On the road with the V12 E-type Jaguar

New 5.3-litre engine endows the familiar fast touring car with excellent and effortless acceleration and high speed cruising. A report on the Series-3 2+2 coupé.

Last year the long-awaited twelve-cylinder engine was introduced by Jaguar as an alternative to their celebrated twin-cam in-line six-cylinder power unit which has powered so many of their outstanding motor-cars, from sober saloons to XK120, C and D-type sports models.

At the time Motor Sport devoted considerable space to a long description of the brilliant new Hassan/Mundy engine, to a history of the 12-cylinder way of making smooth power (omitting by an oversight Lancia’s 1920 contribution) and published D.S.J.’s impressions, as a six-cylinder E-type user of long standing, of the new V12 with manual and automatic transmission. Since then I have been able to road-test the V12 E-type over an appreciable mileage. It remains an unforgettable motoring experience and one is reminded that there must have been more than one girl who promised things to a man on account of his E-type, only to find that it turned out to be a Series-E Morris Eight….

However, it was not the allure and status-symbol aspect of the Jaguar E-type that I set out to assess, but how the new V12-engined model compares with its illustrious forebears. For this purpose I went to the Coventry factory to take over a manual-gearbox coupé 2 + 2. A visit to “The Jaguar” is the best possible start to driving one of their products. There is the dignified background to the project, as typified by the big entrance hall at Allesley with historic cars from sober-black SS-Jaguar saloons and XK120 to yellow D-type Jaguar occupying one corner of the carpeting and a painting of H.M. the Queen hanging on the wall.

The Publicity staff are apt to be found here long after normal working hours, eager indeed to talk-cars far into the night. It was after such an evening in the pleasant and conscientious company of Andrew Whyte that I drove, next morning, the Ian Appleyard Alpine Rally XK120 (of which, more on page 40) before departing in the modern E-type. Of this experience perhaps the kindest way of summing it up is to say that much progress has since been made! But how nice to find a famous rally car of NUB 120’s age in such original trim; Andrew Whyte was almost apologetic about its new hood, into which the original back panel has been sewn. I have described the Jaguar factory previously but before we leave it this time I cannot refrain from remarking that if it were the headquarters of R-R it could hardly be better constituted or conducted, so that it is entirely appropriate that the culmination of a life’s toil that has earned for William Lyons his Knighthood should have as its telegraphic code the term “Bentley’s Second”….

E-Type development
The V12 E-type is not a new car, rather a fine new power unit using the former details and running gear. Ten years ago, in 1961, the 3.8-litre E-type, in open two-seater form, took the Geneva Show by storm. It was billed as the 150 m.p.h. Jaguar, which not only raised the eyebrows of those who checked the speed of their own cars, but detracted from the car’s opposite-characteristic, namely its refined and docile running. In that first year the customers queued up for their E-types and a coupé version was available for those who sought performance without fresh-air. In that first year of its introduction as one of Britain’s most intriguing sports cars the only modifications deemed necessary were a self-adjusting hand-brake, shields to deflect water from being flung into the front hubs, the removal of the catches for the long bonnet to within the car, and a heated back window as an optional extra on the coupé.

The E-type was as much an instant sales success as the XK120 had been. The second year of its existence saw some changes to make its occupants more comfortable—the seats set back to give more leg room, footwells introduced, and the angle of the brake pedal altered. In deference to the very formidable performance Mintex M33 pads were used for the all-round disc braking. During the third year there were some differences of opinion as to the effective axle ratio the E-type would pull, a change being made to a 3.07 to 1 ratio before the original 3.31 axle was reverted to, there were minor improvements to the independent rear suspension to protect the universals, and the rear brake discs were increased to a thickness of half-an-inch. At this time the M33 brake pads were changed for Mintex M59, handling was improved by using Dunlop SP41 radial-ply tyres, the exhaust system was modified, and stowage provided between the seats.

Up to this time the purists had tended to dislike the gearbox and as sports-car enthusiasts are never satisfied for long, even greater performance was wanted. This Jaguar met by introducing in 1964 an all-synchro-mesh gearbox, in conjunction with which they used the 3.07 axle ratio, the engine capacity having been increased to 4.2-litres in October of that year. Apart from this, a diaphragm clutch, an alternator to replace the dynamo, aluminised silencers, an improved fuel pump and a better radiator, most of the mods. had to do with safety, like a divided brake circuit and dirt shields for the front brake discs. The bodywork got a lockable boot for the two-seater and the boot-hinges of the coupé were covered over.

