Bob Tullius has a lot to answer for – and it’s all good. The man behind Group 44 Inc. was responsible for the renaissance of Jaguar as a competitive force in the 1970s, and on the way he created some of the most amazing racing Jaguars ever seen – this 1974 Jaguar E-Type being the starting point. Without doubt he laid the groundwork for the mother brand’s epic victory with the XJR-9LM in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1988.
The E-Type is considered one of the most beautiful cars ever created, but this hardcore E strips away all the finesse. Gone is any semblance of elegance – the iconic long nose is punctuated with intakes and its eyes plucked out, replaced with shark-like dead black voids. The chrome detailing is still there, but all it does is highlight the brutalisation.
This is a stripped-down missile, automotive art made into a blunt-force hot rod. Compared even to the purposeful but still svelte E-Type Lightweights over in Europe, it’s a post-apocalyptic Jaguar, what Mad Max might do if he got hold of a Big Cat. That’s why this car is so utterly awesome. No one would dare do this to a Ferrari 250 – but they should have.
Looking back, the reasoning behind the creation of this racecar seems unbelievable: Jaguar supposedly simply couldn’t shift the later versions of the E-Type in the USA. Two race teams were enlisted to boost the car’s reputation, Huffaker on the West Coast and Bob Tullius’ Group 44 operation on the East. The raw roadster was fast from the off, the Huffaker machine winning on its debut and Tullius only missing out because the gear lever broke whilst he was leading.
The Series 3 V12 Roadster was the basis for this opposition-crushing racer, the last iteration of a model that had been in production since 1961. It would be running in the Production class of the SCCA, so modification options were limited – but stripping stuff off wasn’t. Everything non-essential was removed, the windscreen replaced with a thin and basically useless strip of green Plexiglass.
The stock V12, equipped with quad Stromberg carbs, was tuned to hell too. The one advantage of this relatively speaking long-in-the-tooth car was that its issues were now well known. Oil starvation in corners was solved with a change to the wet sump system, and power was raised to 460hp from the stock 272hp with new cams and a host of other uprated internals.
When the E-Type is fired up it awakes in a fury, creating a most un-Jaguar like, unholy cacophony. The dual side-exit pipes on each side ensure there’s no escape from the Jag’s roar – it’s obscenely loud.
The spartan cockpit features a teensy wheel, though thankfully for the driver power steering was retained. Heavily revised brakes and suspension married to a 4-speed ‘box meant that the car was surprisingly docile if you wanted it to be – until you unleashed the full force of the V12 and nuked everyone from orbit.
A massive rollcage was installed, but with all the interior fittings and fold-down hood removed there’s actually a surprising amount of space. You definitely wouldn’t feel claustrophobic, that’s for sure.
There’s a story behind the reversed numbers on the boot lid, and it goes that the last sticker was mistakenly cut out in reverse ahead of the first race, but was all they had. They stuck it on – as did the idea. It became a symbol for the team from then on.
Group 44’s E-Types were ultra reliable and phenomenally successful. In just two seasons Tullius racked up 12 wins out of 17 entered races and took the SCCA National Championship in ’75. The car’s success on track also shifted those previously unwanted V12 Roadsters… However, with the E-Type being phased out of production, Tullius moved his attention to the new XJ-S – and we know how that worked out. Even more bang for the Group 44 buck…