Matters of the Moment
Those Jaguar Records
Although they were established rather more than a month ago, those records by a standard 3 1/2-litre XK Jaguar, driven at Jabbeke by R. M. V. Sutton, still rank as a matter of moment. Indeed, the whole exploit was a credit to British achievement and initiative.
At Earls Court last year the twin o.h.c. XK Jaguar took the Show by storm, for this advanced and so-attractive sports car was a last minute surprise and one which, by its elegance and potential performance capabilities, represented astonishingly good value at a basic price of £988. It was even rumoured by sceptical persons that the "XK" was too good to be true and must be just a publicity move, that Jaguar's would never put it into series-production, at all events at the original price.
For some months nothing more was heard of this exciting car, then, on the eve of full-scale production (still at £988) for the export markets, came an invitation to go out to the Jabbeke-Aeltre motor road and see what the car would do when officially timed by the R.A.C. de Belgique. The results were astounding — no other word is adequate. The f.s. two-way mile, hood and screen erect, was covered at 126.448 m.p.h.; a standard scuttle deflector was substituted for the screen and the speed rose to 182.362 m.p.h. for the f.s. two-way kilometre and to 132.596 m.p.h. for the mile; the best run being a kilometre at 133.388 m.p.h. Standing-start kilometre and mile records were also established, at 74.168 and 86.434 m.p.h., respectively. These are new Class C Belgian national records, formerly held by a Healey.
For a normal 3,442-c.c. sports car carrying full equipment even to front bumper, rear over-riders and G.B. letters, and running on Shell pump fuel, to officially exceed a speed of 138 m.p.h., is a truly meritorious achievement. A faired undershield was fitted, but this is a standard extra. Moreover, that the car was docile and tractable was demonstrated immediately after the record runs, when Sutton cruised slowly past the depot in the 3.27-to-1 top gear. The car was then handed over to two privileged daily Press motoring correspondents and it started on the starter and generally behaved impeccably. The only accessory which seemed to have had unfair demands made upon it was the 120-m.p.h. speedometer — but it remained unruffled! The Jaguar's convincing stability and quiet running had already shown up prominently during the timed runs.
The normal Dunlop "Road Speed" 6.00-16 tyres did not over-heat or give the slightest trouble, so that "Dunlop Mac" was, for once, "on the dole," in spite of the fact that the Jaguar must have covered some 30 miles at high speed, mostly in excess of 180 m.p.h., and that all four tyres are tucked in out of the air-stream. One run for the mile was affected by wheelspin due to rain on the Aeltre end of the road and a re-run was permitted, but, in case anyone objects, even taking the original run as part of the mean speed, the two-way average is in excess of 131 m.p.h.! Incidentally, at this speed approximately 5,200 r.p.m. was realised.
Sutton was so modest about the whole thing that he was rather neglected during the celebration lunch in Ostend (and to which he drove in the same cream, left-hand-drive Jaguar), until the Press took possession of him! It must not be overlooked, however, that his skill counted for much during the standing-start runs and that, stable as the Jaguar was, courage is needed to steer any car along a narrow road at speeds in excess of 130 m.p.h. Aged 53, Sutton will be remembered for his exploits with Lea-Francis cars over twenty years ago, and until recently was with Daimler. Today he is a member of the Jaguar Development Division. He was naturally alone in the car, the passenger's seat covered over with the normal tonneau cover, and he wore a white helmet and a B.R.D.C. badge on the pocket of his blue overalls.
Through the initiative of E. W. Rankin, Public Relations Officer to Jaguar Cars Ltd., a party of motoring journalists and daily paper correspondents was flown out from Heath Row to Ostend in a Sabena Dakota, and taken in a Sabena Iso Bloc coach to witness the record attempts, and a party of Continental journalists joined them at the venue. There, in the sunshine, with smiling gendarme and curious Belgian peasants looking on, the R.A.C. de Belgique officials worked efficiently in their Renault time-keeper's van and patrolled the course in a magnificent modern Alfa-Romeo, while music and announcements were broadcast from a vast van akin in effect to a mobile cinema organ. Col. Barnes represented the R.A.C.
So history was made, amid a characteristic British display of outward indifference. Incidentally, although journalists normally make their own way to the "story," they are busy people, and to transport them en bloc has much to commend it. Under some circumstances such facilities might be misconstrued as a means of courting widespread publicity for a mediocre performance, but the speeds of which the Jaguar proved capable entirely exonerate Mr. Rankin from any such suggestion! And Jaguar's confidence in its product was fully justified. The reception at the Osborne Hotel was very generously put on by the Deputy Mayor of Ostend, and many of those present still remember the lunch which followed! In excusing the Belgian pavé, our host called upon the local highways engineer for more roads like the fine motorway on which the Jaguar had made its records, and paid warm tribute to the directorate, driver and technicians who had made possible such a wonderful motoring achievement. Later, another speaker conveyed a warm invitation to Jaguar to run a team of XK cars in the Spa 24-Hour Race — but we believe that the firm's policy is against racing, not on financial grounds, but because they regard the XK as a normal touring car and because they consider that better publicity results if successes are achieved by private owners.
In reply, T. H. Wisdom suggested that the "XK 120" be named the Jaguar "Jupiter" or Jaguar "Jet" — certainly we feel that it should now be re-styled the "XK 130"! The whole party was truly enjoyable; but party or no party, it is possible to bestow the highest praise on the 3 1/2-litre XK Jaguar, sans peur et sans reproche.