The bigger engine and new gearbox having answered most of the criticisms, there was little need to change the now well-established E-type in 1965 and Jaguar’s Engineering Department contented itself with an improved screen washer, Dunlop SP41 HP anti-acquaplaning tyres, and a better means of keeping water from the distributor cap.

To the consternation of the true sports-car fanatics, a 2 + 2 coupé was added to the E-type range in March 1966. This involved an increased length of nine inches and a higher windscreen, the impact of which on die-hard Jaguarites was discussed in Motor Sport at the time. The clutch pedal angle could now be altered and a wider-ratio gearbox was deemed suitable for both this new 2 + 2 (or auntie’s delight) and the two-seater coupé. Next year there were some rather retrograde changes. The hoods for the “real” E-types were made of plastic instead of canvas, the covers over the headlamps which fended off snow were deleted, and the wide-ratio gearbox was now used for all models. Up to now wire wheels had been the correct wear for the E-type and spoke breakage was guarded against by a 1968 mod. It was at the Motor Show that year that the Series-2 E-type was introduced, with revised styling, even the characteristic Jaguar row of switches on the facia being altered to tumbler-type controls. Cooling problems were countered by twin-electric fans and a new vertical-flow radiator with expansion tank and some minor water-pump revision. Apart from the headlamps being moved forward, the 2 + 2 got a different screen rake and the aperture of the intake cowl was increased by 68%.

The revisions of 1968 brought Jaguar’s great sports car of seven years earlier up to date in respect of American safety trends and, in the two years that followed, efficiency of the ancient but still virile XK engine was uplifted by attention to the ignition system and new camshafts to give quieter running from what had always been a notably quiet twin-cam power unit and even longer periods before tappet adjustment became necessary—in an o.h.c. engine in which such adjustment is complicated it is important that long intervals can elapse between resetting and one suspects that in the V12 engine the camshafts will remain undisturbed virtually for the life of the engine. At this time in its development there were some further body improvements, a steering column lock was fitted to foil thieves who might fancy an E-type, and ears were deleted from the hub caps to prevent any chariot-incidents involving bowled-over pedestrians. The E-type was also maybe unique in that disc wheels were made available in place of centre-lock wire wheels, but as an extra at additional cost. Alas, with the introduction of the Series-3 E-type last year disc wheels became standard equipment….

E-type details
Thus was the way paved for the introduction, in March last year, of the wider-track Series-3 E-type, in two basic forms, a 2 + 2 coupé and a roadster (available with hard-top) each using the same floor pan, both open and hard-top versions thus being nine inches longer than the old E-type. They are at present available with either the six-cylinder XK twin-cam or the new light-alloy 60° V12 single-cam-per-block power unit and with manual or Borg-Warner automatic transmission. There is a price difference of £1,108 between the engine types and wire wheels are now an optional extra.

As we have expounded previously, there is not a great deal of difference between the 1971 E-type, the V12 engine excepted, and the preceding version. To recap, the separate seats with reclining lever-controlled squabs are not quite so comfortable as on the shorter two-seaters and from the front the high windscreen necessitated for the 2 + 2 gives a rather unfortunate bubble-top effect. The screen is of Triplex laminated glass and upholstery, praise be, is leather. There is a facia grab-handle for the front-seat occupant. Fore and aft seat adjustment, by a transverse bar, is extremely easy and the steering column is extensible. The doors possess arm-rests. Incidentally, the front registration number, on the angle of the nose-cowling is presumably illegal. The door “keeps” could well be more effective.

The facia layout is particularly neat but Jaguar’s row of switches still prevails. They are now clearly labelled as to function, this green lettering being illuminated if the side lamps are in use, when it is not possible to switch out these written instructions. Facia lighting can be employed, however, in two degrees of brightness. Some drivers accept this confusing array of controls, others would prefer a more up-to-date layout. From left to right on the centre of the panel the switches are for hazard warning, map-light, interior-light, panel-lighting, side-lamps, head-lamps (these being the paired central switches, the headlamps switch automatically bringing in the side-lamps switch), two-speed wipers, washers, heater-fan, rear window heater, if fitted, and three-position choke. There is a choke warning light. The screen washers are powerful but an instant-wiper would be appreciated. Above this line of switches are the neat black dials for battery condition, (10; 13 normal, 16 volts), oil pressure (0-40-80 lb. sq. in.), Kienzle clock, water temperature (white, normal, red) and fuel Contents, (E, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, F).

