A tough Continental test of the fastest model in the Jaguar range
When the Jaguar E-type was announced at last year’s Geneva Show it aroused World-wide admiration and was an immediate success. So naturally, everyone wanted to try it. But, apart from brief acquaintance with an early specimen down M1 it and up A5, we had to exhibit patience, partly because certain teething troubles required sorting out—such as the rear wheels fouling the body, oil-loss from the chassis-mounted final drive unit, brake troubles, etc.—and because there were too few E-types to share amongst a great number of motoring correspondents.
Motor Sport could, nevertheless, have published a road-test report on this 150-m.p.h. Jaguar before now but we preferred to recount our experiences after a testing journey on the Continent rather than drive such a fast and powerful car in the thraldom of English traffic. Thus it was that plans discussed with Bob Berry, Jaguar’s P.R.O., at the London Show last October came to fruition late in May when a 2-seater “soft-top” Jaguar E-type was delivered to our offices, its ignition and carburation suitably adjusted to enable French octane-ratings and 9-to-1 pistons to enjoy some degree of compatability.
The evening prior to enplaning from Southend for Basle we tried the car on the journey home and over local roads. This first re-acquaintance, with this fastest of production Jaguars was entirely reassuring. In pouring rain, we had not gone farther than the Bank before feeling entirely at home behind the wheel of this 265-b.h.p. sports car. The 3.78-litre engine, for all its power, high-compression pistons and twin o.h. camshafts, will run contentedly down to 1,000 r.p.m. in 3rd gear, even in top with the standard 3.31-to-1 axle-ratio. From such modest crankshaft speeds acceleration was clean and instantaneous, with never a cough, splutter or flat-spot. On the Embankment a pedestrian stepped on to a crossing and on the rain-slippery road the servo-actuated Dunlop disc brakes on all four wheels retarded progress surely, in a straight line, without any need to back-off on the pedal.
Past the derestriction signs the performance could really be used, 100 m.p.h. became common-place, and the engine proved willing to rush up to 5,500 r.p.m., although when the Jaguar, to which all eyes seemed to turn, was Iolloping along at 95 m.p.h., the revs in top fell to a modest 4,000.
Experiments on still-wet twisty roads showed that the rear-end is extremely reluctant to breakaway, even when the power and torque (260 lb./ft. at 4,000 r.p.m.) were turned on hard in 2nd gear, such is the grip of the Dunlop RS5 tyres. The steering, by rack-and-pinion with no lost motion and good stops at full-lock, is pleasantly light and quick, being geared 2.5 turns, lock-to-lock. The suspension of the E-type is soft enough to give an excellent ride over rough roads, yet is fully in keeping with the car’s phenomenal performance, for there is very little roll, it is possible to “dodge” unexpected obstructions with alacrity, and, apart from a trace of “tail-happiness,” there are no vices whatsoever. The steering characteristic is, indeed, virtually neutral. At the front torsion bars and wishbones are used, at the back the new Jaguar i.r.s. with stressed articulated drive-shafts, lower wish bones and trailing links with coil-springs. We have always advocated properly-designed i.r.s. and the Jaguar E-type and Mk. X endorse our views!
This preliminary canter certainly whetted the motoring appetite and made us eager to shake the traffic congestion of England from our chunky 6.40 x 15 tyres.
Since the earliest versions foot-wells have been provided and the pedals have been re-positioned. Although six-footers still find the E-type impossible or exceedingly uncomfortable to drive, as average-height mortals we were very nicely accommodated and found the driving position ideal, although it came as a mild surprise to discover that it is not possible to “heel-and-tee” on these race-bred cars. The adjustable and low-set wood-rimmed steering wheel, with its three drilled metal spokes, is particularly commendable.
