5 June 2013

Drive an E-Type every day? Why not?

For a variety of reasons, three summers ago, I decided to make an E-Type my daily driver. A Series I fixed head coupe to be exact. I took a fair amount of grief for this, with dire warnings about being a frequent pedestrian as a result of the notorious unreliability of the car. I’m happy to report that the experiment was a success and the E-Type enjoyed near-Camry levels of reliability throughout the summer of 2010 (and to this day, as I understand it from its current owner in Frankfurt, Germany).

I’m convinced that regular use contributed immeasurably to the car’s reliability. More so than with most cars, non-use really does constitute abuse with E-Types. When Jags sit, brakes get sticky, seals dry out and leak, and hydraulics fail. Driving the cars eliminate these sorts of issues. I’m convinced that the fact that my car was a relatively unaltered example also contributed to its reliability.

E-Types don’t seem to tolerate “fools with tools” well, and while shade tree mechanics with good intentions have “improved” more than a few E-Type wiring harnesses to the point of meltdown, smart updates done by competent mechanics can be a great thing. To wit, I was a big fan of the giant aluminum radiator and electric fan that the previous owner installed. They enabled me to laugh at sitting in traffic on 90-plus degree days. And having tired of replacing or rebuilding the Lucas alternator, I can also report that the GM single-wire alternator conversion sold by numerous Jag shops is a good thing, along with a new SU solid-state fuel pump. If you must have A/C, RetroAir makes a system just for the E-Type. It’s worth a look at www.retroair.com.

The bottom line is, if you happen to own one of these lovely cars, don’t be afraid to use it regularly. It can be the best thing for both you and the car.

The above story is the opinion of the author, Rob Sass, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the JCNA. To learn more about similar topics and to connect with more than 6,000 fellow owners and enthusiasts, visit our friends at the Jaguar Clubs of North America website at http://jcna.com/.

