D for two
TKF 9 was responsible for launching the F1 careers of Henry Taylor and Jim Clark. And it’s never stopped racing since. . .
“There’s someone else who really ought to be here, and that’s Jimmy Clark.” The speaker is Henry Taylor, former GP driver, and we are gathered in the BRDC Suite at Silverstone to reminisce about a car both Taylor and Clark drove early in their careers — Jaguar D-type TKF 9. Around the table are Willie Tuckett, the Jaguar’s current custodian, Tony Murkett, who owned the car in the Fifties and employed Henry to drive it, and John Pearson, Jaguar fixer and racer. The car is outside in the only rain we’ve had in October, alongside its doppelganger, a replica of it built by Brian Wingfield — Taylor liked the car so much, he built a copy.”
Although Tuckett races the short-nose D-type regularly, this is the first time for years that Murkett and Taylor have met, and immediately the tales begin to fly. Murkett sold the car to Jock McBain of Border Reivers, which is when Clark came into it, and Taylor is sure this was significant: “Tony gave me a hell of a leg-up from 500s into the D-type, and it taught me an awful lot, and it taught Jimmy a lot too. We both got into Grands Prix at the same time, and I think it was a stepping stone. The D-type always locked its rear wheels; going into a corner with the back locked up, you had to take your foot off the brake and do it again, so it taught a lot of people how to brake properly, up to the limit and over it, and I’m sure it taught Jimmy too.”
As well as numbering several of the greats amongst its drivers, TKF 9 has an unusually complete and consistent competition history. Willie Tuckett still has the original log-book, rather fragile now, showing him to be the ninth owner, most of whom have used the car for its proper purpose — competitive motoring. .
First owner of chassis no XKD 517 was Gillie Tyrer, remembered for his skimpy BMW 328 special, who traded in fast machinery. He registered it on 10 September 1954, but wasn’t impressed — now 81, he still recalls that he didn’t like the gearbox, or “that metal bar ready to chop your head off…” Only four weeks later it was transferred to Alex Macmillan of The Futura Rubber Co, while Tyrer bought one of the works C-types. Macmillan won three races at his first Silverstone “clubby”, but preferred to race single-seaters, letting Tyrer record a quarter-mile at 131.58mph at a Chester MC sprint at Oueensferry. It also had the first of several changes, with the removal of the driver’s headrest.
Meanwhile, an enthusiastic Huntingdon Jaguar dealer, Tony Murkett, was looking for something with which to return to racing. From 1947 he had dabbled in trials and rallies, including the Tulip and RAC, in an SS100 and an XKI20 (KEW 818 — is it still extant?) but decided he preferred racing. After switching to a 4-cylinder 1500cc Rover-engined Lister (“a waste of time — only 80bhp”), he bought the D-type in late 1956, and began to make his mark in it.
In fact, the Murkett team was already well-known in club racing, as Tony confirms: “We had a big following. Even in 1952 when I was racing the 120, I was one of the few drivers who was getting good starting money to appear.”
Unfortunately he too discovered the D’s tail-happy brakes: “I had my big shunt on the club circuit here at Silverstone at the end of ’56. I was lying third behind an Aston, and could see Noel Cunningham-Reid disappearing bit by bit, and I thought ‘if I don’t get past this Aston I haven’t a chance’. So I tried to overtake on the inside — I can still see the look on his face as he saw me coming. I had to ram my foot on the brake, and the nose went straight into the retaining wall just past the pits. I thought ‘this is it!’ — I had the whole pack behind me. As we went up in the air I can remember the bonnet flying off and the tail coming loose and then I noticed cars cavorting round both sides. I came down sitting in the monocoque which was still in one piece, and so was I apart from a bruised right arm. That was when the insurance company said ‘Finish’, and I had to employ a driver.”
” Spurred on by the successes of Ecurie Ecosse, the Murketts (there were three cousins in the family business) had already decided to enter some international events for 1957. As supplied and raced by Tyrer, the D had a Le Mans screen, but new endurance regulations meant the small wrap-around version had to be replaced by a full-width screen. At the same time a headrest was refitted and the car’s colour changed from light green to white, the colour of Murkett’s Jaguar demonstrators — “because there were too many green or blue Ds around”.
