Speed, style, and handling. Pleasing to look at in every way. Aside from the engine and transmission, the Jaguar XKE was a completely new car, and as beautiful today as it was when introduced in 1961.
In 1965, engine displacement increased to 4.2 litres. Although not as powerful as the original 3.8 litre motors, driveability and low-end torque were improved. Oil consumption, an issue on the earlier 3.8 motors, was remedied by using better piston rings. The generator was replaced with an alternator, and the electrical system changed to negative-ground.
Other improvements to the mid-1960s XKE included a full-synchromesh transmission and better seating. The dashboard also changed from aluminum to a black finish.
Jaguar XKE Series 1-1/2
During 1967 and 1968, the transitional Series 1-1/2 cars were brought about to comply with U.S. safety regulations. The biggest exterior change was the loss of the original glass-covered headlamps, to more upright and exposed headlamps. Under the hood, twin electric fans were added to help cooling. The original smooth polished dual cam covers were now ribbed and painted.
Since the Jaguar XKE body is partially unitized, each panel functions both for appearance and support. Although this particular car was rust-free, places to check are under the rear fenders, along the sills, under the spare tire, and under the carpets.
XKE's have 4-wheel discs, and the rear ones are inboard. Any serious work on the rear brakes will require removing the entire rear sub frame.
From the single picture posted on the internet ad, this Jaguar looked clean. A blue-on-blue XKE roadster with original factory air-conditioning and wire wheels. When I called the seller, he said he'd already received dozens of calls, mostly from out-of-state, but since I was closest in distance I would be offered the XKE first. With directions in hand, I hopped into my truck, arriving at the address several hours later.
I was immediately impressed with the Jag's condition; no rust, no dents, a few minor scratches, and perfect blue-leather seats. Everything looked intact, but the car hadn't run in 13 years. When looking for old car projects, it's rare that you'll find one that needs only mechanical restoration. My gut feeling was the Jag just needed some TLC.
Although I had no previous experience with Jaguars, several factors contributed to my decision to buy this non-running XKE. First, the car had been stored in a nice garage in a beautifully-kept house. Second, the seller was not only friendly and informative, he was genuinely concerned about the car. I had no guarantee that the engine would run, but I took a chance. The Jag was purchased and trailered home.
Since only mechanical restoration was needed to return this 1968 XKE to former glory, I regarded this as a minor project. The Jag's body was straight and rust-free, and still had the original paint. Before I did any work on this car, I read every book I could get my hands on about XKE models. Turns out old British sports cars are easier to work on than I thought they were. Another old myth dispelled.
I started the Jaguar XKE project by rebuilding the side-draft carburetors. It's nice to have a second carburetor to use as a reference as you're disassembling the other.