The minor controls, too, are not only impressive to look at but are sensibly laid-out. A r.h. stalk works the direction-flashers and the full-beam signal flasher. The headlamps are dimmed by a r.h. flick-switch on the facia, the matching tachometer and speedometer (reading to 6,000 r.p.m. and 160 m.p.h., respectively) are immediately before the driver, there is the usual Jaguar warning-lamp for handbrake-on or brake fluid at a dangerously low level, and, of course, the normal warning lights, including one as a reminder that refuelling is due. The central instrument panel carries four matching dials, comprising ammeter, fuel gauge, oil gauge and water thermometer, and a row of six flick-switches, divided by ignition key, cigar igniter and starter button, which look after the various services. These switches are sensibly located, for the left hand goes out naturally to washers and 2-speed wipers switches and, moving one place to the left, selects the map light. The other three switches, reading from I. to r., control interior lamp, panel lighting (which can be bright or dim), and 2-speed heater fan. The engine always commenced promptly, the vertical quadrant control of mixture-strength being operated from cold—a warning light reminds the driver to push this down as temperature rises. Oil pressure is normally approximately 60 lb./sq. in. and water temperature 70° C.; if the latter rises towards boiling point, in traffic or low-gear mountaineering; the electrically-driven fan comes into operation. When the E-type was introduced one weekly contemporary said this happened at 80° F. and its opposite number quoted 80° C., but on the test car this happened, to the accompaniment of some subdued shuddering, at just under 90° C.
The bonnet is easily released by turning toggle-handles on each side of the bulkhead sill and operating a safety-catch at the rear end of the ”power bulge.” The boot is released by pulling a knob behind the driver’s seat; this was hardly a one-man operation, because it was also necessary to press down the trailing edge of the lid. More serious, on several occasions, as 120 m.p.h. on a rough piece of road came up, the lid would open of its own volition, a fault not confined to this particular E-type. Fortunately the lid is spring-loaded, so attention to probable loss of luggage is drawn by it blanking the view in the mirror, but this does not exactly contribute anything to Gran Turismo!
The heavy bonnet stays open on its own and there is then excellent accessibility of the beautifully-finished power unit and entire front of the chassis. The rear-view mirror tended to vibrate and shift, but otherwise no criticism of the Jaguar’s detail arrangements is called for, except that the horn-push in the wheel-centre sounded a rather unpleasant horn which became erratic for a few miles on our return to England. The hood has a big rear window, stows easily, and is covered by a hood bag; there still remains space behind the seats fora brief-ease and oddments. The spare wheel lives under the floor of the boot, which contributes to the limited luggage space.
The lights-switch is reminiscent of that on a pre-war Derby-Bentley and a specially pleasing feature is the labelling of each of the controls in clear lettering along the base of the panel, illuminated, to two degrees of brightness, at night.
The Smiths clock resolutely refused to tell the time (like our Smiths travelling clock) but everything else functioned with precision. A big tunnel separates the two bucket scats, central gear-lever and handbrake are located conventionally, the stayed Windscreen has triple wipers, there is a small open cubby-hole, you get in and out over wide chassis sills (if you aspire to a boyfriend or sugar-daddy with an E-type, girls, you will need slacks) and the doors have glass windows wound up fully with 3 turns of the handles.
So much for a preliminary look round this most impressive Coventry-built motor car. Impressive the Jaguar E-type most certainly is, in action for obvious reasons; at rest in appearance, from its long all-enveloping front-hinged bonnet with its big bulge over the cam-boxes flanked by louvres, those on the off-side covering the triple 2-in. S.U. HD8 carburetters, to its low hood (or hard-top) and its cocked-up tail beneath which the twin tail-pipes and silencers sneak upwards.
We had elected to take the open 2-seater sans hard-top, in the hope of sweltering weather in the South of France. In this we were disappointed, but this did not occasion any worry, for the easy-to-erect, high-quality hood (made in Jaguar’s own trim-shop, each one individually tailored), braced truly rigid and drum-free by triple toggles on the screen-frame, is fully weather resistant, and the heater very effective. Indeed, let us here and now offer the highest praise for a sports car into which not a drop of water penetrated, or so much as dripped from under the dash, even in thunderstorms of tropical intensity—no mean achievement at the customary high cruising speeds of the E-type!
