The Alton-Jaguar

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Michael Barker believes that there is more fun to be had from building a car for club racing than by buying your racer ready-made. His Alton-Jaguar made its debut at Goodwood on June 6th and would have won a 5-lap handicap at over 79 m.p.h. had it not made an excursion on to the grass at Woodcote and been disqualified.

Believing that racing benefits from the participation of “one-off” “specials” we drove over from East Hampshire to West Surrey one June evening, along pleasant, notably deserted by-roads (who says motoring is no longer worth while?), to discover what Barker’s car consists of.

Barker, following in the wheel-tracks of a father who has ridden round Brooklands with Parry Thomas and who had a contemporary, very “hot,” eight-valve Morgan-Anzani, began racing with a very potent-looking solo Norton. He followed this with an Ulster/Le Mans Aston Martin, before racing a Ford Anglia the gasket of which originally used to suffer sadly from a supercharge of 15 lb./sq. in.!

The Alton-Jaguar was designed round a blown 2-litre Alta engine, but when this protested it was found just possible to substitute a 3.4-litre Jaguar engine and C-type gearbox.

The chassis was designed and fabricated by Barker in the home garage, work commencing in 1954. The frame is of tubular ladder type, with side-members and four cross-members of 16 g. steel tubing. The posts of the double wishbone i.f.s. were welded-up from 3/16-in. steel plate, and Lotus coil-springs were used, which required packing up to take the greater weight of the Jaguar engine. The stub axles are Aston Martin.

At the rear an A-frame linkage locates an Aston Martin back axle sprung on coil-spring units, the original anti-roll bar having been recently deleted. The axle ratio is 3.889 to 1. Girling drum brakes are used all round, although the next move will probably be to fit disc brakes. The engine is a fairly “cooking” Jaguar unit but an 8-to-1 compression-ratio, high-lift camshafts and six-branch exhaust system feeding into a flexibly-mounted Servais silencer, with dual tail-pipes emerging in front of the near-side back wheel, has elevated the power output to approximately 210 b.h.p. As the car weighs only about 18 cwt. ready to race (it turned the scales at 16½ cwt. “wet,” with the Alta engine), acceleration is distinctly brisk, while maximum speed is 135 m.p.h. at 6,000 r.p.m.

The chassis has a wheelbase of 7 ft. 9 in., a front track of 4 ft. 4 in. and a rear track of 4 ft. 6 in., and a Mistral fibreglass body, lengthened at the cockpit, fits it very well. Incidentally, this body withstood a bump with a Cooper-Bristol during the aforesaid Goodwood incident very well, the only casualty being a headlamp glass, the nose of the body being virtually undamaged and the lamp within remaining intact. The dashboard is supported on a light tubular bridge and contains a large rev.-counter and the usual instruments. The steering wheel, like the rest of the car, was made by the owner and has three light-alloy spokes laboriously provided with lightening holes. To get a low nose a Connaught radiator is slung low down ahead of a remote header-tank. At the back the spare wheel is strapped horizontally above a steel fuel tank holding about 12 gallons. The car runs on Esso Extra but prefers Esso Golden 100-octane petrol and uses Esso 40/50 oil and normal Champion plugs. It is mainly intended for sports-car racing but was driven to Goodwood and gave some 20 m.p.g.

The centre-lock wire wheels are shod front and back with 6.00 by 16 Dunlop R5 racing tyres, which Barker endorses as providing very remarkable grip under racing conditions.

Altogether the Alton-Jaguar is a very worth-while “special,” of which a lot more should be heard. Incidentally, this is a sporting family. for Mr. Barker, Snr., is addicted to flying to Goodwood to watch his son race, taking-off in his Piper Cub from an airstrip behind his house. — W.B.