Jaguar XKE History (1961-1975)
As beautiful today as when it was introduced in 1961, the Jaguar XKE was designed by aerodynamics engineer Malcolm Sayer. Standard equipment included all-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and a triple-carbureted DOHC motor. With the majority of the cars shipped to America, the XKE was a huge sales success for Jaguar.
Jaguar XKE Series 1
The first series XKE was originally offered in two models, the open-air roadster and fastback coupe, the former featuring a side-opening rear hatch. Glass-covered headlights were neatly tucked into the fenders. The long hood curves slowly down to the small oval air intake. The original thin chrome bumpers have been described as cats whiskers. With a sticker price of $5,595, the XKE was slightly more expensive than a Corvette, and half the price of a Ferrari.
The entire front section hinges forward to reveal the 3.8 litre motor, originally designed and used in the Jaguar XK120. The flexible DOHC six-cylinder was fitted with three S.U. carburetors and produced 265-bhp. Sole transmission was a four-speed with no first-gear synchromesh. With 3:31 rear-gearing, the 2700-pound XKE roadster achieved top speeds of 150 mph.
Aside from the engine and transmission, the XKE was a completely new car, with the chassis based on Jaguar's D-type race car. The monocoque center section is frame-less, gaining rigidity from its fore and aft boxed sections. Up front, the square-tubed subframe held the engine, steering rack and suspension. The front section was bolted to the center section. The rear sub-frame held the limited-slip differential, rear brakes, and rear (independent) suspension. Rubber-mounting the aft end to the center reduced gear-whine and road noise.
U-jointed half-shafts sent power to the rear wheels and also served as upper control links. This efficient design was used previously by Lotus on some of its racing cars and on its Elite model. In another two years Zora Arkus-Duntov would adopt it for the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray.
Although commonplace today, the XKE's four-wheel disc brakes were an innovation in 1961. The rear rotors and calipers were mounted inboard, saving space and helping weight distribution. This design was used only after years of testing, to ensure that heat generated from the brakes wouldn't effect the rear differential.
1965 Jaguar XKE
An engine redesign included an increase in displacement to 4.2 litres, improving driveability and giving better low-end torque. Oil consumption, an issue on the earlier 3.8 motors, was remedied by using better piston rings. The generator was replaced by an alternator, and the electrical system switched to negative-ground. A much requested full-synchromesh transmission finally arrived. Inside, the dashboard was changed from aluminum to a black finish, and seats were made to be more comfortable.
1966 Jaguar XKE 2+2 Coupe
The 2+2 XKE coupe was added to the line-up in the Spring of 1966. It was Jaguar's hope, by adding two small rear seats and additional storage area, that they may attract buyers looking for a "family" sports-car. The four-seat version was eight-inches longer and rode on a nine-inch longer wheelbase than the coupe and roadster models. An automatic transmission, previously unavailable due to space constraints, was offered. With a taller roofline and extra cargo-space, the 2+2 coupe was a more practical car than the other models, but proved to be less popular.
Jaguar XKE Series 1½ (1967-1968)
To comply with U.S. safety regulations (Jaguar's biggest market), the transitional Series-1½ cars were brought about between 1967 and 1968. Cosmetic changes included the loss of the original LeMans-style glass-covered headlamps to more upright and exposed headlamps. Under the hood, a pair of emission-calibrated Zenith-Stromberg carburetors replaced the three S.U. carbs. Power was reduced from 265-bhp to 246-bhp. The smooth polished cam covers were painted black and ribbed. Twin electric fans were fitted to help cooling. In the seven years produced, over 38,000 Series-1 XKEs were sold.
Jaguar XKE Series 2 (1969-1971)
From the front, Series-2 models are recognized by a larger grille opening and re-positioned front signal-lamps. Brakes were upgraded, and radial tires became standard equipment. Interior changes included dash-mounted toggle switches replaced with "safer" rockers. Air conditioning and power steering were available as options. Larger taillamps sat under the rear wrap-around bumper.
Jaguar XKE Series 3 (1971-1975)
Prompted by mounting competition and U.S. Emissions, the XKE got a new, 5343cc twelve-cylinder engine. The single-overhead cam V-12 produced 272 bhp at 5850 rpm. (see sidebar). The new motor was only 3 inches longer than the 4.2 litre six, but was significantly wider, particularly with two pairs of Zenith-Stromberg carburetors flanking the outer sides of the engine. Despite the car's 3,380 pounds, it was still quite fast. 0-60 mph times of the day were clocked at 7.5 seconds.
Flared wheel arches, wider tires, and cross-slatted front grille identify the Series-3 XKE. Two versions were offered, the 2+2 coupe and the roadster. Both models were built on the 2+2 chassis, necessary to accommodate the longer twelve-cylinder engine. Bigger, vented brakes were added, and power steering became standard. Options included automatic transmission, leather Interior, and air conditioning.
Like all big-engine cars of the mid-Seventies, sales went down as gas prices went up. The last of the XKE's, 5,290 Series 3 were sold from 1971 to 1975.