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.