Observations on a possible new motor course and a very outstanding British high performance car
Late in June a green 3-1/2-litre Jaguar saloon arrived outside our offices for test purposes and we decided it could be profitably used to inspect the disused aerodrome perimeter track at Goodwood which, with the permission of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, is likely to become a useful racing circuit.
We were very glad of both these experiences, for Goodwood has definite possibilities and the Jaguar is one of Britain’s better export propositions.
Before the war the Jaguar built up a very fine reputation, of which we are reminded by frequent successes in to-day’s sprint events on the part of various editions of the open two-seater Jaguar “100.” The present-day Jaguar retains a sober specification and appearance, eschewing i.f.s. and aerodynamics, so that it can be easily overlooked amongst the many new or considerably revised designs that have been released since hostilities ended. It is only by making a hurried journey in the latest Jaguar and testing its very real performance capabilities against the stopwatch that you appreciate what a potent car it is and regard it almost with relief, certainly with strengthened faith in the traditional outline and old-style suspension properly applied. The Jaguar is not in the least old-fashioned, indeed, in many ways it is more up-to-the-minute than most, but it exerts a strong appeal to those who seek to avoid the complexity of the nearly-futuristic and who desire a car which remains distinctive, in the traditional British manner, in the midst of fully-faired, anti-drag, aerodynamic streamstylers. For these reasons the Jaguar is commanding successful sales in countries and continents where American cars predominate—it differs from them in style but not in respect of performance, being able to hold its own on 3-1/2-litres.
First impressions of this essentially English motor car are the comfort of its seats, the completeness and lavishness of the facia layout and accompanying fitments, and the foretaste of high performance conveyed by the very broad bonnet, the big flat-topped filler cap, and the Lucas P.100 headlamps set in line with the top of the radiator. You settle in a deep, leather-upholstered driving seat, sliding it to your required adjustment, which is facilitated by a winder to further vary the position of the cushion and angle of the squab and by an adjustable steering column. You realise that you can see the near-side sidelamps, that visibility, in fact, is very good and that all the instruments, with the possible exception of the petrol gauge (quite a point these days !) are in clear view. The pedals are vertical treadle-type, the accelerator r.h., and at first seem high from the floor, although you soon discover that, seat correctly placed, your heels can rest on the floor when operating them. The short stiff central gear-lever is delightfully placed and the handbrake, at an angle behind it between the bucket front seats, couldn’t be better positioned.
On the facia you find controls for the Clayton heater and air-conditioner, additional ventilation being offered by winding panels in front of the front windows, and a scuttle scoop-ventilator. For night driving you have those P.100 Lucas lamps, with a dipper on the steering wheel centre, backed by twin Lucas foglamps. Early in your association with the Jaguar you decide that it is going to constitute a very comfortable and pleasant method of getting about the country.
For our part, we left the E.C. district of London and, the driver quite unaccustomed to the car, found ourselves averaging nearly 20 m.p.h. in a built-up area that embraced countless unsympathetic traffic-lights, masses of undecided pedestrian humanity, and every variety of London traffic-jam. The later aspects of this drive to Goodwood, via Morden, Sutton, Epsom, Leatherhead and Dorking, provided faster going, but nothing comparable, for instance, with a long journey up A1 or down A30. Even so, the overall average speed came out at 38 m.p.h., with over 47 miles in the best hour — which indisputably demonstrates that this Jaguar is a car that wouldn’t think twice about doing 200 miles in four hours or less without unduly hurrying.
Two other factors became apparent in this short run over a decidedly give-and-take route. Along quite a short straight stretch the speedometer showed 97 m.p.h., and, while it was as optimistic as the majority of its kind, subsequent checks proved this reading to be equivalent to 91 m.p.h. On a later occasion a reading of 100 m.p.h. was held for an appreciable distance, so the Jaguar is a very genuine 90 m.p.h. motor car. That freak conditions did not prevail we demonstrated later by getting the same reading twice along similarly brief sections of straight road — and a maximum of over 90 from a large saloon car under such everyday, between-anytown conditions should still provoke pride in ownership. The other noticeable factor was how quickly the rev.counter swung round into the ” red ” (maximum r.p.m.= 4,500) not only in 2nd, but in 3rd gear, the latter representing a true maximum in the region of 65 m.p.h. Even in top gear the engine would come within sight of maximum r.p.m. at 90 m.p.h. This ability to usefully employ the power available from the o.h.v. twin-carburetter six-cylinder power-unit has its reflection on cruising speed, the speedometer-needle being continuously between 60 and 70 m.p.h. (3,000-3,500 r.p.m.) wherever traffic-happenings permit any throttle-opening at all. As a matter of fact the Jaguar runs so silently and smoothly up to its maximum as to preclude the naming of any “ideal” cruising speed — we were merely prevented by road conditions from habitually holding more than 60-70 m.p.h.
