16 April 2009

Jaguar E-types Affordable Again

It’s no secret that the economic meltdown has affected some parts of the collector car market. And while the most desirable models in the best condition have generally not lost value, less-than-perfect examples of more common collector cars, especially in the less desirable years or versions are more affordable than they’ve been in years.

The Jaguar E-type is a great example. Perfect Series 1 convertibles are still $125,000 to $140,000 cars. However, driver quality examples of Series 1 convertibles and coupes are probably 20% cheaper than they were a year ago. Certainly this has been my personal experience with the recent sale of a Series 1 convertible and the purchase of a Series 1 coupe.

A few months ago, I decided to take advantage of the new pricing structure by selling my somewhat mediocre Series 1 convertible and buying a no-stories Series 1 coupe. I sold the convertible for $39,000 (about $7,000 less than it would have been worth a year ago) and bought a very nice ex-California Series 1 coupe for $30,000. It was a bargain based on the fact that it needed a pretty expensive clutch job, nevertheless, I’m pretty sure that a year ago it would have taken about $45,000 to buy the coupe. Since I had owned the convertible for a while, I made out just fine with it. The $8,000 loss in value was mitigated by the bargain price of the nicer coupe. And I’m convinced that as soon as concrete signs of an end to the current recession show up, prices will begin to return to their early 2007 levels. So the current opportunity is likely to be short-lived.

At least as of this writing, respectable (Condition 3- to 4+) Series 1 coupes are selling for what they were four years ago (in the low-forties range) and decent driver quality Series 1 convertibles can be had for about $10,000 more. Even better deals can be had on Series 2 and 3 cars. I’ve recently seen OK driver Series 2 convertibles sell in the high thirties with comparable coupes about $10,000 off of that. Series 3 cars are close to Series 2 cars in price.

If you need a refresher on the differences between the Series 1 and 2, check out the video spotter’s guide below. In short, the Series 1 (3.8 liter non-sychro 4-speed 1961-64 and 4.2 liter all-synchro 4-speed 1965-67) is the one with three carbs, a full 265 hp and the very beautiful glass covered headlamps. It was available in two-seater coupe, convertible and 2+2 coupe form, the latter from 1967. The so-called Series 1.5 cars from 1968 look very much like a Series 1 minus the headlamp covers and tri-carb setup. Series 2 cars had larger bumpers, more upright open headlamps, two carbs and 245 hp. Series 3 cars were radically different with the longer wheelbase of the 2+2, a huge grille, flared fenders and a 5.0 liter aluminum V12.

Real bargains can be had with the 2+2. Cars from the 1967 model year had the three carb 265 hp engine and the glass covered head lamps. If you don’t mind the slightly elongated looks and higher roof line, these cars can be a great bargain, with current pricing in the high teens to low twenties. Series 2 2+2s are a bit less interesting because of the even more compromised looks and because they are frequently fitted with automatic transmissions. For the Series 3, the 2-seater coupe was discontinued and all of the closed cars were 2+2s.

What about the notorious Jaguar unreliability? Aren’t they just really pretty paper weights? Not really, at least with the Series 2 and 3 cars, the unreliability issue was largely overblown. Years of owners running cars on shoestring budgets when they were cheap – plus the usual Lucas electric stories – are likely to blame. A well-sorted E-type can be used reliably and parts are generally cheap and readily available. This isn’t to say that if you buy a bad car, you won’t wish that you hadn’t been born, but choose well, and you will be rewarded. E-types of any flavor are good-looking cars capable of real performance, even by today’s standards.

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