I found the switches confusing and had to look at them before I could select what I wanted, but white dots on the tips to show which one is in use help somewhat. The Smiths 160 m.p.h., speedometer with decimal trip and total mileometer and matching tachometer before the driver impart an air of quality, the digits being white on black dials. The red sector of the tachometer is from 6,500 to 7,000 r.p.m. The rubberised horn push in the centre of the leather-covered steering wheel is not convincing and as Jaguar are diminishing their sporting image, why the drilled spokes to the wheel? A r.h. stalk operates turn indicators and flashes the lamps on full-beam.

The weak aspect of the E-type’s controls include those for the heater, which have small movements, particularly the two tiny plated turn-buttons, and are confusing to set, although the volume and temperature levers can be operated simultaneously. Eventually I was able to get sufficient heat and drive with warm feet. The driving position is cramped, with little tight elbow space and no place for the left foot when it is off the clutch pedal, and the big transmission hump directs the leg towards the right. Worse, the average-height driver has to sit closer to the steering wheel than he may wish, in order to fully depress the heavy clutch, which is desirable if the very stiff gear-lever of the notchy gear-change is to function properly; the lever is not spring-loaded and has long movements. Reverse gear is obtained by knocking the lever back beyond the second-gear position. The anti-dazzle rear-view mirror shifted on its mounting and there is no vanity mirror on the near-side vizor.

The cranked central floor hand-brake is well placed, the gear lever likewise, and there are under-facia, between-seats lidded, and lockable cubby-hole stowages, although the last-named is very shallow. Two instead of three wiper blades now suffice but after adjustment they swept most of the big screen. They have special smear-free blades and worked extremely well. The oil gauge shows almost 80 lb. sq. in. most of the time, the water temperature soon assumes its normal position and from cold the engine starts after a little churning, and is ready to go with no warming-up delays, the choke soon being dispensed with. The choke lever matches the two pull-out heater levers. The doors have inset press-down handles which lift to lock the doors and conventional window winders. An irritating item is that the lamps’ dipper is a stalk protruding from the extreme right of the facia, which necessitates taking the hand from the wheel to use it; this is tiring, makes for lag in dipping, and the sharp protruding lever is not a safety feature. The usual Jaguar handbrake-cum-low-brake-fluid-level warning light is fitted, also an oil pressure warning light and a low fuel level light, to supplement the gauges.

The back compartment, reached by tilting the front seat squabs forward, is better for children than a couple of adults. Behind it is the luggage platform, in full view of the light-fingered. The back seat squab slides forward to provide plenty of stowage area when the car is used in two-seater form. Loading is by opening the back window, which is hinged in its near-side, the catch being beneath the safety-belt mounting on the off-side of the body. The bonnet hinges forward to give excellent access to the engine, after the bulkhead catches on each side have been released. There is a treadle accelerator so placed that you cannot “heel-and-toe” and a lidded ashtray between the front seats and a cigarette lighter are provided. The test car had Cibie 10 DE headlamps, Jaguar Kangol safety-belts and was protected with Bluecol “AA” anti-freeze. The back compartment side-windows open as vents and the bumpers are rubber-tipped. A “V12” motif grates the tail of the car. The lamps appeared to be set for maximum cut-off beams but on dip these were only just adequate.

Road impressions of the V12 E-type
There is no question about twelve-cylinder Jaguar motoring being travel of a most effortless kind. You lower yourself down into the driving seat over the customary sill, start up, and the engine wafts the car along with turbine-like smoothness and quite an audible “jetplane” sound. Acceleration is extremely impressive and effortless, and is available from a crawl or from a high cruising speed with impunity. From 80 to 100 m.p.h. takes seven secs., for instance, without changing down. The test car had the 3.07 axle ratio, yet would run without complaint at well below 500 r.p.m. in top gear and pick up from that speed. There is less purpose about a good top-gear performance in these days of automatic transmission but this remarkable ability of the E-type to go from six to 143 m.p.h. in its highest ratio does nicely demonstrate the docility of the complex V12 power unit with its Lucas Opus transistorised ignition. Yet at 1,000 r.p.m. in the highest gear the car does nearly 25 m.p.h. In this context the time of 14 1/2 sec. to devour a standing-start quarter-mile or 16 1/2 sec. to get to 100 m.p.h. from a standstill is extremely creditable. This means that along short bits of clear road 90 to 100 m.p.h. can be the habitual speed, after which the very excellent Girling disc brakes with Lockheed servo pull the pace down with equal absence of effort. They are delightfully light brakes, progressive and re-assuring, with no squeal.