No flat-spots, vibrations or noises intrude until valve-bounce is evident at between 4,500 and 5,000 r.p.m. Consequently, good use can and should be made of the gearbox to get the Jaguar along, although it will run at 500 r.p.m. or 10 m.p.h. in top gear and pick up cleanly therefrom. Not until 40 m.p.h., however, does the speed really build. The gear-change is admirable, but prefers “enthusiast’s” methods, as the synchro-mesh likes either a snap or a leisurely movement, so isn’t entirely dependable. The longer arc from 1st to 2nd, as compared with that from 3rd to top soon becomes acceptable, as does the rearward angle of the lever when in neutral, and our only criticism is that the spring that guards reverse is inadequate, this ratio several times being selected in mistake for bottom. Very rapid take-off is the rule in bottom gear, so unexpected backwards-motoring is doubly undesirable !
Without going beyond 4,500 r.p.m., as the engine is so willing to do, the corrected maxima in the indirect ratios are imposing: 25, 45 and 65 m.p.h. These speeds can be used repeatedly if required, especially as the gears are commendably quiet and only the slightest whine is noticeable on the over-run. Actually a sober driver would change up far earlier, i.e. at about 14, 28 and 40 m.p.h. respectively (2,400, 2,600 and 2,800 r.p.m.) and still experience good acceleration. The clutch is light, positive, yet smooth.
The brakes, by Girling, are entirely adequate to the car’s weight and performance. They function progressively and effectively, given fairly heavy pedal pressure from high speeds. Certainly they might have been better adjusted, as the near-side wheels locked earlier than the off-side wheels; some noise accompanies heavy braking and there is some fading when really prolonged application is called for, such as to a standstill from 70 or 80 m.p.h. In general, however, we had no cause for anxiety about the manner in which the Jaguar dispelled emergencies or slowed for corners, while the handbrake contributes its share of retardation, holds well, and has an excellent ratchet. So far as those two interwoven subtleties, steering and roadholding, are concerned, the Jaguar, again, gets very nearly full marks. It rides so that, at 70 m.p.h., you can make notes, does not roll overmuch on corners, and does not wallow as some i.f.s.-sprung cars do. It does not curtsey under the brakes. But it does display rather a lot of up-and-down movement over bad surfaces, which shock-absorber adjustment might well reduce, and, although the control-trend is understeer, the heavy tail causes the nose to swing out a bit as quick castor-action straightens the car coming from a fast corner. Definitely it corners fast, holding in well. There is not quite that impression of supple running given by the more modern suspension systems (albeit at the expense of many moving parts that need lubricating and tend to wear out), but certainly there is nothing to suggest a flexible chassis and stiff springs. The Jaguar’s facia seldom judders, never more than almost imperceptibly, and its front-end, including those big headlamps, remains commendably steady at all times. The deep upholstery insulates against such shocks as are transmitted and the comfort factor, by all counts, is a high one. The steering wheel, unobtrusively spring-spoked, transmits quite a lot of return action from the front wheels without really conveying what is happening to them — but no more so than does the average modern steering layout. The column remains laterally immovable, at speed the action is light, although heavier when manoeuvering or needing full lock, and the lock itself is truly generous. The 2-3/4 turns needed from lock to lock constitute the only fly in the otherwise soothing ointment — higher gearing would be appreciated not only for negotiating winding drives and when parking, but would also make the car just that much more pleasant when cornering fast on main roads and that much neater when really “playing sports-cars.”
Very impressed with the Jaguar and realising that timed acceleration figures should be most revealing, we came through the lovely Sussex countryside almost to Goodwood (horse) racecourse before turning into what we profoundly hope will soon be Goodwood’s motor-course.
