Catfight between Jaguars - Is the Jaguar XK superior to the E-Type?

By Dr. Vincent van der Vinne, author of Investing in Cars

Is the Jaguar XK series superior to the Jaguar E-Type? This may seem like a strange question, but not really. Both series compete for the undivided attention of enthusiasts wanting to own a classic sports car made by Jaguar. How has this interest in recent years? And what might this say about the future of the Jaguar XJ-S?
Introduced in 1948, the Jaguar XK120 Roadster was considered one of the most beautiful sports cars of its time. Add to that the excellent performance of the 3.4 litre engine and the affordability of the car, and you have all the bases for a great sales success. Over the years, several versions were made, both in terms of bodywork and technical execution.

1959 Lancia Appia Coupe by Pinin Farina. Auctioned by Bonhams in February 2018 for EUR23,000 (20,250). Photo Bonhams

1949 Jaguar XK120 Alloy roadster, auctioned by Bonhams in August 2016 for $ 396,000 (£ 302,500). Photo Bonhams

We won’t go into too much detail, since a lot has been written about the car already – general information will suffice.

The first 240 cars had an alloy coachwork, 57 RHD and 183 LHD, while all other cars had a steel body. In addition to the Roadster, the Coupe appeared in 1951 and the Drophead Coupe in 1953. The XK120 was succeeded in 1954 by the more roomy XK140 and in 1957 by the revised XK150. The last model was then available with the 3.8 litre engine, the XK120 and XK140 Roadsters also featuring detachable sidescreens even though the XK150 Roadster had wind-up side windows. In the 1950s, the Jaguar XK-series was exported to the United States in large numbers, therefore most cars are left hand drive.

The most expensive car models were the ones made at the beginning and at the end of the series, including the first hand-made XK120 Roadsters with an alloy coachwork and the later cars with larger 3.8-litre engines with SU carburetors, the XK150 3.8 S. In total there were made than 30,000 XKs, from which 275 were XK150 3.8 S.

1959 Lancia Appia Coupe by Pinin Farina. Auctioned by Bonhams in February 2018 for EUR23,000 (20,250). Photo Bonhams

1955 Jaguar XK140 DHC, auctioned by Bonhams in September 2017 for £ 161,100. Photo Bonhams

1959 Lancia Appia Coupe by Pinin Farina. Auctioned by Bonhams in February 2018 for EUR23,000 (20,250). Photo Bonhams

1960 Jaguar XK150S 3.8 Litre DHC, auctioned by Bonhams in June 2014 for £ 203,100. Photo Bonhams

That may not seem so much right now, but almost none of the Aston Martin DB4 or DB5s offered in the magazine equaled the asking price of these Jaguars.

In the same magazine, an Aston Martin DB6 Volante had an asking price of £11,250. This was slightly lower than the asking price for an XK120 with an alloy coachwork, which was £12,000. During the 1980s, the prices of the Jaguars rose sharply. In 1989/1990 the prices reached a peak, after which they dropped until the mid-nineties. From then on, prices rose again steadily.
In the year 2000, the stunning XK140 DHC achieved almost £40,000 at auction, while in recent years the price of this model has been around £160,000. However, it must be said that since the year 2000 the Jaguars have not risen strongly in value.

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XK120 Alloy

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XK140 DHC

When we take the year 2000 as the starting point, Jaguar cars have risen approximately two to four times in value depending of the model. In comparison, the highest auctioned Aston Martin DB4 and DB5s increased tenfold in value across the same period. The below two bar graphs show, at the same scale, the highest auction results per year for the XK120 Alloy Roadster and the XK140 Drophead Coupe.

The Jaguar XK was succeeded by the E-Type. Just like the XK120 before, the Jaguar E-Type was much admired when it was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1961. The two-seat Fixedhead Coupe and the Roadster were equipped with the well-known 3.8 litre engine, which was also used in the XK150. With that, the car reached a top speed of almost 150mph. This high performance was comparable to that of, for example, the Aston Martin DB5 and the Ferrari 275 GBT, however the new price of the Jaguar was, a lot lower. No wonder the Jaguar E-Type became a sales success.

