Jaguar E-type Series 3 | Advice on buying, maintenance and more

Photograph Courtesy RM Sotheby's

A certain mystique surrounds the V12 engine, as its mere mention conjures up some of the world’s most storied brands and achievements. So why not wrap it in one of the most iconic shapes ever unleashed, the Jaguar E-type?

The purists might open with talk of unnecessary complications, questionable reliability and those government-mandated big bumpers. We’ll counter that these 1971-’74 Jaguars offer increased comfort and potentially lower prices than their predecessors. Plus, to most members of the public, an E-type is an E-type, no matter the year, engine or body style. 

The E-type, of course, started life in 1961 as a thoroughly modern machine powered by the brand’s iconic inline-six. Later that decade, Jaguar hoped to debut its new V12 engine–the first one that could be called mass-produced. But the brand ran into a small problem: no cars.

The original idea was for the V12 to power the 1968 XJ6 saloon but in May 1968 it was recorded at a Directors’ Meeting that the engine would not be ready for the launch of the XJ6 in September,” Jaguar Heritage Trust now reports. 

So Jaguar pivoted and altered its E-type for the V12: a new engine cradle, wider track and eggcrate grille. Fenders received small flares, with the line featuring both open and closed cars, all built on the longer 2+2 chassis.

Did the updates help or hurt demand? Well, in January 1974, Jaguar set a record for E-type production.–David S. Wallens

Why You Want One

  • Likely less expensive than a V12 Ferrari or Lamborghini yet still from an iconic brand.
  • Racing provenance, too: Bob Tullius’s Group 44 Inc. turned the V12-powered E-type into an SCCA national champion.
  • Compared to the earlier E-types, these later ones simply offer more comfort: longer wheelbase, larger doors and even an automatic transmission. And they’re still quick, accelerating from zero to 60 in less than 7 seconds.
  • Jaguar built more than 15,000 copies of the Series 3 E-type, so it’s common enough to be found today yet rare enough to still turn heads at a morning meetup.
  • Terrific club support thanks to the Jaguar Clubs of North America and other groups.
  • For years, the V12 cars represented the value buy, but are those days ending? Hagerty now lists a No. 1 value of $242,000 for a 1971 roadster and $148,000 for a same-year coupe.

Shopping Advice

Carl Heideman
Eclectic Motorworks

The six-cylinders are sort of sports cars, but the V12s are definitely touring cars: over-assisted steering, over-boosted brakes. Jaguar was moving away from sports cars and more toward luxury cars. I love driving them. 

The Series 3 is built on the 2+2 platform, so it has bigger doors that make it easier to get in and out of.

You’re embarrassed by being in a 2+2? Most people can’t tell the difference.

To me, they seem to be getting some appreciation because they’re more affordable.

A lot of people are afraid of them, so they don’t drive them much. The V12s need to be driven more often. If the V12s don’t get used regularly, they’re going to drive you nuts. 

It can be tricky to get a V12 engine sorted out, but start by changing the ignition system and removing some of the vacuum stuff. There were a lot of emission tricks that people used to pass that year’s emissions–like the vacuum retard. Remove it and go to a mechanical-advance distributor. Remove the air pump, too. 

Absolutely buy the nicest one you can because sorting a V12 is a lot of work. If you buy one that hasn’t been driven in a few years, budget a lot of time to sort it.

You can still get parts, but then it’s the same old parts quality problem. 

A ’71 with dual Strombergs is a really nice car. 

A well-sorted one is going to be fun. A non-sorted one will be a nightmare. 

If you want a/c and an automatic, you can get it. 

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frenchyd MegaDork
8/23/23 12:30 p.m.

The very affordable way to own any Jaguar is to DIY .  Avoid the dealer tax of 2x or even 3x normal costs.  Never buy parts from the dealer. First he won't have them and he will order it from the Jaguar specialty places. Moss Motors Welsch, etc.  I get a lot from Rock Auto.

 The dealer doesn't know anymore about the XKE  All of his trained mechanics have retired a long time ago.  
    Aftermarket shops charge the  same 2x-3x  or more than the dealer does because that's what people are willing to pay. 
 At least it's not the Ferrari 100x  ;-)

If a mechanic pulls out metric wrenches Run! The British taught us that 3 barley corns from the middle of the ear is 1 inch  and 12 of those make a foot. Jaguar fought  the French as long as it was British owned. Blame Ford for metric stuff. 