The course, at present, consists of a very reasonably wide perimeter track, measuring approximately 2-1/4 miles to a lap, somewhat rough and loose in places, but by no means badly surfaced. We were told most people who have used it prefer to lap anti-clockwise, although, with one car on at a time, no stipulation as to direction is made. We tried, as a preliminary, standing laps in both directions, clocking 2 min. 31.8 sec. clockwise, 2 min. 31.0 sec. anti-clockwise. In the latter direction, from the aerodrome control tower you enter a sharp left-hand bend, then go through a gentle curve in the next 1/4 mile to where a timber-stack lies on your left. Here a fast right-hand curve brings you slightly downhill to the most pronounced hazard in the circuit, in the form of a hairpin composed of a sharp left-hand curve merging into a less acute left-hand corner. From here a short straight brings you to a sharp right-hand corner by a shed that renders the turn blind, after which a series of fast left-hand bends, the track climbing uphill round some of them, brings you to a tricky left-hand corner rejoining the “straight” from which the lap commenced; only this “straight” has a distinct right-hand kink by the official buildings. It is a good sporting circuit and the Jaguar, with its aforementioned ability to go very rapidly to peak revs in 3rd gear, was a delight to drive round it, although we found the low-geared steering productive of vast tail slides on the corners, from which, however, the car eventually came to command. The course suffers to some extent from lack of definement of its corners, but as grass grows beside the road, and cornfields come to the edge of it for much of the distance, this is not too serious and could doubtless be improved if some white lines were laid. One eminent authority has recently expressed the view that at the moment there are too many turns in the comparatively short lap. He is probably concerned with the difficulty of racing cars passing one another, as, from the sports-car aspect, the course could hardly be more pleasant. Between the more closely-spaced corners we were reaching peak r.p.m. in the Jaguar and going into top momentarily, equal to 70 m.p.h. or more. On the other hand, the longest stretch we could use for timed tests was a 1/4 mile and even this had a slight bend in it, and was unpleasantly close to a corner at one end, so as to preclude flat-out f.s. runs against the watch.
The drill at present seems to be that you notify the authorities that you would like to use the course beforehand and they fly a red flag from the control-tower while you are there. In theory, no vehicles will invade the course while this flag is flying. Actually, a lorry and a tractor appeared while we were in action, but we were told they wouldn’t have done so had a racing car been on — our Jaguar, it was explained, was so unobtrusive that no notice was taken of it! The foreman, Mr. Bicknall, couldn’t have been more helpful or enthusiastic and absolutely no restrictions were placed upon us. The previous day a Cooper 500 had been down, and there were plenty of black lines to be seen on the surface before we added rubber-dust from our tyres. Whether or not a fee is normally charged we do not know, but this can be ascertained by telephoning Mr. C. W. Fisher of Goodwood Estate Company (Lavant 7) which you must do in any case before using the course. By the way, no firefighting or first-aid facilities were available and you should make your own arrangements for food. News of the R.A.C. track near Northampton somewhat overshadows the Duke of Richmond’s venture, but we sincerely hope it will be developed, for this course is delightful to drive over, especially at the better-defined corners and over the undulating section, and it should be a fine venue for the smaller races and for all aspects of car-testing save those requiring a long straight. We look forward to the J.C.C. meeting in September.
With practically no practice and but a brief flying start of about 50 m.p.h. the Jaguar did a lap in 2 min. 21.6 sec., an average of approximately 57 m.p.h. That is truly creditable for a car of this type, and involved heavy braking, rapid gearchanging and vigorous work at the wheel, the tail sliding through nearly 45° at times with no sign of front-end breakaway and a notable absence of roll or front-end flabbiness.
We had only limited time to try the accelerative abilities of the car, so these are the average of two runs by two drivers, using all the indirect gears. 0-50 m.p.h. occupied 11.0 sec., 0-60 m.p.h. 15.4 sec., and 0-70 m.p.h. 21.8 sec. A standing-start 1/4 mile took 21.0 sec. We can only say that such acceleration from a quiet, comfortable five-seater saloon is indeed an achievement and puts the 3-1/2-litre Jaguar amongst the world’s most potent production cars. If you require a yard-stick, these are the sort of figures you expect to obtain from V8 specials of far lower avoirdupois.