The car was ready. but the team needed a driver with potential for the Sportscar GP at Spa. Mike Hawthorn was auditioned at Silverstone — fast, but too expensive. Instead, Bud Murkett’s friend Charles Taylor suggested they try his son Henry, who was winning in 500cc racing.
Taylor recalls that “when Tony said ‘would you drive the D’ I said, ‘well. I’m not really out of 500s yet.’ He said ‘Well, we’ll arange the transporter so it takes the 500 above the D-type’. That year I raced the 500 and the D, and I brought along Ray Lane as engineer. He was good, though that type of racing was as new to him as it was to me. Ray came to me as a part-timer, when 1 was doing Cooper-JAPs and Nortons. I was doing the Autosport and JAP championships, of which I won both, and during a lot of the races we had to do engine changes — one heat with a JAP engine, one with the Norton, then the final with the JAP and the final with the Norton. So we had three or four engine changes in one day, and Ray never left a bolt out; he was pretty meticulous.”
Murkett concurs about this hidden asset. “Ray would never go for ultimate power, wasn’t interested in peak figures. He used to take the car up to the factory to set it up on the bench, and had many an argument with Lofty England, who said ‘you’re not getting the peak power’, and Ray said ‘I’m not re-setting the engine, I want a long power curve. Now Ecurie Ecosse were always going for peak power, they were always quoted about 30bhp above us, but Ray wanted mid-range power because at a circuit like the Nürburgring you want to be able to ease the power on and off all round the circuit.”
But before the ‘Ring came the Sportscar GP at Spa. Murkett again: “We were up against the factory teams, Maserati, Ferrari and the works Astons, as well as many of the well-known privateers such as Ecurie Belge. Henry had a fairly good starting grid position, about tenth, then after a few laps he had made it up to about fifth when we heard that it had started to rain on the other side of the circuit. We thought ‘oh dear, what’s going to happen now’. Much to my surprise, the next thing we see is Henry leading Tony Brooks and Roy Salvadori on the Aston Martins, miles ahead of the rest of the field. Unfortunately it then started to dry out, and you finished third, didn’t you, Henry?”
Taylor: “Yes, I did. Tony and Roy passed me. It was funny because Tony and Roy were commanding the race, and I overtook Tony, who was leading, into the La Source hairpin, and it absolutely surprised him — I mean, he was obviously on half-throttle, and he passed me very quickly after that going down to the pits. His lines in the wet were unreal, he’d disappeared in one lap, and all I had were some wheelmarks. He was such a wonderful driver.”
That achievement, an unknown privateer beating all the other D-types, was a filling for the team as they prepared for the 1000kms at the Nurburgring. All they needed was another driver, and Tony Murkett decided to approach a rapid local man, Archie Scott-Brown, who despite a deformed arm had been conducting JAP-, Bristoland lag-engined Listers rather quickly. Murkett: “It was through Henry’s reputation that I managed to get Archie Scott-Brown to be accepted. At first the German authorities wrote back that they’d accept Henry, but no way because of his handicap would they accept Archie. Eventually I explained that not only did I expect the full starting money, but that they either took Henry and Archie or not at all. They phoned me back and said they’d accept. I’m certain that was the very first time he’d been accepted on the Continent.”
The team were in. but tight resources meant that the only practising the drivers could do around the tortuous ‘Ring was in Taylor’s Ford Zephyr. Tony laughs to remember it. “We came over later in a Mk II Jaguar to find Henry and Archie sitting in the hotel. We said ‘you’re not over here to do this — you should be on the circuit!’ They said ‘If you can get that Zephyr round the circuit once more. . . It was on its last legs, tyres down to the inner tubes! So we cleared the Mk II out and they finished their practice in the Jag.”
It must have worked; both drivers were quicker than the works-supported Ecurie Ecosse Jaguars, to team manager David Murray’s annoyance.
