Jag’s XJ-S Trans-Am Yank Tank
The Big Cat With Bigger Claws

September 10, 1975 was announced as a black day for Modena, Stuttgart and Turin by Jaguar’s marketing department.

That was the day that the company unveiled the new XJ-S, the long-awaited replacement for the glorious E-Type which had finished production the previous year. The long lines and V12 in the nose might have continued, but the difference in design ethos was obvious: ’60s curves gave way to ’70s straight edges and performance was definitely modern as well. Sub seven seconds was quoted for the sprint to 60mph and 150mph as the top speed, up there with far more expensive Italian output from the suburbs around Modena.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

But if the looks were good, the timing wasn’t. The mid ’70s in Europe wasn’t the time for a petrol-guzzling sportscar in the mass market, and Jaguar’s motorsport activities were under tight control. In fact, the company’s board had little interest in racing their new charge, so it needed a covert approach to an American race team by a senior manager for a chance to see the new Big Cat on track.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Across the Atlantic was a market where the fuel efficiency or otherwise of the big GT was less of an issue, so not for the first time Bob Tullius’ Group44 squad would be the team chosen to campaign British cars in the USA. Tullius was a veteran driver and team owner, with a fine history importing and racing the British Leyland group’s cars going back to the previous decade. He’d previously developed and driven Triumphs and MGs with British factory support to multiple victories in SCCA club races.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Group44 had already produced a racing version of a late model E-Type in the mid ’70s – a brutal, stripped-down take on the roadster – and they would go on to kickstart Jaguar’s assault on Group C during the ’80s. If not for yet another intervention by the American team, it’s unlikely there would have been all that 1980s Group C success for Jaguar… But in between, Tullius’ team took on the new XJ-S, developing it for SCCA Trans-Am competition.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

At first glance the car looked relatively stock, a trick of the car’s long length misleading the eye when it came to width.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

But the XJ-S’s fenders were seriously widened.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Huge racing rubber was bolted on to these glorious split rims.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Group44’s iconic livery was already well established with their previous cars, and the white with green stripes came to define racing Jaguars until the classic Silk Cut liveries of the mid ’80s – and as ever it was Tullius himself who pedalled the car in the US.

Back To Basics
JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Looking inside cars like this reminds you of just how simple and stripped back old racing cars are. Group44 tore the interior down – and with such a big space to sit in the driver must have felt like they were driving a supertanker…

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Especially when the driver was dropped into this diminutive slip of a seat, with no head support. It’s quite a contrast to the all-enclosing nature of modern seats. An eight-point rollcage was fitted inside the stripped-out shell, which went a long way in improving stiffness.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

The XJ-S was definitely a car that required brawn to master.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Though, if the security of the driving position might have been an issue, understanding the simple switchegear definitely wouldn’t be.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

The small racing wheel, complete with another reminder of the motivation in front of you (there are plenty dotted over the car), connected via a standard Jaguar power steering unit to the front axle.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Group44 built the car in 1976, also racing it four times towards the end of the season to speed up development ahead of a full campaign the following year.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

The racecar for ’77 was based on a left-hooker production XJ-S chassis, then for ’78 a silhouette tube-frame car was developed, with weight was dramatically cut away, which raced alongside this car and allowed Group44 to deliver both the manufacturers as well as drivers cup on behalf of Jaguar.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Nothing really survived of the donor car though: just the roof panel and a couple of components here and there.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Group44’s XJ-S was on the pace straight away, and Tullius swept to the driver’s championship in ’77. He won five times and got on the podium a further two times in his singleton XJ-S against the massed Monzas, Porsches and Corvettes.

A Hole For A Whole Lot Of V12
JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

This car originally came from Bob Tullius’ own collection, and had been fully restored back in 1991. Now housed at classic racing specialists JD Classics, the engine and transmission was out for a rebuild during my visit, leaving an impressively large hole in the cockpit.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

There was an even bigger one under the bonnet. With the big engine out, it really gives a sense of the size of the nose. For comedy effect I like to imagine what a little Gordini straight four would look like in there…

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

The Jag’s 5.5-litre V12 was sitting in the race workshop, awaiting allocation of time in the ever-busy engine department at JD Classics, but being out of the car meant getting a better idea of the enormous length of the thing.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Power was not something the Group44 XJ-S was short of. The car might have been based on a production chassis, but the V12 pumped out somewhere around 540hp by the end of its competitive life thanks to the work of Group44, up from an original figure of 475hp.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Power was delivered through a four-speed ‘box straight from the road car, which would normally be situated just about here…

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

The XJ-S was converted to a bespoke dry sump oil system, and the street Lucas/Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection system stripped out and replaced with six twin-choke Weber 441DF carburettors.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

The suspension was tweaked and AP Racing brakes fitted, but the general layout and handling of the base car certainly helped development – another tick for Malcolm Sayers.

Straight pipes with no mufflers gave the car a surprisingly grunty sound. Here’s the ’78 car ticking over. Simply awesome.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

The big boot was used for the fuel system – in Trans-Am races there wasn’t a need for quick refuelling.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

The hole in the bonnet for the jacks was the only bit that looked crude across the whole car.

As you can see in this video, the car looks surprisingly stable for such a big, long car – and generally very solid riding over bumpy US tracks. Check about seven minutes into this clip from the ’70s, where it’s even described as being ‘suspiciously smooth.’ And then 19 minutes in for some awesome footage from Laguna Seca.