Incidentally, the speedometer was found to be approximately 3 m.p.h. fast at 30 and 4 m.p.h. fast at 60 m.p.h., and allowance for this has duly been made. A brake test without using the handbrake gave 28 ft. 9 in. from 30 m.p.h., wheels locking on the dry surface — the car stopped absolutely straight. Throughout these tests the engine gave no sign of displeasure, save that it “ran-on” on one occasion after switching off. The recorded water temperature remained at 75-80 degrees C., oil pressure at 20-60 lb,/sq. in., according to engine speed. Starting was instantaneous, as it had been, at the opposite extreme, after a night in the open. Even more astonishing, only the slightest ” pinking ” was evident throughout this test, on “Pool” petrol.
Leaving Goodwood, now profoundly intrigued with the Jaguar, we set off fast for London. In the first half-hour over 26 miles were disposed of, including stopping to walk round to the back of the car to operate the reserve petrol control, which is adjacent to the fuel filler, and restart the engine. After refuelling, an average of nearly 49 m.p.h. was made, although we were amongst the heavier traffic for half the time and well into London’s built-up areas towards the end of the run. So far as fuel consumption is concerned, between 16 and 18 m.p.g. is the normal figure, although the fast run to Goodwood and the tests reduced this to 12.1 m.p.g., equal to an overall consumption, over nearly 300 miles, of approximately 15 m.p.g. No water or oil were required, and no trouble was experienced, save the breakage of one windscreen clamp handle that appeared to have crystallised. The detail desirabilities of the Jaguar are dealt with below, but before we conclude this main account of the car its extreme silence must be recorded. At tick-over the engine is inaudible, so that the whirr as the air-conditioning plant comes into operation is quite startling. Under way, the same quietness remains, a protest that came occasionally from the rev.counter drive of the car we tried being distinctly annoying, whereas on so many cars it would not be heard. The brakes and tyres protest at times under vigorous handling, at speed wind noise is evident but is not excessive, but in general the interior calm is of a very high order and normal conversation at the Jaguar’s habitual cruising speed is possible in consequence.
There are those who sneer at unstreamlined bodywork, “cart springs” and gear sticks rising from the floor, but the Jaguar, by reason of its very real performance, the extreme comfort it offers and its air of rugged good quality, is beyond such contempt. Indeed, it is a car that cannot fail to continue to materially aid Britain’s export drive, because against the stop-watch it can hold its own with the world’s most modern cars, while retaining that British individuality which endeared it to so many owners before the war.
Detailed impressions of the 3-1/2-litre Jaguar
The foregoing shows the Jaguar in the light of a very refined car rapid both in respect of average speed and timed performance. Let us now investigate further its detail appointments.
The facia and interior fillets are of genuine polished hard-wood, pull-out switches predominate, and all minor controls are plated. The big Smith’s rev.-counter and speedometer are very clearly calibrated, the former reading to 5,000 r.p.m., the latter to 120 m.p.h., these dials embodying a clock, and trip and total mileage indicators, respectively. The needles remain very steady, save for some surge of the former until engine speed settles, and coincide in angle at 3,000 r.p.m. and 60 m.p.h. Two cubby holes are provided each end of the dashboard, the passenger’s wider than the driver’s; both have unlockable wooden lids but are tinny within which the lining doesn’t altogether disguise. Pull-out switches control the rather bright concealed panel lighting, a recessed interior-lamp in each rear corner, and the Lucas fog-lamps. Two big plated knobs control the air-conditioning/screen demisting and defrosting plant, that on the left selecting hot or cold, that on the right controlling the degree of heat or “coolth” or switching the fan off altogether. The fan motor sounds rather noisy when the car is at rest. Other facia dials comprise a combined water thermometer and oil gauge, ammeter, and a rather vague fuel gauge (calibrated 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, full) which reads to zero before you require the reserve supply. There are also the ignition reminder light, a similar light to tell you if a direction indicator has stuck, the lamps switch, ignition key, a neat button for the starter, a screw-type hand-throttle, a knob to operate the scuttle ventilator and a light that shines when the heater is on and increases in intensity the faster the Clayton fan is run. The two wiper controls are also plated — the wipers park well and run quietly. As is usual, the ignition switch renders all electrics except the lamps inoperative, which we dislike. There should have been a cigar-lighter, but it was missing.