19 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Michael Attwood Portland, Oregon June 19, 2013 at 17:22
    Heartily concur with this viewpoint. Dennis Jenckinson (Motor Sport Formula One correspondent) put hundreds of thousands of miles on two E-Types when they were new, and attributed their rock-solid reliability to constant use. I haven't had to change anything on our E-Type - Lucas alternator is fine, and has kept the same battery going since 1985!-(No, I kid you not. I think it may be something to do with fact that the charging system flicks back and forth between charge and discharge to a certain degree, which is what these new battery rejuvenators do.) I have seen innumerable British, Italian and German cars ruined by mechanics inexperienced in their systems here - particularly in the electrics arena. It is so easy to blame incompetence on Lucas, Marrelli or Bosch. Our 1979 early SIII XJ6 is not driven as much these days, but it has covered about 300,000 miles with very few issues. The mechanical and electric systems have all been left standard.
  • 2
    Adam Rosenblatt Mill Valley,CA June 19, 2013 at 17:37
    Rob, I was very happy to read about your daily use of the E-type; I'm a great believer in the regular use of vintage cars. So here is a question for you: I assume your insurance coverage is with Hagerty-we're you covered under the normal terms of your policy for this daily use of the vehicle? Or did you make "special arrangements"?Adam
  • 3
    Richard Snow Westchester, NY June 19, 2013 at 17:47
    I own a 1970 E-Jag 4.2 liter model. My father in law bought this as his mid life crisis car and i have been trying to maintain it for his grandchildren since he passed away 15 years ago. Without much success. I was not able to drive it much--leading to that downward spiral of non use contributes to more problems! And now cant find a power steering assembly--non use and the seals went--contributing to a summer of non use when I could be driving it. Any suggestions?
  • 4
    Mike Seattle June 19, 2013 at 17:50
    Will Hagerty insure a daily driven classic?
  • 5
    Scott Currier Poway CA. June 19, 2013 at 17:53
    I drive my 66 at least once a week and have since I rebuilt it 10 years ago. Very few problems once 48 year old parts are replaced. Big radiator and electric fan are a must here in So Cal. Petronics instead of points made a huge difference. Minnie lite type wheels and wildwood brakes really ad to your confidence on the road.
  • 6
    kyle United States June 19, 2013 at 17:57
    What company carried the insurance?
  • 7
    John Buban Washington State June 19, 2013 at 18:03
    I find it interesting that the author was worried. I owned a '63 E-type roadster. The two things that I found were problems were overheating in traffic (the two bladed fan did not draw enough air through the radiatior), and the car filling with water when it rained. I lived in Atlanta, GA then, and it is hot in the summer and rains alot. The author took care of the overheating with a bigger radiator and a fan replacement. I made sure my commute was slightly off hours (just enough to keep me from sitting too long). I heard all of the issues with Lucas electrics, but I did not have any (just my luck). I discovered why the car filled with water. There are drain lines that plug. There is one in each door through the door posts and one in the trunk or boot I believe is the word. If you keep those clean, you do not have the those problems. I knew other owners like myself that originally punched holes in the floorboard so that you could raise the mats and let the water out. I do agree that not using your vehicle is as bad and maybe more so than not using it as far as issues with a car. I believe this to be true with all cars. I also knew that this car needed more maintenance than the basic grocery getter. I kept it tuned and drove it from coast to coast many times as well.
  • 8
    Con Kelly Mead WA June 19, 2013 at 19:02
    I cannot agree more. I have driven my 67 E-type from Mead WA to Winnipeg MB, Minneapolis MN, the Black Hills of SD, Devils Tower WY and back to Mead without any problems, a distance of 4400 miles. My wife and I drove the E to Banff AB a couple of years ago and again the car ran perfectly. In Banff we ended up driving in some fairly heavy snow in May but that was not a big problem for the car. Several years ago when I had a 1965 E I drove it as a daily driver and drove every week from Minneapolis to Rockford IL and back while I was doing contract engineering work. Quite a few mechanics have told me the best way to tune a Jag is to do what other cats do, let them stretch their legs occasionally.
  • 9
    Stephen Ring Hampton Bays,NY June 19, 2013 at 19:33
    I used my 1969 Series II E FHC as my regular car during the 1980s and 90s and had few problems. I sold the E in the mid 90s to a fellow JCNA member and still see it at club shows. BTW, I replaced the the E with a XJS FHC. Today I use my 2004 xk8 every day and my 140 on weekends.
  • 10
    Dave Randall marblehead, Ma June 19, 2013 at 19:49
    I am always amazed at how everyone thinks Jaguars are unreliable. I have had quite a few going back to my high school days in 1969 when I had a XK140 roadster. If it had a problem, I must admitt it was most likely caused be me or my well intensioned friends. Then I had the first of 2 XK120's and it never left me stranded and all I did was normal maintenance. I had that car for 3 years and drove it about 12,000 miles during that time. Had another XK120 for about 8 years and had to do some work to it, but what 55 year old car that was driven 4-5,000 miles a year didn't ? Now I have a modern XKR-100 and I love it. They run fine.
  • 11
    Kniknook Arizona June 19, 2013 at 20:11
    I do the same with my older XJS, use it regularly/daily and problems are avoided, let it sit and be ready for all kinds of issues
  • 12
    Will Humiston Port Townsend, WA June 19, 2013 at 20:24
    Very good! I applaud your position on driving these cars, and would 'tip my hat' to your actually driving it every day! Right On! Hopefully the new owner will share this sentiment and continue to drive it as you did. Thank You! Sincerely, Will Humiston (1970 Ser 2 E-type OTS)
  • 13
    Ross NM June 19, 2013 at 20:44
    I'd worry most about the bodywork suffering at the hands of soccer moms with their hands full, licking the door of their SUV open.
  • 14
    CJ Madson California June 19, 2013 at 21:18
    I completely agree -- assuming a solid car with the known weaknesses already disposed of. There are some nice updates you can do that increase reliability (harness, electronic ignition, cooling, etc.) without altering the classic looks. I've put about 2000 miles a year on my '66 coupe and it's been a treat to drive around but people do ask about reliability. I've fixed some items but no show-stoppers other than one bad gearbox. It's been much more reliable overall than my much younger German car. I wouldn't use it as a daily driver, however, due mainly to the poor driving habits of many people I encounter while commuting or trying to park.
  • 15
    Dennis Clark Lyle, Wa 98635 June 19, 2013 at 23:26
    The series 1 E Jag coupe, easily one of the most beatiful cars ever built.
  • 16
    Frank Probst LI New York June 20, 2013 at 19:00
    What insurance coverage do you have to drive it every day. My Company would never cover the cost of theft or collision real value. I would love for my wive to be able to take one of our cars to work once in a while in the summer etc. Thanks Frank
  • 17
    Bryan Cepak Grand Prairie, Texas June 20, 2013 at 20:47
    Good idea to run the E-Type every day. I use a '79 MGB as a daily driver. I've put 3000 miles on it since purchase six months ago and the car just doesn't want to quit. Just like the E-Type in this story, my MGB been reliable beyond my greatest expectations, and my local MG club tells me it is so because I use it. I'm picking up a few door dings, but oh well.
  • 18
    Stephen J. Keppler Albuquerque, NM June 23, 2013 at 10:52
    Our family has owned a 1969 E-Type Series II Fixed Head Coupe for over 30 years. I completely agree that driving the car eliminates many if not all the pitfalls owners experience when they let the car sit. Our car was my daily driver in the 80's, never letting me down, and now sees the road at least 15 miles a weekend and does at least one 400+ mile trip a summer. Our 'secret" has been giving the car a good look over once a week (hoses, fluid levels, tires), following the maintenance schedule listed in the Haynes Manual and driving it.
  • 19
    Spievack Edward Stuart Fla February 1, 2016 at 10:02
    1966 XKE . Where and how electric steering conversion? Price? Only 16 000 miles after 1988 redo with high compression pistons and air conditioning. To daily drive need automatic transmission for wife. Has anyone been converting? Also where and how? Price?

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