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Jaguar XKE Series 3 V-12


Jaguar XKE Series 3 Design
Fitting the V-12 into the XKE chassis took surprisingly little work. Lengthwise there was no problem; both Series 3 models rode the longer 2+2 wheelbase for reasons other than engine installation.

The magnificient Coventry cat, the Jaguar XKE Series 3 V-12.
Some testers deemed the Jaguar XKE Series 3
"a magnificent engine in an outclassed body,"
but the Coventry cat looked -- and went--
like little else on the road.

However, the quartet of square-section tubes forming the main engine-bay space-frame had to be moved apart by several inches. Also, the top forward frame member was made detachable for ease of engine installation; the powerplant was now dropped in from above whereas the twin-cam six-cylinder had been inserted from below.

There also was some additional bracing and, because it had to be revised anyway to suit the altered frame dimensions, the firewall was beefed up.

While modifying the framework, Jaguar also re-engineered the front suspension, introducing anti-dive geometry to resist forward pitching under hard braking. Track dimensions were wider, the former 50-inch width at each end going up to 54.6 front, 53 rear.

Some of that increase was due to the specification of wider, low-profile tires. Wheel travel was increased for a softer ride. Spring rates were revised upward, front brakes were given ventilated discs, and the rear discs were cooled by new air scoops.

All these changes were necessary because the longer car with its added luxury equipment was heavier. With that and the wider tires, power rack-and-pinion steering was standardized. However, redesigned rubber mounts reduced the rack's former tendency to move sideways, thus cutting play in the steering.

Rubber appeared in torsion-bar and sway-bar mounts for the first time, again to soften the ride. Gas-charged shock absorbers, then in their infancy, were adopted to keep damping consistent as heat built up in the fluid with heavy use. These and numerous other detail changes all added up to a car that really was much newer than it looked.

Having wearied of complaints from taller members of the driving population who couldn't fit in the original XKE, Jaguar dropped the original 96-inch-wheel-base coupe and adapted the convertible bodyshell to the 105-inch span of the closed 2+2.

Even shorter folk who might not need the extra nine inches of cockpit length could appreciate how this made for easier entry/exit and more useful reclining seats.

Also more useful, thanks to the V-12's greater torque, was the optional Borg-Warner three-speed automatic transmission. The well-liked all-synchro manual four-speed remained standard, and was untouched save a larger clutch.

Any negative remarks about handling changes brought on by the long wheelbase were muted by the fact that Jaguar managed to alter the steering system to reduce the turning circle. It went from the very wide 42 feet of the 2+2 chassis to a much more manageable 36.

Still, the sharper steering angles added nearly a full extra turn of the helm, from 2.6 up to 3.5 turns lock-to-lock. One might have expected a quicker ratio in view of the now-standard power assistance. However, the power assist did allow a smaller steering wheel, now 15 inches in diameter and leather-wrapped.

The high-roofed coupe bodywork remained virtually the same, but on the new convertible the rear occasional seats were exchanged for a small-but-useful luggage area. The convertible's doors were obviously longer than before and its windshield shaping somewhat different.

On both models, wider tires required small flares for all wheel openings. Modern air-extractor vents appeared on both the coupe and the convertible's still optional liftoff hardtop to improve cabin ventilation, always an XKE sore point.

Up front was a still-larger "mouth" to admit extra cooling air. The appearance was further aggravated by the first formal grille on an XKE. The broad cross-hatch dental work with a small vertical divider was topped by a Jaguar escutcheon, all rendered in sparkling chrome. Despite the enlarged opening, an additional inlet was added below. Both served a bigger radiator offering 40-percent greater cooling capacity.

Another body change was to the underside at the rear, where a lower line housed a larger gas tank. That addressed a point of criticism on the original XKE by bringing fuel capacity from 17 U.S. gallons to almost 22.

Bumpers were refashioned at both ends, taillamps enlarged, and the standard steel-disc wheels redesigned with circumferential slots and nipple-like hubcaps.

Inside was a noticeable lowering of the floor to improve foot room. This was partly dictated by a transmission tunnel made wider and stronger so as to force the engine safely down and away from occupants in case of a head-on crash.

Despite all these alterations, many of the Series 3's basic body stampings were interchangeable with those of earlier XKEs. Even the hood bulge remained. It wasn't necessary to clear the new engine, but who would dare lose this distinctive and pleasing hallmark?

For more on Jaguar and other great cars, see:

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  • New Jaguars: Reviews, ratings, prices, and specifications on the current Jaguar lineup from the auto editors of Consumer Guide.
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