Many enthusiasts of a certain age have gone through it, the British car phase, when all things from England have an attraction that’s hard to resist. My personal initiation into this not so secret society began when I drove by this Jaguar sitting on a street corner with a for sale sign in the window.
It’s now been several decades since that fateful day, but I remember it didn’t take much more than 48 hours before it followed me home, a Series 3 E-type with that seductive V12 hidden away under the extraordinarily long bonnet and exiting in the four outlet exhaust, a big V12 logo on the rear hatch, a dash filled with rocker switches and gauges, real knock off wire wheels, … I thought I had died and gone to auto heaven.
Ask any motorhead who’s put an E-type Jaguar in his garage and the initial feelings are usually much the same, how long it takes before he returns to reality varies a lot, depending on which endearing quality of his new acquisition appears first. I don’t recall which it was in my case, but they came at a steady pace.
The legendary inability of British vehicles to retain their liquids is often noticed right away, something you’ll note as you drive out of the garage and sees how your Jaguar marked its spot. Like any excited puppy, your Jag can sometimes leave quite a little fluid behind in its eagerness to get out on the road, but you won’t mind, borrowing one of those shallow cookie sheets from the kitchen easily contains any further dribbles, if your wife wonders where it went, shrug your shoulders and mumble something unintelligible on your way out the door.
The infamous Lucas electrical system never caused much trouble, though I did do an upgrade to the ignition system, overall the lights came on when requested and the engine fired up on demand. What more could I ask?
The V12 engine, which generated the most glorious of sounds, was not ideally suited to the confines of an E-type, there was far too little air circulating around it and if stuck in traffic for long, the temperature gauge rose quickly. It’s not a city commuter, it prefers the open road.
These V12s are often replaced with V8 engines of various sorts and there are a number of kits available, at least there were, that make the swap fairly easy, though you lose the sound. Even the best V8 can’t sing like a V12 and for me, that’s a heavy price.
If you join the circle of classic Jaguar owners, or of most any other British car for that matter, you’ll want to take part in one of the large gatherings. I attended British Car Day in Pittsburgh a couple of times when it was still held at Hartwood Acres, a fantastic setting where hundreds of cars from across the pond parked around the grounds in a really fine display of machinery. You meet lots of great folks, swap stories and have a fun day overall.
There was another show somewhere south of Solon, Ohio that pulled in a pretty good crowd as well, I believe it was the Austin Healey club that ran that one. I remember one particular year there because a helpful person pointed out how my Jag seemed to be steaming when I started it up and I smiled and told him it was OK, it was just burning off some errant coolant that had escaped the confines of the cooling system, nothing to worry about. Cheerio old chap!
The Jaguar Series 3 was not made for tight twisty roads or all out acceleration, it was a grand touring machine that liked to stretch its legs on the highway or long country roads and it rewards you with the sound of something only 12 cylinders can provide. Its looks alone make it worth owning one, at least for a while, and you’ll get lots of attention wherever you go. Many say the Series 1 was the best looking of the line, and I might agree, but any of them are more than a match for today’s cars. They just don’t design them like this any more.
I eventually parted with my Jag, I sold it for about what I had in it, but for far less than what they seem to be bringing today, prices appear to be rising rapidly. I will caution you, however, these cars do require maintenance and if you can’t do it yourself, prepare to spend serious money to keep yours running right and if you get a project car, you’ll be shocked at what parts cost.
On the other hand, you only live once and there are some things you simply should do. I enjoyed my Jaguar immensely, and if you decide to get one, there’s a good chance, you will, too.