Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"No, no, those are my time-travel trousers!"

Daily Pundit had a blurb up on the iconic Jaguar XK-E this morning. Maybe one of the best-looking automobiles ever made, and certainly on most car buffs Top Ten list...

They were already over a decade out of production when I graduated high school and therefore, if not "vintage", at least "old", a thought which crossed my mind as I backed the Zed Drei out of the garage past some of the local high school-age kids doing whatever it is that high school-age kids do in the alley on summer vacation these days.

It's hard to say which shapes are going to age well in any given automotive generation, but one thing is obvious: No matter how often one designer or another has tried to change the paradigm, "long hood and short deck" has hung on like stylistic grim death pretty much since Stanley Steamers had a decent share of the market.


Anonymous said...

post title win


theirritablearchitect said...

It's a good thing the XK-E is a real looker, because that's about all you're gonna do with that old bad of bolts, what with the dodgy Lucas "Prince of Darkness" electrics.

Better off with a good bike for getting around.:)

Blackwing1 said...

My uncle owned one of these with the V-12. Back when I was a kid, the outer reaches of civilization had been encircled by the ring-road of the then brand-new 494 loop. I got to ride out there with him once, and he opened it up. I thought we were going to crack the sound barrier, but that Jag just kept on getting smoother and smoother as it went faster and faster.

An incredible driver's car, I'm told. When it ran. Lucas (Prince of Darkness) made the electricals, if I recall. That engine had more carburetors that needed to be synchronized than could be done with most tuning boards.

But it was stunningly beautiful even when it was standing still.

Anonymous said...

I used to drive my bosses V-12 to the airport on occasion. When it ran it was a joy to drive. As Blackwing said, the faster it went the better it drove. A 100 MPH in the Jag was smoother than 60 in my Camero.

Fuel injection and a cooling system designed for outside temps over 75 degrees and it would have been very hard to beat as a sports car.


Roger said...

Lucas Electrics now makes aerospace electronics and switchgear. A concept thoroughly frightening to any astronaut.
Actually the E type Jags if they were maintained properly were pretty good cars. They suffered from cheap switchgear and poor rustproofing. Mechanically strong and reliable. I've owned them and worked on them for almost 50 years, so I have a reasonable base of knowledge to speak from.

Tam said...

...and I'd rather have a pre-smog six-banger than a bumper-laden smog-motor V12.

Either Pat Bedard or Csaba Csere wrote of going to one of the preview drives of the V-12 E-Type and asking one of the Jag engineers why the clutch was so heavy. "The torque!" was the response. (It was noted, parenthetically, that the little Jag V12 probably put out less torque than the starter motor of the LS5 'Vette that the C&D scribe had driven to the event, yet which had a light and perfectly usable clutch...)

Tam said...

...and I forgot "nose-heavy". "Bumper-laden, nose-heavy smog-motor V12".

Although I've only ever driven an earlier 6-cyl car, so I'm going by hearsay here.

Kevin said...

I think the '66 fixed-head coupe with a modern fuel-injected aluminum block, aluminum head V8 and six-speed manual, completely reworked electrical system - harness and all - and air conditioning, would be my ultimate for a desireable car.

Until then, I'm more than happy to "settle" for my 2011 GT Mustang.

It's not as pretty, but it'll do. It'll do.

Joseph said...

Ace and Gary ruined them for me.

"What's everyone looking at?"

Stuart the Viking said...

"I think the '66 fixed-head coupe with a modern fuel-injected aluminum block, aluminum head V8 and six-speed manual, completely reworked electrical system - harness and all - and air conditioning, would be my ultimate for a desireable car."

Hell, you replace THAT much and the average Yugo would become a pretty nice car.


Mike W. said...

The JZA80 and JZA70 Toyota Supra's have done pretty well design wise. Hell, plenty of non-car buffs think the JZA80 is something brand new when they see it.

Tam said...

Mike W.,

I'd love a Supra Turbo...

(Although C&D's blurb on the JZA70 has stuck with me, too: "Toyota Aims At Corvette, Hits Camaro." :D )

Kevin said...

No, Stuart, the thing about the XKE is the shape and the suspension. Horsepower was good (when it ran), more is better.

I'm simply advocating putting stuff that WORKS into a car that is otherwise beautiful and agile. The Brits didn't do electrics or A/C well at all, and multi-carb setups have always been finicky, regardless of who made them.

A '66 XKE released today with modern A/C and running gear would be a best-seller, I think. My 2011 Mustang is, I consider, the ultimate 1967 Mustang. 400+Hp, six-speed manual, brakes that will test your seatbelt to its utmost, air-conditioning, cruise control, and 26MPG highway. Ford did good.

Anonymous said...

My dad had a 1973 V12 for a long time. It was a beautiful car that sounded amazing, and ran about 50% of the time. It was a child that I learned the advantages of being very close friends with your mechanic, and having an extra car. (Our joke was that my family had 2 1/2 cars - the Jaguar was 1/2 a car because it ran 1/2 the time).

The timing chain broke once, and after the engine got rebuilt, the car sat undriven in the garage for years until I finally sold it for my dad.

My mother had 2 different 70s era Datsun Zs, which were supposedly a Japanese knockoff of the XKE, but 1000 times a better car. They had cheap plasticky interiors, but you could beat the hell out of them, and they wouldn't break.

I drove the XKE plenty, and I was always scared it was going to break. Yeah it was kind of fast, but not really. The 6 cylinder versions supposedly were the better cars.

I hate English cars. We all drive German cars in my family now. My 911 sees a mechanic once a year.

Tam said...

Yeah, I owned a '79 280ZX for several years. I've also owned two Porsches and used them as daily drivers. Your point?

og said...

