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.

Jaguar Image Gallery

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.

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Jaguar XKE Variations

All these changes made a great road car even greater. Meanwhile, the XKEs eagerly snapped up by racers were undergoing revisions of a different sort.

Thanks to the factory's helpful attitude toward motor-sports -- and its stock of D-Type racing components -- an XKE committed to the circuit wars could wind up a pretty dramatic machine.

Jaguar XKE Series 2 rear
The 265-horsepower Jaguar XKE Series 2 could do
0-60 mph in 7.0 seconds and reach 150 mph.

 Autosport borrowed one such early "modified," a convertible, for evaluation on both road and track in late 1962. "The acceleration must be described as almost incredible," wrote Paddy McNally.

Despite "far from ideal" conditions, and not thrashing the car out of respect to its owner, he was able to hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and tear past the quarter-mile pole in 13.3 at 108. Yet McNally felt sure that he hadn't seen all the speed the car had to give.

To get that much out of an XKE, one had to do a lot of work under the skin -- perhaps starting with the skin itself. This particular car had been considerably lightened, to the extent of having its hood, doors, trunklid, seats and even its bumpers remanufactured in aluminum. The side-window glass was replaced with plastic, and the winding mechanisms removed.

Underneath, the original brake system had been revised with smaller-diameter but thicker "competition" discs, plus racing pads and a different servo-from a Ford.

The suspension was retuned by lowering ride height, swapping the stock shocks for adjustable racing units, and cocking more negative camber into the rear wheels. While the back end was apart, the suspension carrier's stock rubber mounts were replaced with metal blocks "to prevent axle twist and also to cut out rear-wheel steering."

Although the steering system itself was not mentioned in this case, some XKE racers discovered they could make the car respond more crisply by removing the rubber rack mounts as well. All these changes would make the car too harsh on the street, but would make for all the right moves on the track.

The real centerpiece of this particular banquet was the engine. Atop its stock, albeit blueprinted, block was a D-Type cylinder head complete with 10.0:1 compression, enlarged ports, a trio of two-barrel Weber carburetors, and a racing exhaust system.

All this served up an estimated 300 horsepower. It carried through a lightweight steel flywheel and beefy competition clutch to closer-ratio gears installed in a stock transmission case. Final-drive gearing was variable, depending on venue; a 3.77:1 cog appears to have been fitted for the Autosport test, because the observed top speed of 128 mph was reached at the requested rpm limit of 6,000.

"On the road," McNally reported, "this car proved extremely tractable, the engine never being temperamental or oiling up -- throughout the period of testing the plugs were never touched. The engine pulled well at all revs and didn't just have top-end performance. Maximum power was found between 3,000 [and] 5,500 r.p.m., and the close-ratio gearbox allowed the driver to keep within this rev-band. Fast take-offs were helped by a Powr-Lok differential and the fixed rear-carrier, these two coping with take-offs at 4,000 r.p.m., providing the driver was capable of holding the car in a straight line."

On the sensible side, McNally observed that this was "not a cheap car to run, at 10 m.p.g., but it certainly gave value for money." Well, cars like this tend to distort one's values; McNally actually thought the oil consumption "was quite low at one pint per 100 miles."

Autosport's tester also felt the modified brakes "very good indeed with medium pedal pressure, and [they] never locked up, an amazing improvement over standard." He went on to praise the steering, which though heavy at low speeds was "superlative" when "really motoring."

The clutch was very heavy, too, but smooth. Although ride was "firm, to the point of being hard," that minimized pitch and roll; overall, he lauded the handling as "ideal" and "superb."

On both road and track, McNally waxed on, "the road-holding was of a very high order. The tendency to understeer, with such power available, was no problem, and power-induced oversteer could easily be brought about...." Rounding the famed Silverstone circuit, he found "the car could be made to do more or less anything, being extremely manageable and, needless to say ... the car was controlled on the throttle."

This car, built and first raced by Ken Baker, went on to win numerous events and championships on the local level. Similar privately built racing XKEs were soon numbered in the scores.

