Collections Centre volunteer Alan Toft tells a fascinating story about model cars, his love of motorsport and his favourite car at the Museum, the Jaguar XJR9.
At the time of my 11th birthday my mother asked me what I was going to do with my birthday money. I replied that I was going to buy the first Dinky Toy with 'fingertip steering' – this happened to be a model of the Jaguar 3.8 Mk 2 not unlike the one we have in the Museum.
She replied that I was now too old for that sort of thing – she never explained what I was supposed to replace 'that sort of thing' with – something in the line of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, I assumed! So she was even less impressed when the next thing I wanted to buy was the 45 single recording of Del Shannon's 'Little Town Flirt'!!
So I do wonder what she would think of the display cabinet at my home in Vancouver that is filled with 50+ 1/43 scale models of racing cars that I have either seen race or just wish I had. In the latter category are two cars which are part of our Museum collection. The first is Jackie Stewart's Tyrrell March 701 and the second is my favourite car in the Museum – the 1988 Silk Cut Jaguar XJR9 in which Andy Wallace won Le Mans, but developed a gearbox problem at Coventry Motorfest recently and prevented me seeing it running the next day!
|The 1988 Le Mans Silk Cut Jaguar XJR9|
There's something about this car – it could be that I admired the designer, Tony Southgate, because he also designed my favourite F1 car, the 1971 Yardley BRM P160 which I saw Peter Gethin drive to victory in the Victory Race at Brands Hatch, a race in which his teammate, Jo Siffert, sadly died. I used Yardley aftershave for years because of that car!
Or it could be because I admired and respected John Egan, who pulled Jaguar back from the pit of British Leyland, supported the racing efforts in America and Europe, and who forged a strong relationship with Sir William Lyons and allowed him to pass away knowing that his company was now in good hands.
But I do wonder if it really should have been called the XJR9. Bob Tullius, and his Group 44 team, were loyal Triumph and the Jaguar supporters through some tough times. He raced Triumph TR3's and 4's until he raced his XJR1, which is the lovely Series 3 V12 E-type that is in the Museum and which I did see driven at Coventry Motorfest. I used Quaker State oil in my car in Canada because of this car! Hey, I'm loyal to racing sponsors!
Bob used the nomenclature XJR2, 3, and 4 for the Jaguar XJS's that he raced after the E-type, and for which John Egan arranged support ,and then he had Lee Dyktra develop the gorgeous XJR5 that we have in the Museum and which first took Jaguar back to Le Mans.
So when, following his wonderful success with the XJS in Europe (another car I saw running at Coventry Motorfest) Jaguar understandably asked Tom Walkinshaw to take over the task of winning Le Mans, I thought it somewhat rude that they named his first prototype the XJR6. Sure, the IMSA XJR5, with the overly complex 48-valve engine, may not have been a Le Mans winner given the different rules between WSC (and especially Le Mans) and IMSA, but Tom Walkinshaw could have developed his own naming convention!
Anyway, I think that Tullius's XJR7, and the XJR8 he built that had no relationship to the TWR XJR8, are the best looking XJR's ever made!
I liked the TWR XJR6 in the original Jaguar green but it was Gallagher's 'Silk Cut' money, arranged by the king of sponsor-seekers, Guy Edwards, which probably ensured success. One of Guy's personal sponsors was Barclays International and I used to watch him race Lolas in those colours in F5000 and in 2-litre sports cars.
Tom Walkinshaw was honest with Jaguar about how long Le Mans domination would take. The XJR6 of 1985 and 1986 was fast and won races, the 1987 XJR8 won the WSC World Championship, but the 1988 XJR9 was, to me, the highpoint for the V12 engine. My cabinet does have a model of the 1990 XJR12 Le Mans winner, that came later, but pride of place goes to the 1988 Silk Cut XJR9 that won Le Mans and the 1988 Castrol XJR9 that won Daytona.
There are so many links from these cars to the Museum. Walkinshaw knew that the 24-valve V12 Jaguar engine, even when it grew to 7.4 litres, was becoming uncompetitive, certainly in terms of acceleration, against the turbo Porsches and Sauber-Mercedes, amongst others, and that's why he bought the design rights for the normally-aspirated Metro 6R4 engine from Austin-Rover and had it totally revamped to allow twin-turbos before he put it into the WSC Silk Cut XJR11 in 3.5-litre form and the IMSA Castrol XJR10 in 3-litre form. By 1991, the IMSA XJR10 was being sponsored by Bud Lite which is an old Native American word meaning 'Dishwater'.
This engine, suitably modified for road use, made its way into our production XJ220, of course, whilst the road-going version of the XJR9, the XJR15 that we have in the Museum, got the V12. The turbo V6 engines had limited success in Europe but did better across the Atlantic, especially in 1991 when the much improved XJR16 was introduced. In 1989 the XJR11 wasn't ready for Le Mans and 3rd was the best that could be achieved with the XJR9. The XJR11 was much more reliable in 1990 but the V12 was used for the endurance events like Le Mans, where pole position didn't matter – interestingly the winning Silk Cut XJR12, with all the Ross Brawn instigated changes, was built from the chassis of the 1988 Daytona-winning Castrol XJR9, whereas our 1988 Silk Cut XJR9 was never raced again after its victory at Le Mans.
By then Jaguar was Ford-owned so, when turbos were banned in WSC, it was easy to slide the Ford HB Cosworth 3.5 litre into a new Ross Brawn-designed XJR14 for 1991 and dominate the championship. However they still had to race the new-livery Silk Cut XJR12 at Le Mans and they finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. I just bought a model of this car and need to apply the Silk Cut logos! And no-one begrudged Johnny Herbert his win in the Renown Mazda 787B Rotary.
Jaguar left WSC at the end of 1991 when the Gallagher's Silk Cut sponsorship ended – the XJR14's and XJR12's raced in America in 1992 and 1993, but Ford had other issues by then.
Still it was a wonderful run. I sat in the Museum library a couple of weeks ago and browsed the copy of Leslie Thurston's wonderful book 'TWR Jaguar Prototype Racers'. It's one of those books where you say 'I have to own a copy' and the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust was happy to sell me one at a very reasonable price and I received it in two days!
I was mentioning this to fellow volunteer Tony Bagley recently and he told me Leslie Thurston built those wonderful large-scale models that hang above the XJ13 in the Museum – I've spent hours staring at those models and I want 1/43 scale models of all of them – I also want one of the Suntec-sponsored Japanese XJR12 and could be persuaded to house a Bud Lite car! And I tend to watch our video of Jaguar racing success at least once a week too – I never tire of it!
But I was thinking who, if I had the chance to go back, I would most like to have dinner with and grill about XJR's. I was thinking John Egan, Tony Southgate, and Tom Walkinshaw but then I realized who I respected most – it would be Bob Tullius.
So, at the height of the XJR14's success, Jaguar left WSC to the Le Mans-winning Peugeot 905's. And yes, mother, there's three of them in the display cabinet at home too!! But I need to clear the DVD's off the top shelf – there's more Jaguars coming!