The E-Type was an absolute sensation when it first was launched in 1961 and to this day remains one of the all time great cars and probably Jaguars best known sports car.
The absolute epitome of a classic car the E-Type shook the automotive world of the early ’60s in every way with its style and performance. 50 years later the E-Type is still considered an absolute style and design icon which says a great deal for the drawing boards at Jaguar.
The construction of the car was somewhat different to all other Jaguars insofar as the bodyshell stops at the engine bulkhead and the engine, front suspension and bonnet are all mounted on a tubular frame structure. Earlier Jaguar XKs had a full ladder type chassis and the C-Type and D-Type race cars had a more extensive tubular chassis supporting the bodywork albeit that there were chassis mountings on the front bulkhead.
This structure for practical purposes means that there are 2 distinct sections as far as the bodywork is concerned. The main bodyshell is a conventional monocoque type structure of hand finished welded panels with extensive lead loading to create the smooth lines and then there are the engine and picture frames which together make up the frontal structure.
The actual E-Type bodyshell was more typical of Jaguar construction of the time and was created from pressed steel panels with a large element of hand finishing and fettling to create the final required shape. The pressed steel work is not that accurate, certainly when compared to today’s standards, and there are a number of external seams to the bodyshell and bonnet that have to be filled or disguised to create the finished vehicle. Lead loading was the conventional approach to resolving a variety of bodyshell issues on a steel bodied car but it is not without its own inherent problems. Nowadays there are high specification fillers which are probably the better option but it is clearly down to the individuals choice when repairing these cars.
When the bare steel bodyshell was jigged and welded at the Jaguar factory all the relevant external seams were lead loaded which effectively means they were soldered over. This process requires the use of an acidic flux to clean the steel and the relevant area is then “tinned” whereby a layer of solder is attached to the steel surface. This process requires heating the steel to the melting point of the solder or tin and then building up the tin to the required thickness to effect the repair. Where the “tinning” process is correctly achieved all is well but elsewhere acidic flux can remain under or within the repair. Once the lead loading was complete the required shape was formed by wiping the hot solder or by filing and sanding the cooled material with obvious health implications given the constituents of the materials involved.
What this process means in practice is that there are complex, relatively poorly formed steel joints that have been intensively heated and coated with an acid based flux which is not necessarily fully cleaned. All in all a perfect place for rust to start and get a grip of such a beautiful bodyshell.
There are lead loaded seams to the scuttle panel, bonnet, rear wings and sills and anywhere where damage may have occurred at the factory. E-Type bodyshells were not given any level of rust preventative apart from the external painting process so all the internal surfaces really were just waiting to rust away and only needed a damp climate to start this process.
Repairing an E-Type is a relatively straight forward process and all the panels are readily available with the exception, perhaps, of the bulkhead itself and some roof panels. Bonnets, which are in effect a third of the car, are readily available but will require a lengthy fitting process to align correctly.
When looking at an E-Type then typical areas for corrosion are floor pans, sills, door skins, rear wheel arches, boot floor but there are projects available where virtually nothing is left of the body. The jacking points on the Jaguar E-Type bodyshell really should not be used except in an absolute emergency as they are not strong and any use invariably damages the paint protection allowing the rust to get a hold. This further weakens the jacking point leading to more damage if it is used to support the car.
The engine frames and picture frame that support the engine, front suspension and bonnet are fabricated from Reynolds tubing. Manufactured by TI Reynolds 531 Ltd of Birmingham this was a high specification high strength thin wall tubing initially manufactured for racing bicycle frames but used by Jaguar for all the supporting frames on the E-Type and the earlier racing Jaguar C and D-types. According to the company, 27 winners of the Tour De France have won this epic road race riding on bicycle frames manufactured from ReynoIds tubing. This material really was the best tubing available at the time and was only really superseded when exotic materials such as aluminium alloys, titanium and composites came on the automotive/aeronautical scene. This tubing material can only be brazed and should never be welded as the increased temperatures required for welding destroys the tensile strength of the material.
Engine frames should be carefully inspected as corrosion and crash damage can cause significant problems and reduce the strength of these frames considerably. We have seen examples where elements of the frames have been completely broken and this break has been covered with a wrap around bracket supporting a brake pipe. Repairs to these frames should always be carried out by experienced repairers and under no circumstances should they be welded.
Corrosion to the front frames can rapidly lead to problems as the frames are already highly stressed and further thinning of the tubing through corrosion just increases these loads. Steels that are more highly stressed tend to rust faster, further increasing loads on the stressed area. In an ideal world the frames should all be treated with a preservative in a manner that does not further stress or weaken the individual tube sections. So no drilling of large holes!
