Curbside Classic: Jaguar XK-E Series II: The Stuff Of Dreams, The Source Of Nightmares


(first posted 8/5/2013)     As a kid, my uncle the Naval Flight Officer drove a Jaguar XK-E. Both he and my Grandpa were car guys, and when my uncle visited we shared an easy familiarity with all things cars. He shared stories of his many adventures behind the wheel of his Jaguar, and between these tales and the taut lines of his roadster I entered a fantasy world called “XK-E”.  At the time, that Jag represented the epitome of cool, and I burned with possessive fire.

Ten years later I knew a lot more about cars, and the prospect of driving such an unreliable and poorly packaged car seemed laughable. XK-Es used electronics from the dark prince, overheated even in Alaska and their bodies turned to Swiss cheese within two years of purchase. In one brief decade, I’d moved from childish fantasy to youthful snobbery.


Today, I look at this coupe and think, “If I did buy a Jag, this would be the one to get.” The 4.2-liter on its tail indicates it’s got the right engine and transmission combination, and the larger grill opening and unique marker lights indicate it’s a Series II.


Built from 1969 to 1972, the Series II still packed the traditional DOHC straight six, but included several improvements over the earlier cars. To improve cooling, Jaguar designed a wider radiator opening, and added electric fans underhood.


Inside, the Series II offered (optional) power steering and air conditioning to improve the behind-the-wheel experience. The dash used rocker switches rather than traditional Jaguar toggle switches, and the seats provided improved comfort. Cocooned in this luxury environment, I’m sure the driver never forgets he is wrapped in a sensuous and powerful icon.


This angle demonstrates why the coupe body isn’t for everyone, but I’ve owned several convertibles and prefer the coupe’s headroom and quieter interior. Without question, a top-down XK-E roadster has the purest lines ever offered by Jaguar, but this two-seater coupe gets the job done, and greatly outshines the ungainly 2 + 2 version.


I found this Jag in Los Angeles, on Paseo Del Mar, a street on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. As you might expect, the neighborhood is somewhat exclusive. Still, can you think of a better backdrop for this car than the Pacific Ocean? It seems appropriate that I found the car pre-positioned for this beauty shot.


While walking around the car, I decided to take a picture of the cowl area. This single shot demonstrates what Jaguar ownership is all about. The triple windshield wipers, the louvers cut into the hood for increased engine-bay cooling and the metal grille on the back edge of the hood all give you a feel for the complexity of this car. They also resulted in high labor costs during production, low production volume and high parts prices after purchase. Whoops! I’ve returned to that youthful snobbery I mentioned earlier. I really didn’t want to go down that road.


I thought about discussing Jaguar’s history in this post, since this car may well represent the pinnacle of Jaguar mojo. The later Series III cars featured an XK-E body that had been extended and reshaped to accept a larger (but heavy and troublesome) V-12 engine that reduced fuel economy just as the OPEC crisis hit. But the story of Jaguar is well known to most automotive enthusiasts and dammit, this car is meant to be enjoyed on a visceral level and not analyzed to death.

So look upon it with joy. Reach out to it with longing. And embrace this exuberant expression of automotive passion!