That this 2-seater is not a true Gran Turismo car was evident when we had to pack our evening suits into one case, supplemented only by a soft-bag, although the coupe version naturally carries far more luggage. Moreover, the fact that petrol fumes penetrated into the boot so that confectionery carried therein had to be thrown away, a passenger was sick and one’s clothes, even those carried in a hag, reeked of petrol is hardly compatible with the meaning of the letters G.T.!
Channel Air Bridge
One object in making this journey to Monte Carlo was to sample the new Channel Air Bridge service from Southend to Basle; the others, quite obviously, were to submit the Jaguar to a searching and revealing test and to watch the Monaco G.P.
The new Southend-Basle service, which is complementary to similar services now in operation to Geneva and Strasbourg, is flown in four-engined aircraft, known as Carvairs, which arc Douglas DC-4s modified by Channel Air Bridge to carry 5-6 cars and 23 passengers. The cars are hoist-elevated into the forward hold and the passengers occupy the spacious fuselage. In this fashion we were flown smoothly by Capt. Tootill, a keen reader of Motor Sport since he discovered it in R.A.F. messes during the war, at 9,000 feet, the 450 miles to Basle occupying 2 hr. 20 min. The Carvair is appreciably quieter than the Bristol Superfreighter 170’s of the cross-Channel routes and during the flight sandwiches and drinks are served by attractive Stewardesses.
There is little need to emphasise the excellent start to a Continental holiday that flying like this to Basle, Geneva or Strasbourg provides. The heavy bookings for these flights, which were inaugurated earlier this year, are a tribute to the motorists’ approval. The Jaguar E-type was, of course, the least suitable car with which to prove our point, for it would have disposed of this dull part of the journey at about a quarter the speed of the Carvair but in any normal car the drive across France entails hour after hour of boring travel over roads excellent but largely devoid of good scenery. The cost of taking an E-type thus is £17 and as petrol would, at a very rough estimate, cost in the region of £14, what possible excuse could there be for not going via Channel Air Bridge, apart from the great saving in time, nervous strain and fatigue? Motorists using these Carvair long-distance flights find themselves well placed for entry into Switzerland, or travel to the South of France either over any of the usual Passes or down the more straightforward N 7 route.
That morning, on our way to the office, we had encountered Lord Montagu’s 1907 120-h.p. Itala on its trailer, going back to Beaulieu after its Monza outing. Sure enough, said our charming dark-haired Chief Stewardess, it had been flown out and back from Basle by Carvair.
The Basle and Geneva services operate in the afternoon, enabling Midlands’ motorists to travel easily to Southend Airport in the morning, and so at tea-time, with the burbling exhaust-note of our dark green E-type once again in our ears, we found ourselves driving along that ” no-man’s-land ” that is a reminder that Basle is half in Switzerland, half in France. After an easy passage through the frontier there followed a rapid drive into the setting sun (the last time it shone in earnest!) for an adequate dinner and bed at the Grand Hotel et Bains in Bescancon.
On the Thursday morning we set off in high spirits, the sun growing warm in the early morning and the Jaguar devouring the pleasant road towards Bourge, where we paused for fuel and oil and the E-type was much admired by the French mechanics.
In a car which, without exceeding 5,000 r.p.m., goes to genuine maxima of 34 m.p.h. in the 11.18-to-1 bottom gear, 63 m.p.h. in the 6.16-to-1 2nd gear, 92 m.p.h. in the 4.25-to 1 3rd gear (with a maximum in this cog of 113 m.p.h. at 6,000 r.p.m. and a usable 103 m.p.h. at 5,500!), and which will leap to “the ton” in 16 sec., nothing comes up, even on French roads, to challenge it. A comfortable corrected top speed is 122 m.p.h. at 5,000 r.p.m. but 5,500 r.p.m. can be held if you back-off occasionally, and that equals 138 m.p.h.
