I note that a correspondent writing to a contemporary weekly motoring magazine remembers how the Jaguar E-type that was submitted to the press for the first road tests was, allegedly, specially souped-up, to ensure that the magic maximum of 150 mph was duly recorded.
It seems that MOTOR SPORT had the same fixed-head coupe E-type (9600 HP), and I was already aware of other makes of press cars had been “tuned” to deceive. If the current exposure is correct, 9600 HP had the D-type racing cylinder head, valve gear and breathers, modified bodywork to reduce drag and other specialities. It has been termed “faking it to the max”, and I blush to see the figures we attributed to that Jaguar. But we did declare the cruising Speed at 5000 rpm, which Jaguar later advised should not be exceeded for long periods, as 127 mph . . .
When I took over this first Jaguar E-type to be submitted to us for a road test report it was raining and colleagues warned me to be careful, as this was a 150 mph car! In fact, within a very few miles I discovered it to be docile and safe-handling. Later, a 4.2-litre coupe, ARW 732B, came to us for more extended sampling. On the then-standard 3.07 to 1 axle-ratio the 5000 rpm cruising pace represented 130 mph; to achieve 150 mph it would have been necessary to run that marvellous six-cylinder twin-cam engine to 6000 rpm. As a long-haul GT car I thought the E-type lacking in fuel capacity, needing more powerful headlamps and, if used in the mountains, a shorter bonnet for visibility over the humps. But I ended my test report with the words: “. . . one of the world’s outstanding sports cars, representing quite extraordinary value-for money (£1993 in 1962), and a high degree of driver satisfaction.”
We used that Jaguar E-type to photograph the different types of bridges on England’s motorways. With the present controversy over the proposed new multilane carriageways, it is interesting to find that all we could discover to drive over 32 years ago totalled, in round figures, 232 miles. (AIM: 15; M1, 67; M4, 101/2; M5, 24; M6, 94; M50, 21).
A Porsche-driving colleague shared the expedition; I see that in overtaking a Lotus Elan (on trade plates) the Jaguar’s speedometer went to 140 mph, and that we averaged 100.5 mph for the length of the M1, disposed of the M5 at 97.2, the M6 at 93.3, the M50 at 84 and clocked 81.8 over the brief AIM. Happy days, before speedlimits!
Another E-type we tested was a 3.8 two-seater, 9699 RW, used to cover the 1962 Monaco GP, won by Bruce McLaren’s Cooper-Climax. Flown from Southend to Basle in a converted DC-4 Carvair (no claustrophobic Channel Tunnel), we cracked the Jaguar’s sump on a rough French mountain road (mended by Jaguar’s agent in Monte-Carlo, who also investigated a valve-gear noise) and the bootlid frequently flew open. Coming home, having dropped a reporter from another paper at Nice Airport, we felt we should hurry a bit and averaged 61.4 mph to Calais, at 17.6 mpg. A very impressive performance, but I do not think a normal catalogue Jaguar E-type will do a genuine, sustained 150 mph. Apologies, if I offend.