As we launch into show season in South Florida, Jaguars are getting special attention. As the featured marque at the 26th Annual All British Car Show in Palm Beach to the increasing value seen at auctions, particularly E-types, it seemed fitting to have a special section devoted to our favorite models, the iconic E-Type and the stalwart XJS.
A story about the E-type/XKE – By George Hervert
When aeronautical engineer Malcolm Sayer pinned the body lines of Jaguar’s newest presentation to the sports car world no one knew how successful the design would be. Sir William Lyons gave his go ahead and the Jaguar E-type was born. With Mr. Sayer’s racing designs Jaguar had dominated the race tracks of Europe and especially LeMans. From 1954-58 C-type and D-types had racked up seven victories. Mr. Sayer simply brought his LeMans winning design to the street and in 1961 the E-type arrived.
Ah, but we have a small problem. The new race breed sports car was designed especially for the US market but very few Americans knew of LeMans or the Jaguar C-type or D-type. They did however know of the Jaguar XK120-140-150. The XK simply referring to the in-line 6 cylinder Hemi head dual overhead cam engine. Thus the new Jaguar race design street car that the world would know as the E-type would in the U.S. be called the XKE.
The new Jaguar cat debuted in the states at the New York Auto Show on 1 April 1961 from then to the last E-type of 1974. (Actually there were 5 black E-types sold as 1975 models) The car changed very little. Most folks can’t detect a 61 from a 74. That is what this article is going to cover. There are 3 different XKE styles that went to market. The first of course would be the Series I (61-67). Within that range is also 3 distinct models.
The first 500 cars are known as the side latch cars. That is the bonnet latches on either side of the car just in front of the cowl. You must get out of the car with a key to unlock the bonnet. These cars are very easy to identify because of the chrome latching mechanisms. You will very seldom see one because they are so rare and so expensive. The second model of the Series I’s are the welded louvre, flat floor cars. The very first upgrade of the car was to bring the bonnet latches into the cockpit. By the end of July 1961 that had been completed. However the factory still did not have the machinery to press the louvres directly into the bonnet. Also, the biggest complaint among the owners was lack of leg room. When the new louvre machine can in the factory made there next upgrade. The foot wells were dropped two and a haft inches the bulkhead behind the seats was con-caved and the center bonnet became one piece. This came to pass in Jun 1962. The next major change to the Series I occurred at the end of 1964. In my opinion this made the best driving E-type of the entire series. They put in more comfortable seats, engine size increased to 4.2 liters and a fully synchronized gear box was added and the cars weight stayed the same. The XKE stayed in this configuration until 1967.
Then Jaguar was forced by US Emission and Safety Standards to upgrade the car. Thus was born the Series II. It had bigger bumpers, a bigger mouth, tail lights were bigger and moved to below the bumper. The XK engine lost the three S U carburetors for a pair of smaller Stromburgs. Horsepower was reported the same, however performance was lowered. I believe Jaguar did not favor these changes so the factory dragged its feet as much as possible. Making a whole new group of E-type which are known as the Series I.5. These cars were produced in 1967 and 68 and are a true mixture of the Series I and Series II models.
In 1971 the Series III was introduced which are normally referred to as the V12 XKE’s. Although there were a few 6 cylinder XKE Series III’s sold in 1971. I believe the V12 was designed for the XJS but that car was running behind in development. So, the V12 was stuffed into the E-type as a bandage to bridge that gap. Remember this is just my opinion. Going back to the XKE/E-type name game. Most all car manufacturers will have the name of the model somewhere on the car. Chevrolet will have Bel Air or Malibu, Dodge with Charger Ext. Nowhere on the E-type does it say XKE, but on the steering wheel it does say E-type. Also, with the addition of the V12 to the Series III the XK engine was no longer with the car.
The Jaguar XJS – By Richard Hartwell
The Jaguar XJS had a 21 year reign and remains one of the most iconic, beautiful English cars ever built. Here’s a view from one XJS owner, “The XJS is like little else on the road. When you are sitting in the car, you feel like you are driving a Rolls Royce or a Bentley. It’s low, wide stance oozes sportiness, class and style. I love my XJS!”
Originally styled by Jaguar’s pioneering aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer, the Jaguar XJ-S (later XJS) is a front engine rear wheel drive 2+2 luxury grand tourer. It was manufactured and marketed by Jaguar from 1975 to 1996, in coupe, fixed profile and full convertible body styles. There were three distinct iterations, with a final production total of 115,413 over 20 years and seven months. In its final iteration (1991-1996), the 2+2 was manufactured under Jaguar’s ownership by Ford, who introduced numerous modifications. - and eliminated the hyphen in the name, marketing Jaguar’s longest running model simply as the XJS.
The XJ-S was launched on September 10, 1975 (closely behind the demise of the XKE). The development, directed by William Haynes had begun in the late 1960’s as project XJ27, with an initial shape set by Malcolm Sayer, but after his death in 1970 it was completed by the in-house Jaguar design team, headed by Doug Thorpe. Power came from the Jaguar V12 engine with a choice of a manual or automatic transmission, but the manual was soon dropped as they were left over from V12 E-type production. V12 automobiles were unusual at the time; Italian luxury sports car makers Lamborghini and Ferrari produced such models. The specification of the XJ-S compared well with both Italian cars; it was able to accelerate to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds and had a top speed of 143 mph.
In racing, the XJ was a winner. For example, in 1977, the “Group 44” racing team had a very successful season in Trans Am with a race car based on the actual production XJ-S chassis and running gear. The team won the series’ 1977 drivers’ championship cup for Bob Tullius but missed winning the manufacturer’s title by two points.
Over the many years of its successful run, the XJS continued to evolve, ultimately in its final form under the new ownership. The rear side windows appears enlarged despite having identical glass apertures as the earlier cars, and buttresses remained, minimized by the new side window trim. In 1995, the final specification changes were made and the car was referred to as the Celebration model to celebrate the 60th year of the Jaguar company. Celebration cars feature diamond turned wheels, Jaguar embossed seats and a wooden steering wheel. By the way, the XJS is a great bargain right now – Jaguar power and styling combined with a great ride!