Murkett again: “I gave them both only one lap to get used to it and one lap to establish a time; first Henry beat the Ecosse times, and then Archie went out, and much to our amazement he was so fast that Ecurie Ecosse weren’t in sight. So David Murray gets his cars back out of the transporters and says to his blokes ‘We’re not having a privateer ahead of us. Get cracking.’ So they all went out and tried again without any success whatever. So then David Murray walked up to Fangio — he was driving for Maserati but in those days they allowed you a certain amount of licence — and said ‘Do you mind driving this and showing my fellows how to do it?’ So Fangio got in and still got nowhere near us!”
At this point I boldly ask whether it was the car which was exceptional, or the drivers. Taylor modestly refers to Ray Lane’s tuning skills; Murkett is more forthright. “I still rate Henry on his day as a match for Tony Brooks — wonderful balance with a motor car. But the thing about Archie was that he could step into any motor car and do his fastest lap in one, and repeat it and repeat it. How he did it I shall never know.”
Taylor takes this up: “Jimmy was like that; he was incredible like that in a GP car. He used to do two laps and get pole position and say ‘Colin, put it away.’ Colin would say ‘no, no, because I want to try this gadget and that gizmo’, and he’d say ‘put it away’, and Colin used to get very annoyed. But that is the mark of a great driver, and he was a great driver.”
However, the Jaguar rivalries at the ‘Ring were sporting, according to Tony. .”We couldn’t afford to take many spares, but if ever we wanted a part, David Murray would say ‘there’s the van, help yourself’.” Indeed, the Murkett team could not have started the 1,000kms if Murray had not loaned them a starter-motor just before the off.
Despite the auguries, there was disappointment ahead: Taylor went off the road in a big way, having, as he admits, having simply misremembered one of the ‘Ring’s confusingly similar corners. Murkett is philosophical about what might have been as we pore over his photos of the race.
“We’d decided that the Ferraris and Maseratis were very much faster than ourselves, and we said we’re not going to win this on speed, the only way is to maintain position ahead of Ecurie Ecosse but don’t start taking on the factory cars. So for about 10 laps Henry took orders and was doing very well, a nice steady ninth or tenth place; then somebody went by him, down went his foot and that’s when he went off. As it happened, Ferrari and Maserati destroyed each other, and had we maintained our position I’m sure we’d have finished third. We were way ahead of the other Ds.”
Marque loyalty had other benefits for the tiny team. Tony had an arrangement with Lofty England that he would be present at scrutineering, otherwise “if you were an ordinary privateer the scrutineers would take the car apart’. Yet the teams were real rivals: “I remember Archie giving Mike Hawthorn a hell of a battle at Silverstone in 1957”, says Murkett. “Lofty came up and said ‘it’s time you called your fellow off — we’re neither of us going to finish’. I said ‘I can’t stop Archie when he’s got the bit between the teeth!’ Now the factory cars had disc brakes and Archie’s car was still on drums, and in the end the rear brakes caught fire, and that’s the only thing that stopped Archie.”
There was one more suitable race on the Continent for 1957, the Spa 500kms. This time Tony Murkett employed Brian Naylor, then racing the JBW-Maserati, to drive. Naylor asked to test the car at OuIton Park, and Tony got a phone call: “There’s a little bit of bad news — the D-type’s in the lake!”
At this point Tuckett, hearing of his D-type’s submarine past for the first time, gives a wan smile. “Hmmm… And if Tony shunted it, and Henry shunted it, and even I’ve had a huge shunt in it, it must be the shortest short-nose D there is!”
But the D was salvaged, dried out and sent to Spa, where Tony recalls their canny strategy. “We weren’t fast enough to win outright, so we’d got to do something to make sure we didn’t need petrol. So Fred (Naylor’s mechanic) and Ray made an extra petrol tank, similar to the D-type oil tank, which they managed to tuck on the other side. They then went to a scrapyard near Stavelot and found an electric pump and rigged it up to top up the main tank after a certain number of laps. The tank was almost empty at the finish, but they didn’t have to stop at all and Brian eventually finished fifth and had the works Astons going.” In fact, fifth was remarkable, since Naylor had flooded the carbs at the Le Mans-type start, and got away last, passing cars right up to the last corner.
That was the last of the Murkett’s foreign adventures. “We added up the sums for 1957 and decided we couldn’t do 1958! We just about managed to balance the budget, but the day of the amateur is gone now.”
