Racing Jaguars In The Roar

A major part of JD Classics’ passion is invested in historic racing: not just supporting customer cars but fielding their own fleet of historic racers and even organising race series themselves. As with their road-going maintenance and restoration services that I took a look at in the previous story, the range of racing cars they manage is wide and eclectic – though naturally with a glorious Big Cat bias. After dragging myself away from the main workshop, it was time to head for the Historic Racing Service area.

The race-car shop sits just off to the side of the larger road-car workshop and is similarly well equipped. Two spot-lit work bays line up next to a pair of Ravaglioli two-post lifts and a scissor lift. All the cars here had interesting stories to tell: these were racers that bridged 70 years of automotive history and personalities.

The walls were covered in memorabilia from the team’s competitive past and present, with multiple Goodwood Revival identity signs prominently displayed – and enough victory wreaths to show that their cars are very much used to finishing up front…

Although the in-house manufacturing units at JD Classics can take care of the big parts, there is a whole range of ancillary components that are kept to hand in rows of trays for easy access: nuts, bolts, brackets and clips by the hundred.

Each car also has its own special parts cabinet that travels with it to tracks, containing tools and components required to keep the cars running.

Alongside the modern gear there were some amazing-looking vintage bits of kit, like this Sun 504 Distributor Tester used for building and testing magnetos. But on to the racing cars themselves…

Starting at the far end of the workshop it looked like a Group C car was undergoing a rebuild, with its rear deck off and big V12 on show. But this was no ordinary Jaguar sportscar – and in fact no Group C: it was an XRJ15 from the most expensive banger racing series ever run!

The XKR15 was Jaguar development partner Tom Walkinshaw Racing’s foray into the extreme road-car market: it was based on the Le Mans-winning XJR9 chassis and mechanicals with some rather minor concessions to comfort and ride. This car was about the delivery of pure performance: a proper driver’s supercar. The concept was something that Jaguar had a history of, having followed a similar programme with the classic C- and D-Types of the ’50s, allowing customers to own and drive cars close to their race-wining sisters. The issue in the early ’90s was that Jaguar had already started their own parallel development of the XJ220 (also utilising TWR’s know-how), but with the ‘official’ Jaguar coming off worse in the handling stakes – and most shockingly of all using a V6 engine – the XJR15 was adopted by the factory as a second Jaguar supercar almost as they launched their own XJ220.

Just over 50 XJR15s were conceived and built by TWR, with around half used in the Formula 1-supporting Jaguar Sport Intercontinental Challenge of 1991. Just three races took place, at Monaco, Silverstone and Spa, each with 16 cars piloted by a combination of contemporary sportscar and F1 guest drivers – always spectacular but sometimes with expensive, panel-destroying results.

Amazingly, despite this on-track action virtually all of the cars survive to this day, with most kept in race trim. The scrutineering sticker for this car shows its entry into the Silverstone race: this looks like the car driven by Ian Flux.

In the (mid) rear is the monstrous 24-valve, six-litre V12, the bottom end from the Group C unit and the top from Group A, mounted as a stressed member. Throttle control is fly-by-wire, which was advanced for the time. The body was styled by Peter Stevens, who would go on to work on the iconic McLaren F1 project; it predates the F1 in being the first supercar to utilise carbon fibre and Kevlar composites for the monocoque and body.

The suspension comprised non-adjustable Bilstein shocks, with wishbones at the front working through pushrods to dampers horizontally mounted across the nose.

At the back, fully Group C-style spring coils mounted as part of the wheel uprights helped clear the underbody venturi tunnels to create the XJR15’s flat-bottomed ground effect. The ride height was upped in road-going trim and the suspension softened, though these could be easily adapted back to racing levels, especially with the addition of a big rear wing.

Realistically the XJR15 was always a racing car thinly disguised for the road: the two seats were narrow, positioned towards the centre of the car and difficult to get into, and the internal noise so extreme that head-sets were issued with the car. It’s actually the second time that JD Classics have owned this car: they sold it as a race-car about 10 years ago; the new owner converted it to road-car spec. It’s now back in for a race-car reconversion.

What a contrast to the next bay: the same colour but separated by 40 years, a pristine C-Type Jaguar.

On the lift was another C-Type with an illustrious history: a car that racing legend Juan Manuel Fangio owned in period. We’ll be getting up close with this car – and a complete range of alphabetical Jags – next week.

