As summer finally arrived here in the UK what better way to celebrate than a trip out driving a Series 3 Jaguar E-Type V12.
This is our third drive in what Enzo Ferrari once described as ‘the most beautiful car ever made’ the previous two being a bright red Series 2 Coupe and same series 4.2 Convertible. We did originally think the latter was a Series 1½ car but thanks to feedback we received on YouTube, largely based on the evidence of the rear lights, it became clear this wasn’t the case and so thanks to everyone who pointed that out. Rest assured, before driving this car, I did lift the long slender front hinged bonnet to check and make sure all twelve cylinders were present and correct. They were.
When Jaguar launched the E-Type, a project that was initially given to the internal D-Type competition team, the plan was to salvage what they could of a discontinued race car to produce a Grand Tourer for the road. It is worth exploring that vision further because here was a car with a distinctive space frame front chassis combined uniquely with a monocoque rear tub brought straight across from the stripped out D-Type. Let’s face it, race car to cossetting GT is quite a journey and it is fair to say the earlier Series 1 and personally I think Series 2 cars as well, even on their 9” extended platforms in 2+2 Coupe form provide a very pure driving experience indeed. It seems this is where most support for this classic lays as well, the earlier the better with most money behind convertibles as opposed to coupes. Both the previous six cylinder cars we drove still rode very well on the road, but without doubt most fun could be had on twisting tarmac, particularly from the short wheelbase convertible.
Step forwards to the seventies and the run out version of Jaguar’s infamous sports car come coupe came with a benchmark 5.3litre V12 producing upwards of 240bhp and 300lbs/Ft torque, an engine that took the battle straight to Ferrari and Lamborghini. It can be argued the by now 1500kg long wheel base Jaguar E-Type V12, 200kg up from previous road going versions, came closest to being a genuine GT as well. Yes these cars were campaigned on track across the globe to good effect, but on the road there is no disguising the car’s raison d’être which is to tour. The mighty V12 engine hardly requires any pushing, in fact as highlighted on the video, it only seems to require one gear, fourth. I didn’t try it, obviously, but such is the range of the massive engine; first, second and third appear to be superfluous to requirement and quickly despatched before settling into a fast pace using only the largest cog in the box.
Now OK at nearly £1.40p per litre in 2013 the equally infamous fuel economy of the Jaguar E-Type V12 may make each journey feel like it should be your last, but the experience behind the wheel certainly helps justify that. The power steering which enables the front wheels to turn under the mass of the huge Jaguar power-plant balances lightness with purposefulness. The ignition key is no longer in the middle of the dash and instead below the steering column providing an almost laughable, these days anyway, level of vehicle security. It is also true the Jaguar E-Type V12’s flared front arches do stand out a mile when viewed from certain angles, although they are most prominent when lying on the floor alongside the car and thankfully appear the same as any other E-Type once sat inside.
The climb over the extremely wide sill is only marginally easier than earlier cars courtesy of the slightly wider door apertures and reassuringly some quirkiness remains inside. For instance the handbrake is positioned where reverse also wants to be and once installed the main feature is still sprawled out a mile in front of you, being the very long slatted bonnet. Pull away and the car feels largely the same as its older siblings, requiring little adjustment to modern day transport despite its era and unusual shape. All the primary controls are dead easy to operate, and incredibly even the foot pedals, sunk deep into one half of the narrow tub, are nicely spaced meaning you never miss the mark and can stop the car on a sixpence. I know this to be true because I did, once, on a late call to still go for a left turn I was just about to miss, the car simply stood on its nose before completing the manoeuvre without any fuss whatsoever.
Even at a ton and a half the Series 3 Jaguar E-Type V12 can still be hustled along with just a few impromptu seesaw actions on the steering wheel when navigating tighter bends at speed, one turn to stir the front, back straight again as the rear reacts before turning the wheel once more. Think early footage of Moss or Hawthorn drifting their cars around Goodwood whilst carrying what I can only imagine to be very large on-board cameras. In this situation I didn’t attempt one single turn of the wheel as the movement from the front to rear of this long narrow car seemed to require a slightly more cautious approach. I can appreciate though that this might well be nothing more than my inexperience driving this delicious big front engine and rear wheel drive car with some slack in its slender chassis.
To connect to the countryside on a beautiful day you only need to drive an E-Type one mile. Everywhere you stop people want to know more about the car including how long you’ve owned it, most surprised to learn of course it is available to hire. This car is after all an important part of our heritage, a stunning looking car whose looks were a by-product of achieving an efficient aerodynamic shape for the track rather than something to admire at a show. Testament indeed to the design office expression; if it looks right then it probably is right.
The Series 3 Jaguar E-Type V12 provides the Grand Tourer Jaguar always wanted this car to be and helps me for one better understand the journey from the far racier Series 1 and 2 cars through to the more laid back XJ-S, XJS and finally XK8. All of them cars that provide trademark grace, pace and just about enough space. Given the choice, earlier six cylinder E-Types get my vote and the fact 2+2 coupes offer the most likely entry point I would definitely recommend starting there. That said the Series 3 V12 is still a very fine car indeed to cruise around in, this one made even more special by being presented as it is in old English white.
How does this car make you feel?
In one word: Glorious
As a favourite meal: This is Beef Bourguignon with Dauphinoise Potatoes served at this time of year with Asparagous.
Anything Else: Jaguar wanted the E-Type to be a Grand Tourer and with the Series 3 car that’s what they got.
Key Ingredients: E-Type chassis, V12 engine 4 speed manual gearbox and old English white hue.
With thanks to Great Escape Classic Car Hire
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