Why you’d want a Jaguar E-type Series 1, S1.5 or S2
Values of E-type Jaguars have been all over the place in recent years, as early cars became hyped beyond belief and started to pull all of the other models up with them.
The market has now cooled – some people inevitably had their fingers burned financially – but the good news is that E-types are brilliant fun to drive and, well sorted, can be reliable and inexpensive classics to run.
They were built down to a price by sharing components with saloon models and, with a very active spares scene today, virtually all parts are available. Most at very reasonable prices. Specialists are working to improve poor-quality pattern parts and availability is better than ever.
Restoration and body repairs are expensive – E-types were hand-finished when they were new, and a part from one car won’t necessarily fit the next one off the production line – so be very wary about purchasing a project unless you are happy to do much of the work yourself, or you can negotiate a good price.
Stupid sums have been paid for some restoration projects: they should only command a premium if they are exceptionally rare examples, and exceptionally original.
Cars run into the ground 30 years ago after 30 years of hard use and numerous modifications and bodges are simply not worth more just because they’ve been standing in a barn or garage untouched for three decades.
Modifications and upgrades are common – some may enhance usability, but many can negatively affect values, so make sure you know the original specification and can assess what has been altered.
Fashions change: in the 1980s, several replica ‘flat floor’ cars were created because few people knew when the dropped floors began. Now, such fakes have to be reversed.
Early cars have been much prized for their rarity value, but in reality the changes that Jaguar introduced were all designed to improve comfort, usability and practicality, so in many ways the later the car, the more pleasure it will give in regular use.
There’s a lot of snobbery about covered headlights, and about 2+2s not looking as good – but to the average man in the street, an E-type is an E-type, and from behind the wheel, a 2+2 Series 2 is the most comfortable and practical E-type of all.
Very early roadsters will probably always command the highest prices, but you can enjoy owning and driving an E-type on a far more modest budget.
Images: James Mann
Jaguar E-type S1, S1.5 & S2: what to look for
See above for trouble spots
The twin-cam straight-six engine can stand hard use (and uprating), but needs frequent oil changes and top-ups. Check for leaks, especially from the rear crank seal (an engine-out job); look for overheating or a blown head gasket; listen for rattly timing gear, tapping from worn cams or knocking from a worn bottom end.
Triple SU carbs are a perfect match to the ‘six’. They are cheap to rebuild but a manifold is costly to convert US-spec Strombergs: Webers can be cheaper.
Suspension and brakes
Rusty subframe and brake discs, worn hubs and UJs, failed dampers, seized handbrake and tired bushes all spoil the rear end; US diff ratios are low.
Front suspension wears at balljoints, but is adjustable. Brakes are effective and inexpensive on 4.2s; 3.8s are more complex but strong when set up right.
Seats were improved on 4.2s from the 3.8, which some find uncomfortable. MX-5 seats can be fitted – ensure the originals are still with the car.
Jaguar E-type S1, S1.5 & S2: on the road
All E-types – even a 2+2 auto – are fast cars by any standards, and should feel taut and lively on the road.
Contrary to popular misconception, if they feel skittish or wallowy they don’t necessarily need modification, they just need setting up properly and/or the worn components replaced, none of which are expensive.
Once you’ve found a car with a good bodyshell, check for originality of both body and mechanical parts. Much is interchangeable (check for matching numbers) and upgrades have long been popular. Unless you’re going racing, there’s no need to upgrade the engine: if it’s been done, check that flexibility and fuel economy have not been sacrificed.
The cooling system should also be adequate – look for signs of overheating or coolant/oil mixing that may indicate head-gasket issues. If in doubt, get it inspected. A full engine rebuild is around £6k.
Five-speed gearbox conversions are popular: check that the ratios all work and are not worn out. Getrags are hard to rebuild; Tremecs are usually new, but adaptation to the XK engine can be suspect.
Original ’boxes are fine if properly rebuilt: the Moss (on 3.8s) has no synchro on first and is a slow change; Jaguar’s all-synchro unit is stronger. The Borg-Warner Model 8 auto in some 2+2s is clunky – if it’s smooth, it’s worn!
Fitting a higher-ratio differential is one alternative to a five-speed ’box for relaxed cruising: check the tabs on the diff unit for the ratio and an indication of whether a limited-slip unit is fitted.
