Image of silver classic Jaguar E Type car in showroom

Jaguar E-Type (Series 1)

BUYER’S GUIDE

Jaguar E-type (Series 1) Review

Gorgeous styling, stirring performance and modern driving manners make Jaguar’s E-type a deserving classic icon…

What Is It?

With its combination of sexy, aerodynamic styling, monocoque construction, all-independent suspension, disc brakes, rack and pinion steering and proven 150mph performance there’s little wonder the Jaguar E-type’s arrival caused such a stir.

Against the relatively antiquated engineering of Ferrari and other exotica the E-type’s technical advantage was shocking enough, the fact it cost half as much only adding to the impact. The romance if it being driven through the night by Jaguar’s PR manager Bob Berry to arrive just minutes before its official unveiling by Sir William Lyons at the 1961 Geneva show only adds to the legend, this feat matched the following day by legendary test driver Norman Dewis when Lyons sent word the open top version should be dispatched as well.

A true ‘60s icon, the E-type swiftly proved its sporting credentials on the track and became one of the era’s definitive sportscars. Its popularity endures, the E-type still the classic everyone wants to own – something reflected in the values they reach today.

Corrosive Areas

Bonnet seams

Sills and floorpan

Rear arches

Checklist

  • E-type production is commonly broken down into three clearly defined ‘Series’, the Series 1 profiled here easily identified by its faired-in headlights and smaller rear lights that sit above the two-piece bumper
  • Production started in 1961 with the Fixed Head Coupe and Open Two Seater, a 2+2 coupe joining the range in 1966 with a longer wheelbase, taller windscreen and token rear seats
  • The final batch of cars built up to 1968 are often called Series 1.5s and feature the unfaired Series 2 headlights, rocker switches in place of the original toggles and a less powerful twin-carb fuelling
  • E-type technical signatures include fully independent suspension, disc brakes all round (inboard at the rear), rack and pinion steering and a monocoque body
  • Early Series 1 models are known as ‘flat floor’ models and can be identified by external latches on the lower rear edges of the distinctive clamshell bonnet – rarity means these cars are much more valuable, though the later recessed floor means improved legroom
  • The E-type was updated in 1964 with a bigger 4.2-litre version of Jaguar’s famous XK engine; power is the same but delivered lower in the rev range while increased torque helps flexibility
  • A new, all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox was introduced at the same time, though some later 3.8s also have it; this replaced the original Moss gearbox
  • The XK engine is well-proven and long-lasting with correct maintenance; check for the usual signs of head gasket failure like emulsified oil on the inside of the filler cap or contaminated coolant, rattling timing chains and persistent smoke or hesitancy once warmed through
  • Consistent oil pressure is a good sign, a rising temperature or fan not starting once warm a bad one
  • Worn diaphragms in the triple SU carburettors can result in lumpiness and requires expert help; retrofitted fuel injection can improve driveability
  • Check for smooth clutch engagement and bite – replacement is a big job requiring engine removal so can be costly
  • Inboard rear brakes can get contaminated by oil from the differential – servicing them is a big job so make sure the car pulls up cleanly
  • Structural corrosion is an ever-present concern, especially in floorpans, sills, rear arches and engine cradles – most cars will have had some degree of restoration by now but make sure this has been done properly done and documented by a known specialist
  • Jaguar supports the E-type with parts (up to and including replacement engine blocks) and archive information like verification of the original build date, colour and options

How Does It Drive?

As with any car of this vintage there are potentially big differences between the way one E-type drives against another according to the condition, especially when it comes down to the freshness of the steering and suspension components. But once you’ve squeezed yourself through the narrow door aperture and threaded your legs into the long footwell the pleasure of driving a good one will be obvious immediately.

True, the seating position can feel oddly high on over-stuffed seats, earlier cars had lower buckets while specialists have various tricks for improving things further. But apart from that an E-type feels incredibly modern to drive. The rack and pinion steering having some weight to it but fantastically responsive while the ride quality is a real stand-out feature.

The engine is utterly glorious too, with that characteristically creamy response from low revs, a strong mid-range and thrilling six-cylinder howl. That mythical 150mph top speed is likely out of reach without a few tweaks (as Jaguar did for press cars back in the day) but performance still feels strong in standard tune, while the balanced handling and small on-road footprint mean it’s a delight on traditional lanes and faster, more open roads alike.

What’s Good?

The Series 1 is arguably the best looking of all E-types, though arguments will rage about whether the coupe or roadster is the more desirable. The later 2+2 is more practical but looks a little ungainly in comparison.

Other than that, it’s all good, and an E-type will always turn heads and inspire misty-eyed nostalgia in those who remember its ‘60s glory days. The forward-thinking engineering also means it feels a lot modern to drive against most contemporaries, and much more usable for that whether it be for Sunday morning blasts or summer road trips. From both Jaguar and the huge number of well-informed specialists there’s also a confidence-inspiring range of support, whether you’re going for a full restoration or just need to keep it running sweetly.

None of this comes cheaply but the enduring popularity means good examples will always be in demand and prove a solid investment, even if the opportunity to make a significant return has probably long-since passed.

What’s Bad?

With desirability comes the usual double-edged sword of dodgy cars, bodged restorations or overpriced ‘projects’ ready to snare the unwary. And, like any car of this era, the cost of sorting out the structural corrosion that can be hidden by the monocoque can quickly spiral, the values meaning even a ropey car will be expensive to buy and even more costly to bring up to standard.

History and provenance are highly valued at this level, but this should also be matched with documented evidence of any restoration work that’s been done over the years. Good cars will carry a premium but should be known among the community so take your time, ask around and make sure you do your research and consult an expert before parting with your money.

In terms of driveability the only real weakness on the E-type is the early Moss gearbox, which some consider difficult to use given its lack of a synchronised first gear and famously fussy shift. The 4.2s are easier, while sympathetic modern upgrades to improve driveability (up to and including five-speed transmissions) and full ‘restomod’ builds are not unusual.

Which Model To Choose?

Purists and collectors will get very excited about the early ‘flat floor’ models for their rarity but, for most buyers seeking a usable car at a relatively reasonable price, there’s little return on the considerable extra investment beyond bragging rights. The later 4.2-litre cars are considered easier to drive and live with, and have traditionally been a little more affordable to buy, so offer a solid route into E-type ownership.

Between the early cars and these the ‘regular’ 3.8-litre is, perhaps, something of a sweet spot, though. If less flexible, the engine may feel a little more responsive and lively, and while the Moss gearbox can be challenging, mastering its quirks can be rewarding if you apply yourself to it.

Both 3.8 and 4.2 will have their fans so much will be decided according to taste, price and availability, the main choice being between the Fixed Head Coupe and the Open Two-Seater bodies. This will come down to personal preference but as a (relatively) sensibly priced, usable all-rounder a 4.2 coupe strikes a good balance.

Specifications: Jaguar E-type (Series 1) 4.2 Fixed Head Coupe

 

Engine

4.2-litre six-cylinder, petrol

Power

265PS (195kW) @ 5400rpm

Torque

384Nm (283 lb ft) @ 4,000rpm

Transmission

Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

c. 1,150kg

0-62mph

7.3 seconds

Top speed

c. 150mph

Production dates

1961-1968

Get an online quote now
Get an online quote in minutes or call us
Monday to Friday from 09:00 - 19:00
Saturday from 09:00 - 14:00
Sunday from 10:00 - 14:00
or Arrange a call back.

Get an Online Quote Now

Arrange a Call Back