  The engine isn't  magic. It works exactly the same as any ICE.  Fuel - spark  -timing. Get those right it runs same as any engine.  
  The carbs are lawnmower simple.  Periodically ( 5-10 years) replace the rubber diaphragms.  Old men can do in 10 minutes.  Fiddle with the mixture/ linkage,  at your own peril. Once right? Rarely ever needs adjusting. Only  if starting from scratch should you pull out the manuals and learn how to make the right adjustments. 
      Engine ruined? Very hard to do. Impossibly strong!  Neglect is about all that will hurt it.
     However  It doesn't cost much for a good replacement.  $300-500 is the going rate. You'll need to swap the aluminum oil pan for the steel one from a sedan.  After 1974 Jaguar went to EFI   So manifolds will need swapping. The sedan and sports car are the same.  The engine from 1971-1978  is the same. After that the bellhousing pattern changed and if it's an automatic? It's a GM Turbo 400 with a Jaguar bolt  pattern .  Extremely durable. Every tranny shop can fix it.      After 1980 the compression went from 7.8-1  to 11.5 - 1  but no increase in power. 

    Don't try to do the rear brakes from under  the car.   Your hands or tools don't bend that way.  It takes a little over 45 minutes to drop the rear end. Then get it on a bench and it's easy pezy.  Buy the remote bleeder kit to make life simple.  
  Power Steering too sensitive?  Rob Beere makes a kit to deal with that. ( it's just a GM pump)   In fact Rob Beere Racing in England is your go to source for all the racy bits available. 
   I love those wire wheels.  Vintage Raced on them for decades without the need to do anything more than clean them  but they are easy to adjust.  Anything happens to them motor wheel settvice has them or if you want to change them, Dayton will make any size you want. 
Rust is Jaguars weakness but there is every new panel available in England. I Even heard of a guy here inAmerica who makes the same panels. ( makes sense most Jaguars came to America in the first place). 

frenchyd MegaDork
8/23/23 1:44 p.m.

Nothing has been said about Jaguars Beauty .  Enzo Ferrari said it was the most beautiful car ever made. The view over that long hood ( bonnet)  is pure sec.   The series 3 is a little more brute than beauty.  Still wonderful though.  
  Rubber bumper guards?   Yuk!!   But  only after 1973. So the 71-72 look a lot better. Of course you could remove those, store them safely away ••••••. I won't tell.  
    The stock engine is very much limited by its original purpose ( luxury Sedans) 

  The cam shaft is designed to get 4000+ pounds moving. Not a little light sports car. Tiny little.375 lift and barely enough duration  for anything to happen. Remember, designed for the Queen.  
    Crower and Isky will both grind more power into your camshafts.  As much as 100 hp.   But it still sits there with a smooth idle at 600rpm  part of the beauty of a V12. 

Webers don't add much if anything although they look sexy.   The manifold is too short and the top of the carbs are too close to the bonnet ( see I speak British)  

     Same with headers.  Real headers absolutely fill that engine compartment radiating 1300 degree temps cooking everything.  And might, might, maybe  get you a few percent more horsepower at 5000+ RPM. The stock manifolds weigh only 4 pounds each and all that tubing will be much heavier.  But dont be fooled,  it was the fast car in a lot of races. 

frenchyd MegaDork
8/24/23 7:08 p.m.

 There are a few wonderful bits that identify special series 3 

The first 50? Sets of Valve covers had the word  Jaguar cast right in them.    I've heard it took over 200 sets of castings To get 50 clean sets of letters out.   Even most of those had a lot of hand work.  Every set thereafter had a flat spot where the word Jaguar sat on a decal. 
      Jaguar also put the ignition module   originally in the Valley of death  where heat would cook it.  The ignition module  is a plastic case  that says Lucas over a regular GM ignition module  that cost $35 at Napa.   However Jaguar dealers would replace the whole module and charge as much as $ 1300.  for it.  
 Shortly afterwards Jaguar sent out  longer wording harness to mount it on the firewall.  
   Several Times when GM convinced Jaguar their module could deal with the heat, it was put back into the valley of death  and then removed away again. Sedans were worse regarding heat.    By the way , people tell me the  real GM module is better, longer lasting than the genetic replacements. 

frenchyd MegaDork
8/24/23 10:29 p.m.

Some of the early manual transmission had the Dana 44 rear end equipped with the 3.54 ratio. By 1973 I believe most had the 3.31 ratio since the V12 had so much more torque  than the earlier 6 cylinder did.  They all were equipped with the positraction or limited slip. 
   Being longer and slightly wider the series 3 were heavier than the series one or two.  But remarkably the 5.3 liter V112 was 30 pounds lighter than the earlier 4.2 six cylinder. ( in spite of a crankshaft that weighed over 78 pounds) 

     The early carburetor models were a last minute lash up when the promised fuel injection wasn't ready.  It suffers from a long route to the valves that in order to make the engine run smooth at low speed picked up heat  off the water jackets to lift the fuel up and over the valve covers. ( carbs were below the intake valves) 

  When prepared for racing Group 44 and Huffaker racing both came up with a rerouting that didn't pick up that heat.   Considerable power was raised by both firms.   Huffaker was able to get the SCCA to accept SU carburators   in leu of the smaller Strombergs that Group 44 used. Both groups acknowledged the Huffaker engine was more powerful. While Group 44 had notably better handling and braking. 

wspohn SuperDork
8/25/23 2:20 p.m.

