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Going, turning, sticking, and stopping were evident and well in hand, but keeping the Jaguar in one piece proved to be more difficult than anticipated



1976 77 broadspeed jaguar xj12 saloon


R alph Broad's racing team had excelled in touring car competition since the early 1960s, running Ford Anglias, Mini Coopers, and Triumph Dolomites.

Leyland subsequently contracted his Broadspeed team to prepare a Group 2 Jaguar XJ12 to confront BMW and Ford in the European Touring Car Championship. A heroic development period from October 1975 saw two cars built for the 1976 racing program, of which this is the second, chassis number BELJC002.

Principal racing modifications to the robustly-built Jaguar coupe included provision of massive AP brakes cooled by special ducts at all four corners and specially cast suspension components to cope with racing loads. The interior, while stripped and now featuring just one bucket seat, actually retained its walnut veneer dash and electric windows, possibly unique features for a racing car. There was no doubting "the Big Cat's" unrivaled power, with its tuned 5.4-liter V12 engine developing some 560 hp. The car's extrovert character was amplified by its gigantic 19-inch wheels hooded beneath bulging arches, a low front splitter, and its large bootlid spoiler.

The Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12 Saloon offered here is number two of four built by Broadspeed from 1976 to 1977. Upon Broadspeed's closure, it was rebuilt by Bob Kerr and features uprated 1977-specification suspension. It formed part of Jaguar enthusiast Allen Lloyd's private collection before being acquired by its current owner. It has run no fewer than three times in the Goodwood Festival of Speed and is also eligible for the recently created race series for 1970s/80s touring cars.

{analysis}{auto}1224{/auto} This 1976/77 Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12 Saloon sold for $147,861 at the Bonhams Goodwood Revival auction in Sussex, England, on September 19, 2008.

The enduring question about the Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12C is not so much why it wasn't successful in its time as why they tried in the first place.

The 1970s XJ series were big luxo-barges, without the slightest pretense of competition performance-they didn't even make one with a manual transmission. Desperate times call for desperate measures, though, and the mid-'70s were desperate times for British Leyland.

British Leyland had been semi-nationalized



In 1975, the British government had semi-nationalized the company, which at the time included virtually the entire British auto industry, to fend off otherwise inevitable collapse (sound familiar?). Good news was in very short supply. Leyland's brass needed a master publicity stroke, and Jaguar's 5.3-liter V12 looked like the way to power it.

The XJS was the logical car to start with, but it had been defined as a 2+2 (not a legal configuration for a saloon car) in a bit of corporate politics intended to keep it from racing, so the XJ coupe was the next best choice. Leyland decided to go ahead with it in early 1976 and hired Ralph Broad's Broadspeed to make it into a competitive racer.

As an aside, you may note that I refer to Leyland rather than Jaguar. At the time, Jaguar's management was not at all happy with their corporate overlords and were, certainly in the beginning, less than fully cooperative in this project. It's instructive to note that these racing cars are the only Works Jaguars ever to carry any form of Leyland badging or identification; the production cars never mentioned it.

Making the XJ into a serious racer was quite a challenge, and history suggests that it was not very successfully answered. But having gotten the job, Broad rallied the troops for an all-British assault on the European Touring Car Championship. The serious competition in the series was BMW's 3.2-liter CSL, a relatively light and well-balanced car with years of racing development, while Leyland was committed to almost the polar opposite.

XJ was old, huge, heavy, and undeveloped



The XJ was an old design (1968), huge, heavy (700 lb heavier than the CSL, even in racing trim), and completely undeveloped as a racer. On the other hand, it had roughly 200 more horsepower to work with, so aside from fitting a manual transmission, making it go fast wasn't the issue. Making it turn, stick, stop, and survive were the problems. AP tackled the braking issues, coming up with absolutely massive 8-pot front calipers for the front brakes, and new suspension uprights were cast to carry the loads. BBS made wonderful wheels, but they were German and this was an all-Brit affair, so 19-inch Speedline racing wheels were built in England. Armstrong made up special shocks so Dutch Konis wouldn't be required. This was a very nationalistic affair, on the order of England's BRM or Italy's Ferrari in the 1950s.

It was September 1976 at Silverstone when a single car finally made a start, the team having missed the first five races of the series. The event was widely anticipated, as the car was the first Works-entered Jaguar to race in over 20 years, and at least in the beginning, it did not disappoint. Derek Bell took the pole from BMW by almost two seconds, a huge margin.

The Jaguar proved to be a brutal, ground-pounding monster that was capable of simply overpowering the BMW competition in the early laps, but it was not to last. Going, turning, sticking, and stopping were evident and well in hand, but surviving proved to be more difficult than anticipated. The car was out with a broken axle by half distance and the Broadspeed Jaguar team folded their tents to concentrate on the 1977 season. It's worth noting here that only one car ran in 1976; there were two additional cars built for 1977, but I don't know if this makes three or four total cars built.

The cars broke in all but two races



The new season, in fact the entire project, proved to be an exercise in frustration. The cars were incredibly fast, getting pole position at all but one event and leading every race they started for at least a few laps, but they broke in all but two of them, finishing 2nd in one and 16th in the other (and failing so close to the end of another race that they scored a 4th as well).

In the end, the cars were simply too brutal to survive what they did to themselves, steroid-pumped athletes with weak joints and hearts. For instance, the engine on song required 30 gallons of oil a minute (a full-on garden hose is about 5 gpm) and they mostly used a wet sump system. Yeah, there were oiling problems.

At the end of 1977, Leyland couldn't continue to bear the losses (both racing and financial) and pulled the plug. Broadspeed returned three cars to Jaguar, where they were put into storage in various stages of disrepair and more or less forgotten. Eventually two were sold, and one remains with the Heritage Trust.

Fast-forward 30 years and there are four known examples out there, resurrected remnants of an exciting and impressive, if not particularly successful, chapter in Jaguar's racing history. As such, they have a very real collector value, particularly to the anglophile leaping-cat crowd, and there's no doubt they'd be a huge thrill to drive. There is, however, a bit of discomfort with the subject Jaguar XJ12 Saloon's history in that Jaguar got three cars back when the project ended - and this is the fourth.

Whether this XJ12 Saloon escaped Broadspeed directly or was built up from parts after the company closed remains a point of active discussion among those who follow the issue. There seems no doubt that this car is complete and correct, with all the right bits. The question is whether this chassis actually saw a race track in the era. Bonhams seemed comfortable with the provenance of the car, but there are a number of differing opinions among the people I spoke with.

It's still an incredible beast, and any questions about provenance would presumably show up in the market's valuation, which in fact appears to be the case. My sources suggest that an unquestioned example should sell for closer to $200,000, so this XJ12 Saloon sold at a substantial discount. I'd say the market adjusted the price for any questions, but this car is still one heck of a ride, and fairly bought.{/analysis}

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