The unveiling of the Jaguar XKE Series 3 V-12 in March 1971 made a big splash in the automotive world. Everyone was eager to see where Jaguar, the legendary British car maker, would take the venerable XKE line. With a powerful new V-12 engine, the XKE Series 3 represented a big leap forward over the aging 6-cylinder Series 2. The XKE Series 3 was hailed as Jaguar’s defiant response to the emasculation of its beloved XKE Series 2 due to restrictive emissions standards.
The Jaguar XKE Series 3 sported a larger radiator inlet concealed by an attractive grill. It also saw the addition of wider tires and smaller wheel arches. While the chassis retained Jaguar’s distinctive hood bulge, it was purely ornamental as the new V-12 engine did not require it.
Jaguar management had hoped that the brand new XKE Series 3 V-12 would give the company a much needed boost. By the start of the 1970′s the Jaguar’s flagship XKE series was growing long in the tooth and was being outshined by cars from rival manufacturers. The blame was laid squarely on the feet of powerful new vehicle safety and emission legislation in the US. These new laws forced Jaguar to reconfigure the XKE Series 2 engines into something that was much less powerful. The company hoped to overcome this limitation in the XKE Series 3 by developing a better, more emissions compliant engine from the ground up.
Unfortunately, despite a fever pitch of interest at the car’s introduction, the XKE Series 3′s sales figures were something of a let-down for Jaguar. While the 60′s had been dominated by Jaguar’s iconic XKE line, the 1970s would not be so kind to the British automaker.
In hindsight it is easy to see how Jaguar was as a victim of the times. Boutique car companies like Jaguar relied on a small team of passionate and talented engineers, mechanics and craftsmen to build their vehicles. While this system worked well to produce small numbers of high-performance cars, it was not practical in the rapidly changing economic climate of the 1970s.
Many luxury car makers at the time found that producing limited runs of super-cars was not commercially viable any more. Changing emissions regulations and new vehicle safety laws standards that factories had to be upgraded, and the production lines needed to be streamlined. The supply chains for car makers such as Jaguar had to be completely overhauled and modernized to keep up with the growing demands of the marketplace. In short, Jaguar had to quickly adapt to mass production techniques for their factories or risk going out of business.
The XKE Series 3′s powerful new engine V-12 engine that wowed everyone at the auto shows and racetracks was now forced to include anti smog technology that lowered performance. The car’s iconic sleek lines were ruined by the inclusion of compulsory new safety lights and extra bumpers. Needless to say, these forced modifications to the original design helped reduce the XKE Series 3′s desirability in the luxury car market.
The Jaguar XKE Series 3 V-12 was a good car that came out at the worst possible time. Tightening government regulations, clogged motorways in America and Europe, and the economic realities of manufacturing and marketing cars in the 1970′s meant that the XKE Series 3 never really had a chance to live up to its potential.