I've never rely liked the series 3 - the windscreen rake angle looks wrong compared to the early cars and the rear of the car became rather bulbous looking - they seem to have lost the thread from the beautiful lines of the early cars.

Was the switch to a 2+2 chassis necessitated by the new V12 engine swap or just to standardize production?  Personally I think they should have never done the 2+2 at all - they were messing with perfection!

lagunamike New Reader
8/25/23 3:03 p.m.

My only advice about buying anything with a Jaguar V-12 is DON'T!!! sad sad

frenchyd MegaDork
8/25/23 8:21 p.m.

Clearly you've never been inside a V12?  That's too bad.  You would be impressed. As a racer I am.

  However if you rely on others to do your engine work, you are absolutely correct.  Those mechanics take one look and see it's a V12,  "Oh good, I can make both my mortgage payment and boat payment from this!"    I'll bet it's just the vacuum advance in the distributor. That's less than a 1/2 hour.  

frenchyd MegaDork
8/25/23 10:11 p.m.
wspohn said:

I've never rely liked the series 3 - the windscreen rake angle looks wrong compared to the early cars and the rear of the car became rather bulbous looking - they seem to have lost the thread from the beautiful lines of the early cars.

Was the switch to a 2+2 chassis necessitated by the new V12 engine swap or just to standardize production?  Personally I think they should have never done the 2+2 at all - they were messing with perfection!

I've fit a V12 in the earlier chassis. But when they went to the V12 they also made brake and suspension  changes,. Plus used wider wheels and tires.  Hence  the fender flairs.  
    Yes, going to the 2+2 chassis length  they tried to use up left over chassis. ( they didn't sell as many 2+2 as they'd planned ) remember  Jaguar was an extremely low volume  company.  What Ford or Chevy put out in a week. Jaguar couldn't match in a year. 
     With the exchange rate between the pound and dollar they could have record sales ( for them) in a year and still lose money.  
  Back to the early series 1 versus the series 3. Looks wise I absolutely  agree with you.  In fact the series 2 wasn't as good as the first series.

  I've raced that in-line Six and with that long stroke (4.17 ). I was tired of running out of revs at 5500rpm. Pushing it to 6,000 .  A couple of times I braved it up to   6500 rpm terrified the stock crank would break or a stock rod let go. 
   The V12  crank and rods more bullet proof  than anything I've ever seen in a lifetime of racing.   
  Besides with such a short stroke.          ( 2.756 ) it's like a small block Chevy st 6000rpm when the V12 is doing 9000 rpm  


frenchyd MegaDork
8/26/23 9:35 a.m.

At 5'9" I fit very well in the series one EType. 
 However taller ( longer waist)  would have difficulty fitting in.  If their legs managed to fit. Then their head might not  of if it was a roadster with the top down do it didn't matter, they might have to slouch to not have  the top of the windshield across their eye line. 
On the series 3 with the sloped windshield drivers could get back far enough so that wasn't a problem.  
      Early series 1 Jaguar XKE's had very uncomfortable seats.  Nice looking, sporty. But the back cut across the shoulder blades. 
   Later series 1's the seats improved and the most comfortable seats of all are on the series 3. 

frenchyd MegaDork
8/26/23 1:30 p.m.

Jaguar had both a 4 speed manual gearbox.  And an automatic. The auto was a Borg Warner which is a tough, durable, transmission. Shifts slow between gear which tends to heat up the ATF.  Parts are rather hard to come by. 
  The. Manual gear box is Jaguar's old 4 speed.   Group 44 found the manual gear box from the 2+2 had better intermediate gears.   
     There is a tendency to switch from the 4 speed to a 5 speed with 5th gear being an overdrive.  America has plenty of strong 5&6 speed transmissions. And those can be easily converted or you can buy a  kit for over $5000 and then have someone do the change for you. 
     The less expensive way is to use the 1978 or newer engine which has the locating dowels shared with the Chevy small block.   Buy a suitable transmission,  use the Chevy Bellhousing.  Make a simple adaptor. By transferring locating holes and holes to match the Chevy and Jaguar   Only the locating holes are critical.  The block & bellhousing holes are easily transferred.  
  Takes a couple of easy hours  to make. If you can drill a hole in aluminum you can do it. 

frenchyd MegaDork
8/26/23 5:04 p.m.

Never , never go to a Jaguar dealer for Parts.  For your XKE.  
 First they don't stock any.  So they will order from these sources and they will do their normal 3 times mark up. 
  Moss Motors.  Welsch Jaguars,  Bill Terry's Jaguars. ( my favorite place).  Rock Auto. 
    Don't hesitate to buy junkyard stuff.  Most cars are brought to the junkyards out of fear ( labor charges at dealerships assume your a recent lottery winner or a trust fund baby).  
not because they are actually junk.  That or buy rusty, not running Sedans  for mechanical parts. Typically they interchange.   

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