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Jaguar XKE Lightweight

The ultimate harvest of all this hot-rodding was the dozen or so "Lightweight" XKEs produced by Jaguar itself during 1963-1964.

These were mostly roadsters built up on specially made aluminum monocoques and clad with aluminum body panels. Even the hardtop, fiberglass on the standard car, was of aluminum.

The front space-frame remained steel, as on later Jaguar D-Types, and for the same reason: For this application, steel was effectively as light as magnesium and much easier to fabricate. But just about everything else was redone to save weight.

The engines even revived the aluminum-block idea of the late 1950s, for a reduction of 84 pounds. Total weight-saving over the standard roadster was on the order of 500 pounds -- some 20 percent. About 80 pounds of that was later put back on by installing a very stoutly constructed five-speed ZF gearbox from Germany.

While the Lightweights' suspension looked standard, it was, in fact, heavily modified, with different chassis pickup points for altered geometry, and certain parts adopted from contemporary Jaguar sedans because they were stronger.

Torsion bars, springs, shocks, and sway bars were all stiffer, of course, as were the rear subframe mounting rubbers (the car's own designers evidently feeling some small amount of compliance was necessary).

Front brakes were beefier, again thanks in part to some sedan pieces, while the rear binders were basically stock but newly fed with cooling air through special ducts. Instead of the normal wire wheels, the Lightweights had lightweight pierced discs that looked like the old D-Type's but were 15 inches in diameter instead of 16.

Though all-aluminum, the engine also strongly resembled the old D-Type's, having the wide-angle 35/40 cylinder head, fuel injection, and dry-sump oiling. Compression ratios ranged up to 10.0:1 and, during the engine's development life, horsepower reached as high as 344 at 6,500 rpm.

That ultimate engine was installed in the ultimate XKE bodyshell, one of a series of super-streamlined fastback coupes wind-tunnel designed by Malcolm Sayer, Jaguar's astute, always active aerodynamicist.

As entered at LeMans 1964, this version was reported to whistle up as much as 6300 rpm in top gear down the Mulsanne Straight, which gearing charts showed to be 176 mph. By this time, though, LeMans was being dominated by a different class of purpose-built racers capable of another 25 mph or more. Anyway, neither of the Lightweights that started that year's 24-Hours lasted to the finish.

To Jaguar enthusiasts who are also racing fans, the Lightweights were the high-water mark of the factory's competition activities in the 1960s. But as modified road cars, they simply had built-in limitations and were soon outclassed in top-line international racing. Ferrari kept making faster coupes, and also stayed abreast of advancing technology in racing as a whole. Jaguar did not, or rather, did not seem to.

We know now that, in deepest secrecy, chief engineer William Heynes and his staff built and tested a state-of-the-art mid-engine racing sports car with a new 5.0-liter, quadruple-camshaft V-12 of enormous power (reportedly over 500 horsepower).

Completed around 1966, this XJ13 could have carried the British colors at LeMans against the Italian Ferrari "Prototypes" and the Anglo-American Ford GT40. But Jaguar management decided against the venture, considering it more important to concentrate limited resources on improving production cars.

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Jaguar XKE 4.2

Which brings us to October of 1964, when a 4.2-liter version of the 16-year-old XK six-cylinder engine was introduced in the Jaguar XKE.

The important change was in the cylinder block, which had been recast to allow a bore dimension of 92.07 mm, 5.07 larger than before. To get that much of an increase involved something of a lash-up.

1964 Jaguar XKE Series 2 front
A 4.2-liter six cylinder replaced the 3.8-liter in
1964 in the Jaguar XKE Series 2. Coverless
headlights soon followed.

Jaguar actually shifted the casting patterns to move the cylinders in relation to each other. Because the original engine had extra spacing between the middle two cylinders, numbers three and four, these were moved closer together; those at either end of the block, one and six, were moved farther apart. Overall block length was unchanged.

Oddly enough, the existing cylinder head worked just fine; the slight misaligning of four bores and their combustion chambers didn't seem to trouble either the engine or its makers.