The E type was unquestionably a beautiful ride, sort of the design diametrical opposite of the Webley; beautiful and non functional as opposed to ugly and reliable.

Even Chevy got in on the long bonnet/short boot thing, if you look at an early 70's Monte Carlo, the proportions are similar.

The Jags were a hoot to drive when they ran. Jaguar is the real heartbreak kid of the automotive world; you drop tons of cash on a beautiful vehicle that won't run when you have a hot date, won't start when you're trying to get to work, abandons you on the side of the road in the very worst weather, bursts into flames at the drop of a hat, chews up and spits out expensive, hard to replace parts that have to be delivered from tibet via carrier pigeon, and yet, you look at it in the drive and think, wow, that's a beautiful car.

As you get in your boring and reliable Chevy and go to work.

Tam said...


I came >this close< to buying a Type III ragtop, that was mechanically restored but a cosmetic mess back in '86 as my second car. It was right before the prices on E-types went stratospheric. If it had an intact top, I may have plunked down the gelt.

To this very day I'm not sure if I'm glad or sad that I didn't take the plunge...

og said...

Do yourself a favor, find somplace to rent one for a day- or do like I've been doing for thirty yeasrs, find someone with one and suck up to them until they let you drive one. I've driven some lovely cars just by being nice and asking nice.

Once you drive an E-type, you will always remember. And be glad you didn't buy one.

Ed Foster said...

Had a '69 6 banger and loved it. Balancing out the twin SU's took a fair piece of a Sunday afternoon once a month, and I went through 3 fuel pumps a year ($118 each, and remember, positive earth dammit). And I lost the slave cylinder for the clutch once too. Another $200.

As per the Prince Of Darkness meme, ask any Jag owner why the English drink warm beer. Because their refrigerators are made by Lucas.

But Oh Jesus, did it go nice when everything was tweaked. "Corners on rails" is a cliche that might have been invented for that sweet little pain in the ass.

I liked the manual. "For continuous motoring in excess of 200km/hr (122mph), we recommend fireplug n9kp".

Top end was supposedly 168. I never got it above 130, but I had a half inch of pedal left.

Most guys had a bad girl, pure poison, with whom they are still at least half in love. I confess that 2+2 coupe was mine.

og said...

Most jags never ran long enough to get up to 158. I think the posted top speed was mostly ad hype.

The brits very nearly get it right, a powerful lot of the time, which is heartrending. My dirty girl was my 67 LR 109. A Land Rover is a serious off-road vehicle, if you have one with a tyre on the bonnet, and to this day, few things compare offroad wise. But for the Lucas parts, the engine designed by lunatics, the straight gears in the gear boxes, the swivel ball front suspension, the whole affair is one of designing a vehicle shose component parts are constantly expected to exceed their design parameters and the strengths of their component materoials daily. British cars are designed, not to transport people, or anything mundane like that, but to keep generations of mechanics employed.

WV: Slismite. Lucas electrical contacts are coated with Slismite, a substance that bursts intoi flames when contacted by electrons.

Anonymous said...

Reading the comments, I can only think of a long-ago family friend who rode the middle seat on a B-58 Hustler. I think his comment about being B-58 crew applies to the XKE: "When everything is working right, you're in for one hell of a ride. But if anything goes wrong, you are in for one hell of a ride!"

cap'n chumbucket

Firehand said...

"That's them! Give me my fighting trousers!"

Stretch said...

I saw my first E-type on Union St. Alexandria, VA in 1962. I was 7.
Like your first (inappropriate noun) you never forget you first E sighting.
Best description of the E? "World's greatest crumpet catcher."
First time I actually road in one (after much grovelling and sucking up) I left clench marks in the seat.
When I asked "6 or V-12" the owner opened the hood ... er ... bonnet and showed me a small block Ford V-8. Also had an all new wire harness, tranny, rear dif. and a fuel injection system. I think the suspension was the only original system.

Tam said...


"Once you drive an E-type, you will always remember."

As I said upthread, I've wrung out a Type II (actually two of them) and passengered in a couple III's.

(Parenthetically, me and the Zed Drei went dancing up Fall Creek Parkway, tops down, with a lemon yellow Type II one afternoon last month. It was the most fun I've had in a car by myself in... well, a long time. :) )

og said...

Ah, gotcha.

You have now eperienced the sum of the good part of Jag ownership. Thank God you didn't have to pay $90,000 to do so. Put a new set of Bosch plugs in the Z3 and drive it another 50,000 miles.

Tam said...

Bobbi just found out that I knew someone whose shop made a career of transplanting LT-1-spec small blocks into XJ6's and 244GL's. She nearly went apoplectic. I don't think we're on the same wavelength on this one. :(

Anonymous said...

I heard them described as a beautiful racehorse that was always breaking its leg.
IMO, second most beautiful car ever. After the 1938 Figoni and Falaschi Talbot Lago coupe.

og said...

"She nearly went apoplectic. I don't think we're on the same wavelength on this one. :("

yeah, some people prefer their british sports cars the way the Brits intended: immobile, in garages.

Firehand said...

Ok Og, that one's downright nasty

og said...

The truth, like Madeline Albright's inner thighs, is often nasty, and occasionally moist.

Tam said...

A friend of mine, an airline pilot, described her experience with a Triumph TR6 as a daily driver thusly:

"You have a checklist of everything that needs to be monitored, adjusted, repaired or replaced, and you work your way through it every weekend. And at the bottom is the final step, which reads 'Go to the top and start all over again...'"

og said...

And a TR6 was the best of a bad lot.

Skip said...

My wifes Town Car has the biggest butt I've ever seen. The car, not hers.
I could use that trunk and make good money as a Coyote.