Cars and other stories

E type Jaguar

© 1998 Duncan R Fry


I was idly browsing through the secondhand car ads in the papers one day back in the late 70’s, when I saw the ad for it.

‘Jaguar E type roadster, 1961, some body damage, $2000.’

I was out there like a flash. What a classic it was - a very early flat floor 3.8 roadster. Subsequent checking of body numbers showed it was only the 2nd built without external bonnet catches, which would make it approx # 202 built. Trivia I know, but these important details mean a lot to Jag aficionados.

In the pic below it is shown parked next to # 203, which I discovered on a car club trip to Adelaide.

Perhaps best of all, it came with the optional removable hardtop, which alone would cost well over five grand these days, if you could find one! I should point out that the word removable is also a relative thing - yes it could be removed, but only by two strapping young Olympic weight lifters in the peak of condition. This thing was heavy. It came with chrome trim, full headlining and a glass back window, and was constructed entirely from half inch fibreglass. It weighed a ton!
The visible body damage consisted of a small crumple over the driver’s side front wheel arch - fairly easily fixable. It wasn’t till much later I discovered the invisible damage covered over with large amounts of bog in the bonnet, doors and the rear floor!

Still, at $2000 it was a bit of a bargain, even if it was painted a bilious bright lime green that ensured that no matter where you went, someone would say “Hey, didn’t I see you the other day in XYZ street.” Not a colour that lent itself to anonymity, but then who buys an E type roadster for anonymity? Friends promptly nicknamed it the jolly green slug.
The money changed hands and it was mine. I drove it home and was promptly introduced to its propensity for boiling whenever the speed dropped below a steady 80k.

The car had lived a hard life - every one of its previous owners had stacked it. The guy I bought it from had a picture on his mantelpiece of the car being hauled out of the Yarra by a tow truck, after losing it at high speed on a corner of the Boulevard. He was happy to sell the car but wouldn’t part with the picture!

Once home I set about putting the car into driveable shape. First thing to fix was the cooling problem. It was often said the the E type had an engine 3 times the size of an MGB, and a radiator half the size! They all came as standard with an electric fan for engine cooling, but on the early ones it was not a multi bladed affair like you see on modern cars. No, it was just a long strip of steel with a slight twist in it. Even when turning flat out it would only do a lazy one revolution per second. Replacing it with a modern high speed 12 blade fan, and a thorough flush of the cooling system made the world of difference. It still boiled when idling for extended periods but was OK for normal driving.

Next on the agenda were the seats. It’s one thing to be original, but the early E type seats were acknowledged even by one-eyed Jaguar fans to be the most uncomfortable design ever, so while checking out a wrecking yard one day I found the twisted remains of an E type with some later model 4.2 seats.

“Oh yes, I remember that car,” said the yard owner, as I wrestled with the mounting bolts. “We had to hose the guys out of that one!” I re-installed the seats in my car half expecting to find the odd finger or other body part jammed into them. It was well worth the effort, though, as they made driving much more pleasurable.

The original headlights were about 1 candlepower - replacing them with some quartz halogen sealed beam units meant that you could actually see where you were going at night - always useful in a car that would do over 140 mph!

And one day, while I was tinkering around under the bonnet, I noticed that one of the front brake lines must have snapped at some stage, and just been soldered back together! That certainly stopped me in my tracks, which was more than the brakes would have done - and a quick brake line replacement put my mind at rest. Imagine barrelling down a country road at three figures, and hitting the anchors when a farmer driving a back hoe suddenly pulled out in front of you. Pop! Goodnight Irene! No wonder all the previous owners had pranged the car.


I was not one to mess with tradition, either. I stuck the thing under a concrete truck and ripped it in half!

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