Jaguar E-type S2 4.2 Roadster test-drive. If the driver is tall and the hood is up, getting into the E-type Roadster is nothing short of painful. I have to thread myself through an aperture little bigger than a manhole cover, aiming my left leg underneath a steering wheel that seems too big for the cockpit. Once inside, I have to crank my right knee around the wheelrim, to the point where I end up operating the accelerator and brake pedals with the side of my foot. The driver’s seat just doesn’t slide back far enough.
Things aren’t much better with the roof down – the windscreen only comes up as far as my nose. It’s odd to think the E-type was ever considered a luxury in Roadster form. With its black vinyl dashboard festooned with plastic rocker switches and my head thoroughly exposed, it feels more like an MG Midget.
But get it moving and a decade of racetrack breeding makes itself known. There’s an exquisite balance to the chassis, even on roads strewn with wet, mulched leaves, which imbues a feeling of compliance and safety. Once I realise the combination of independent wishbones and trailing-arms keeps the rear end extremely secure, I even find myself taking liberties, tipping the E-type into tighter bends a little harder than usual.
Cabin suited to drivers well south of 6ft tall. New camshafts introduced in 1969 meant quieter running.
It never feels twitchy. If the back end is going to step out, it’ll be preceded by a harmless whiff of understeer at the slick helm followed by a slow, smooth drift that’s very easy to catch. Before long, I’m starting to grasp the E-type Roadster’s appeal – bygone-era Le Mans sensations delivered in an accessible way. I forget about my aching legs until I go for the brakes, an awkward ankle contortion, but the decisive bite of the Girling discs is as confidence- inspiring as the E-type’s roadholding. Regardless of this, planting my right foot, hearing the XK engine’s Spitfire-drone and watching the seemingly endless bonnet rise never loses its appeal.
Series 2 changes made the E-type better to drive, even if the bigger lights front and rear compromised styling.
All this user-friendliness is helped by a gearchange that glides around the gate like a rear-wheel-drive Ford Escort’s. The Moss gearbox of the early E-types was rightly criticised for its lack of synchromesh and easy-to-beat synchromesh on all other gears, but this four-speeder can be flicked around the gate with abandon. Reverse is too far to the left and selected with too decisive a shove to be mis-slotted when changing between first and second.
The E-type S2 is a car with a strange split personality. On the most primal level it’s a cramped, exposed, uncomfortable and rather masochistic sports car, fiercely outdated even within its own production span. However, because its underpinnings are as refined, soft-riding and easy to exploit as an XJ6’s, the hardship is all superficial. I only wish it had more legroom, because otherwise it’s a much more driveable car than the SI. But is it the best car here? There are four challengers eager to convince me otherwise.
An owners view
Jeff Harrison: Jaguar E-type
‘Mine’s very practical and I use it a lot,’ says S2 E-type owner Jeff Harrison. The only slight downside is that the cabin suffers heat soak from the engine bay and bellhousing. That, plus it averages 20mpg. ‘I bought it in 2002 with 43,000 miles on the clock, and it now shows 85,000. I think nothing of taking it abroad – it’s done the E-type 50th Anniversary run to Geneva and the Le Mans Classic three times. The longest trip was a 3000-mile tour of Spain. We got hot, but the car didn’t. The Series 1’s cooling system was deficient, but the Series 2 has a bigger air intake and twin fans. I’ve sprayed Dinitrol into the sills and replaced the front suspension bushes with sealed-for-life units. ‘I do all my own maintenance, and it’s needed roadside recovery only once in the 12 years I’ve owned it.’
|Car||Jaguar E-type S2 4.2 Roadster|
1966-1971/320 (All FF)
steel monocoque with tubular front subframe
4235cc in-line six-cylinder, dohc, three SU HD8 carburettors
265bhp @ 5600rpm
285lb ft @ 4000rpm
independent, unequal-length double wishbones, torsion bars, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
independent, wishbones, trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
|Steering||Rack and pinion|
Discs front and rear
|Length||14ft 7in (4450mm)|
|Width||5ft 5 1/2in (1660mm)|
3ft 11in (1190mm)