The SCM E-type has come and gone, but its brief time with us was memorable.
White with black leather, it was a 1967 4.2-liter Series I coupe. My co-conspirator in this latest adventure was Dave Stewart, of Aurora, OR, whom I met when he attended an SCM Insider's Seminar at Barrett-Jackson some years ago. (At that same event, Stewart bought a 1934 MG PA coupe, which he described as being, "Perhaps the most stylish and undriveable car on the planet.")
It had been a long time since I'd owned an E-type, and as I cruised up the Columbia Gorge highway on the way to the 750 Miglia, an Oregon Region Porsche club-organized tour, I felt myself slipping back in time. I was prepared to like our new E-type, but I wasn't prepared for just what a good GT car it was, even at 37 years old.
We have long regarded 1967 as the ultimate year for classic sports cars, as it was the last in which cars could be designed and constructed for sale in the U.S. without any regard to safety and smog regulations. Think of the pure lines of the Alfa Duetto, the SWB 911, the Corvette Sting Ray, or the covered-headlight Series 1 E-type.
Not only were these cars stylish, they were also extremely competent machines. At a time when most American cars still featured drum brakes and cornering attitudes that, to paraphrase pioneering automotive journalist Tom McCahill, resembled those of a rhinoceros on a wet clay bank, these sports cars could cruise at 100 mph for hours, handle corners with aplomb, and stop in what seemed like unbelievably short distances thanks to their four-wheel discs.
As the tour headed east and the roads became less populated, 90 mph seemed to be a speed the Jaguar liked very much. That is, until we were about 50 miles outside of Baker City, when the engine abruptly shut down and the car began to coast.


I've had cars die in worse situations. This time it was three in the afternoon, the sun was shining, I was on a wide shoulder, and there were plenty of tour entrants still coming along. After tilting the hood forward, I started pawing around, trying to figure out what had happened. The coil wire was fine, as was the hot lead to the distributor. But when I popped the distributor cap, I found bits of the rotor scattered everywhere. From the contact marks inside the cap, it appeared that the rotor, freshly installed for the event, had been improperly manufactured and destroyed itself by striking the cap.
About this time, two E-type roadsters, a Series I and a Series II, pulled up. The drivers told me that the aquamarine Series III V12 coupe on the event, driven by a Rick Martin, had suffered a "fail to proceed" problem as well, and had coasted to a halt in a little town about 30 miles back.
Hoping to scavenge a rotor, and even though the Series III corpse was still warm, I asked if the part from the V12 would fit my car. No luck.
Unbeknownst to one another, the other Mr. Martin and I contacted our insurance companies at about the same time, and both dispatched tow trucks from the same local tow company. This led to some confusion, as the first truck arrived and the driver said, "You're the Martin with the broken Jag, right? I thought this car was blue." I explained that I was just one of the Martins sitting with a broken E-type 50 miles from Baker City, and the one he was looking for was further on down the road.
I was able to reach Consolidated Autoworks of Oregon, in Portland, (503.246.8477), which had prepped both Jags for the tour. The owners, Ed and Barbara Grayson, were most helpful and immediately began scheming about getting parts to us, 300 miles away.
As you might expect, a few minutes after we hung up, Rick Martin called the Graysons to talk about his Jaguar issues. "We've just finished talking to Keith, and we've got a handle on the problems," they said. Which caused Rick to respond, "No, that's the other Martin's broken Jag. I need help with mine." Imagine: Two E-types, both owned by Martins, both broken down, both 50 miles outside of Baker City.
Without any further development of the Abbott and Costello routine, two rotors (a spare suddenly seemed like a good idea) were sent on the Greyhound bus from Portland, to arrive at 6:00 a.m. the next day. We retrieved our package in the morning, fished the broken rotor pieces out of the distributor, slapped on a new one with the help of Jaguar guru and tour participant Cameron Sheahan, and we were on our way.
Nearly 30 miles later, the new rotor failed as well. At that point we realized that both the bad rotors were from the same Asian manufacturer, likely from the same bad batch of parts. The good news was that in our attempts to get the car fixed we had also managed to source a rotor from a local NAPA store. This one had come from England and worked perfectly, so we completed the tour without incident. The other Martin Jag, sadly enough, had to be trucked back to Portland.


After 750 miles of hard driving, as the E-type cooled down in the
driveway with the remains of various insects proudly splattered across its nose, I reflected on just what a superb machine it is. Yes, primitive by modern standards, but wearing its years well. The coupe is extremely comfortable inside, even after long distances, and the pre-climate-control ventilation is decent even on hot days-as long as you're going more than 60 mph.
It was a brilliant, arresting, bar-raising car in its era, and remains a stylistic and engineering wonder today. In a couple of years, I'm sure I'd like to own another.
Another? Yes, as mechanically strong as this E-type was, it had some fit and finish issues that caused Dave and I to decide to let it go on down the road. As I reluctantly approach car-collecting maturity, and actually pay attention to some of the stuff we tell our readers all the time in SCM, I am learning that I really don't want to fight my way out of any cars that aren't within a strong detail and a tune-up of being very nice. Rather than try to make a #3 car into a #2, I'd rather just look for a better one.
So now it's time to move on to something else. And for some unknown and inexplicable reason, here's what's at the top of my list: A terrific early TR6 would work, and I've always wanted a ponton Mercedes (you know, the 1953-1962 ones that looked like they melted in the oven). If you've got one of the these, or something else that's interesting and really nice, drop me an e-mail at [email protected].
So many cars, so little time.

Comments are closed.