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Jaguar XKE Series 3 V-12

The Jaguar XKE Series 3 V-12 was Jaguar's response to the emasculation of its classic XK inline six-cylinder engine by emissions regulations.

The Jaguar XKE Series 3 V-12 was launched in 1971 and replaced the XKE Series 2 and its 4.2-liter six. This was a new breed of sporting cat, and it looked it.

Jaguar Image Gallery

The 1971 Jaguar XKE with V-12 power.
Its classic inline-XK six enfeebled by emissions
regulations, Jaguar turned to V-12 power for the
XKE in 1971. See more Jaguar pictures.

Among alterations accompanying the move to the Jaguar XKE Series 3 V-12 were a larger radiator inlet screened by formal grillwork and the addition of subtle wheel arches to clear wider tires. The signature hood bulge was retained, even though it wasn't needed to clear the new engine.

On paper in 1971, the move to a V-12 was a fabulous idea. The once-supernatural XKE was 10 years old and had lost some of its magic. At 23, the once-mighty XK six-cylinder engine had lost some of its power to emission controls. To recapture the horses, Jaguar was developing a much larger, all-new motor for its sedans. So why not introduce it in the sports car and see if some of the XKE magic could be recaptured, as well?

After all, the ploy had worked back in 1948, when the all-new XK-six-powered Jaguar XK 120 had created an aura of performance prowess-and, not incidentally, some real-life service experience-by debuting a powerplant principally designed for the Jaguar Mark VII sedan.

This time, perhaps the aura of an all-new engine might return the favor and juice up the image of the XKE, a sports car now all too familiar.

And so in March 1971, Jaguar unveiled its long-rumored "new" sports model. Contrary to logical expectations, it was not called F-type but XKE Series 3. But who cared? What mattered was that it was motivated by the anticipated, wondrously exotic V-12.

Unfortunately, this "V-12E," as some called it, would never really replicate in the early 1970s the epic era of the original XKE in the early 1960s. And that was not entirely Jaguar's fault.

Creating automobiles used to be the purest pleasure. In the very early days it was a scientific activity, the entire focus being on the basic task of getting the newfangled contraptions merely to run, let alone reliably. Once the mechanical side was in hand, a maker was free to pursue the thing as an artistic endeavor, building machines top lease itself.

That quickly merged into its becoming a commercial enterprise, making cars to please people so they would buy them. But it was still fun. Until federal regulators moved in to clean up America's polluted air. Among their most important targets was the automobile.

Exhaust-emissions regulations in 1971 were not as choking as they would become, but they had already strangled the six-cylinder Jaguar XKE. Neither in performance nor in appearance was it the thrilling super sports machine of a decade before.

The once-crisp, bright engine had been saddled with anti-smog paraphernalia, and the once-clean, marvelously simple body lines had been sullied with new lights and bumpers also mandated by consumer-protection laws about safety and crash resistance.

Every automaker was having to spend more resources on dealing with newly aroused social consciousness than on traditional automotive engineering. Besides that, roadways were becoming ever more congested, regulated, and policed, thus depriving the keen driver of exercising his cherished pastime.

Both cars and driving just weren't as much fun any more; there was, in fact, an anti-auto lobby gleefully predicting the demise of the private motor vehicle. Even companies such as Jaguar were seeing customers concerned more and more with creature comforts and driving ease, less and less with performance and handling -- with sporty style over sporting substance.

For more on Jaguar and other great cars, see:

  • Jaguar Cars: Check out more information on the great sporting cars.
  • How Sports Cars Work: Get the lowdown on hundreds of fantastic sports cars from the 1940s to today.
  • Classic Cars: Learn about the world's most coveted automobiles in these illustrated profiles.
  • Ferrari: Learn about every significant Ferrari road car and racing car.
  • New Jaguars: Reviews, ratings, prices, and specifications on the current Jaguar lineup from the auto editors of Consumer Guide.
  • Used Jaguars: Reviews, recalls, trouble spots, and more on pre-owned Jaguars starting with the 1990 model year. From the auto editors of Consumer Guide.