Series II E-types aren't quite the stylistic betrayal we've been led to believe. And they are an affordable way into the Jaguar mystique
If the Series I E-type is the prom queen, the Marcia Brady of E-types, then the Series II is Jan Brady-less glamorous and forever living in the shadow of her older sibling. A pity really, as the Series II is the most user-friendly of E-types.
The Jaguar E-type story is familiar to most gearheads, and it really is the stuff of legends. Descended from the all-conquering D-type, the 1961 all-night drive of the first production car to the Geneva Motor Show is forever etched into the consciousness of Jaguar lovers. Unfortunately, many of the same crowd feel that the E-type story, while stretching to 1975, ended as a practical matter with the 1967 model year.
True, post-1967 U.S. safety and emission laws did the E-type no favors; the beautiful covered headlights were ripped from the car like the epaulets of a disgraced soldier, and despite no documented case of anyone having been impaled, the lovely toggle switches on the dash center became non-descript rocker switches. Worse still, the potent triple two-inch SU carburetion became a double Zenith-Stromberg setup with a water-heated intake manifold that resulted in the loss of about 20 hp.
The final insult was the gaping maw of an air intake
And then there were the changes in styling. The 1968 Series I½ cars had a relatively attractive bonnet with a small air intake and a still-pretty (albeit uncovered) headlight treatment. It was found that the Series I½ headlight arrangement caused unacceptable shadows in the beam pattern, so the lights were moved forward and a new large chrome filler piece was added to the top of the surround-it was quite unattractive. Additionally, the front and rear bumpers were enlarged and the delicate above-the-bumper taillights were changed to a pair of ugly boxes that hung below the rear bumper. The final insult was the gaping maw of an air intake, which was about twice the size of the original Series I opening.
But while the car's appearance took a hit, several aspects of the E were markedly improved: The Series II sported the first really effective brakes on an E-type thanks to the switch from Lockheed two-pot to Girling three-pot units with increased pad area. Adwest power steering and air conditioning now became options, and the cooling system was uprated. Finally, a reclining mechanism and headrests were added to the seats. These items all made the E-type considerably easier to live with.
Performance, although down from the Series I, was still respectable. In a 1969 Road & Track comparison test between an E-type coupe, Mercedes 280SL, Porsche 911T, and Chevrolet Corvette 350/300, the Jag was the quickest 0-60 and in the quarter mile, posting times of eight seconds and 15.7 seconds, respectively.
SII 2+2 just doesn't work in any way
Testers praised the car's quietness and excellent ride while griping about the difficulty of exit and entry and poor ventilation. Rightfully so, as these are particularly difficult aspects of E-type ownership, especially with the coupe.
Series II E-type body styles were carryovers from the 4.2-liter Series I-the open two-seater, the fixed head coupe, and the 2+2 coupe. The Series II 2+2 coupe just doesn't work in any way, in spite of an effort to tidy it up by angling the windshield a bit more from the "upright" form of the first 1966 models. Most were ordered with automatics, making it a car to avoid, but it's certainly the cheapest way to get into an E-type.
Rust and badly repaired collision damage are the biggest issues with any E-type. From the firewall back, it's a stressed monocoque unit, so any bad repairs or rust will affect its integrity. Rust in the sills, rear wheelarches, and boot floor is common. Main floors are an issue too, with the stamped footwells being particularly adept at retaining moisture. From the firewall forward, the E-type has a square tube chassis that cradles the engine and front suspension, and it retains the huge bonnet. The prospect of damaged or rusted sub-frame tubes is frightening, so have an expert look over any prospective purchase.
E-types were heavily leaded at the factory, and door and bonnet fit should be good, although not up to Porsche or Mercedes standards. The sub-frame tubes should match the body color of the car. A flat black sub-frame on a red car virtually guarantees that you're looking at a car that started out in one of three unloved colors: Sable Brown, Willow Green, or Primrose Yellow. Sadly, the matching-numbers obsession has infected the E-type community. Check the engine and cylinder head numbers against those stamped on the large tag located just behind the air filter element housing.
Straightforward and cheap to maintain
The joy of any Jaguar E-type is that mechanically, they're mostly straightforward and cheap to maintain. There are no horrendously expensive bits, and nearly everything is being reproduced. Among the few really unpleasant jobs on an E-type is a clutch replacement or a rear brake or suspension rebuild. The clutch is a bonnet-off, engine-and-gearbox-out affair. The rear brakes are located inboard against the differential. Despite everything you've heard, a well-sorted E-type can be quite reliable. Modern ignition, a Bosch or Japanese-made alternator conversion, and a solid-state fuel pump make it even more so.
Of late, the market has been unkind to anything but the most desirable of any series of collector car. Series II E-types have become quite affordable again. Nice OTS (Open Two Seater) cars now trade in the low forties range and coupes in the low thirties. This is a tremendous bargain for a car that is still quite sexy and potent.
It's simply mind boggling to me that a Healey 3000 Mk III is a much more valuable car than a Series II E-type. The disparity in reputations for reliability is no doubt at work here. These cars will go up in value again, and I predict the gain will not just be making up value that has been lost over the last year. Buy that BRG and tan Series II convertible now. It's unlikely you'll be sorry.