We lunched, appropriately enough as the Editor had been driving, at Corpse, and that afternoon were in the rally country of Gap and Sisteron. Indeed, innocently following some signposts to Nice, we took to the Col de Restefond, and ignoring the alarming unguarded drops to the valley far below and the appalling road surface, wound the Jaguar round innumerable hairpins, lowered it gently over gulleys, steered it with inches to spare past huge fallen rocks, until—we came to a snowdrift. There was no alternative but to retrace our route. The rocks and boulders had opened up a small crack at the front of the unprotected sump through which Shell X-100 30 began to seep and both exhaust pipes were considerably flattened. Whether exotic cars with Italian names would go over such terrain without damage we do not know but in our opinion a Grand Touring car should be able to do this, and the E-type thus proved that it is not a rally or G.T. car. Eventually we crossed by the Col de la Cayolle, meeting a good deal of traffic and pausing at a garage to put up the hood against the rain that was to persist for the whole of our stay on the “sun-drenched” Cote d’Azur.
In driving for some 300 miles over continually twisting roads fatigue was obviated by the lightness and predictability of the E-type’s steering and the reassuring power and certainty of those entirely excellent Dunlop disc brakes, which the vacuum servo rendered light to apply and which remained entirely vice-free, squeaking only slightly under mild applications of the pedal.
In climbing the cols the gearbox was in continuous use, and it is the least-pleasant feature of the car. The synchromesh is almost useless for rapid changes and causes jarring at the lever, and it is necessary to fully depress the heavy clutch pedal to effect quiet changes, which, with its excessive movement, is tedious. This is a pity, because the gears are quiet, the little rigid central lever nicely placed, and the engine unconcerned about being revved to 5,500 or used for long periods in the lower ratios. Long spells in 2nd gear cause the transmission tunnel and handbrake lever to get surprisingly hot, however.
As we wound the car for ever upwards and round corner after acute corner, the long bonnet nosing to the sky-line, and then dropped it swiftly downwards round hairpin upon hairpin bend, the enjoyment of 265 obedient horses and impeccable roadholding endowed by all-round independent suspension was marred only by a persistent tapping noise that suggested something amiss in the valve gear.
At last level roads were regained and we approached Nice in a traffic stream, being passed for the only time in the entire 2,800 miles of the test, by a Simca Sport that slipped past in a 50-k.p.h. speed limit that we thought it prudent to observe, in view of the interest the French motorcycle police were displaying in our fierce-looking English “racing-car”! The driver felt tired only in the final congested miles, When traffic was diverted in Nice to accommodate an International Coach Rally, competitors’ numbers in which ran into the 300s!
So, to Monte Carlo. Next day British Motors Ltd. proved to be busy repairing exhaust systems and body dents in Jaguars that were taking part in a Jaguar D.C. Rally but on the Saturday morning they put the travel-stained E-type up on a hoist, drained out all the new oil with which we had just filled the sump, repaired the crack with Mr. Holt’s well-known cement and some black paint, and pronounced the tap in the valve gear as unimportant – we had previously checked the tappet settings and found them correct. They had also found a universal joint for Bruce McLaren and this he was fitting to his personal Jaguar E-type, prior to winning the Monaco G.P. so calmly and convincingly in the V8 Cooper-Climax.
Incidentally, the run down had served as a reminder that 2 c.v. Citroens still swarm the roads and lanes of France in spite of the new Renault 4s and Citroen Ami 6s, and that the Sirnea 1000 is now frequently encountered.
Strolling round the Principality we encountered Edward Eves, who reminded us that there is yet another satisfactory way of travelling to Monte Carlo-he had flown from Bagington (Coventry) to Cannes in his pre-war Miles Whitney Straight, hitched a lift to the gare, and come on by train!