Jaguar E-type S1, S1.5 & S2 price guide
S1 'outside latch'
- Show: £300k
- Average: £200k
- Project: £60k
S1 fhc roadster
- Show: £110-140k
- Average: £65-70k
- Project: £25-35k
- Show: £65-95k
- Average: £35-60k
- Project: £12-20k
Jaguar E-type S1, S1.5 & S2 history
1961 Mar E-type launched at Geneva as 3.8 roadster and fixed-head coupé Oct Internal bonnet locking replaces outside locks
1962 Feb Lowered floors replace flat floor
1964 Oct 4.2 replaces 3.8: more torque, better brakes and seats, alternator replaces dynamo, Jaguar ’box replaces Moss, black vinyl dash
1966 Mar 2+2 added, optional three-speed Borg-Warner Model 8 auto, optional air-con
1967 Open headlights (originally for US market) standardised; US cars get twin Stromberg carbs
1968 Oct S2: bigger front and rear lights, larger grille, better seats, uprated cooling, chrome steel wheels optional, 2+2 ’screen moved forward
1970 US spec stifled to 171bhp (net)
1971 Mar S3: all V12 (bar a few prototypes), roadster and 2+2 only, both on 2+2 wheelbase
The owner’s view
“Six years ago I’d never owned a classic car and wasn’t in any clubs,” says Peter Gerstrom, “but I decided to buy an E-type because I’d loved the looks as a teenager.
“I had no idea of values or models, but I wanted the faired-in headlights, I liked red and it had to have a tan interior. This car was for sale at a dealer in Lichfield, so I hired an inspector to check it over. He recommended a few minor jobs, most of which were done, and
I bought it.
“I was incredibly lucky, it’s been a great car – with one exception: a big-end bearing failed a few months after buying it, but the dealer sorted that out under warranty.
“Since buying it, I’ve done 20,000 miles in the car: we’ve been to Patagonia, Australia, Poland, Spain, Greece, the Alps and the Pyrenees. After each trip it’s overhauled, and it has been brilliant.”
CHEVROLET CORVETTE STING RAY
Chevrolet countered the E-type with a new chassis with IRS, dramatic looks and seriously powerful V8 engines.
Sold 1962-’67 • No. built 117,964 • Price now £30-100,000
MERCEDES ‘PAGODA’ SL
Sophisticated and (arguably) a little effete, the SL was an effective sports touring car: not as fast as an E, but fine handling, comfortable and superbly built.
Sold 1963-’71 • No. built 48,912 • Price now £35-100,000
Jaguar E-type S1, S1.5 & S2: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
A good Jaguar E-type is sensational to look at and an absolute joy to drive – and doesn’t have to be an expensive car to own. Buying a solid example, rather than having to spend a fortune turning a bad car into a good one, is the key.
All E-types are a pleasure to own, so don’t get too hung up on specification: pick the model that best fits your budget.
Voluptuous looks with practical usability. Spares supply and specialist back-up is excellent, with a wide choice of models and plenty of upgrades
Not for you if you don’t like being the centre of attention wherever you go
Jaguar E-type S1, S1.5 & S2 specifications
- Sold/number built 1961-’71/57,253
- Construction steel monocoque with tubular front structure Engine iron-block, alloy-head, dohc 3781/4235cc ‘six’, with triple SU or twin Stromberg carbs
- Max power 246bhp @ 5500rpm (US SII) to 265bhp @ 5400rpm
- Max torque 260lb ft @ 4000rpm (3.8) to 283lb ft @ 4000rpm
- Transmission four-speed manual or (2+2 only) three-speed auto, RWD
- Suspension independent, at front by double wishbones, torsion bars, telescopic dampers rear twin coil spring/damper units, lower wishbones, radius arms; anti-roll bar f/r
- Steering rack and pinion
- Brakes 11in (279mm) front, 10in (254mm) rear discs, with servo
- Length 14ft 71/4in-15ft 43/4in (4450-4693mm)
- Width 5ft 5in (1650mm)
- Height 3ft 11in-4ft 21/2in (1194-1283mm)
- Wheelbase 8ft-8ft 9in (2438-2667mm)
- Weight 2688-3192lb (1197-1422kg)
- 0-60mph 8.9-6.9 secs
- Top speed 137-150mph
- Mpg 18-22
- Price new £1967-2427 (roadster-2+2, 1967)