Race car restoration: Jaguar E-type 'lightweight'

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Stuart Bitmead on a car that has had two successful racing careers – and remains close to his heart

When this ex-Peter Sutcliffe Jaguar E-type ‘lightweight’ – YVH 210, a racer of true pedigree – arrived with my former employer DK Engineering, our brief was clear. The new owner, Juan Barazi, said to DK boss David Cottingham, “I want to win the Goodwood Tourist Trophy next year.”

The car was very original when it came to DK in 2005. It had sat in an aircraft hangar for nearly 30 years. The aim was to turn it into a car that could win Goodwood, but also to keep its original feel. Restoring a car like that for historic racing is always a balancing act.

It had quite a lot of road car trim when it arrived, including carpets and leather. We took all that out and stripped the interior back to the bare aluminium, which is how it would have raced in the day.

We kept as much as possible from the original car, though of course it wouldn’t be wise to race on the period magnesium wheels. It still had an original windscreen when it arrived, complete with a scrutineering sticker. We were able to keep that, which was a nice touch.

The car in period had a token roll-hoop, so we had to fit all the obligatory safety systems. Putting a steel cage into an aluminium chassis meant drilling a dozen or so bolt holes.

That’s all part of the balancing act, because safety comes first.

We didn’t use the period engine, because we didn’t want to detract from its originality by modifying it and beefing it up. And heaven forbid if you had a con-rod failure. We had Crosthwaite & Gardiner build us a new unit instead.

We took an old-school approach to making the car fast, which was to get the best power from the engine and keep it as close as possible to the 1000kg homologation weight.

We managed to achieve the client’s goal by pulling out all the stops. Barazi and Michael Vergers won the TT in 2006 and then repeated the trick in 2007. The car held the lap record, too, which stood until a couple of years ago. I went out on my own and started SB Race Engineering in 2009, but continued to look after the E-type until Juan decided to sell it.

www.sbraceengineering.co.uk


Current projects

Bizzarrini 5300 GT America

Competed at domestic level in Italy in period, but now being converted from road to full-time race car. Chassis is stripped and a roll cage has just been installed. Status: Should be up and running for use by the end of this year.

McLaren MP4/12C GT Can-Am

Rare version of the 12C, a mixture of race car and track-day car based on McLaren’s GT3 contender. Believed to be the only one still in Can-Am specification. Status: In the workshops, undergoing recommissioning ready for a shakedown.