As for speed, the car as geared is good for 143 m.p.h. in top, 116 in third and 84 m.p.h. in second gear (and 55 in bottom, if you insist!), which is not hanging about. But it should be noted that in America and Canada the tyre pressures required by Federal Regulations restrict top speed to 130 m.p.h. The tyres are Dunlop E70Vr 15 Sport, with a satisfyingly chunky appearance, these being the special low-profile anti-acquaplaning Dunlops developed for the Jaguar XJ6.

The engine runs up to 6,500 r.p.m. but 6,000 r.p.m. is its more usual speed, and for normal motoring one never needs to approach these limits. Even when playing games the tachometer needle need not get near to the red sector. On the test car the idling speed would creep up to 1,600 r.p.m. until the accelerator was kicked (normal idle was 700 r.p.m.) and at this speed there was some noise as the electric fans had lost their intended thermostatic action. Otherwise, all is smoothness and quiet and the V12 E-type is a most restful motor-car in which to average high speeds, traffic notwithstanding. The celebrated, comfortable soft ride, choppy, however, on bad surfaces, when a few body rattles intrude, coupled with excellent road holding, is retained; the rack-and-pinion power-steering, although lacking in feel and without full castor return, gives finger-light control with no trace of feed-back or shock, and an excellent steering lock (3 1/2 turns, lock-to-lock). The tyres grip most convincingly, even on wet roads. The cornering characteristic is largely neutral; roll is well restrained, the Dunlops remain mute when heavily leant on, and the nose does not dip under heavy retardation. The E-type feels, and is, a beautifully balanced car, although now 22% heavier than the 1961 version. Forward visibility is excellent, reversing difficult. Mechanically the engine is virtually inaudible. The ground clearance is restricted by the exhaust system, the silencer looking vulnerable, but it got up my rough country drive, three in the car, without any harm coming to it.

The V12 runs happily on four-star fuel, put in through a small flap-covered filler in the near-side back wing, the valve in the filler neck confusing some petrol station attendants and making replenishment from a can a slow task. Fuel thirst in average running in this country worked out at 16.4 m.p.g., rising to under 15 m.p.g. and in 2,230 miles no oil was required. The petrol tank holds 18 gallons, and thus gives a total range of about 290 miles. When idling the engine is fairly noisy and not absolutely vibrationless. It exhausts via a cluster of four tail pipes.

The hump on the bonnet may no longer be essential but the lines of the E-type still win much favourable comment and the car is as irresistible as ever, the magic now enhanced by the very smooth and quiet 314 b.h.p.—272 (DIN) at 5,850 r.p.m.—which is under the bonnet, to those who can overlook the out-dated minor controls, ventilation and sticky gear-change, the latter perhaps accentuated as the test-car had only had a manual box for about 1,000 miles.

In an extended test in England, Wales and the Scottish Highlands the V12 Jaguar proved to be a very fine effortless high-speed touring car, which would accelerate effectively from 100 m.p.h. upwards. In this 1,444-mile tour in every kind of weather except ice, petrol consumption was nearly 17 m.p.g. Compared to the six-cylinder Jaguar the V12 engine has upped performance by 20 m.p.h. or, expressed another way, is 1,000 r.p.m. less stressed. The only fly in this smooth ointment was a tendency to hang back with fouled plugs after a spell of low speed running, while the sticking throttle, traced to a stiff bush in the accelerator linkage and not to the cable, was a minor setback, and the defective cooling fans set up unwarranted noise. At speed, wind noise is very low, conversation at 100 m.p.h. being perfectly normal. For those who can afford £3,387, the Jaguar E-type remains a most attractive motor-car. Now, Sir William, for those of us who have to tolerate saloons, what about an XJ12?—W. B.