The XK engine in 3.8 litre and 4.2 litre variants was a reliable unit and had been in production for many years. These engines are still regularly raced and can be totally reliable if well looked after or rebuilt correctly. Really all that should be needed is regular servicing but careful attention should be taken of the antifreeze or coolant.
When the Jaguar E-Type was launched in 1961 the XK straight 6 was a very high performance engine and it was only a relatively short time earlier that it had been winning Le Mans. Imagine a similar situation today with a sports car being offered by a major manufacturer with a Le Mans winning engine under the bonnet!
Overheating the XK engine can lead to a number of problems typically blown head gasket or more seriously movement of the bucket guides in the head. This can be detected by a knocking noise from the camshaft area and generally on the exhaust side. This will require a cylinder head off rebuild and some machining operations to resolve. Low oil pressures tend to indicate a worn bottom end and will almost certainly lead to a full rebuild of the engine. Parts are all readily available.
Loss of coolant and subsequent low concentrations of antifreeze can lead to a cumulation of problems associated with the cooling system due to corrosion and build up of sludges and corrosion by products. Also in all XK heads, both 6 cylinders and V12, significant corrosion can occur to the alloy water jacket of the heads and front covers.
All the V12 engines can suffer from this type of problem as the engine is designed with wet liners and is therefore very susceptible to problems from corrosion if the coolant was allowed to degrade. The head gaskets and cylinder head studs are almost completely exposed to coolant and if corrosion sets in, the heads can become seized on the studs and the head gaskets can completely fall apart leaving just the fire rings around the cylinders and the outside edge of the gasket. All the debris from the head gaskets breaking up restricts the water jacket in the block, especially at the back of the block where the water pump flow is slowest. Overheating V12s can lead to valve seats falling out of the head and further major mechanical problems as a result.
Internal corrosion to the blocks on Jaguars leads to underlying tendencies to overheat whenever the external temperature rise unduly, this is often put down to radiators, cooling fans etc but can remain as an unsolvable problem due to the fundamental nature of the corrosion.
Radiators, whilst they can become blocked and inefficient, are generally ok but again the problems show themselves on hot days with the air conditioning running and the car is unable to cool itself sufficiently.
PLEASE keep all Jaguars running on the correct levels of coolant. This is by far the best way to maintain the cooling systems and engines generally!!
The E-Type was originally fitted with the Moss gearbox and given this design was already out of date when it was fitted to the XK120, it was definitely long in the tooth by the early ’60s. Originally manufactured by The Moss Gear Company, one of Jaguar’s many suppliers, manufacture was taken over by Jaguar and Moss seems to have disappeared by the late 1950s. The move to the all synchro box in 1964-65 was an absolute blessing.
The automatic gearbox option arrived with the Series 2 E-Type and the box of choice was the Borg Warner Model 8 and then the Model 12 for the Series 3. Both these automatic boxes are relatively reliable and robust if a little agricultural but should give good service if adjusted correctly and given regular oil changes. Clutches and flywheels should not give undue problems.
Front Suspension and Brakes
The front suspension on all Jaguar E-Types is robust and easily maintained. The suspension loads are carried by torsion bars running back to a reaction plate under the engine/bell housing in a similar format to the Jaguar XKs and earlier Jaguar Mk 7-9 saloons. E-Types were the last of the Jaguars to utilise torsion bars but they work well in practice. The upper and lower wishbone arrangement is straight forward and steering is via manual rack and pinion however power steering was optional on later Series 2 and was standard for the Series 3 with the heavier V12 engine and wider tyres.
Uprights and balljoints are all relatively straight forwards and are all from the era when grease nipples were fitted to everything. The only slightly awkward element is that part of the wearing surface for the upper balljoint is in fact the upper wishbone itself. The overall design of the front suspension good and it is reliable in its operation.
Brakes are generally good and reliable apart from the very early Girling type systems with the individual caliper/piston units. These can be woefully inadequate in today’s traffic and a brake upgrade to 4 pot conventional calipers is well worth considering and maybe even vented discs on the 6 cylinder cars.
Rear Suspension and Brakes
The rear suspension was designed specifically for the E-Type and was a tour de force. Previous Jaguars had the more conventional live axle approach and the E-Type was the first car from Jaguar with fully independent rear suspension. This suspension system was fabulously well engineered and was to remain in production, with minor changes, up until the end of production of the XJS in 1996. The design is nicely over-engineered and utilises numerous needle roller and tapered bearings to locate the wishbones and hub carriers exceptionally well.