JD Classics historic road and race car sales and servicing in Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom

Over powered and over there, the Group44 was yet another British wolf in sheep’s clothing from the US powerhouse team. Now I just need to track down Group44’s Triumph TR8 that followed this car…

Jonathan Moore
Instagram: speedhunters_jonathan
jonathan@speedhunters.com

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27 comments

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1

You know, this is a cool car. I like the rims in the video too. Great write up

2

prazzi You like the rims? Seriously, that is all you have to say? This is not some hard parking garbage. This is the product of a team that was very successful campaigning TR8s, GT6s, and TR6s. If you can only comment about the "rims", you have no appreciation for the pureness that was sports car racing of this era. Tullius was from my area with his shop not far from me. As a British sports car owner and vintage racing fan, I applaud SH for finally covering a truly significant car and truly significant time in racing. 

Jonathan, you need to seek out a Group 44 TR8. LOTS of power, wide body that makes Rocket Bunny look like the trendy garbage it is, and a SUPER short wheelbase. Proper scary stuff.

3

Lol, such an angry response to a positive comment.

4

They were raced "down under" in standard chassis too, by Tom Walkinshaw.


Definitely a cool car, would've been sweet to see the Dry Sump system, the classic livery suits it so much!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9I7GWllPFY

5

joshwfifty5 Ah yes, JD Classics had one of those beauties when I was there a year or so back: http://www.speedhunters.com/2012/11/jd-classics-2/

6

prazzi wow, ricers every were... this thing is hellafunctional and you look at the wheels. It's people like you who turn great cars like the Nissan Silvia into disfunction(and just plain ugly) ricers.

7

Derelict prazzi Why so negative? Racing car rims look great from an aesthetic perspective, just because he didn't comment on something's functionality doesn't mean he doesn't appreciate the rest of the car. Take a chill pill

8

YES. My boss raced Porsche RSRs against Tullius' Jags in period & said they were always immaculately prepared & improbably fast. Always loved the look of his XJSs.

9

RE: The Group 44 TR8, you may want to get in touch with the folks at Classic Motorsports Magazine, they might be able to help you track down its whereabouts. 2 years ago they restored the Group 44 GT6. The final product got approval from the man himself, Bob Tullius. You can check out the whole series here:
http://classicmotorsports.net/project-cars/1969-triumph-group-44-gt6/
I love that Jag, BTW. It's pretty badass to see such a heavy cruiser mixing it up in sports car racing (the Bentley Continental GT3 also comes to mind).

10

My lord! Probably the best car I've seen on the site this year. Too bad the lump wasn't installed for the photoshoot, but the videos almost make up for it. 

Nice one Jonathan!

11

@kristian Derelict prazzi Not anger, just showing a lack of understanding what that car, and all of the Group 44 cars were all about. Sports car racing of the era was completely different than it is now. They did what is done now with less. Pull this car into a modern paddock and watch people not know what to do with it if it needed a tune. 

To downgrade a significant race car from a great garage to the "rims" (wheels) is wrong. It is okay with most of the hard parking cars shown in articles on here usually but not in this case. To be able to deliver driver and manufacturer titles in the same year is a massive feat. To do so as an independent in a time when the competition was massive (remember, HP restrictions were very lax) and the cars were purely mechanical (no ABS, TCS, Stability, power steering, etc...) even more of a feat.

But, you know, I am glad you appreciate the "rims."

12

Mr Moore: You've outdone yourself once again!

With a little imagination one could even see the Bentley GT3 as a (more boring and mediocre) modern successor...still not even close to the awesomeness of this Jag!

13

Man oh man. Watch the video. The car is wearing different rims from the pictures. I have nothing negative to say about this car or it's heritage as a racer, truely impressive yes. On a side note the secondary wheel tire combo look even better. But please, keep up the complaint department. It's extremely amusing

14

I would love to see some more of the TR8! In fact, i would like to see more of the Tullius cars in general.

15

Very cool car. Seen it in person a few times. We have lots of pictures of the Group 44 TR8 here. 

http://www.thewedgeshop.com/group-44-race-cars.html

16

Jonathan Moore We also have a car in the shop right now with a Group 44 kit on it. http://www.thewedgeshop.com/

17
Purplehatchback

I like the rims...

18
yellowhatchback

Purplehatchback Me too! Smoking as they say...

19

Purplehatchback You ingnorant jackleg! I clear my throat at you for reducing the abstract idea of the raw purity of a black bumper english motor car down to it's "fresh splitties!" This not some "hellaflush" rubbish with the suspension compliance of a dustcart! I empty the ash from my pipe on the doorstep of the house of purplehatchback. GOOD DAY!

20
whitehatchback

milkplus Purplehatchback Pah! Tish! Piffle! You dare to sully the blackened doorstep of Hatchbackedness? You lacklustre oaf! 'Fellahush' is so much more than the sum of it's binman-sourced bouncy bits... it's a lifestyle! Hacking a thick green one deep from my tonsils and aiming it squarely at the trailer park of Milkplus. Much warm hugs Goldtop!

21

whitehatchback milkplus Purplehatchback Now these are my kind of comments...

22

TheWedgeShop Jonathan Moore Nice! You've got some lovely kit over there!

23

maxproof Yep, not a million miles away: maybe if you put something like the big V8 Aston GTs as the intermediary?!

24

sean klingelhoefer Cheers Sean! I actually really liked seeing it with the engine out: you could see so much more of the size of the engine... and then the crazy cavernous bonnet space as well!

25

@T Fritch You have a cool boss! :)

26

Jonathan Moore whitehatchback milkplus Purplehatchback Agreed. I'd like to hear these comments delivered as a battle rap using the tune from the vid as a backing track. "Two of a kind, man and machine… what a team" can that be arranged?

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