The crankshaft itself was redesigned, but retained the original 106-mm stroke, so the new displacement was precisely 4,234.3 cc (258.4 cubic inches). This 12-percent increase in pumping capacity gave an 8.8-percent increase in torque, from 260 pounds/feet to 283, still peaking at 4,000 rpm.

Maximum horsepower held at 265 but was developed at 100 fewer rpm, 5,400. Curiously, that was 400 rpm into the new, more conservative red zone marked on the 4.2 car's tachometer.

Accompanying this engine were numerous other improvements, or at least changes. There were new rings on the new pistons to further cut oil consumption, a new starter motor, a radiator core changed from aluminum to copper, and an exhaust system newly "aluminized" for longer life.

A modern alternator ousted the old-fashioned generator, thus eliminating the gradual running-down of the battery in certain conditions, and the entire electrical system was switched to negative-ground.

Another new brake servo was installed. Thanks to new seals, the lube interval for the front ball joints was upped from 2,500 to fully 12,000 miles. At the rear, the suspension was altered slightly to prevent bottoming on severe bumps.

An external SU fuel pump supplanted the original in-tank Lucas unit. Replaceable-bulb headlights gave way to sealed-beam units (a concession to the American market, one suspects), though these remained "under glass" for the time being.

Nor was the cockpit overlooked. Seats were improved again, armrests were added to the doors, a between-seats "cubby box" was put on the transmission tunnel for stowing bric-a-brac, and dash trim went from high- to low-gloss (again in deference to the U.S.). External identification was far more subtle: just a small "4.2-liter" badge and covered hinges on the trunklid/rear hatch.

But of all the ameliorations made for the XKE 4.2, the one most acclaimed was an all-new gearbox with-at last-synchromesh on all forward gears. In conjunction with a new diaphragm-type clutch, the new four-speed was as nice to use as the old one was unpleasant.

If the XKE 4.2 was hard to distinguish visually from the 3.8 -- which remained in parallel production for a while -- driving it is a surprisingly different experience. Where the 3.8 feels and sounds like a traditional sports-car engine, somewhat raucous and becoming especially vigorous in the upper half of its rpm band, the 4.2 hardly seems like a piston engine at all.

Above slow-traffic revs, the familiar Jaguarish growl is replaced by more of a whine reminiscent of a gas turbine. And the 3.8's exciting shove-in-the-spine power step at about 3,500 rpm is not felt in the 4.2, which doesn't seem or sound that eager to rev. The power peak may be 5,400 on the dyno, but anything above 4,000 seems superfluous on the road.

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Jaguar XKE 4.2 Performance

In the way "buff book" writers have of describing something new and fresh, initial reviews of the XKE 4.2 were generally favorable.

"The biggest improvement," stated Motor in October 1964, "is the all-new, all-synchromesh gearbox. Gone is the tough, unrefined box that had accumulated a certain notoriety, in favour of one that will undoubtedly establish a correspondingly high reputation: although the lever movement is still quite long, it is fairly light and very quick, the synchromesh being unbeatable without being too obstructive."

Jaguar XKE Series 2 engine
The XKE Series 2's torque-rich 4.2-liter six was
complemented by an improved manual transmission.

Enjoyment was also found in the new engine's bottom-end strength. "Low-speed torque and flexibility are so good," Motor observed, that you can actually start in top gear, despite a 3.07:1 axle ratio giving 24.4 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m.

"Driving around town, this fascinating tractability can be fully exploited by starting in first or second and then dropping into top which, even below 30 m.p.h., is sufficiently lively to out-accelerate a lot of cars." Such tactics did tend to soot up the spark plugs, the magazine admitted, but a little high-rpm work would usually clear them.

When driven as a sports car rather than, say, as a limo, the XKE 4.2's greater torque easily dealt with its slightly greater weight and somewhat taller final gearing.

From a standing start, Motor's test coupe reached 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, compared to the 7.1 the magazine had clocked with an early roadster three-and-a-half years before. The time over the quarter-mile was 14.9, versus 15.0.

