Don Law has been working with, on and around Jaguars for the last 20 years, half of which has been for his own Stoke-on-Trent restoration concern.
This particular project began in May of last year, when experienced dicer Colin Pearcy asked him to build a very original “lightweight” E-Type racer. Not a pukka Lightweight, you understand. At half a million pounds per example, they have virtually priced themselves out of the historic racing market.
“The prerequisite was to source a rust-free, original example. It also had to be the earliest chassis I could find,” explains Don. And thus chassis number 415 found its way into his workshop. This 1961 fixed-head coupe had no racing history, but that was all about to change…
“It’s very period: the dashboard is period, the seat’s period, and so are the gauges. There is no trim, roof-lining or carpets,” says Law. “It’s very correct with a standard engine and gearbox. It’s got standard geometry, too. It’s not been rose-jointed, that’s not allowed by the rules but we are looking at using metal bushes.”
It also features a regular steel monocoque, as opposed to the aluminium variety utilised by Coventry’s out-and-out GTO-chaser. However, it is a semi-Lightweight in that it boasts aluminium bonnet, bootlid, wings and doors. In fact the bonnet and those glorious Dunlop one-piece magnesium wheels were originally on 4WPD, a factory Lightweight raced by Roy Salvadori among others.
“There are a lot of standard parts on it, so there’s still room for improvement: weight reduction and more power,” insists Law. The car weighs 1102 kilograms. and I reckon that if we are careful we could get this below the 1000 mark.” He has refused to take one obvious route to this, though: The aluminium block is now homologated. They ran them in their day and it saved about 100 kilos, but I’m a bit worried about its reliability and cost.”
The current engine is looked after by Spike Winter, who worked on the Willment Ford Galaxies of the ’60s, and Mr Flux’s Thundersports Lola-Mazda rotary in the mid ’80s. On a triple Weber 45DCOE set-up this gives about 320bhp, and 2881b ft at 4000rpm. It will rev to 6400rpm.
Law: “We are still running a little conservative on the engine. We want reliability and it should be unburstable.” So should the transmission…
“All Jags are fitted with Salisbury diffs: these are immensely strong and can take upwards of 500bhp. We could have run 4WPD’s period ZF five-speed box, but this is very heavy, and again we wanted reliability. The standard four-speed unit is very sturdy, and we have a wide variety of final drives for the faster circuits on the continent.
“The car is very good on these types of track. Suspension is by double-wishbone at the front, and a form of double-wishbone at the rear with the driveshaft acting as the top link. If they are set up properly this can be a very effective system.
“The brakes are a bit agricultural. It has discs front and rear, but they are solid and small for the size of the car. We also use the original Girling BR callipers. We’ve tried modern carbon metallic pads and they burnt the seals out! Neither Colin nor his co-driver [the ubiquitous Tony Lanfranchi] want the brakes servoed, because they reckon it would be too easy to overuse them, and that you might get less warning of when they are about to let go.”
The car made its debut in the three-hour Autosport-backed historic encounter at Snetterton last October. It qualified on the front row, and although it lost two minutes in the pits because of a fuel spillage drama, it finished fourth.