The real hunt for an XKE began with a drive in our Porsche 914 up to Monterey in August 2008 for the Concorso Italiano, Pacific Grove Car Show and Rally and other assorted diversions that occur in the area in the week leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance. We convoyed up with two Jags. One was a beautiful ’65 coup owned by our friends Mark and Karen. Mark had long been a proponent of me getting an XKE (or E-Type as he properly refers to the cars). We had a great drive up, taking the scenic route 134 in the mountains behind Santa Barbara and through the wine country of the Santa Ynez Valley. We then jumped onto Hiway 1 and drove along the spectacular Pacific Coast Highway from M0rro Bay to Monterey. Fantastic drive with the targa top stowed in the trunk. Both the Porsche and the Jag behaved impeccably. The fuel economy for the Porsche was astoundingly good – in the 35 mpg range – and the handling… well it is a Porsche so it was excellent. At the various car shows we could not help but notice how much attention the XKE’s got. It was amazing to see rows of red Ferrari’s getting a quick once over, while loads of people congregated around the open hoods of the lovely Jags. Just something about that shape I guess. Anyway, after that great trip my wife and I decided we had to have a shot at restoring an XKE. We also decided we wanted to put together a good solid driver that would be capable and comfortable to cruise up to Monterey in – and not a trailer princess.
Now, since we wanted a roomy car with creature comforts – and since we were doing this on a shoestring budget – we decided against a roadster or coupe and instead focused on a 2+2, preferably a Series II car. We would take either automatic or manual tranny. Now before I go on – a word about XKE series.
XKE’s or E-types are typically grouped into four different series (well three and one half to be precise). Here is the scoop on the different series.
Series I (Series 1)
The Series I cars are the first and purest of the XKE’s. They were produced from 1961 to 1964 with a 3.8 litre, 6-cylinder XK engine and from 1964 to 1967 and with an improved 4.2 litre engine after that. The 4.2 cars also have more comfortable seats and various refinements. Both engines were normally aspirated using three SU carburetors. The engines turned out 265 horse power and passed this through a four-speed transmission. The early tranny was not great and had no synchro between 1st and 2nd. The earliest cars had a fair amount of aluminum in the interior. The early years saw only coupes (called Fixed head Coupes – FHC – in the Jaguar world) and roadsters (called Open Two Seaters – OTS) built by Jaguar. In 1966 a 2+2 version was added with a little seat in the back. To add the rear seating the 2+2 cars were lengthened by 9 inches – almost all of that in the doors. The 2+2 cars also have a slighter higher roof line. The 2+2’s could also be fitted with a Borg Warner Series 8 automatic transmission. Externally the Series I cars are distinctive because they have relatively small hood openings, a narrow front center bumper, glass covered headlights, half bumpers on the back, narrow turn signal lights/brake lights mounted above the front and rear bumpers. They also have smooth cam covers in the engine compartment and toggle switches in the interior. The Series I cars are the most valuable at the moment.
Series I 1/2 (Series 1 1/2)
In 1968 the US federal safety and emissions requirements began to impact Jaguar and this led to a transitional phase in the XKE’s. Unofficially, these 1968 XKE’s are called Series I 1/2 to reflect this. The cars are distinctive because the glass headlight covers were removed and a short chrome mount was added behind the lights. This does improve driving at night, although many love the glass light covers of the earlier cars. In addition, the toggle switches were phased out in favor of ‘safer’ rocker switches and the older separate key and starter button set-up was replaced by a normal keyed ignition switch. Under the hood in the US the the triple SU carbs were replaced with two emissions-cutting Stromberg carbs. Horse power dropped, but so did emissions. The shiny smooth cam covers were also replaced by finned covers that said “Jaguar”. Cooling was improved by the addition of twin electronic fans behind the radiator. These changes were phased in – so a 1968 car could have some or all of these modifications depending on build date. The Series 1 1/2 cars trail Series 1 cars in value.
Series II (Series 2)
Now we come to my fave – the lowly Series II. The Series II XKE’s were produced from 1969 to 1971. However, I believe that no Series II 2+2’s were produced in 1971. Although they share the power loss of the Series I 1/2 cars because of the emissions control – the Series II cars are the most refined and practical of the 6-cylinder E-types. They also do get better gas mileage (~ 20 mpg highway) pollute less than either the earlier or later cars. I also am partial to their looks – particularly the larger front opening and changed headlight pods. They just look more aggressive to me. Series II cars are very easy to spot from the exterior. They have a larger front opening (over 60% larger), headlights that are moved forward and have scoops that cut in a little to the center of the hood, a larger front center bumper and different emblem shape, fat front turn signal lights mounted below the bumper, side lights (in the US) on the front and rear fenders, a higher wrap-around rear bumper and larger tail lights mounted against a flat stainless steel panel below the rear bumper. A big plus for the Series II 2+2 was the fact that windshield was given a more aggressive rake which makes the car look more streamlined. The raked windshield also adds to interior space slightly and makes the inside feel roomier. In the interior the Series II cars have recessed door handles and headrests on the front seats (standard feature in the US). Some late Serie II cars were also fitted with steel wheels in place of the wire wheels. The engine compartment was similar to late Series 1 1/2 cars. However, sometime in 1970 a different air cleaner system was fitted. The 2+2 model of the Series II XKE’s was wildly popular – lots of them ordered with factory air conditioning (a US Tecumseh compressor) and the Borg Warner automatic tranny. You could also get tinted windows. Very modern! Love ’em or hate ’em – the Series II are, along with ‘driver’ condition Series III 2+2 coupes, the least expensive E-types.
Series III (Series 3)
The Series III was the end of the road for the XKE. These cars were produced from 1971-1973 for the 2+2 coupe and until 1975 for the roadster. To bring the performance back to super-car standards a V 12 engine was designed and installed by Jaguar. It is a powerful and smooth engine when all is going well – but is extremely thirsty in terms of fuel and complex mechanically. It has for example 4 individual carbs to keep in tune. Another interesting thing is that all Series III cars were built on the longer 2+2 body. So, all Series III coupes were 2+2’s and the Series III roadsters were larger than earlier roadsters because they too shared the 2+2 basic body layout. Both four speed or automatic transmissions were available as was air conditioning. The Series III cars are again easy to spot. They have bulged wheel arches over the front and rear tires, they also have a large chrome grill fitted over the opening. There are some other external differences with bumpers and bumper over riders and tail lights also. A big loss to the interior was the deletion of the lovely wooden steering wheel with metal spokes and golden Jewel like center of the earlier Jags in favor of a plastic looking 1970’s style wheel. In general the Series III cars look beefier, but maybe also a little busy. An excellent Series III roadster can command a good price – but there are many 2+2’s out there with engine issues that go pretty cheaply.
So then – why go for the Series II 2+2? 1. Least Expensive. 2. Roomy – the extra length on the doors and the extra headspace are really appreciated as I am 6’2″, 3. Reliable – in particular the larger front opening and the twin radiator fans took care of a lot of the earlier over-heating problems, 4. Headrests, air conditioning, power steering and other practical features for safety and comfort etc., 5. Easy to work on relative to V 12, 6. Best mileage and lowest emissions, 7. Personally I like the looks in general and the raked windshield in particular.