The first 2,614 E-Types had a flat floor. These are now the most sought after, even though they are less comfortable to drive. Top of the bill is the ‘Flat Floor’ with external bonnet locks. Of these 496 cars that were made, 22 were Coupes and 474 Roadsters.

1929 Bentley 4.5 Litre 'Le Mans Replica'. Auctioned by Bonhams in December 2017 for £561,500. It was rebodied in the 1980s. Photo Bonhams

1961 Jaguar E-Type ‘Flat Floor’ Coupe, auctioned by RM Sotheby’s in August 2018 for $ 720,000 (£ 560,500). Photo RM Sotheby’s, David Bush

Later, several different versions of the E-Type appeared. In 1964 the engine capacity was increased to 4.2 litres and the car featured a synchronised gearbox and more comfortable seats. Two years later the Coupe was also available as a more spacious 2 + 2.

In the transition period to the new Jaguar E-Type S2, from 1967 to 1968 the S1 1/2 was made. This version differed, among other things, due to the lack of coverage of the headlights, as is the case with later cars.

The Series 2 was made from 1969 to 1971. This model had, among other things, different bumpers and a different position of the rear lights, along with an alternative interior and a larger opening for the radiator.

The Series 3 had a V12 and an even more modified bodywork. The last 50 cars made, named Commemorative, are the most expensive of the Series 3. In 2015, Bonhams auctioned an original car for £203,000.

1929 Bentley 4.5 Litre 'Le Mans Replica'. Auctioned by Bonhams in December 2017 for £561,500. It was rebodied in the 1980s. Photo Bonhams

1961 Jaguar E-Type ‘Flat Floor’ Roadster, auctioned by Bonhams in June 2016 for £ 225,000. Photo Bonhams

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1967 Jaguar E-Type S1 4.2 Litre Roadster, auctioned by Bonhams in June 2015 for £ 186,300. Photo Bonhams

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1975 Jaguar E-Type S3 Commemorative Roadster, auctioned by Bonhams in June 2015 for £ 203,100. Photo Bonhams

While the XK series was thought of as a beloved classic sports car after just a few decades, the E-Types had to wait longer. The prices remained relatively low for some time. Perhaps the later image of the factory played a role in this, just like the large numbers of cars produced (over 70,000 in total). But in the last ten years the E-Types have been in the spotlight more and more, and this is particularly true for the ‘Flat Floor’ (Coupe and Roadster) and the S1 4.2 Roadster.

In the year 2000 these cars were mostly auctioned for less than £40,000, however in recent years, some S1 4.2 Roadsters  were under the hammer for over £200,000. Some ‘Flat Floor’ Roadsters with external bonnet locks achieved more than £300,000 and in August 2018, RM Sotheby’s auctioned an early E-Type Flat Floor Coupe for over £550,000! Because the prices of some E-Types have increased so much in recent years, this pushed up the worth for all the rest of the E-type models.

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E-Type S1 4.2 Roadster

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E-Type Flat Floor

To compare with the XK120 Alloy Roadster, the bar graph shows the price changes of an E-Type S1 ‘Flat Floor’ Roadster, however note that we excluded the Roadster with racing history, auctioned by RM Sotheby’s in May 2017 for £508,500. In another bar graph the cost of the much sought after S1 4.2 Roadster is shown. Both bar graphs are at the same scale as the earlier bar graphs of the XK-models.
From the graph, a pattern emerges that in recent years the E-Type has attracted more enthusiasts than the XK-series.
The shift in interest was infleunced, among other things, by the age of the cars, as well as the age of the collectors. Current collectors are more interested in cars from the sixties and seventies than those from the years before, which is why the XK-series is declining in interest, while the E-Types are getting more popular. Thinking ahead, one could expect that the XJ-S will also become more interesting to collectors in the near future. You can get a beautiful Jaguar XJR-S nowadays for less than £30,000, but in the future they may be worth a lot more.

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