Although Monte Carlo was crowded with cars, E-types competing for the attention of the passers-by with the Ferraris of the G.P. team, the cosmopolitan motoring atmosphere nicely emphasised when we looked from our window in the Hotel de Palmiers to see a 2 c.v. Citroen cheekily hiding behind a Mercedes-Benz 220SE (later we had a good view of Princess Grace leaving a Red cross reception in her Rolls-Royce, from the same window), it is possible, once a parking space has been found, to leave a car there for several days without being molested. So for much of our stay the E-type sat brooding to itself, while we got drenched to the marrow watching the 5-am. practice on Friday, watched more practice on the Saturday and an extremely interesting race on the Sunday. However, the Continental Correspondent did “have a go” up La Turbie, and over the Turini and Col de Braus. He was impressed, but declared the Jaguar large, noisy and heavy as to steering and gear-change after a Porsche.
All good things terminate eventually, the pessimists remind us, and at 4 a.m. on post-race Monday we stowed our luggage and pointed the long nose of the E-type towards the Nice autoroute (toll approximately 10s.) en route for Calais. There was no intention of making a particularly fast run but on the other hand we didn’t mean to hang about. As the route followed, up N7 to Lyon, N6 to Chalon and along N44 from the other Chalon to St. Quintin, is a much-used one, we append our times, as they may be of interest and stimulus to others who traverse this road in good motor cars.
Monte Carlo: 4.00am, Aix en Provence: 5.41am, Avignon: 6.30am, Valence: 7.48am, Lyon: 8.51am, Dijon: 10.59am, Longres: 11.50am, Chaumont: 12.09pm, St.Dizier: 12.55pm, Reims: 1.55pm, St. Quintin: 2.47pm, Cambrai: 3.12pm, Arras: 3.30pm, Bethume: 3.50pm, St. Omer: 4.16pm, Calais-Marck Airfield: 4.41pm
We had started from the far side of Monte Carlo in the dark and driven comparatively slowly to Nice Airport to deposit a third passenger, an accurate time allowance being made for the detour. On the Nice autoroute the cruising speed was an indicated 110 m.p.h. at 4,500 r.p.m., we never exceeded 135 m.p.h., which was reached but once, and naturally there were the usual impediments-difficulty in finding the way onto the autoroute at Nice, a good deal of lorry and tourist traffic, various pauses at red traffic lights, market day and many lorries in Villefranch, a long detour along N 460 and D 28 between Dijon and Longres, where the vineyards, give place to agricultural scenery, and a very slow deviation in Reims. There is a motor-road of sorts from Avignon to Valence but it is two-way, there it a semi by-pass at the latter town but the real one is under construction, pave and trafficlights slowed us in Cambrai with its rail-like tramcars, and a level-crossing bar fell, but rose again at the sight of the speeding Jaguar, and we scented coffee beans being ground in Bethnme. Also, there were three stops for fuel, totalling 21 min.„ and a brief pause to shut the boot-lid, which had again sprung open, either because the catch rattles free or due to chassis distortion over bad surfaces. Food-we had it with us! The need for three fuel stops was a bit depressing, for I consider a G.T. car should require refuelling only once, at lunchtime, on a coast-to-coast blind across France (I note that the Aston Martin DB4GT has a 30-gallon petrol reservoir, the Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta and the G.T. Maserati each have 22-gallon tanks, compared to the Jaguar E-type’s 14-gallon tank. . .)