On the top end, the XKE 4.2 coupe was only slightly faster than the XKE 3.8 convertible -- exactly 150 mph, versus 149.1 -- this despite the slinky fastback's much superior aerodynamics.

To achieve that velocity, by the way, Motor's test crew apparently thought nothing of violating the tachometer redline by 1,100 rpm. "All this performance is accompanied by astonishingly little fuss, the engine remaining smooth and mechanically quiet at all times ...Even 6,100 r.p.m. -- corresponding to 150 m.p.h. -- does not sound unduly strained."

Autosport's John Bolster confessed to the same transgression in reporting an observed maximum of 152.5 mph: "The needle of the rev-counter has by then invaded the red section of the dial, but the engine is just as smooth as in the medium speed range, and that means very smooth indeed." His 0-60 time was 7.4, rather in arrears of Motor's result, but his quarter-mile time was exactly the same: 14.9 seconds.

One cannot leave this point about high engine speeds without wondering whether it may help substantiate something long and widely suspected about published Jaguar performance figures -- namely, that the cars loaned out for road testing were specially tuned for the task.

Several marque historians have noted that private owners of production-line cars seemed unable to duplicate the press numbers -- unless they spent a few hundred extra Pounds with the factory to have special engine work carried out. These modifications might well have raised an engine's willingness to rev, but also its oil consumption, its tendency to knock on normal gas, and so forth.

Such suspicions have cropped up in regards to other automakers. Some have even been proven. In this case, all that can really be said is that few, if any, private owners ever thought their own 4.2-liter XKEs were near as fast as the publicity had led them to expect, nor even as fast as the 3.8.

That noted, it also must be said that the last tenth of a second and ultimate few miles-per-hour have very little relevance in real-world driving. Reaching the limits takes too much out of car and driver both.

Besides, few XKE owners go about their daily rounds burning up clutches and grinding tires into nothingness. (Truer than ever now.) Few, frankly, ever cared to find out if their car was really capable of breaking 150 mph.

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Jaguar XKE 4.2 Driving Experience

Just as Jaguar built it, the XKE was fast enough to make a very quick, very enjoyable job out of any journey, and in itself was a possession that gave great pleasure. Surely that was enough. Numbers are interesting, but they aren't everything. The quality of performance is at least as important as its quantity.

1969 Jaguar XKE Series 2 cockpit
Taking the wheel of a 4.2-liter Jaguar XKE
meant you were in control of a very fast but
also a confidence-inspiring sports car.

As Motor's test put it, "Preconceived ideas about speed and safety are apt to be shattered by XKE performance. True, very few owners will ever see 150 m.p.h. on the speedometer, but, as on any other car, cruising speed and acceleration are closely related to the maximum and it is these that lop not just seconds or minutes, but half hours and more, off journey times. Our drivers invariably arrived early in the XKE and the absurd ease with which 100 m.p.h. can be exceeded on a quarter mile straight never failed to astonish them: nor did the tremendous punch in second gear which would fling the car past slower vehicles using gaps that would be prohibitively small for other traffic."

This point was also touched by Autosport's Gregor Grant in a piece he called "The Magic of an XKE." After a fast Continental trip in a 3.8 coupe, he wrote: "As a high performance touring car there are few machines to equal the XKE, and none at all in its price bracket.

"Effortless is the correct word to describe it, for it is a real mile-eater and also one of the least-fatiguing cars to drive ... Driven intelligently, it is easily one of the safest vehicles on the road: it has superb steering and road-holding, the brakes on the latest version are as smooth and powerful as one could wish, and the acceleration is so vivid that overtaking can be done with the greatest confidence."

Bolster's test of the 4.2 also addressed passing performance: "The XKE is fundamentally a safe car because it is on the wrong side of the road for such a short period when overtaking."

He also lauded, once again, the stability and comfort given by the all-independent suspension, the powerful disc brakes, the "very restful" silence as its aerodynamic shape slipped through the air; for Bolster, the XKE was "a superb car, a veritable magic carpet, which can make haste unobtrusively and automatically achieves fantastic averages."

