It is well recorded that Jaguar’s E-Type screams speed from every lascivious curve, starting with fared-in headlights and reaching to twin up-swept tailpipes.
This writer won’t argue, particularly after a country road drive one sunny, blue sky day in what was not ‘just’ any E-Type, but one of the first two to come to Australia.
Resplendent in a fetching livery of Cream body with biscuit trim and fawn hood, chassis 850086 created enormous interest in Melbourne upon its arrival at Bryson Industries, the Australian distributors.
No surprise that hardly had it hit the showroom floor than it was snapped up by acclaimed modernist architect Acheson Best Overend.
Fast-track from 1961 to 1997, the day of my drive, and that very same car is now Carmen Red with black trim and hood, wears bigger and broader ‘boots’ (resulting in flared guards) and sports a number of mods including D-Type profile cams and high-compression pistons.
Back then, as now, this very significant vehicle is also owned and driven with no small amount of affection and pride by an enthusiast of the highest order, one Steve Moulder.
Entering the cockpit is a case of opening the tiny door and with one hand on the three-quarter section, sliding into the low, lean bucket seat.
Once ensconced, it’s a cosy fit without, I suspect, being claustrophobic once the hood is up.
The large (by modern standards) wood-rimmed wheel is overtly raked and the pedals, while well-weighted and spaced, feel slightly offset.
The aviation-style Smiths instrument cluster presents as a handsome touch, ditto the aluminium panelling down the centre console.
Slim A-pillars and upright windscreen ensure visibility straight-ahead is unimpaired.
The most overpowering impression, though, is the length of that gorgeous, sculpted steel bonnet – it goes on forever, or so it seems.
With such impressive length to boast, you’re instantly motivated to seek out the quiet of the countryside, point and squirt.
And while they say it is not size that counts, the 3.8-litre DOHC straight-six – what with 850086’s engine modifications enhancing the standard 198kW on tap – is better hung than most classics.
Here’s how it went, an experience that made the front cover story of Jaguar Magazine . . .
Turning the key and pressing the starter button in unison produces a rumbly tick-over. Nice.
The clutch is light (surprise), but the 4-speed, all-synchro Moss box, while positive, gives the impression it doesn’t like being rushed.
Apart from no synchro on 1st (very much standard for the era), you really need to pause one-two to ensure a clean shift.
Once up to speed, the rack and pinion steering proves to be direct, but as with any car sans power assistance, and wider than normal wheels/rubber to match, is heavy.
The road, for the most part, runs straight and true, so offers little opportunity to fling – or try to – the E-Type around.
But there’s enough variation to reveal the competence of the twin-coil independent rear suspension, a sophisticated unit compared with the live-axle, leaf spring offering of others.
The E-Type rides supple and smooth, but the first crease in the patchwork back block road sees the underside of those curvaceous up-swept pipes bottoming out disconcertingly. Ouch!
The brakes, although four-wheel discs, really do belong to an earlier generation, it should be said, but even with that in mind I find the challenge of rolling the throttle irresistible.
Into 3rd up to about 5500 rpm, then up-change crisply, one-two, to 4th.
The effortless surge surely encapsulates in an instant just how Jaguar rewrote the performance books with the E-Type – 0-60 mph (100km/h) in 6.7 secs and top end of 150 mph (240km/h), as opposed to 10.0 secs and 126 mph (203km/h) for its predecessor, the XK120.
That said, there’s a convincing impression of there being no need to shuffle up and down the gears to get the best out of the E-Type.
Rather, just hold a gear longer than you would in most other cars and ride the copious torque.
Some 30 years earlier, in the small town where I grew up, a local mechanical engineer owned an E-Type coupe in (I think) Opalescent silver grey.
Most Saturday afternoons, he would drive it in to play lawn bowls. When he did, I would loiter nearby on my ‘pushy’ (bicycle) and observe and study that most marvellous thing for hours.
Upon his leaving, I would savour the sight and sound of the late afternoon sunlight glinting off the chromed spoke wheels and rich note burbling from the gorgeous, chromed twin pipes.
I vowed, one day, somehow, that it would be me behind the wheel of an E-Type.
It took three decades in coming, my drive of what Enzo Ferrari called ‘the most beautiful car in the world’, but worth every minute of wait.
Car: 1972 Jaguar E-Type V12 Roadster
Drive: Redditch (England) to Brecon (Wales) and return
Back in the time machine, now to 2013 . . .
I could not hide my enthusiasm in sampling an E-Type Series 3 version, this one in Old English White and black leather interior.
The opportunity came along with driving a fleet of classics in a Break for the Border Rally organised by Great Escape Cars.
If that sounds familiar, it could be because the story appeared on Cars4Starters a while back.
For those who may have missed it, here’s how the big cat shaped up.
With a turn of the key, the lusty 5.3-litre V12 fires up and settles quickly into a smooth idle.
We’re among the first cars away, the town of Ludlow our driver change.
Torque – some 412Nm of it – is omnipresent, seemingly at any speed and any revs, and the E-Type quickly impresses with its amazing tractability.
Open road overtaking is a breeze – just roll the throttle in 4th (top) gear and the big bent-12 responds with a surge and a rumble from its fantail exhaust.
The ‘whoa’ doesn’t quite match the ‘go’, though, and it’s apparent that the brakes need a hearty shove rather than light brush.
The power-assisted steering proves user-friendly, if a little light at highway speed, and the ride compliant and comfy.