Thinking of Buying a Jaguar E-Type (XKE) – Then Why Not Hire One First?

If you are planning to buy a Jaguar E-Type then you need to make absolutely sure you are buying the right model for your needs, before you even take one for a test drive. The owner is probably only going to let you out for a short test run of about 10 to 15 minutes. This may be long enough for you to decide if the car is in good enough condition to buy and that everything is working. But it isn’t long enough for you to decide whether it is the right model E-type for you or whether you can live with it or not. And if you are planning to spend over twenty thousand Pounds on a car then you are in it for the long term. The best thing to do is hire a car of the model that you are planning to buy, to see if you ‘really’ like it and can live with it.

First you need to understand the differences between the various E-Type models and then some of the practicalities of owning and driving one. Having decided on the right car for you, you need to find one of that model and hire it for a day or weekend.

Series 1

The E-Type was launched in 1961 and the early models are now retrospectively referred to as Series 1. This is the version with the faired in headlamps, slim bumpers, small rear lights and the smoothest shape. Purists think it is the best looking car and it is generally the most expensive. It was fitted with the 3.8 litre XK engine with triple SU carburettors which is regarded as better than the later 4.2 version as it has a shorter stroke and is freer revving.

But there are a few downsides to the car.

It is fitted with the infamous Moss gearbox with no synchromesh on 1st gear. The brake servo was very weak and the disk brakes pads are only about 1 inch square, making it under braked for its power. The glass covered headlamps, while looking great, were pre-halogen and let out very little light. The leather seats were very basic bucket ones, with no option to recline and not very comfortable. The early cars tended to overheat. Basically it was a beautiful 150 mph car, that wouldn’t stop, was uncomfortable and not a good idea to drive in the dark.

In 1964 The engine was changed to 4.2 litres giving it more power but not quite so free revving. The Moss box was replaced with a much better Jaguar built gearbox and better, more comfortable, reclining seats were installed.

The car was available in Roadster (convertible), Coupe and from 1966, Coupe 2+2 options. An automatic box was offered as an option on the Coupe 2+2 models for the US market.

Series 2

In 1968 there were major revisions to the bodywork and the interior. The headlamp covers had been removed and the lights moved forward to illuminate the road much better. A larger rear lamp cluster replaced the slim Series 1 version. The 4.2 litre engine, better gearbox and better seats remained, and a better servo and bigger brakes were installed. There were revisions to the interior for safety reasons with the toggle switches replaced by rocker switches, a collapsible steering column was installed and power steering was available as an optional extra. A larger bonnet air intake and pair of electric radiator fans cured the overheating problems.

There were major changes to the engines for the US market because of the new emission control laws. US cars had twin Strombergs and a re-designed inlet manifold which between them sapped the engine power by about 30% when compared to the 3.8 engine.

The UK and European specification cars retained the triple SUs, and the better brakes, better gearbox and improved seating made the car very driveable.

Series 1½

Some of the external and internal changes were introduced progressively during 1967 and 1968 before the Series 2 was officially launched and these cars are referred to as Series 1½ .

Series 3

In 1971 the Series 3 was launched with an all new, all alloy V12 5.3 litre engine. This met the US emission control rules and raised the power back to where it had started with the original 3.8 litre engine and its 12 cylinders made for turbine smooth acceleration. The engine was wider than the XK and the car was given wider wheels and tyres, so the whole car grew wider, with flared wheel arches giving it a lower, fatter stance.

Only two options were now available, the roadster and the Coupe 2+2 which were both built on the lengthened floor pan needed for the 2+2. The extra weight of the car and wider tyres meant that power steering was necessary and no longer an option.

Theoretically this is the ultimate version of the E-type but again there are a few drawbacks. The power steering became vague and lacked feel and the whole car felt less like an out and out sports car and more like a soft Grand Tourer. The 5.3 litre V12 consumed petrol at between 12 to 14 miles per Imperial gallon, but this was before the first oil shock of the early 1970s.

What are the practicalities of the different models?

The roadster is without doubt a fantastic sports car in whichever guise, although the S3 gives a softer, more grand tourer drive. All are very light on luggage space.

The coupe is a very civilised car, comfortable, with relatively little wind noise and can carry more than enough luggage for touring. The coupe 2+2 gives even more luggage space if the small rear seats aren’t used and are moved forward. All coupes suffer a little from heat bleeding through from the engine compartment into the car. Few were fitted with air conditioning so they may not be comfortable in a Mediterranean climate or in the Southern states of the US.

Despite appearance, these cars are relatively small inside with narrow cockpits. If you weigh more than 18 stone (250 lbs, 115 kilos) you are unlikely to fit. If you are over 6′ 2″ tall then you need to opt for one of the 2+2 models or a S3 roadster as these have the longer wheelbase.

Which is the best one to buy all depends on personal taste?

If you prefer the aesthetics of the covered headlamps, can put up with a bad gearbox, poor brakes and occasional overheating and have deep pockets, then pick a S1.

If you are tall or well built and aren’t worried about the cost of fuel then a S3 roadster should fit the bill.

My own personal favourite is the S2. I have owned three of these, a coupe, a 2+2 and a roadster which is currently available for rent from The Open Road in the UK. An excellent car, comfortable with good brakes and if you travel light, ideal for touring.

If your budget is tight the 2+2s are the least desirable version and therefore the cheapest and an ideal starter into the joys of Jaguar E-Type ownership.

Having picked the right E-Type, you then need to hire one for a day, or even better a weekend’s touring. A weekend away may cost you anywhere from £500 to £1,000 for the car hire, a good hotel, a nice meal and all your petrol. But it is well worth it for two reasons:

1) You have a great weekend away

2) Better to spend £1,000 or so and decide you can’t live with an E-Type, than find this out after you have parted with £20,000, £30,000 or more of your hard earned cash.

Once you have decided which model E-Type fits your needs, have a look through the Marques page on Classic Car Hire World. Select Jaguar and then click on the E-Type and this will show you a list of over 40 E-Types of various models that are available for hire around the world.

Treat yourself and hire the right car for a day or so. At best it will make sure you buy the right one, at worst it may cure you of the Jaguar E-Type bug – but probably not!

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