The steering wheel is thin-rimmed and spring-spoked and has in its centre a big “push” for the nicely-subdued horn; it also carries the smoothly-acting dimmer and indicator controls, although we prefer the former on an extension by the wheel rim. The indicators work well, and are self-cancelling. The screen winds rather less than half-open; the beading tended to come with it. Small catches hold each end of the screen when it is closed, which is an excellent idea except that the handles seem too small for the load involved in opening the catches, one breaking in our hand. There is ample leg room front and rear, in spite of a propeller-shaft tunnel and no leg-wells. The sliding roof opens and shuts easily and the doors likewise, with the action expected in a quality-car. There are good pockets in all the doors and four ash-trays. Arm rests are provided, even one for the driver’s right elbow, and the rear seat has a full complement, including a folding centre rest.
Visibility is a strong feature of the Jaguar, for each of its door-windows is amply wide and the rear window likewise. The rather big central mirror, too, offers an excellent rearward view. Two useful vizors are fitted behind the screen. The winders for the front main windows are badly placed when the seats are fully forward. The rear blind operates conventionally, but effectively. The gearlever “wags” very slightly at times.
The luggage boot has a lockable lid and offers very reasonable accommodation. In its lid is a very complete tool kit, which is illuminated at night providing the ignition switch is “on.” As we have said, the rev.counter drive occasionally protested, an annoyance in so quiet a car. No fumes came into the body, but there was a “hot smell” at times. The bodywork is commendably free from rattles. One wood window-sill had an appreciable crack in it and there was a slight hole in the floor carpet in the driver’s compartment. Egress is more restricted than assisted by the running-boards. No rainguards are fitted above the windows. The Lucas lighting is adequate for the highest speeds at night, as you expect from P.100s. A metal cross-member above the rear seat is remembered by one passenger whom we took over a hump-back bridge at speed; no “pulls” are provided. No radio was fitted to the car we tried. There is a snap-action fuel filler in the near-side rear wing, with the pull-up (approx. 1 gallon) “reserve” control behind it. The spare wheel is enclosed below the luggage boot, jacking is effected by plugging the jack into the bumper supports after rubber dust-caps have been removed, and the bumpers are substantial.
The bonnet has screw-type fasteners that work nicely and it opens to reveal the well-finished push-rod o.h.v. engine, which certainly “delivers the goods.” The two S.U.s, with their air-cleaners and separate starting carburetter, are on the near side, fed by two S.U. petrol pumps. The battery could not be more accessible, positioned as it is on the facia shelf and exposed with the bonnet open. The fuse boxes are also easily reached, below the petrol pumps. The valve cover is held by three nuts and there is a screw type oil filler towards the rear.
On the off side are the substantial dipstick with plated knob, and the two exhaust manifolds, from which tail pipes lead, one to each side of the car. The dip-stick gets rather hot due to the proximity of the rear manifold. Generous water-hoses and flexible pipes from the air-conditioning fan permit a flexible engine mounting.
The Jaguar has an excellent external appearance and the one-piece treatment of front wings and dumb-iron apron gives a clean outline to a frontal aspect dominated by a slatted radiator and the big P.100s. Upholstery throughout is in good quality leather.
Such small points as these combine with the qualities of performance and handling already described to make the 3-1/2-litre Jaguar one of the outstanding products of the British Motor Industry. So impressed were we with this car that we imagined its present-day cost to be around £2,000. Only when we returned to our office and checked the price did we find that it is merely £988 or £1,263 35. 11d. inclusive of purchase tax — which is an achievement indeed. — W.B.
The 3-1/2-litre Jaguar
Engine: Six cylinders, 82 by 110 mm. (3,485.5 c.c.), 25 R.A.C. h.p. Max. r.p.m. 4,500.
Gear ratios: 1st, 14.41 to 1; 2nd, 8.28 to 1; 3rd, 5.74 to 1; top, 4.27 to 1.
Tyre size: 5.50 by 18 on knock-off wire wheels.
Weight: 32 cwt. 3 qtr.
Steering ratio: 21 turns, lock to lock.
Fuel capacity: 14 gallons (range 200-250 miles).
Wheelbase: 10′ 0″.
Track: 4′ 6″ front, 4′ 8″ rear.
Overall dimensions: 15′ 6″ by 5′ 6″ by 5′ 1″.
Acceleration: 0-50 m.p.h., 11.0 sec.– mean of two runs;
0-60 m.p.h., 15.4 sec. — mean of two runs;
0-70 m.p.h., 21.8 sec.
s.s. 1/4 mile: 21.0 sec.