The purest early 3.8s fetch the most money, but this car offered the best of both worlds

Chassis number: 1E2100
Engine number: 7E175478

The first significant upgrade of Jaguar’s sensational E-type sports car occurred in October 1964, with the launch of the 4.2-liter version. Along with the bigger, torquier engine came a more user-friendly gearbox with synchromesh on first gear, and a superior Lockheed brake servo.

Apart from 4.2 badging, the car’s external appearance was unchanged, but under the skin there were numerous detail improvements. These mainly concerned the cooling and electrical systems, the latter gaining an alternator and adopting the industry standard negative ground, while the interior boasted a matte-black dashboard and improved seating arrangements.

The top speed of about 150 mph remained unchanged, the main performance gain resulting from the larger engine being improved acceleration. Like its 3.8- liter forebear, the 4.2-liter E-type was built in roadster and coupe forms, and in 1966 gained an additional 2+2 coupe variant on a nine-inch longer wheelbase that was intended to extend the E-type’s appeal beyond the traditional sports-car-buying market.

In 1968, all three versions of the E-type underwent major revision to comply with U.S. safety and emissions legislation, emerging in Series II guise minus the original’s distinctive headlight covers. In addition, enlarged side and rear lights were adopted, while a thickened front bumper center section bridged a larger radiator intake. Interior changes included a collapsible steering column and rocker switches in place of the earlier toggles.

From late 1967, the E-type began to embody some of the aforementioned modifications, these interim cars coming to be known as the Series 1.5, although there was never a fixed specification for this unofficial model.

Manufactured in May 1968 during this transitional period, this desirable right-hand-drive Series 1.5 Roadster was supplied new via Mann. The accompanying JDHT certificate confirms that it retains matching chassis/engine numbers.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1968 Jaguar E-type Series 1.5 Roadster
Number Produced:17,320 4.2-liter cars
Original List Price:$5,372
Tune Up Cost:$200 (more if valve clearances need adjusting)
Chassis Number Location:Horizontal plate at base of scuttle on right side
Engine Number Location:Stamped on horizontal shelf above oil filter, on right of block
Club Info:Jaguar E-type Club

This car, lot 207, sold for $99,659, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival sale on September 16, 2011.

This is the most desirable of the Series 1s, as it still has the early looks (covered headlights, small mouth and slim, elegant taillights) with more torque, better brakes, cooling and electrics and the improved — though not so striking — dash and switches, which lost the patterned aluminum fascia of the earliest cars in favor of black vinyl.

This car is only 83 chassis numbers from the last right-hand-drive 4.2 Series I open two-seater, and a very few of the late cars are supposed to have had the open, raised headlights found on the Series II cars.

This roadster was in generally excellent condition, having been restored by various specialists over the past 25 years at a claimed cost of around $45,000 (bills on file).

Straight and clean

I had a chance to examine this car at the sale. It’s not in its original Primrose Yellow, although its chassis and engine numbers still match what’s on the Heritage Certificate. The body was straight, with good bonnet and door fit, the trunk lid a little less so. The sills were unrippled, and the floors good. It sat attractively on chrome wires, although painted wheels would have been more normal when it was new.

The paint was nice, the chrome all good and straight, and it was as clean under the floor and wheel arches as up top. Inside, the leather was good, the driver’s side a little more creased than the left seat base, with additional head restraints. However, the carpet fit wasn’t great, the driver’s sill trim was a little lumpy, and a modern stereo slightly spoiled the effect.

The car wasn’t quite perfect under the hood, but the motor was clean and tidy with no leaks. Most of the enamel finish was still on the exhaust manifolds (it doesn’t last long), in an engine bay that looked not far out of restoration. Only the radiator header tank stuck out, as it needed a lick of paint.

The car had 35,459 miles recorded, although, of course, at this age — and especially after full restoration — mileage is irrelevant. So this appeared to be a straight, tidy and very good no-stories car, which I rated a condition 2, maybe a 2-plus.

A good buy

Although the general consensus is that, after an initial slight rise at the end of 2010, E-type prices have dropped back before even the end of their 50th anniversary year, this car didn’t look like a greedy amount of money — especially with dealers asking $100k-plus for really nice Series I roadsters in original condition.

Although it wasn’t the original color, red always helps at retail time, and the interior was right (surely no one’s going to complain about the head restraints). In comparison, a slightly lower-quality, open-headlight 1970 Series II roadster (Lot 226)sold for $49,013 at the same sale.

There was no current MoT, but getting a fresh one should be a formality, and of course there is no road fund license to pay on a pre-’73 car. (Why owners are obsessed with saving less than £200 ($315) on a road fund license when spending almost £60,000 ($94,711) on a car has always been beyond me.)

I’d say this car was correctly or even slightly well bought. The purest early 3.8s fetch the most money, but this car offered the best of both worlds. As the E-type has been a yardstick of classic car values since it defined the breed — and the overall trend is that prices continue to gently rise — bagging a nice example of one of the most desirable variants made sense.

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams).

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