Sir William Lyons’ slogan of “Grace, Space and Pace” is perhaps most accurately exhibited through the E-type. Arguably the most well-recognized sports car of its era, the E-type has a perfect combination of curvaceous lines and performance. This winning combination helped establish it as an instant hit, and its popularity has only grown stronger.
The initially famous 3.8-liter model lacked footwell space, had uncomfortable seats, massive brake fade, and an engine prone to overheating; nonetheless, it was loved. Over 10 years and numerous improvements later, Jaguar launched its E-type V12 engine, which provides lots of torque and horsepower. Now well-appointed, drivability benefited from power steering and power brakes. The result was a very fine and quite sophisticated grand-touring car that portrays pure elegance and class.
Per its Jaguar Heritage Trust Certificate, this car was manufactured on January 23, 1974, and would be delivered to the selling U.S. dealer, British Leyland of New York, in February. The first owner would be Janet Watson on September 14, 1974. At the time, Mrs. Watson’s son had just recently acquired his driver’s license, so she purchased this V12 Jaguar with the idea that the two of them could share it.
Like many young men who just acquired their licenses, Mrs. Watson’s son had the “need for speed” and found himself getting pulled over for racing and speeding more than they both had anticipated. Mrs. Watson decided to sell this Jaguar as a punishment, leading to the current owner acquiring it in December 1976.
After graduating from dental school, the current owner had purchased a 4-door Jaguar. But when this particular car came up for sale, he quickly sold his first Jag to acquire this one. Documentation includes a copy of the check he wrote to Mrs. Watson for $9,000 and a copy of its original title. When the current second owner acquired this Jaguar, it had just 5,305 miles on the odometer. Today, 47 years later, the odometer shows just 11,235 actual miles, as this Jaguar has been his prized possession and he has sparingly driven it.
An original and unmolested time capsule, this 1974 Jaguar E-type retains its original silver paint and black interior, which both present remarkably well. It has always been stored in a climate-controlled garage and maintained to a high standard; the original 272-horsepower, 5.3-liter V12 engine and optional 3-speed automatic transmission perform remarkably well and operate without issue. This Series III E-type features a number of factory options, which include center-locking chrome wire wheels, air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, Smiths instrumentation, and an AM/FM radio with cassette player. Purchased shortly after acquisition is a removable black hard top, which gives this Jaguar an additional impressive look.
|Vehicle:||1974 Jaguar E-Type Series III Convertible|
|Tune Up Cost:||$600|
|Chassis Number Location:||Stamped in metal plate riveted to engine compartment bulkhead, right side|
|Engine Number Location:||On same plate as chassis number. Also stamped in vee of engine at the rear|
|Club Info:||Jaguar Clubs of North America|
|Alternatives:||1970–72 Aston Martin DBS V8, 1977–79 Ferrari 308 GTS, 1961–71 Jaguar E-type Series I or II|
This car, Lot 35, sold for $95,200, including buyer’s premium, at Worldwide Auctioneers’ Auburn, IN, sale on April 29, 2023.
The concept of a car as a “time capsule” evokes a variety of reactions among collectors and enthusiasts, but fundamentally it runs contrary to the essence of the automobile as a moving object. If it’s not getting you down the road, it becomes something else entirely.
Is it precious metal that you hope will produce a nice return on investment? Perhaps it is an objet d’art? Or maybe it’s to be an accolade magnet for filling an empty trophy case in the garage. Regardless, the market for such vehicles has been hot of late.
A malaise-era event
Our subject car offers an opportunity for time travel back to the mid-1970s, when 11,235 miles would have been about normal for a second car that’s a couple of years old. While many refer to the 1970s as the “malaise era” in the history of the automobile, the V12 E-type offers a bright spot amid those overcast times.
Having owned and driven one of these several decades ago, I recollect concluding at the time that it was a great car. Or at least when it was running right, though that wasn’t often enough. There was an electronic control box that periodically did its part to reinforce the reputation of British cars, and it wasn’t cheap to replace.
With four carburetors under that oh-so-long bonnet, there were a lot of other parts to attend to as well. I remember feeling particularly industrious one weekend, and so I decided to clean and gap the spark plugs, one of those easy, feel-good automotive chores. Several hours later, I had resolved to spend future long Saturday afternoons doing almost anything else.
However, in between those episodes, the car was a joy. The power, the sound, the look! It is always an event to drive a V12 E-type.
Not a 6
I recently attended a large British car show and had the opportunity to chat with some V12 E-type owners. They were quick to mention the impressive design of the car. The consensus is that the V12 delivers plenty of smooth power and torque to match, and makes the Series III E-type a delight to drive. These V12 Jaguars may not be the sports cars that earlier 6-cylinder E-types are, but they make wonderful tourers.
However, one owner opined that the V12 is less reliable than its older 6-cylinder sibling. Diving deeper, I spoke with Robert Maynard, proprietor of RWM & Co. in Delta, BC, Canada, who has experience restoring and maintaining these cars. He was emphatic in recommending a change of carburetors from Strombergs to SUs, as it “makes a big difference.” David Gilmour of BMC Ltd. of Vancouver, BC, agrees and elaborated that the SUs are simpler, smoother-running and easier to tune, as well as providing better throttle response.
Maynard also mentioned that the Jaguar V12 is “an amazing engine if looked after properly.” Gilmour added that it is essential to do the basics, such as checking and renewing fluids. Since the V12 also runs at a high temperature, the cooling system needs to be maintained at peak performance. Many owners opt to add a high-velocity radiator fan and an aluminum radiator.
Value in use
This brings us back to our subject car. As noted, the dilemma for its new owner is whether to continue its career of little-used garage queen, keeping the mileage low to keep the value high. Actually driving and enjoying it on the road means acknowledging that those miles could become expensive.
But as the V12 E-type’s place in the Jaguar universe has evolved, this may not be as much of a concern. With increased appreciation of the Series III over the past decade have come increased values, albeit still trailing the early 6-cylinder models. They are, after all, quite different cars despite the shared family name and resemblance. Series III convertibles now start at about $70k, with the best cars selling in the $150k range, almost on par with the Series II E-types.
Opinions will differ on the desirability of the automatic transmission, but for greater comfort with less work in a touring car, the lack of a third pedal can be forgiven. Now that V12 E-types are 50-year-old cars, the transformation of the model from sports car to GT suits it better than ever. With time comes perspective, and nobody in the market for an SIII E-type today is going to expect the same ownership experience as one of the earlier models.
Given the provenance and condition of this example, it was well bought. Should its new owner choose to participate in a classic-car tour or two each year, while continuing to maintain this E-type as nicely as its previous two owners, it is likely to retain its value as a low-mileage example while following general market trends for the model. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers.)