.h. and you spend more time with the brakes hard-on than with the accelerator pedal hard-down. The Series III Jaguar ‘E’-type is not meant to be in that category, it is a volume production fast tourer, good for 100,000 miles or more of fast motoring.
Returning to the Jaguar factory at the end of the afternoon, the most impressive thing of all was to see transporters full of V12 coupés setting off for dealers all over the world, and this was six weeks before the car was officially announced as being in existence. Handing the automatic 2+2 Series III ‘E’-type back to Andrew Whyte of the Press Department of Jaguar cars, I confessed to being slightly nonplussed, but nonetheless impressed by the day’s activity; nonplussed because I had been expecting an ‘F’-type Jaguar, not a third series ‘E’-type, and impressed by the engineering of the Jaguar plant and the way the V12 is already in volume production and the manner in which they are tackling the USA pollution and emission control laws, keeping right up to date with the market where 78% of the V12 cars are going.
Getting into my own 4.2-litre roadster I was at once convinced that I was right about the unpleasant driving position on the 2+2, the seat being too high and too flat, but as I motored off, my smooth, silent, silky, six-cylinder engine seemed as rough as the proverbial bear’s hindquarters, and I realised that Jaguars have made an impressive step forward in refinement, which is so encouraging in these days of glorification of the cheap and shoddy.—D. S. J.