Such was the real value for the average owner of the XKE Jaguar's competition breeding. An athletic automobile, like a physically fit body, simply handles everyday situations more competently. Let us sigh for the days and the places where the full prowess of such "magic carpet" cars could be freely and innocently enjoyed.

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Jaguar XKE 4.2 in America

Even in lands where long journeys at triple-digit speeds were impossible, the Jaguar XKE 4.2 was popular. In fact, the United States was consistently its best market. Maybe Americans were mature enough to enjoy the marque's other virtues without indulging in its great performance potential.

1964 Jaguar XKE Series 2 rear
Rather than focus on the impact of the new 4.2-liter
engine, American road testers still seemed awed
by the Jaguar XKE's sex appeal.

More likely, there was some "forbidden fruit" fantasizing going on. Anyway, in a 1965 test of the XKE 4.2, or "XK-E" as the the car was generally known Stateside, Car and Driver focused less on speed than on sex-appeal: "There's something so sensual, so elemental in the appeal of that car that few men can resist its siren song. It's like that woman you used to love, the one you'd never waste another minute on. You can avoid her for months, but one night she calls...."

Getting down to more tangible aspects, C/D found that the 3.54:1 rear axle specified for the U.S. gave 21.5 mph per 1,000 rpm, which limited top speed to an "estimated" 130 mph (6,047 rpm). But acceleration was commensurately fiercer, with the 0-60 time cut to 6.5 seconds. Over the quarter-mile, the results were pretty much as seen in Europe: 15.0 seconds at 98 mph.

C/D's test Jaguar XKE 4.2 was a roadster with a dry weight of 2,465 pounds. That rose to 2,515 as "curb weight" with fuel aboard, and to 2,800 as tested, the last distributed 49/51 percent front/rear. Gas mileage ranged from 16 to 22 mpg. List price in 1965 was $5,525-not cheap (some $1,500 dearer than an open Corvette, for example) but hardly "exoticar" territory.

Though C/D rated bumper protection and front seating room as Poor, it judged most points Excellent, Very Good, and Good. "Jaguar has been accused of ignoring its owners' anguished pleas in the past," said the report, "but this time they listened intently and fixed virtually everything [with the 4.2]."

The magazine especially appreciated the new gearbox, saying it "can be banged into first at 40 mph without a qualm, although it's sometimes a little sticky when selecting the same gear at rest." Some other tests had mentioned that, some had not; perhaps a quirk in preparation of individual cars.

As did almost every publication, this one marveled at the XKE 4.2 engine's flexible torque delivery, a "locomotive-like ability to pull smoothly away from anything over 500 rpm in any gear." It also welcomed a reduction in brake and clutch effort, although some other testers complained the latter was still too stiff.

C/D's writer was among those who found seating to be cramped. He acknowledged that the only way to provide more legroom would be to lengthen the wheelbase.

"However, people of short to medium stature have been known to reach new heights of joy in the XK-E, and have accomplished 500-mile journeys in a single day's driving stint without discomfort. Limited luggage capacity in the XK-E roadster makes this sort of travel problematical, but it's noteworthy that the car makes you want to do it."

Expanding on his overall impressions, the writer added, "Driving the 4.2-liter XK-E is little different from driving its 3.8-liter predecessor. The driver sits proudly behind the same comprehensive -- and comprehensible -- instrument panel and bends the eager beast to his will ...The short shift lever is just about where you'd put it yourself, and the throws are short, quick, and accurate.

"The steering wheel is placed at a nice angle for those who like to affect the Stirling Moss-Hero Driver style, and the steering is amazingly light for such a big car. It goes where it's pointed without fuss or surprises, and the handling is the kind that forgives the most ham-fisted cretin. The ride is sedan-like, and although the car isn't small the driver soon loses any apprehensions he might have had about that long nose and where it's going."

In all, C/D was "really very impressed by all the improvements that have been made to the XK-E, but we must be completely honest and admit that the things that really get to us are the looks and the noise. It's a Jaguar. It reeks of purest automotive erotica."

