This month’s column is a tale with both tragic and cautionary threads for those who play in the vintage racing car hobby

This Series 1 E-type roadster was purchased from its second owner in 2005 after being discovered in a garage where it had remained since the mid-1980s. The car was immediately sent to the restoration shop for what became a five-year, race-prepared restoration. This Jaguar is presented with a very high level of finish, from the outside filler to the lightweight E-type wheels. Completed in Tungsten Silver with Cranberry Red racing stripes, the quality of paintwork is stunning for a car that has been fully equipped for vintage racing.

Mechanically, the car is equally impressive. This E-type is powered by a TJP race-built, high-content, heavy-duty “tank” 4.2-liter block with dry sump and triple 48 DCOE Weber carburetors. Additionally, the car was completed with side exhaust, custom aluminum radiator with oil cooler, TREMEC T5 dog box transmission, Koni dampeners with custom valves, and an upgraded front torsion bar. XJ6 front and rear brakes have been added to enhance braking capability. With over $225,000 spent on the restoration, this E-type is an ideal candidate for premier vintage racing events in the U.S. and abroad. It has yet to compete, having only attended several test days since its completion in July 2005.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1967 Jaguar E-type Series 1 Roadster Race Car
Number Produced:31,693 (Series 1)
Original List Price:$6,500 (about $45,000 in 2011 dollars)
Chassis Number Location:Right front shock tower
Engine Number Location:On head between cams
Club Info:Jaguar E-type Club
Alternatives:1953-55 Aston Martin DB4, 1962 Ferrari 250 SWB, Lusso, GTO, 1963 Corvette Stingray

This car, Lot 6, sold for $96,800, including buyer’s premium, at the Gooding Scottsdale auction, on January 21, 2011.

This month’s column is by necessity going to be a bit more technical than normal, but it is also a tale with both tragic and cautionary threads involving serious lessons to be considered by those who play in the vintage racing car hobby. I beg your forbearance. I’ll get the tragedy and the conclusion out of the way right up front: The car was a stunningly beautiful example on which the owner had lavished painful amounts of money and effort, but because of decisions made in the process, it was valued by the market as just a weapons-grade club racer. As such it sold for pretty much correct money. The tragedy is that with different decisions, it could have been less of a disaster for the seller. Like any good tale, though, it’s never that simple, particularly with racing E-types in the U.S.

The rules of the racing road

It is important to start with an understanding of preparation rules. All international automobile competition is done under the auspices of and within the rules set by the FIA. In the case of production-based racing cars, it is necessary for the manufacturer to submit “Homologation Papers” to the FIA and have them approved before a car can compete. These are extraordinarily detailed documents, including everything from weights and dimensions of the car to details of suspension and wheels to photographs of the pistons and allowed weights for the connecting rods in the engine. In order to race, every car has to meet this published standard. The current rules in any year are referred to as “Appendix J.”

For FIA vintage racing, Appendix J has been supplanted by “Appendix K,” which is a slightly less demanding variant, more fixed and appropriate to vintage racing’s needs. The rules are still the rules, though, and the essential parts of homologation papers still apply if you want to race with the FIA. In the U.S., we never accepted the FIA’s dominance (except for a few big races like Sebring and Daytona) and allowed the SCCA to set the car preparation rules. In some ways the SCCA rules are more restrictive than the FIA’s, in other ways they are less, but every SCCA racing car has a “PCS” standard to meet. Vintage racing clubs inside the U.S. generally try to use the SCCA rules, but are willing to accept FIA-prepared cars if they are properly done.

A little bit of Jaguar history

Next, a quick historical overview. Jaguar introduced the E-type in early 1961 as a high-performance sports car and it immediately took the world by storm. It was not conceived of nor marketed as a competition car, but the instant market acceptance and racing success of early examples strengthened the automaker’s confidence, and the decision was made in 1962 to build a short run of serious competition variants. The enemy in the crosshairs was the Ferrari GTO, seen even at the time as a complete travesty against the homologated production car concept, and Jaguar figured they could play that game as well. They proceeded to submit papers for a “cheater” E-type with go-fast goodies including Webers (or fuel injection), dry sump, wider wheels, and almost a thousand pounds less weight than the production car. The FIA was as angry about the GTO situation as anyone, and accepted Jaguar’s proposal (FIA Recognition Form 100). The resulting car is known as the “Lightweight E-Type” and the factory built 13 of them. They were astoundingly fast and are now extremely valuable, almost too important to race seriously.

In 1964, Jaguar replaced the 3.8 with a 4.2-liter engine in the E-type. By this time racing had moved on and the E-type was not a serious competitor, so there was no effort to replicate the “cheater” homologation papers for the 4.2-engined car. There were papers filed (Recognition Form 506) but they basically described a stock vehicle for rallying etc.; none of the fancy go-fast stuff was included. An FIA legally prepared 4.2 is simply not a competitive racing car, so nobody runs them in international racing.

In the US., the SCCA considered all E-types (3.8 or 4.2) to be B Production cars and required essentially production specifications (wet sump, SU carburetors, about 400 lbs heavier than the FIA lightweight). U.S. vintage clubs nominally require the SCCA standard, though many (by no means all) have caved in and accept dry sumps and Webers on any E-type, effectively allowing “mixing and matching” of the U.S. and FIA preparation rules. American clubs are also notoriously relaxed about things like alternate transmissions, later-model brakes, cut-down windscreens, etc… that the FIA simply won’t tolerate.

Let’s imagine that your favorite uncle has left you a nice but used-up Series 1 E-type roadster and you want to turn it into a serious vintage racer. First, get used to the idea that it’s going to cost you at least $200,000 to do it right; that’s just a reality these days. Next you need to decide what set of rules you’re going to prepare it to. If you want to race internationally (or sell it to an international market), there is nothing wrong with building it as a “replica Lightweight E”. If you want to run near the front in U.S. vintage racing, you’ll want to build it to the far more relaxed U.S. standards. The point is that you cannot do both; the rules are not compatible.

A legally prepared “Lightweight replica” gets to use lots of cool stuff, like Webers, a dry sump, and lower allowed weight than you can probably achieve, but you also have to have an honest, period 3.8 engine and transmission, no headers, correct 1963 brakes, and a full windscreen (which is why they all run hard tops for the aerodynamics). For about the same money, you can build what I’ll call a U.S. Club Racer like our subject car. It uses the good stuff from the lightweight package on a 4.2-liter, along with the updated brakes, transmission, suspension and the like that are generally tolerated here. The resulting car will be far faster than the FIA-legal one, but it is useless except within the U.S. It sounds like a simple decision, for an American, at least.

Build it right or buy it right

The problem shows up when it comes time to sell your toy. U.S. club racers are worth $75k–$100k on a good day while FIA-legal 3.8s bring $175k–$200k on the international market. This means that if you choose to build to the U.S. standard to run up front here, you need to be willing to walk away from at least half of your investment when it comes time to move on. This is a rational decision that people can make, but too many don’t understand the choice.

The owner who had this car built apparently believed that it was done to an FIA standard, when in fact it wasn’t even close, and the resulting lack of a suitable market for it must have been a bitter disappointment. This is particularly unfortunate because it was easily avoidable. ACCUS Historic (the U.S. FIA representatives) are happy, even anxious, to help. A phone call or two could have at least allowed the owner to make rational decisions about how his money was being spent in the restoration. As it was, the money was spent to build something worth less than half what it cost.

The sales price was fair, even good, for an American club racer E-type; it’s just that neither the car nor the price was what it could have been.

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