The rear seats won't accommodate anyone bigger than munchkins from "The Wizard of Oz"
What was an E-type owner to do when little Nigel and Fiona came along? Grace, pace, and space was how the marketing blokes in Coventry described the new "family" E-type 2+2 coupe that bowed as a 1966 model.
It was trotted out in an attempt to broaden the E-type's market beyond confirmed bachelors and those well-heeled enough to afford multiple cars. It worked-5,598 were sold in two years.
The difference in appearance between a two-seater coupe and a 2+2 is most pronounced when viewing the cars together. While the bonnet was the same for all three body styles, no panels except for the hatch were shared from there on back. The windshield was a totally different item, higher and less raked than the two-seater coupe. Jaguar stretched the wheelbase from 96 inches to 105, most apparent through the longer doors.
Aside from the ungainly Quasimodo roof line, the most immediate giveaway is a chrome spear along the top of the door. None of these things is an improvement. As a small plus, at least in the first two years of production, the signature Series I glass-covered headlights are present.
A/C is a cool idea - that's all
Aside from the token rear seats (two-crush-two, as the joke goes), the view from inside the car is the same as any other Series I E-type. The aircraft-style dash is present, with the full complement of Smiths gauges and pre-safety era toggle switches. The front seats are the more comfortable type fitted to 4.2-liter cars. Dealer-installed a/c is not uncommon, especially on the automatic cars.
I've never driven in a Series I with working a/c; however, I would have to imagine that 40-year-old dealer a/c is not very effective and is bound to exacerbate already overtaxed cooling and electrical systems. Frankly, I'd rather have a 2+2 with a folding Webasto-type sunroof. They're common in Britain, but not often seen here. That's a shame, as the huge open area imparts an almost convertible feel.
The 2+2 had the same triple-carburetor, 4.2-liter, 265-bhp engine as the coupe and roadster. So, from a performance standpoint, the Series I 2+2 is not a disaster by any means. Road & Track got their autobox-equipped test car to 60 from a rest in a little over eight seconds and reported a top speed of about 130 mph. Fanatics for these cars maintain that the longer wheelbase makes for an improved ride.
Slushbox hunts like a dog
Unfortunately, the Borg-Warner three-speed automatic is both common and not good. It's slow to downshift and hunts like an Irish Setter on upshifts. Find a car with the full-synchro four-speed. The automatic should be considered a deal-breaker for any enthusiast. Otherwise the 2+2 is pleasant enough. Just don't kid yourself that the rear seats can handle anyone bigger than munchkins from "The Wizard of Oz."
The same things that apply to any other Series I 4.2-liter E-type apply here. Cooling is marginal, so plan on the usual upgrades: a re-cored, higher-capacity radiator and heavy-duty electric fans. Avoid cars with a slipping clutch or, better yet, find one with receipts for a recent clutch. A clutch job in an E-type is a big deal; that's to say, a bonnet-off and engine- and gearbox-out procedure that will no doubt include the usual, "While it's out, let's [fill in the blank]." Once the mechanical stuff is complete, the shop still has to make your bonnet fit the way it did when they began. Not a minor accomplishment in itself.
Watch out for tin anaconda
Like all E-types, rust is the major bugaboo. Floors, rockers, and wheel arches are all susceptible to the tin worm, or in the E-type's case, the tin anaconda. Second to rust is poorly repaired accident damage. A badly aligned subframe will result in a poor-fitting bonnet and front-end issues.
Production of 2+2s was fairly high and evolutionary changes were minor, so parts and prices really aren't an issue. Nevertheless, given 2+2 values, it doesn't pay to restore one, because the upside of the roadster or the coupe just isn't there.
The Series I 2+2 will always occupy the lower end of the E-type totem pole. However, next to, say, a brown Series II 2+2 with steel wheels and an automatic, a four-speed Series I in a good color like opalescent silver-blue has its merits.
It's not likely ever to be a first-tier collectible, but the rising tide of E-type values has elevated even 2+2 values. As recently as two or three years ago, around $12,000 would have bought a decent example of the "Hunchback of Coventry." The high teens to the low twenties now seems to be the money for one you'd want to own. And for that money, it's still a relatively sexy, semi-practical vintage GT.