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Motoring: Jaguar XKE (E-Type) - 1965

The Jaguar E-Type is generally viewed as one of the most exciting cars ever made. In its day it was extremely fast - it had a top speed of 150mph, offered killer styling which still turns heads, featured advanced technology and held its own with high dollar exotics, yet the price was reasonable. Many say that no car before or since can equal the E-Type. Those who make the claim rarely get an argument because in automobile enthusiast's circles, Jaguar's E-Type rules. The most special of Coventry cats possessed a flair, speed, charisma and soul that we may never see again.

Development of the car that was to become the E-Type actually started as a race car program. As the protoypes were built and tested, circumstances and the racing world changed and the project gradually became a road car. A prototype (known as the E2A) were raced on a limited basis. A major milestone achieved was the development of an independent rear suspension, which was to become one of the many high points in the design of the Jaguar E-Type.

The Jaguar E-Type was officially introduced to the world in March 1961 in Geneva, Switzerland. The reaction was immediate and enthusiastic. The styling was partly responsible; the sensuous shape still gets rave reviews. The list of mechanical features was, for 1961, stunning: a double overhead cam engine, fully independent rear suspension and four wheel disc brakes (inboard at the rear no less, an exotic touch usually found only on race cars) proved the E-Type to be an advanced automobile. The price ($5,595 (?1,830) for the roadster) made the E-Type an exceptional bargain; the comparitively crude Corvette cost less but offerings from Aston Martin and Ferrari were considerably more. The future of the E-Type as an automotive classic was secured.

Jaguar's most revered sports car is also known as the "XKE". Jaguar purists insist that the proper term is "E-Type", and all of the non-marketing literature from the factory referred to their popular two seater (and 2+2) as such. "XKE" has found its way into popular culture however. It is also a fact that the factory used the term in their marketing, so they can't be too offended by its use. At various times, even the terms "XK-Engineering" and "XK-Elegence" was employed.

Series 1 (1961-1968)

The Series 1 was introduced in March 1961, using the triple SU carburetted 3.8 litre 6-cylinder Jaguar XK6 engine from the XK150S. The first 500 cars built had flat floors and external hood latches. These cars are rare and more valuable. After that, the floors were dished to provide more leg room and the twin hood latches moved to inside the car. The 3.8 litre engine was increased to 4.2 litres in late 1964.

All E-Types featured independent rear suspension with torsion bar front ends, and power-assisted disc brakes. Jaguar was the first auto manufacturer to equip cars with disc brakes as standard. The Series 1 can be recognised by glass covered headlights (up to 1967), small "mouth" opening at the front, signal lights and tail-lights above bumpers and exhaust tips under the license plate in the rear.

3.8 litre cars have leather-upholstered bucket seats, an aluminium-trimmed centre instrument panel and console (changed to vinyl and leather in 1963), and a 4-speed gearbox that lacks synchromesh for 1st gear ("Moss box"). 4.2 litre cars have more comfortable seats, improved brakes and electrical systems, and an all-synchromesh 4-speed gearbox. 4.2 litre cars also have a badge on the boot proclaiming "Jaguar 4.2 Litre E-type" (3.8 cars have a simple "Jaguar" badge). Optional extras included Chrome Wire wheels and a detachable hard top for the Open Two Seater.

A 2+2 version of the coupe was added in 1966. The 2+2 offered the option of an automatic transmission. The body is slightly longer and the roof angles are different. The roadster remained a strict two-seater.

There was a transitional series of cars built in 1967-68, unofficially called "Series 1?", which are externally similar to Series 1 cars. Because of the American pressure the new features were open headlights, different switches, and some de-tuning (with a downgrade of twin Zenith-Stromberg carbs from the original triple SU carbs) for US models. Some Series 1? cars also have twin cooling fans and adjustable seat backs. Series 2 features were gradually introduced into the Series 1, creating the unofficial Series 1? cars, but always with the Series 1 body style.

Series 2 (1969-1971)

Open headlights without glass covers, a wrap-around rear bumper, re-positioned and larger front indicators and taillights below the bumpers, better cooling aided by an enlarged "mouth" and twin electric fans, and uprated brakes are hallmarks of Series 2 cars. De-tuned in US, but still with triple SUs in the UK, the engine is easily identified visually by the change from smooth polished cam covers to a more industrial 'ribbed' appearance. Late Series 2 cars also had ribbed cam covers. The interior and dashboard were also redesigned, with flick switches being substituted for rocker switches that met U.S health and safety regulations. The dashboard switches also lost their symmetrical layout. New seats were fitted, which purists claim lacked the style of the originals but were certainly more comfortable. Air conditioning and power steering were available as factory options. It was available in FHC, OTS, and 2+2 versions.

Series 3 (1971-1974)

A new 5.3 L 12-cylinder Jaguar V12 engine was introduced, with uprated brakes and standard power steering. The short wheelbase FHC body style was discontinued and the V-12 was available only as a convertible and 2+2 coupe. The convertible used the longer-wheelbase 2+2 floorpan. It is easily identifiable by the aggressive, slatted front grill in place of the mouth of earlier cars, flared wheel arches and a badge on the rear that proclaims it to be a V12. There were also a very limited number of 4.2 litre six cylinder Series 3 E-Types built. These were featured in the initial sales literature. It is believed these are the rarest of all E-types of any remaining.

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