Buyer’s guide Jaguar E-type S3

The last hur­rah of this Bri­tish icon is a fine ma­chine, but costly and com­plex to re­store


Though it re­tained the name and over­all look of ear­lier mod­els (and a hand­ful of pre-pro­duc­tion cars were built with 4.2-litre en­gines), the Se­ries 3 V12 was a very dif­fer­ent car. It was less road-racer and more lux­ury cruiser, but with pace to match or even ex­ceed its pre­de­ces­sors, de­liv­ered with smooth­ness and so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

Frus­trated by the Amer­i­can mar­ket’s ob­ses­sion with cu­bic inches and V8s, which put many off buy­ing an E-type due to it hav­ing ‘only’ six cylin­ders de­spite its su­perb per­for­mance, Jaguar dusted off an old four-cam al­loy V12 Le Mans engine pro­posal, gave it com­pact sin­gle-cam heads and squeezed it un­der the E-type bon­net; the 5.3 V12 is just 39kg heav­ier than the 4.2 ‘six’. Ex­tended whee­larches ac­com­mo­date a wider track and wheels with low-pro­file tyres; the orig­i­nal short wheel­base was dropped, the road­ster body be­ing stretched to fit the same wheel­base as the 2+2 fixed-head. The vast ma­jor­ity of pan­els were dif­fer­ent, es­pe­cially on the road­ster.

Some un­spoiled, rust-free, low-mile cars can be found in Amer­ica, but re­mem­ber that US mod­els were dif­fer­ent in more ways than just big over­rid­ers on later ex­am­ples. They had low axle ra­tios to give ac­cel­er­a­tion to match the V8 bruis­ers – with a 55mph speed limit, this didn’t mat­ter for top speed, but back in Europe th­ese cars re­ally ben­e­fit from a higher axle ra­tio or the ‘over­drive’ five-speed gear­box con­ver­sion. They also had pro­gres­sively more re­stric­tive emis­sions equip­ment, sap­ping power. Many have been im­ported and con­verted; RHD chas­sis num­bers be­gan 1S1/1S5 (road­ster/2+2), LHD 1S2/1S7.

Sil­ver-painted steel wheels were stan­dard at first; chromed steels or wires were op­tional. Other op­tions in­cluded air-con­di­tion­ing, Sundym tinted glass, a hard­top for the road­ster and a heated rear win­dow for the 2+2, plus au­to­matic trans­mis­sion for both it­er­a­tions.

While road­sters were gen­er­ally cher­ished and lit­tle-used, Se­ries 3s, es­pe­cially 2+2s, be­came cheap cars for a long time, seen as the poor re­la­tion of the E-type range. Fuel con­sump­tion in the teens meant that they rarely be­came ev­ery­day hacks, but ne­glect of ser­vic­ing and poor stor­age wrought havoc for many. Check a car’s his­tory and the qual­ity of any restora­tion work that’s been car­ried out, be­cause while there are many fine ex­am­ples out there, there are also lots of hor­rors lurk­ing un­der shiny paint.

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