Jaguar XKE Series 2

The Jaguar XKE Series 2 was the result of a series of refinements and updates to Jaguar's two-seat sports cars. The changes began with mechanical tweaks, which lead to a larger engine in 1964. A four-seat coupe was added in 1966, and finally in late 1968, the XKE Series 2 was introduced.

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Jaguar XKE Series 2 front
The Jaguar XKE Series 2 was safer and more
reliable, than the Series 1, but some pined for
the irreclaimable wilds of the car's youth. See more Jaguar pictures.

As you'll discover in the pages that follow, not all these modifications were universally praised, and some resulted in the mixed message of a high-performance sports car that was slower but felt better to drive.

Jaguar was all the while contending with changing auto safety and emissions regulations in the U.S., and the need to devote resources to development of its volume sedans.

Along the way, the proud British company found time to return to its sports car's roots as a fast, light racecar. As did the Jaguar XK 120 of the late 1940s, the Jaguar XKE validated its performance claims by winning the very first race it ever contested. And it did so in a thoroughly convincing way.

On the sunny spring afternoon of April 15, 1961, after 25 quick laps of the tricky little Oulton Park road course in Cheshire, future world champion Graham Hill took a race-prepared Jaguar XKE roadster to victory over a field that included an Aston Martin DB4GT, another new Jaguar XKE, and a pair of Ferrari 250GT short-wheelbase berlinettas.

On such a resounding note began a long and impressive competition career for Jaguar's new sports car. Impressive, especially, in that nothing about the showroom XKE was ever meant for racing. It was primarily a road car that made good use of design principles proven in racing -- such good use that it could go to the track and, often, beat far more exotic and expensive cars.

Beauty, exciting mechanical specification, rave reviews, and now a growing record of competition success; what possible excuse not to buy one?

Well, even those most captivated by the cats from Coventry have been willing to admit over the years that no Jaguar was ever without flaw, especially new ones in their infancy. Yet as the first XKEs went out to prowl on the roads of the world, Jaguar was drawing up a job-list of things that needed improving based on customer feedback and the factory's own experience.

Some of these would be phased in as running changes. Others would await the advent of a new XKE "series" some years hence.

Not many cars were made before the original "bonnet" was changed in two respects. Initially, the louvers atop that vast expanse were contained in a pair of add-on pieces; they soon were pierced directly into the sheetmetal instead.

Also on the first cars, the hood couldn't be latched or unlatched without a special T-shaped tool inserted on each side; this cumbersome arrangement soon was replaced with cockpit levers. (Of course, those earliest, clumsiest XKEs now command special prices from collectors!)

Over the next three-and-a-half years, up through autumn 1964, the 3.8-liter XKE was treated to similar rethinking in almost every area. Rear-axle ratio was raised from 3.31 to 3.07:1 for more relaxed high-speed cruising, though the original gearset would later return to recover the lost low-end acceleration.

A permanent change was new piston rings that reduced oil consumption. They increased internal friction and cost a little power, but were somewhat offset by a thermostatically controlled electric radiator fan that also was quieter than the early constant-drive unit.

Still on the mechanical front, a new brake-operating system was adopted, allowing more consistent stops with less effort, and rain shields were added to the inboard rear discs. The handbrake received a self-adjusting mechanism so owners no longer had to do that dirty job by hand, and a more gentle clutch was installed.

Inside, noise was further reduced via added insulation and better door and hatch sealing. Heating and ventilation systems were upgraded, but the XKE cockpit still drew criticism for excess heat coming through the transmission tunnel, under which the exhaust pipes ran.

The coupe's rear window got a heater of its own, an electric-wire type, to combat fogging. Seats were improved both in comfort and in length of fore/aft adjustment. A shallow well let into the floorpan opened up a little more foot room. Pedals were revised a bit, too, to meet complaints of awkward positioning.

Outside, a standard backup light sprouted above the twin exhaust pipes. At the front, the original plastic streamlining covers over the recessed headlights were replaced with ones made of toughened glass.

For more on Jaguar and other great cars, see:

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