To demonstrate that Jaguars are not the only animals in JD Classics menagerie, here we have a GT40: an unmistakeable shape even shorn of its bodywork. As with so many of JD Classics’ car, this GT40 has an interesting past: it’s been a MkI, a MkIV and a MkI again over its lifetime!

This was the last MkI off the production line: it actually has no period race history as it was used as a prototype for the MkIV road car project. It was converted in the UK by Ford Advanced Vehicles to road spec, with the gear change moved centrally and the four-headlight nose added, and then shipped to the States – where somehow another GT40 was dropped on top of it whilst being unloaded… The GT40 went to Kar Kraft where it sat for some time until finally being repaired and rebuilt.

It eventually returned to the UK, still in road car spec, where John Wyer Automotive converted it back to being a full MkI racer in the late ’70s.

It’s now a frequent visitor to European race-tracks, though earlier this year it was damaged at Silverstone in a start-line incident. Sandwiched between two cars the GT40 sustained a big hit, with chassis damage and broken suspension – hence it undergoing some TLC before being released back to the wild.

Like the XJR15, the GT40 was obviously not an easy car to get in and out of: you have to slide across the wide fuel cells in the sills to get into the driving seat. It’s not often that you get to compare the under-the-body details of these racers from different periods, where you can directly reference the application of ever-improving technology and materials: everything on the GT40 looks precision engineered but just that little bit larger and industrial than the more modern streamlined tech on the XJR15, for instance.

Continuing the Blue Oval theme, a 1975 RS3100 Capri was parked up: it is freshly restored and races in JD Classics’ own Challenge series and other historic events in the UK. The Motor Racing Legends Challenge series covers Group 1, 2 and Group A Touring Cars that raced in the British and European Championships during the ’70s and ’80s. There’s ever-growing popularity for this period of tourer – and it’s easy to see why.

This Capri was built by Broadspeed in the UK but then raced in Sweden for a year before going to Ford in Cologne, where it was rebuilt to full Cologne Capri spec – hence the livery. Outings were rare for a couple of decades, before the car was restored and raced by new owner Vince Woodman (a BTCC race winner in the ’70s and ’80s). JD Classics then subsequently bought it and have added it to their stable of saloon cars.

Broadspeed were famous for their British Leyland, Ford and Jaguar tuning in the ’60s and ’70s: their cars were very successful in their own right, and stickers on the Capri commemorate the passing of Broadspeed founder Ralph Broad in 2010.

The wide-body aero pack and ducktail spoiler help compensate for the power of what was under the bonnet: a 3.4-litre Cosworth GAA V6 developing over 460bhp. Mighty.

Back to Tom Walkinshaw Racing, and one of their famous XJS Group A touring cars.

This XJS is from 1984: it’s chassis 05 of just seven manufactured by TWR, one of three factory cars and the final car to race.

Its huge, race-specification 5.3-litre 485bhp V12 with side-exit exhaust system sounds as good as it goes: it even won the Most Spirited Getaway Award at this year’s Goodwood Festival Of Speed. Water-cooled brakes help it with the stopping part that has to come soon after.

In period it was raced by many famous drivers, including Walkinshaw himself, Armin Hahne and Martin Brundle, though Win Percy was the main driver. The XJS has also seen action on some of the classic tracks of the world, including the original long Brno and Bathurst. It was restored by TWR in ’89 after being retired from competition, but returned to the track in 2004. It’s been fitted with hand controls for Win so he can continue to drive it up the hill at Goodwood, following a serious accident for the driver in 2003, and the XJS has already been invited back to the Festival in 2013.

The oldest car in for work was this 1924 Vanden Plas-bodied Bentley Three-Litre: this was an original press car used to show off Bentley craftsmanship at the motor shows of the time.

Upstairs in the engine shop I’d spotted an inline-six Nissan engine, and tucked at the back of the race prep shop, up on a lift, was the likely matching owner. Not one but two famous S30s were here: Big Sam and Super Samuri.

The man behind both cars was Spike Anderson – Ralph Broad’s cylinder head man in period, who had left Broadspeed to set up on his own and became the UK’s Z-car specialist of the ’70s: Samuri. Super Samuri was his original 240Z road-car, which was used as a racing stand-in whist Big Sam was being repaired after a huge shunt at Brands Hatch.

