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Jaguar C-Type

Jaguar C-Type Road Test

Climbing aboard a Jaguar C-Type takes some dexterity, because the single door on the right is very small, and the nest of space-frame tubes makes quite a high sill.

Once seated, space is at a premium, especially fore/aft. The 17-inch, three-spoke plastic steering wheel feels large, upright and close, rather like a yacht's. As in the street car it can be adjusted fore and aft, but in this case a wrench is required.

Jaguar C-Type
©2007 Jaguar Cars and Wieck Media Services, Inc.
The Jaguar C-Type has few creature comforts, but
comfort is not why you drive one.

There is no room to recline the bolt-upright seatback, even were it capable of doing so. The footbox does not extend forward of the firewall, so your knees seem a bit too bent. Although the body is almost exactly as deep as the roadgoing XK 120's, there is no frame to sit on, so you feel comparatively submerged.

Looking around, you see a lot more metal than upholstery. For wind and weather protection you rely on a pair of fold-down aeroscreens or, on some cars, a single low sheet of thin plastic. But that's it: No wipers, no top. A heater? It's the big iron stove up front. With the rounded tail full of fuel tank and spare wire wheel, the only possible place to stow any luggage is under your elbows.

This Jaguar, you are forced to realize, is not a car for long-distance comfort. Just long-distance pleasure. The C-Type gives a very satisfying sense of being nestled amongst serious, no-foolin' machinery, stark as an old motorcycle. It is by no means intimidating or unpleasant, just alien to the coddle-the-customer philosophies of conventional automobiles.

Though tuned for racing, the big six-cylinder engine awakes easily at a push on the panel button and has surprisingly good low-speed manners. If you don't ask for too much with the throttle at low rpm, which can set up a stutter, it pulls with almost the same docile strength for which the normal XK is famous.

But where the street engine keeps on pulling that way right around the tachometer-a rush of smooth torque without hump or hollow-the C-Type comes to sudden, vivid life at 3,000. It then eagerly takes full boot. Raucous and racy, the sound from the exhaust becomes pure music, and the engine wants to rush to the redline with joyous abandon.

Perfectly complementing the symphonic nature of the engine are those sculptural curves stretching way out ahead. Driving a C-Type fast is almost like attending a ballet, the eyes feasting along with the ears. While you sit low enough to worry a little about where the corners are in traffic, on the open road this is no problem.

The clutch is light and sweet, and its characteristic long travel is no real bother, but the gearshift at your left has a surprisingly long and lanky travel, and getting it all the way over into the reverse plane (left and forward) takes a practiced backhand whap. And at least when the box has some miles under its synchros, it protests overly quick shifts with irritable grating noises.

By contrast, the rack-and-pinion steering is a pure delight, having that smooth, light, precise feel of perfectly honed vintage machinery. In an opposite way, the car itself feels a bit vintage on the road, somewhat stiffly sprung and a trifle darty over bumps.

For more on Jaguar and other great cars, see:

  • Jaguar Cars: Check out more information on the great sporting cats.
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  • 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.