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Jaguar XKE Series 2

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.

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