Big Sam raced in the mid-’70s Modsports series: a championship for highly-developed saloons that comprised some of the most outrageous tuned racers ever. The 240Z was raced by Win Percy early in his career.

The lifts at the back also hid a couple of other surprises: another GT40 tub (a JWA car certified by GT40 specialist Ronnie Spain, which is to be built up as a MkIV road car), the bodywork for the XJR15…

…and this 1960 Lotus Elite Series 1, which had been discovered recently in this condition after 40 years of sitting in storage and is awaiting restoration. This was a Redrose Garage/Peter Jopp car, raced all round the UK in period and was possibly used as a test car for Le Mans. It’s fitted with a Stage 3 kit, which means high performance parts all over: Webers, tubular manifold, alloy brake callipers, SU fuel pump, ZF gearbox – which was the Le Mans spec. JD Classics’ team of investigators is in the process of confirming its provenance.

Underneath the Lotus was this beast of a car: an Ecurie Ecosse Lister ‘Knobbly’ Jaguar from 1958. This is another car that gives the lie to the idea that old racers are boring: nothing looking like this, weighing just 820kg and with a 5.4-litre 354bhp Chevy V8 competition engine in could ever be described as boring. Fast. Frightening. Awesome. Three words that are far more apt.

There was just so much stuff in the race-prep storage area that cars and components were slotted in wherever they could be. I almost missed the significance of this nose because of the sheer amount of parts to poke around.

It was only when stepping back that it became clear that this was all part of one car: the nose, cycle wings on the right and the main chassis make it more obvious just what car it was – and will be again at some stage. It’s a Series 1 Lotus Seven: one of the first run of Sevens, that was dismantled into kit form (as many were supplied originally in fact) and like the Elite is now awaiting a new owner and restoration.

There’s certainly some work ahead for this Seven…

Further back was a rather more pristine unit: an XK straight-six awaiting a trip to the engine workshop for some adjustment…

…and another classic car under a dust cover: an E-Type Lightweight. It’s all very well seeing classic racers on static display, but seeing them at full-chat on a racing circuit is that much better – and that’s exactly what JD Classics ensure happens to their squadron of historics. And for that, we have to thank them. The only problem is the realisation about just how far away the 2013 racing season is!

Jonathan Moore

More stories from JD Classics




Fantastic shop and cars. Absolutely floored by report. Nice one, Mr. Moore!

Corey K
Corey K

I am absolutely floored by this shop. Inspirational is putting it mildly!


Any race through the streets of Monaco is an absolute joy to watch!! The video included with the pictures really drives this feature home. Awesome!!

David Fernandez
David Fernandez

man this is very creative VERY OLD SCHOOL AND THE MOTER IS JACKED UP AND RUSTY needs some repair


Big Sam, Super Samuri and the etype lightweight are my top picks here. What an amazing collection of automotive history.


Truly brilliant piece! More of this please!!?!?


i absolutely love the XJR 15. I know that, dynamically, it was a terrible, terrible car, and that anyone who ever drove one hated it, but i don't care what they say because it was and is gorgeous, and it sounds amazing

and it couldn't have been as bad as all that, or TWR never would have worked its chassis into the R390 GT1


because i seen some of these race at historic at brands hatch


can someone tell me website name please?

and were this is please?


Every single one of these cars is before my time, but they helped to define and shape the race and road cars of today. You can't not appreciate any of these car's significance. They were so much more hardcore and pure back then.  I have nothing but respect for these cars and even more for JD Classics for bringing them back to 100% again for a whole new generation of enthusiasts to appreciate.


"Somehow another GT40 was dropped on top of it".


Whoops. Oh well it's an easy mistake to make. Could happen to anybody really.


Not much in the way of Fire protection in this building. Would be a shame if all these cars were lost in one go.


Finally, this is hunting speed.

Other Will
Other Will

What happened to Peter Stevens? He sort of vanished after MG Rover went down the pan.


oooo that capri looks nuts!!!

wasnt there a small chance just to peel back that dust cover on 'knobbly'?! would loved to have seen a full picture of it.


How could this possibly get any better .. i thought while reading your post on the road-car section.Obviously it has gotten better. Not just slightly. This is paradise^2! Thank you for the wonderful pictures and detailed information! 


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