The Jaguar E-type is obviously a motor car very appropriate to Motor Sport’s readership and it has been covered in these columns in great detail, culminating in a comparison between the two-seater and the 2+2, which was published last April. The 2+2 driven for this purpose was an automatic transmission car, so it remained to try the elongated E-type in manual gearbox form.
The original plan had been to drive it non-stop, except for refuelling, from England to Naples, as the commencement of a lightning trip to look at some of the latest Italian cars, before going into Germany to sample the B.M.W. 2000TI. With our proverbial intuition we must have sensed the flood disaster which has overtaken this area of Italy, and which would have made joy riding in a fast English car distasteful and tactless at such an inopportune time. At all events, the arrangements were changed and the Jaguar was used instead to visit Lake Coniston via M5 and M6 to see if Donald Campbell was progressing with his attack on the water speed record with the jet-propelled ” Bluebird ” (he was, but at only about 5 m.p.h.) and thence into North Wales and down to a crowded Oulton Park to photograph the R.A.C. International Rally.
All this, and later journeys to Silverstone to see the rally competitors emulate club racers, and to the office, enabled a useful overall impression of this E-type to be obtained. Without repeating our earlier findings about these fine cars, the following observations can be set down.
The higher roof-line of the 2 + 2 gives the E-type a top-heavy look, seen head-on, but otherwise the appearance has not been unduly changed. The convenience of the extra seating cannot be denied to the bulk of customers for the car, and enabled us to take an additional passenger and the Motoring Dog on a 350-mile day’s run with the human complaining of only occasional leg cramp. Slight traces of exhaust fumes within the body are still noticeable and are thought to be the results of the altered aerodynamic shape of the body, with its changed rear window angles. (This precludes making use of the openable rear side windows.) The film of mud that tended to form on the side windows may be attributable to the same cause.
To eulogise over the E-type’s performance is quite unnecessary. In the form tested it has maxima in the gears of 48, 73, 108 and 140 m.p.h. (3.07 to 1 axle ratio) and will devour a s.s. 1/4-mile in under 15-1/2 sec. Yet the docility of the big 4.2-litre six-cylinder twin-cam engine is such that it is possible to poodle along at around 1,000 r.p.m. in top gear without any feeling of unfairness to the machinery. The prestige of the E-type is woven round its immense performance and exciting appearance (certainly not its price) and its all-round good manners and tractability can be overlooked by those who do not know it intimately. It is nice to have a four-speed gearbox with no need for an overdrive, giving more than the legal speed in second cog!
The central gear lever controls a heavy gear change but, providing the clutch is fully depressed to the extent of its long pedal travel, gear drag is more or less avoided and gear shifting is satisfactory, if unpleasantly notchy. The action is more pleasant, I am told, on l.h.d. cars but the synchromesh (on all forward ratios) is now quite passable and the box quiet, the indirect gears emitting no more than a pleasant hum. The back axle of the test car was notably quiet, in comparison with that of a staff two-seater E-type which became noisy after about 20,000 miles but has remained much the same to 50,000 miles.
Luxury is offered in all Jaguar E-types by leather upholstery, the impressive row of facia switches and neat instrumentation; the seats are comfortable without being outstanding (the squabs do not adjust), but the extendable steering column is much appreciated for obtaining the desired driving position. A lockable lid covers an absurdly small cubby hole on the 2+2 and the lidded box between the front seats has been made smaller than on the two-seater. However, with so much luggage capacity of GT kind behind the seats, and an under-facia shelf, no one should complain of lack of stowage in an E-type.
The handling qualities have been fully analysed previously and give such confidence and pleasure, without coming quite in the GT category, that they can be paid the compliment of being taken for granted. The test car had Dunlop SP41 HR tyres, which gave good grip on wet surfaces and were quieter running than the Goodyears on the staff E-type. They also gave somewhat lighter steering, although the non-power steering is still heavy for parking. These Dunlop SPs are extremely good all-round radial-ply tyres.
The engine started impeccably after a night in the open, and mixture enrichment for the triple S.U.s could be taken off almost immediately. Petrol consumption of super grades varied between 17 and 20 m.p.g., with an overall figure of 18.2 m.p.g. If the petrol warning light is to be obeyed, the range diminishes to less than 200 miles but some 60 miles can be covered before the light stays on permanently while accelerating hard in second gear, which is the true indication that more fuel is needed. So the actual range is approximately 250 miles. The E-type’s petrol thirst gives no cause for comment but the avidity with which the test car drank lubricating oil was depressing. In a distance of 1,500 miles it consumed 18 pints of Shell Super and could have taken a couple more. Allowing for an additional 100 miles on the delivery journey down from Coventry, which is generous, this represents a pint every 90 miles, or not much over 700 m.p.g. Clearly you need to own your own oil-well before buying a Jaguar E-type….
The odometer showed 20,000 miles at the beginning of the test, so the car was apparently neither worn out nor in need of running in. It is probable, however, that a new power-unit had been installed within that distance and until the piston rings have bedded-in, new Jaguar engines are notorious oil burners; it is time they were run-in before reaching the customers. (The presence of paint on the exhaust manifold and the stiff gear lever action contributed to the suspicion that at some quite recent date a new engine unit had been put in.)
Otherwise, no complaints, if we overlook a clock which was always gaining in competition with the E-type’s ability to save journey-time, an awkward headlamps’ dipper on the r.h. side of the facia, necessitating removing a hand from the wheel, and a ventilation system which gave lots of hot air but too much of it on the occupants’ faces and needed continual adjustment to suit car speed. Oil pressure was 50 lb./sq. in. until the oil level dropped and the water temperature 90 deg. C., even during the three-quarters of an hour it took to cross Putney Bridge one Friday rush-hour, although this prolonged idling made the engine run roughly. At low speeds the brakes emitted scraping noises, suggestive of pad wear or disc scoring.
The safe-handling qualities and powerful brakes of this docile 140 m.p.h. car justify the E-type in making Churchillian gestures at B. Castle. In what category does this Jaguar fall? It has too small a fuel range, too heavy an oil consumption (judging by the car submitted for test) and not quite the required standard of high-speed handleability to rank as a GT car. The coupe version does not open to nature’s fresh air, so is not a sports car. The E-type isn’t a racing car, and its electric cooling-fan makes such an irritating hum in traffic that it cannot he regarded as a town car. But it is a jolly nice touring car and good value for £2,284 5s. 8d.—.W. B.