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Jaguar XKE 2+2

Road & Track described the erotic lure of the Jaguar XKE with memorable simplicity. The XKE, it said, was "the greatest crumpet collector known to man."

Ah, but having collected one's "crumpet," what then? Did the very prowess of the XKE as a courting car not work against it in later life? Jaguar had that covered, too.

1966 Jaguar XKE 2+2 front
Jaguar unveiled the XKE 2+2 coupe in 1966. Its
lengthened wheelbase accommodated two small
rear seats, making it the first four-passenger XKE.

In March of 1966, it finally introduced a 2+2 coupe with enough extra interior room for a pair of occasional seats in back. One Motor scribe immediately zeroed-in on the real significance of this development: "... [I]t effectively turns the E-Type into a family grand tourer and will therefore extend Dad's youth for at least another seven years."

As suggested by C/D, the 2+2 arrived on a longer wheelbase, up nine inches to 105 (three more than the old XK's). Created by stretching the sheetmetal center of the monocoque, it allowed correspondingly longer doors for easier access.

In an attempt to make the overall profile look right, both roof and windshield were raised two inches. Some people actually thought this an improvement.

Some also felt that the longer, heavier 2+2 rode and even handled better than the two-seaters, and that its wider turning circle (up from 37 feet to about 42) was not much of a problem. Of course the added weight-roughly 200 pounds-and the taller body cut performance, but many people didn't think that mattered much, either.

The "family Jaguar" was still plenty fast, and it was still a Jaguar. Plus, the factory used the extra driveline length to incorporate an optional item that had been popular on the old XK 150: automatic transmission. Thus, the 2+2 in every way diluted the sports-car concept still defended by its two-seat sisters. But it sold well.

Darker clouds were looming for the original XKE than a change in ownership base from younger singles to older marrieds. The auto industry and society as a whole were changing, too.

By the second half of 1966, Sir William Lyons had established a relationship with British Motor Corporation, and within two years his once-independent Jaguar was merely a part of the new British Leyland conglomerate (after an interim BMC/Jaguar partnership as British Motor Holdings). Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, his largest market was busily redefining its very conception of the automobile and its place in society.

Jaguar met these realities in two steps during late 1967 and 1968. First came an interim model that enthusiasts now refer to as the "Series 11/2;" although the factory never used this; it hadn't yet gotten as far as a Series 2 at that point.

The most immediately noticeable change was to the headlights, which lost their streamlined covers and were moved three inches forward to meet U.S. government notions of proper illumination.

To satisfy another newly enacted regulation, switchgear changed from stiletto toggles traditional on British cars to rockers less likely to puncture a person in an accident.

Under the hood, U.S.-bound engines had only two Stromberg carburetors, instead of three SUs, and were otherwise seriously detuned to reduce pollution. The official power figure dropped from 265 to 246. As something of a badge of shame, the engine lost its gorgeous polished cam covers for a nondescript pair covered with ribs and finished in "crackle" black.

These and further changes were incorporated in the officially designated XKE Series 2 introduced in October 1968. This remained very much the same basic design in most respects, but showed the heavy hand of the U.S. government and reflected the car-buying public's taste for more and more luxury.

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

Jaguar XKE Series 2

Quickest way to spot a Jaguar XKE Series 2 from the front was by its more gaping "mouth" air intake-fully two-thirds larger.

This sad degradation of the sleek, aerodynamically efficient original nose was required because -- hold your heart -- some customers wanted air conditioning. Probably the same people who had demanded the optional power steering that was now available.

1969 Jaguar XKE Series 2 convertible
A larger front air intake, parking lamps below the
bumpers, and side marker lights were all clues
you were looking at a Jaguar XKE Series 2.

Other Jaguar XKE Series 2 clues were larger front and rear parking/turn signal lights mounted below (instead of above) the bumpers. The bumpers themselves were now stouter and thus stronger, per Federal decree.

Washington's mandated marker lights appeared on the sides, while twin backup lamps replaced the previous single unit. A new rear license-plate holder forced separation of the twin exhaust pipes, which moved farther apart and outboard.

