Jaguar E Type 2+2.
USA dealer Tom explains his choice of Jaguar coupe
Days of Wine and Bow Ties... and Arthritis.
"I swear, rain dripped through that Morgan top even when it wasn't raining!"
-- The author, after long trip to Vermont
OK. So I'm getting older -- flatulent, even... and keeping the shine on that gorgeous, lacquer finish is a bit painful on my right shoulder these days. And somehow, waiting for another of those, infamous, Lucas electrical failures is not quite the same with 'Miss MBA' here as it was with that young, wild thing from the art department. -- And wasn't that just a touch of real annoyance I saw in her eyes after that last, uproarious, Dead-Man's-Curve routine? (And didn't I pull out of that one just in time!)
Ah, Youth! ...You golden, elusive, ever-diminishing quantity you!
But what could possibly replace The Mog? That ride! That 'Arrival' that blew everyone's sox off! ...Oh, dear... A real quandary this...
On the replacement hunt, I bypassed the Fiat Dino (fiat body with 6-cylinder Ferrari engine). Too obtuse; have to drive with the hood up for anyone to appreciate the thing.
A Maserati! 3500 Sebring? Who'd be impressed on this side of The Pond? The Americans that I hang around with aren't quite this subtle.
The Jensen-Healey? Nice... but... what is it, really? No pedigree here.
And then there it was... On the floor of an off-the-beaten-path, classic car dealer in some far-off, Virginian suburb... The car itself being an off-shoot of the Star of the 1961 Geneva Auto Show: The XKE Coupe. The one that started it all... The car that became more than mere transport but, rather, the symbol of all things desirable. -- And the one that ushered in, almost single-handedly, the Classic Car Era.
Well, it wasn't the coupe, exactly... The Series 2, 2+2 to be exact.
Now this car brought many reactions from friend and foe alike. (The Italians were too stunned by the entire concept to comment on any variations in models. To be outdone on the Sleek Side -- and by the stodgy Brits, of all people! ...Well, this was just too much to take... AND FOR 1/3 THE PRICE OF A FERRARI !!!)
Closer to home, automotive aesthetes and traditional 'X-Typers' were mostly put off by the sheer bulk of the +2. Of all the articles I read, only one seemed to fully appreciate it. Needless to say, I'm with him.
Not only was this a good 10 grand lighter on the wallet than the 2-seater, it was one hell of a lot more practical - read: More of a car! than the other. Tall folks could actually fit inside! Kids and pets could come along! And the enlarged suitcase space meant you could use this for more than one 2-hr outing on a bright, Sunday afternoon. Weekend or longer golf trips were now within the realm of the possible - and with your own clubs!
Having said this, I must agree with the aesthetes on one item: Both Series 1 and 1 1/2 2+2's should be avoided. That roof line really was just a bit geeky; it just didn't work. But the Series 2, with its more streamlined roof and raked windshield was, actually, more of an eye-full than even the 2-seater... I mean, really... something ET's brother would use for cruising chicks in a distant Galaxy. Wild! And this was before you even got in it! Just sitting there, it's a show in itself.
And while it may have been cheaper to begin with than the original, it is rarer by far right now than the 2-seater. (Always good news for a collector!)
The Two Faces of E
Unlike the Morgan, where the first turn of the key literally explodes and rocks your bones -- and the low gearing makes the first 25 mph almost as much fun as the higher-end jaunt -- the Jag, by comparison, is actually quite a dud in town. (Not, however for the pedestrians, nor for the others doing the 'Linda Blair Head-Spin' from their Hondas. Few cars, if any, deliver the WOW ! Appeal of the E -- especially the Mother ship of the breed: the 2+2.) However, take off on the traffic-free, smoothly-paved back road and then punch it. BINGO! -- Savor the arrival of one, mean, Dr. Jekyll ! Above 80 mph, something miraculous occurs but you can't put your finger on just what it is. It isn't for nothing that this car was derived from the Jaguar D-Type Racer. By the time you've crossed the century mark -- with that glorious, gigantic, long-stroke, 4.2 liter overhead cam 6*** still humming in the lower rpm's -- your car has flattened noticeably, the ground-effects bottom sucking that
bullet-shaped chassis closer to Mother Earth.
As you approach 120, the steering becomes razor-sharp -- something you hadn't noticed at the lower speeds. Then... above 125... you enter 'The Zone'.
Here is where you share the world of Phil Hill, Stirling Moss and the rest of that gang. That ineffable place where man and machine become tethered to one another at the crest of the performance curve, where even the slightest action on your part leads to an instant response from your 'other half'. A place where every sinew of your body senses exactly what the car is doing and exactly how to leverage its power for optimum braking, turning, and acceleration for the next turn-in: A, virtual, closed-loop learning system wherein you and your car are simpatico, each half learning from the other to make each subsequent turn that much quicker -- with less roll, pitch, and yaw -- than the previous. Driving a car with one of the better man-machine feedback systems on record -- which you can tell by that cockpit alone -- you have just reached the tip of Maslow's Pyramid : Spiritual Self-Actualization. You now know why God sent you here!
It's only when you leave The Zone that you fully comprehend that you've been there. As you cruise down to civilian speeds at the outskirts of the town, normal breathing restored, it comes to you: You possess one of the few cars in existence that can provide the classic, Le Mans experience to its owner without any help from Bob Bondurant.
***You can skip the V12 for the E-Type. The 12 cylinder engine wasn't Jaguar's 'Thing', so to speak; not for a while, anyway. Only by the late 70's -- the XJS era -- did they begin to figure that one out. But the 4.2 is so great and reliable an engine that that would be my choice for that model as well... (Except that you can't find it!)
Downfalls: The E-Type Take a Rap.
All the electrical gremlins reputed to be part of its nature -- along with all the hit and miss quality control issues that eventually did take their toll on the whole of the British car industry -- were, in Jaguar's case -- actually the fault of the infamous, XJ6. This latter model (produced from 1968 on), won the hearts and pocketbooks of Middle American suburbanites but most definitely was not the best thing that could have happened to Jaguar's image abroad. 'Everyone I know...' as the saying went, had some horror story attached to that thing. But the build quality of the E-Type, by contrast, was actually quite good. (True, ask any E-Type owner , "How could they possibly have made such a wonderful car so inexpensively?" and they will provide you with a ready list; we know where Coventry saved $$$ to give Everyman his Ferrari...Hey! Would that extra 1/2 inch of padding really break the bank!? Could you possibly have stretched that sheet-metal any thinner?)
But, generally speaking, the E-Type problems were of a different order and came into focus with the second-hand, collector market. The real problem was and is: How to find one that isn't raced and beat up so badly as to be worth the investment?
Ah... Now for the Secret of the Ages: The typical 2+2 owner was not the wild surfer dude who listened to Dan & Jean records and lit out after ever Corvette he saw. He tended to be older, responsible and in no particular hurry to locate Dead Man's Curve. The extra 2 seats usually meant FAMILY and the responsibility that went with having one. Believe me, these cars are far better deals than the lustier 2-seaters for this reason alone. (On my own Jag, the original, factory chalk marks could still be seen on a few of the underside parts.)
But I must warn you... If you don't particularly fancy drawing undue attention to yourself, and are looking for a rather subdued investment to correspond to your conservative personality, then this is not the car for you! Because as soon as this thing hits your driveway, bud, you've got crowd-control problems, Big Time!
So, in conclusion: For those of you who, as residents of the Vanguard of Civilization ( -- your own neighborhood, of course -- ) wish to make a contribution to the visual arts, do I have the car for you...!
Next Time... Bond.... James Bond...
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