Thanks to the factory's helpful attitude toward motor-sports -- and its stock of D-Type racing components -- an XKE committed to the circuit wars could wind up a pretty dramatic machine.
The 265-horsepower Jaguar XKE Series 2 could do
0-60 mph in 7.0 seconds and reach 150 mph.
Autosport borrowed one such early "modified," a convertible, for evaluation on both road and track in late 1962. "The acceleration must be described as almost incredible," wrote Paddy McNally.
Despite "far from ideal" conditions, and not thrashing the car out of respect to its owner, he was able to hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and tear past the quarter-mile pole in 13.3 at 108. Yet McNally felt sure that he hadn't seen all the speed the car had to give.
To get that much out of an XKE, one had to do a lot of work under the skin -- perhaps starting with the skin itself. This particular car had been considerably lightened, to the extent of having its hood, doors, trunklid, seats and even its bumpers remanufactured in aluminum. The side-window glass was replaced with plastic, and the winding mechanisms removed.
Underneath, the original brake system had been revised with smaller-diameter but thicker "competition" discs, plus racing pads and a different servo-from a Ford.
The suspension was retuned by lowering ride height, swapping the stock shocks for adjustable racing units, and cocking more negative camber into the rear wheels. While the back end was apart, the suspension carrier's stock rubber mounts were replaced with metal blocks "to prevent axle twist and also to cut out rear-wheel steering."
Although the steering system itself was not mentioned in this case, some XKE racers discovered they could make the car respond more crisply by removing the rubber rack mounts as well. All these changes would make the car too harsh on the street, but would make for all the right moves on the track.
The real centerpiece of this particular banquet was the engine. Atop its stock, albeit blueprinted, block was a D-Type cylinder head complete with 10.0:1 compression, enlarged ports, a trio of two-barrel Weber carburetors, and a racing exhaust system.
All this served up an estimated 300 horsepower. It carried through a lightweight steel flywheel and beefy competition clutch to closer-ratio gears installed in a stock transmission case. Final-drive gearing was variable, depending on venue; a 3.77:1 cog appears to have been fitted for the Autosport test, because the observed top speed of 128 mph was reached at the requested rpm limit of 6,000.
"On the road," McNally reported, "this car proved extremely tractable, the engine never being temperamental or oiling up -- throughout the period of testing the plugs were never touched. The engine pulled well at all revs and didn't just have top-end performance. Maximum power was found between 3,000 [and] 5,500 r.p.m., and the close-ratio gearbox allowed the driver to keep within this rev-band. Fast take-offs were helped by a Powr-Lok differential and the fixed rear-carrier, these two coping with take-offs at 4,000 r.p.m., providing the driver was capable of holding the car in a straight line."
On the sensible side, McNally observed that this was "not a cheap car to run, at 10 m.p.g., but it certainly gave value for money." Well, cars like this tend to distort one's values; McNally actually thought the oil consumption "was quite low at one pint per 100 miles."
Autosport's tester also felt the modified brakes "very good indeed with medium pedal pressure, and [they] never locked up, an amazing improvement over standard." He went on to praise the steering, which though heavy at low speeds was "superlative" when "really motoring."
The clutch was very heavy, too, but smooth. Although ride was "firm, to the point of being hard," that minimized pitch and roll; overall, he lauded the handling as "ideal" and "superb."
On both road and track, McNally waxed on, "the road-holding was of a very high order. The tendency to understeer, with such power available, was no problem, and power-induced oversteer could easily be brought about...." Rounding the famed Silverstone circuit, he found "the car could be made to do more or less anything, being extremely manageable and, needless to say ... the car was controlled on the throttle."
This car, built and first raced by Ken Baker, went on to win numerous events and championships on the local level. Similar privately built racing XKEs were soon numbered in the scores.
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