This strikes a chord with Willie Tuckett, who reckons he must have been one of the last amateurs in sportscar racing, running a Chevron B16 and Lola 212s in the Seventies. “We were paid start money to turn up; we could probably run a year on £10,000, and a win at Brands could mean £1500 with the extras from Duckhams etc. We just about balanced the books — we weren’t professionals, but we were amateur-professionals which is what you were.”
When, around the late Seventies, the cost of a sportscar jumped from £3-4000 to £20,000, Willie switched to old-car sport to maintain the relaxed atmosphere, but is sad to have seen that change too: “Even today, as these cars develop I’ve seen myself squeezed further and further back to the middle of the grid. All these “new” cars are so highly developed, with brake balance bars, special pads. . . I only have one gear ratio, and I go on my own, no mechanics, helped by John Pearson”.
But back to how TKF 9 launched two Formula One careers. Taylor had by this time signed to Reg Parnell, racing an F2 Cooper in ’58 and ’59, progressing to a Grand Prix Cooper in 1960 and a UDT-Laystall Lotus the following year. After a serious accident he raced one more time before retiring from the track, though he turned to rallying, and later racing, Cortinas, before becoming Competitions Manager at Ford.
Meanwhile, as the Murketts dropped their racing efforts, Ian Scott-Watson, managing Jock McBain’s newly revived Border Reivers race team, was looking for a faster car for their main driver, Jimmy Summervail. He went down to see the Murkett car, taking his friend Jim Clark, who had already been hustling Scott-Watson’s Porsche 356 extremely quickly at Charterhall.
He recalls it as “a good buy very reliable, and just fast enough to test Clark”. He confirms that it was TKF 9 which gave Jimmy his first experience of fast driving. In fact, he soon surpassed Summervail, who bowed out of the team, promoting the young farmer sooner than expected. Says Scott-Watson now: “his first big event was really more than we should have asked him to do”. It was the 1958 Sportscar GP at Spa, where the inexperienced Scot (who in his own book says that he was “frightened throughout”) finished eighth, having witnessed the tragic death of Archie Scott Brown on the infamous Masta straight.
This was TKF’s most famous period, when Clark polled 12 wins from 20 races, including the first 100mph sportscar race win on an unbanked UK circuit, at Full Sutton airfield. There was also a royal interlude: Scott-Watson was asked to discreetly arrange for an afternoon at Charterhall where the then Duke of Kent had several laps in the D. For 1959, the Reivers switched to something more up-to-date, a Lister-Jaguar, and the D moved on to Alan Ensoll, an enthusiast living in the North of England. He, too, has fond memories of the car, which he drove in hill-climbs, sprints, races and even autocross. It was, he says, “in a hell of a state” — the oily bits were sound, but the shell was hammered. He rebuilt the monococque, using over 1000 rivets, and fitted a taller quick-release screen with wipers, and an XK-SS-style luggage rack, which meant removing the head-rest again. It also reverted to light green. Ensoll drove it to events all over the North, taking hill records at Barbon, Catterick and Castle Howard, class wins on Rufforth, Full Sutton, Thornaby and Charterhall, and FTD at the Langtoft Dale autocross. It was often referred to in the press as an XK-SS at this time.
He ran it for two years, and considers it the best all-round sportscar he has had, out of a range including a lightweight C, the ex-Protheroe XKI20, a Mk II and a 330 Ferrari; the only breakage was a half-shaft when chasing Sir John Whitmore at Charterhall. But now the Jaguar tried a new career — the movies. Ensoll rented it to the makers of The Green Helmet, a sports-racing epic, and when it returned he got a call from a Dublin farmer named Bob Duncan, who had fallen for the car on set. The allure of film glamour! Ensoll sold it to him and switched to a Lister, the offset single-seater Monza.
So TKF 9 went across the water to Northern Ireland, where Duncan ran it occasionally up Craigantlet hillclimb and at Kirkistown, and then over-revved it and blew it up at Phoenix Park. It was rescued in 1964 from a lock-up near the foot of Craigantlet by Jaguar collector Bryan Corser, who despite an interested policeman spectator ran the unlicenced machine up the famous hill as his test-drive.