Windshields on the 2+2s got taller, so they now could use dual instead of triple wipers, and the glass was angled back an additional seven degrees, a boon to beauty. Cars sentenced to the increasingly restrictive American market also wore new "earless" nuts on their knock-off wire wheels -- unless the customer had ordered the newly optional bolt-on disc wheels.

Alas, English and Continental cars weren't spared these changes, as Lyons had decreed that all Series 2s must conform to U.S. safety and smog specs.

But in many respects, what would be the last of the XK-engine XKEs were the best yet, with better cooling, added comfort, a higher safety factor, and more. Still, their performance was very sad.

A change in quoted horsepower ratings from British standard to European DIN made the new lower figures look worse than they were-down to as low as 171 horsepower at a meager peak rpm of 4,500. Actually, some authorities believe the once-mighty XK engine had been emasculated only 30 or 40 horsepower.

The last cars were evidently so uninteresting to the motoring press that few tests were published. Road & Track and Car and Driver took their last looks in tests of then-new 1969 Series 2 cars.

R&T's was a coupe. It was priced at $6,495 as tested, weighed 3,018 pounds at the curb, and went 0-60 in 8.0 seconds. The quarter-mile clocking was 15.7 at 86 mph. Top speed was given as a mere 119 mph, which meant 5,500 rpm on its 3.54 axle. Fuel mileage was 15.9 mpg.

What did R&T now think of the sporting Jaguar? Much less: "Exciting though the XKE was when it was introduced in 1961, time has made it rather dated, inside and out. The interior, though retaining that wonderful smell of leather and the aura of a cockpit with a million controls and dials, lacks the spaciousness and ergonomics of more recently designed cars. Entry and exit are some-what awkward and restricted ... The XK engine doesn't seem comfortable when it's driven hard."

And so on, all adding up to the impression that the magic that had once excused a multitude of sins had faded. "We hear that a new engine is in the plans for the XKE this fall; probably the basic car will be with us for another year or two. As it stands, it's a pleasant car in normal everyday driving.. . we can't really say we didn't like it. But we do think Jaguar can do better-and will before long."

C/D retested a roadster that cost $5,858, up $333 or nearly 17 percent from the one examined four years earlier. As with the R&T car, horsepower was 246 at 5,500 (the data panel and text disagreed; we cite the data panel, which was confirmed by other sources). Torque was 263 at 3,000.

The car's curb weight was 2,750 pounds (distributed 48.8/51.2), compared to 2,515 for the magazine's 1965 convertible. Running the same 3.54 rear-end gearing, the 1969 XKE Series 2 made it to 60 in 6.7 seconds (versus 6.5 for the 1965 XKE) and through the quarter in 15.3 at 90 mph (15.0 at 98).

Top speed was once again estimated, but agreed with R&T's 119 (versus 130 for the 1965). Gas consumption was 16-19 mpg, compared to 16-22 in 1965.

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

1969-1970 Jaguar XKE Series 2 Specifications

The Jaguar XKE Series 2 (or the E-Type Series 2, as it was also known) had improved engine cooling and more comfort compared to the XKE Series 1, but at the expense of some of the earlier car's lively performance.

Jaguar XKE Series 2 Specifications

­
Years produced 1969-1970
Number built18,820
Configuration Front engine; two-seat and 2+2
Body styleCoupe, convertible, 2+2 coupe
Suspension, frontIndependent with torsion bars
Suspension, rearIndependent with four coil springs
Wheelbase (inches)96 (105 for 2+2)
Track, front (inches)50
Track, rear (inches) 50
Overall length (inches)
175.5 (184.0 for 2+2)

Jaguar XKE Series 2 Engines

Engine

Inline six-cylinder
TypeIron block, aluminum head with two overhead camshafts, two valves per cylinder
Displacement, liters/cc
4.6/4,235
Maximum horsepower
265

Jaguar XKE Series 2 Performance
Best 0-60 mph (seconds)
7.0
Best top speed (mph)
150

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