Okay, so it’s not a barn find, it’s a garage find. And it’s not virtually undiscovered, it’s part of the large collection of some guy with Old Car Collector’s Syndrome. I’m currently in Indianapolis, and it looks like I’ll be here in limbo for quite some time, so while I have a pleasant if unnerving wait, you’re stuck with posts like this, using iPhone photos. Next week’s post may be on the price of rusty razor blades in Kazakhstan. Anyway, he’s owned this car for 10 years, and it’s been in storage for a total of 15 years. More accurately, it simply hasn’t been run for 10, which is nowhere near as good as having been prepped for long-term storage. Whoever tries to fire up this thing now is probably going to have a bit of work to do.
This car is a 1968 Jaguar E-Type coupe, also called the XKE, retrofitted with Jag’s tri-carb on its 4.2-liter straight-six for power. It was called a 2+2 for it’s expanded seating arrangement, which has a rear seat with way too little legroom. Thus, they did not call them 4-passenger cars, which would have dampened the sports car aura. The bodywork on this one is a little off-kilter here and there, the paintwork is a repaint that wasn’t that great and is coated with hairline cracks in spots, but its leather interior looks very nice. The seat looks like it’s 5″ off the floorboards, which is always striking. After gazing wistfully at the roadster (convertible) models over the years, I never did like the comparatively clumsy-looking hatchback, myself. I saw it as a compromised attempt to lure in well-heeled family men who really wanted an XKE but should logically be in a Mark X or XJ sedan, which Jaguar also offered in fine form. They sold quite a few of these hatchbacks in the U.S., though. At car shows, I find myself instinctively going into “full-snooty” mode and walking right past them with a disapproving glance. There’s a faint scent of betrayal about them, you see. In U.S. models, later emissions and crash regulations substantially cut power and ruined the exquisite exterior detailing that enhanced the appearance of all earlier XKEs. At least this example still has the original wheel opening lines and blade-like wraparound bumpers, so for all my whining, it could be worse.
I was always astonished at the XKE, considering the archaic and generally dumpy styling of most British car brands up to that time. Then came the modern XKE, and it had a sensuous magic that put Jag on the map for me. True, Jaguar roadsters always looked very good even before then, but the E-Type, wow. In my earlier traveling amongst upper-crust car shows, I’ve stumbled over a couple of even more beautiful European exotics, but those were very limited production, and the XKE is a true production car, so it’s notable. Mind you, I adore the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray split-window coupe, but for me, the Jag, after a little second thought, gets the final nod. My personal suspicion is that the first XKE was a stark wake-up call to GM, whose 1961 Corvette was cute but mechanically far inferior to the sleek and sophisticated new Jag. Suddenly, “America’s Sports Car” more resembled a mere 2-seater convertible built to a price. It then took a hurried two years for the much-improved Sting Ray to debut. Unlike all the tiny sports cars such as MGs and Triumphs, Jags were always comparatively powerful and luxuriant roadsters meant for high-speed travel. With its long wheelbase and manual steering, The XKE borders on being clumsy in tight parking lot autocross, but once you get it in its element – a snaky road at speed – it is a motoring experience. Many hatchbacks were/are used in racing alongside roadsters, the aerodynamics and greater structural rigidity making up for the increased weight, depending on the course.
The man with the yellow coupe in his garage is a smart one. He buys mostly at estate sales and simply hangs onto the cars without touching them. Without stating so, he’s fully aware that any restorative work – especially for a car like the XKE – is a financial lost cause. Not surprisingly, Jaguar, now owned by Tatra Motors of India, is not supporting 50-year-old cars with service parts, which is reflected in the prices of used and custom-made third-party replacements. As with most vintage cars, you’re considerable money ahead by buying a restored vintage car, the restoring owner being the one to lose his shirt. The owner I met has a barn full of assorted British sports cars, none of which have been touched since their acquisition. Syndrome tendencies aside, he’s much more likely to exceed the income he would have gained had he invested in the stock market.