However, as a sports car there is no denying that the E-type it a superlatively rapid and enjoyable means of crossing Continents. Always the speed seems to be between 90 and 120 m.p.h., “the ton” comes up along any piece of clear road, and a drop into 3rd lifts speed from 50 to 70 m.p.h. in less than 4 sec., from 8o to 100 m.p.h. in under 5 sec. In sober fact, 0-50 m.p.h. occupies 5.7-sec., 0-60 m.p.h. takes 7.0 sec.! Let us emphasise again that this was a normal run by a normal driver, that we had no thought of establishing a “record,” that the brakes never once went on hard. Yet twelve hours after leaving Monte Carlo we were beyond the pave of Liners, the odometer indicating 736.6 miles, and the total distance of 777.7 miles took 12 hr. 41.5 min., or 12 hr. 20 min. running time. Although the tapping noise in the valve gear was still with us the car otherwise showed no sign of distress. The brakes were as powerful as ever, oil pressure steady at 60 lb./sq. in., and the engine as responsive to the throttles at at the start, although pinking badly even on Azur petrol below 3,000
To be able to average. over 61 m.p.h. across France in daylight traffic in comfort and security is really something; in a normal car the long straights of N7 can be tedious and thoughts would have turned enviously to those returning per Carvair. The bucket seats, not outstanding, nevertheless remain comfortable on such a journey, and we found the rather spongy front of the cushions and that ill-placed trim-rib under our bottoms acceptable on long acquaintance. In any case, any small faults that this 150-m.p.h.,disc-braked, all-independently sprung, 0-120 m.p.h. in 24.5 sec. sports car may possess are entirely excused by its astonishingly competitive price- £1,480, or £2,036 Os. 3d. when purchase tax has been met. A hard-top is available for £68 and the coupe version of the E-type is priced at £2,123 5s. 3d. inclusive of purchase tax.
Two days later we took the car to Coventry for Jaguar’s to re-set the ignition for English fuel, whereupon pinking was virtually eliminated on Esso Golden and the fantastic performance still further enhanced. Jaguar saw no reason to fit new tyres, change the sump or replace the brake-pads after this tough 2,000 miles. A check on fuel consumption showed this to be an overall 17.6 m.p.g., which is excellent for a very hard-driven 3,781-c.c. engine. In the 1,060 miles since the crack in the sump had been repaired 9 pints of oil were required to replenish the level, equal to 920 m.p.g.
At the Coventry factory the E-types are line-assembled in a separate shop, from which they emerge at the rate of 150 a week. Every Jaguar engine is bench-tested, after which the sump is dropped for inspection of the bearings, and as aforementioned the hoods are individually tailored. A slave hard-top is applied to every body to ensure a sound fit should one be ordered subsequently. Every Jaguar is road-tested before final inspection, some 35 test drivers being employed on these tests.
The Jaguar is a splendid example of good Coventry workmanship and the E-type is in every way an outstanding example of the highest conception of British race-bred sports car. Although its performance, acceleration and speed-wise, naturally constitutes its primary attraction, its astonishing docility, the more surprising because it is unexpected, the comfort allied to stability of the suspension, the excellent brakes and its eye-able appearance combine to make the Jaguar E-type one of the World’s great motor cars. We would dearly like one, not only for getting effortlessly and very quickly about Europe, but for shopping and going to the post, especially when only a few minutes remain before the last collection!
Following its return from Coventry the E-type remained in our hands for some days longer, covering in all 2,800 miles without incident or further trouble of any kind. Used as transport to Mallory Park on Whit-Monday, the Jaguar cruised up M1 very comfortably at 4,800 r.p.m. (117 m.p.h.) and held 6,000 r.p.m. (153 m.p.h.) for a mile, although taking a considerable distance to attain this impressive maximum speed. On the return run an average speed of 104 m.p.h. was achieved for the full length of the Motorway, during which, according to a log, kept by the passenger, over 900 cars, all but one keeping to their own lanes, were overtaken—but by then the Editor was rolling quietly about the Hampshire lanes in a Rover 80! During this further mileage another 6 pints of oil had to be added to the engine, and at the conclusion of the test the tyres were pretty well due for replacement.
One matter completely baffles us. Insurance brokers cannot be unintelligent, for it takes intelligence, allied perhaps to a certain low cunning, to make oodles of money and the insurance business makes it all right—just look at the “marble halls” from which they issue policies and the liveried commissionaires who guard their portals. How then, as intelligent beings, can they demand high premiums to insure that “dangerous” car, the Jaguar E-type. I can only conclude that they have never seriously driven one. For no car could be safer, more docile, instil greater confidence, than this stupendously clever 150-m.p.h. Jaguar, that, is priced so modestly.—W.B
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