Rear suspension is based on a fabricated lower wishbone with a large alloy hub carrier. The driveshaft provides the final support with the cars mass being supported by the differential output shaft bearings and 4 coil-over shock absorbers. The rear suspension cage is of a relatively light construction but more than adequate. The 4HA Salisbury differential is solidly mounted into the cage and inboard brakes are directly mounted onto the differential output shaft flanges. The handbrake calipers are mounted directly on top of the main hydraulic calipers and are a real nuisance to get to for maintenance.
The 4HA differential is generally strong and comes in many ratios. There is also a limited slip version, known as Powerlock, generally fitted to the V12s. Providing that the differentials are maintained and oil levels are checked regularly then the units are strong and reliable. However oil leaks can develop and if left unresolved can lead to failure. Powerlock differentials require specific oils/additives to operate correctly.
Rear brakes however are more of an issue due to their location and a general failure to understand how the handbrake calipers are meant to work. The main hydraulic calipers are generally reliable and are wholly separate from the handbrake structure. The handbrake calipers are self adjusting and have their own small handbrake pads. However it is not impossible to drive an XJ with the handbrake let on which can lead to overheating, damage to the dust seals on main calipers and failure of the handbrake pads. Changing the discs is not an easy task and lack of care can lead to camber changes on the rear wheels, discs not central in the calipers, wire locking missing and non functioning handbrakes.
Driveshafts are robust and the universal joints strong if regularly greased. Lower wishbone inboard pivots are very reliable providing they are again regularly greased. There are some 12 greasing points on the rear suspension and all need regular attention but please ensure they are cleaned before being greased as otherwise road grit can be forced into the joint, hastening failure.
The outer alloy hub carriers can be a source of problems as setting up both the wheel bearings and trunnions needs care but both are well engineered and capable of giving many years of reliable use.
The rear axle cage is located fore and aft by the radius arms and movement is absorbed by the large bush at the front of the arm. This arm can be severely weakened by rust and the bushes need to be in good condition to absorb the not insignificant loading from the car. This loading is directly transmitted to the bodyshell at this point so a rusty radius arm mount will deteriorate relatively quickly.
Generally if there is a lot of work to do to the rear suspension of a Jaguar E-Type then removing the cage in its entirety is a very sensible start. With the cage out of the car everything is very accessible and even the brakes are easy to repair. A full rebuild is still a reasonable operation as the rear suspension is complex with countless bearings, seals, pivots and different approaches to shimming.
Exhausts, Electrics and Fuel
Exhausts are relatively simple and should fit reasonably well as they literally run down the centre of the car. The only problem is likely to be in the region of the downpipes and their proximity to the “chassis” rails.
The fuel systems are generally fine as long as the filters are regularly replaced and tanks kept clean. The fuel tank is internal to the boot so does not generally suffer too much providing water is not introduced!
Electrics are all relatively straight forward but electronic ignition and alternators were first fitted by Jaguar on E-Types and so there were problems with control units as solid state electronics started to make their way into the automotive world! With switch gear and most gauges on the central dash panel with access to the main fuses behind the cabin electrics are all reasonably accessible.
Unfortunately water always seems to find a way into older cars especially given the UK climate! Over time this leads to great damage on a number of fronts and avoiding this degradation is very beneficial to the longevity of any car. Water tends to pool in the lower areas of the car ie footwells and carpets but as the temperature rises on warmer days this moisture evaporates and fills the car with high humidity air. As the day cools in the evening this moisture condenses on the colder horizontal surfaces of the inside of the vehicle such as the inside of the roof and boot panels etc. This condensate then runs off and into sections of the car where water could not normally access and can cause significant problems over time. Bodyshell, electrics, trim and interior finishes can all suffer with this continual degradation over time.
Ideally try and keep all classics in a dry environment with windows slightly open to allow the air to circulate and reduce the moisture levels in the car. Dehumidifiers are also very beneficial over the longer term.
Interior is relatively straight forward but water entry, as described above, to the cabin can lead to seat stitching rotting and to headlining and carpets suffering. Recently we received an E-Type coupe which had been unused for a year or so but moths had taken up residence and had done a surprising amount of damage. All those natural fibres had kept them well sustained!
The E-Type is without doubt a glorious Jaguar to own and really ticks all the boxes for a classic car. They are beautiful, iconic and fast and complement any occasion or garage. In good fettle it feels modern in its handling and performance and is perfectly capable of being totally reliable. Some minor upgrades to the earlier brakes, ignition systems and starter motors should prove sensible and add a battery conditioner/charger to ensure it starts on those glorious days when the only place for an E-Type is on the open road.