Back in England the new owner set to work to strip yards of protective tank-tape from the wings (a legacy, he claims, of Duncan’s nickname — “Basher”) and remove a crude rear bumper, then sent it to Jaguars to rebuild the complete brake system and repaint the car in dark green to match the dozen or so Jaguars in his stable. He also bought EnsoII’s remaining spares, including the head-rest, and fitted extra indicators and a carpet.
Although Corser had been hillclimbing his C-type, he mainly used the D as course car at Loton Park, which he founded in 1964. But he does recall driving it through central London on the way to Brands Hatch. The car remained in Corser’s hands for 14 years, going through the chrysalis phase of all such machinery as they turn from merely old racing cars into historic artifacts, until in 1978 he decided to dispose of the collection.
At this news, another Coventry fan, American airline pilot Walter Hill, stepped in and bought TKF 9. He arranged for Martin Morris, ERA and D-Type racer, to collect the D and look after it until he was able to fly over and try his new acquisition. Arriving in winter, he and Morris blatted round the Devon lanes in the snow, but Hill returned to Florida without deciding whether to keep it. Meanwhile the car went temporarily to Richard and Trisha Pilkington’s Totnes Motor Museum, but not before Willie Tuckett had expressed an interest. In the end, Hill, who has a spectacular and complete range of every type and variant of sporting Jaguar, decided that TKF 9 didn’t add anything historically to the spread, and Tuckett became in 1979 the latest guardian of a much used, (in the best sense) sportscar.
With little more than a tidy up, and another new screen, which Tuckett says is better than the old Appendix C version for road use, the car began a new round of international racing.
It wasn’t long before he too joined the select club of those who have crashed the D, and Martin Morris undertook the rebuild using a new engine frame. But Tuckett retains the crumpled original to prevent any mysterious “Brazil finds” surfacing later. Or rather, he has kept the previous frame, because at our meeting (which has now transferred to the Green Man at Silverstone), Murkett confirms that TKF had already had two new ones; “When Henry did have a crash, he made sure he did it properly!”
Yet all the car’s associates agree that all its vital parts remain original — monocoque, engine no E 2026-9, gearbox, axles. The motor had a rebuild by Kings Mews Racing last year, but the bores were only honed; Tuckett reckons on another 10 years racing before it’s necessary to line the block, by then 50 years old. When it needs paint, he might be tempted to return it to white, but that’s for the future. It’s still a 3.4, so it won’t win against the “evolution Ds”, but that’s fair enough — despite the famous names who drove it, it never did take a major victory. Tuckett won the Coys 500km race at the Nürburgring in 1990, but is not prepared to undertake the mods which would make it a front runner again.
Tuckett frequently drives it on the road — indeed our Silverstone rendezvous is on his return from the DSG World Sportscar Endurance series prize-giving in London, where most of the cars were driven around Park Lane — and says that the headrest-hump is one of the car’s big assets: you can just squeeze pyjamas and toothbrush in there, making it a Grand Tourer.
Eventually we abandon the Green Man and return to soggy Silverstone. All day, memories have been pouring forth, old friends prompting each others’ stories; scads of photographs have been produced, exercising John Pearson’s remarkable knowledge of Jaguar racing history. But Taylor has a BRDC committee meeting to attend, Tuckett is due in Devon for dinner, and Pearson must return the Wingfield rep, which he looks after while Taylor is at home in France running his company Sunseeker Boats. Along with many a telephone call, we have pulled together countless strands in the story of a car which has a terrific and continuous history, and looks like adding to it for years to come. G C
Henry Taylor has never forgotten the car which taught him so much: “I had so many fond memories of the car I wanted to buy it, but that was before it was done up, and I didn’t have the time to do the work. So someone said, well of course the person who can build a proper one is Brian Wingfield. I knew Brian from my time at Fords, and I asked for the nearest possible short-nose replica, the exact car it was, even down to the 3.4 engine. It’s given Peggy and I a lot of pleasure, even doing the Manx Classic. It was built 15 or so years ago from a 1955 XK I 40, which is how the logbook reads.” “Like our Cobras!” chimes in Tony Murkett. Though now 71, he runs a replica 289 AC Cobra, as does his son Steve, a Porsche designer at Weissach.