RE: Jaguar revisits Jabbeke

RE: Jaguar revisits Jabbeke

Monday 4th March 2013

Jaguar revisits Jabbeke

Classic cats commemorate the 60th anniversary of Jaguar's remarkable production car speed record



Jaguar has long been synonymous with high-speed motorway tests. Both the XK120 and E-Type were, legend has it, in part responsible for the introduction of new speed limits on Britain’s motorways back in 1965. But perhaps Jaguar’s most remarkable feat of speed on the road came in 1953, when they took the record for the top speed achieved by a production car back from Pegaso.

Jaguar had initially taken the production car speed honours back in 1949, when Ron ‘Soapy’ Sutton edged a factory-standard XK120 up to 132.6mph on a flying mile, on a closed road near Jabbeke, in Belgium. Successive attempts with Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis at the wheel raised that record bit by bit. But Jaguar’s nose was soon to be bloodied. In 1953, Pegaso, seeing the chance to steal a march on one of the biggest names in racing, headed over to Jabbeke, and used a Z-102 to take the record at a speed of 155mph.

F-Type with XK120, the car that started it all
F-Type with XK120, the car that started it all
Not to be outdone, Sir William Lyons called Dewis up, and asked what he was going to do about it. Dewis was doubtful there was much more to be had from the XK, but he and his team headed back to Jabbeke in October.  This time, the car was equipped with a streamlined bubble canopy and under-body shielding  (which, conveniently, became available on the XK120’s options list just beforehand), as well as slick tyres with just 2mm of rubber left on them, blown up to 50psi. It was a real tale of derring-do, this. Dewis helmed the XK without a seat – otherwise he wouldn’t have fit beneath the tight canopy – instead using a thin piece of foam as his only support. Above him, the canopy was bolted down, sealing him in – had something gone badly wrong, the 120 would almost certainly have become his coffin.

Fortunately, it didn’t. In fact, Dewis smashed the record with a top speed of 172.4mph, bringing the laurels back to Jaguar – as its full-page advert in the next week’s Autocar Magazine attested. The XK120 was – once again – the fastest car in the world.

Grandparents came along to spectate
Grandparents came along to spectate
Today, the XK120’s spiritual successor, the F-Type, isn’t the fastest car in the world. But that hasn’t stopped Jaguar from returning to Jabbeke to relive its old glories. The plan? With the help of the local authorities, close a stretch of road and, quite simply, see what an F-Type V8S can do. Along for the ride – though not taking part in the speed run, it has to be said – is what Jaguar likes to refer to as the F-Type’s ‘bloodline’: immaculate examples of an XK120, a C-Type, a D-Type, and an E-Type. Dewis is here, too, to cast the eye of experience over proceedings.

It’s a freezing day as we line up at the side of the road to spectate. Half the town has turned up, too, and the marshals are having the devil’s own job making sure everyone stays far enough back to avoid being creamed by the F-Type. The car is completely standard, with the exception of a few strands of duct tape – de rigeur, of course, for a high-speed run. It’s being driven by none other than Andy Wallace, one of Jaguar’s 1988 Le Mans-winning drivers, and as we arrive the GPS data logging equipment is already being calibrated. The F-Type rockets past, seemingly already on a flyer – but in fact, this is just Andy having some fun as the instruments are set up.

Dewis & Wallace: Jabbeke veterans old & new
Dewis & Wallace: Jabbeke veterans old & new
Eventually, though, the word is given. In the distance, a pair of twinkling Xenons start to move, and the helicopter Jaguar’s hired to record overhead video tilts into the sky and peels off to give chase. As it approaches, the tyre roar increases, and then the F-Type flashes out from behind the hedge in the central reservation, whipping past in an instant, and it’s gone. But the noise – oh crikey, the noise is just fabulous. Let’s leave the arguments about where the F-Type fits into today’s sports car market or whether it’s going to be worth the money Jaguar will be asking, and just revel for a moment in what a superb exhaust note it has – a guttural throb at low revs which rises to an angry ululation, overlaid with crackles and rasps on the over-run. You won’t need to buy one to enjoy this – just stand outside a Jag dealer in a few months’ time and wait for someone to take one out on a test drive. Take a Thermos and a fold-up chair, and make a day of it. It’ll be worth it – it’s that good.

After three more similarly scorching runs, Andy comes in and says he reckons that’s about the best he can do. It seems he started the last run with the rear wheels up on the roundabout island at the end of the straight, and then came to a halt, hard on the brakes, with the bumper just inches away from the crash buffers at the other end. That’s all she’ll do on this stretch of tarmac, then – so what’s the result?

Here's hoping F-Type lives up to the hype
Here's hoping F-Type lives up to the hype
179mph, is what. It’s still a smidge off Jaguar’s claimed max of 186mph – but then, Andy points out that the car was still accelerating when he threw out the anchor. Seems legit, in that case – and on the way there, the car hit 62mph in 4.2 seconds, besting Jaguar’s claimed time of 4.3.

So, the F-Type does what Jaguar says it does. Was that the point of this whole exercise? Erm... well, partly, say the men from JLR. But, as they put it, what they really wanted to do was to ‘tell the story’ of the F-Type’s heritage. Or, in other words, to re-state their claim that the F-Type of today is just as special as the Jaguars of old. Is it? Well, we wouldn't like to say just yet. But we’ll leave you with one significant detail. As the parade of crackling, wailing, popping classics rolled through Jabbeke before the event, followed by the the three burbling F-Types, just as many cameras were pointed at the new cars as were pointed at the old. In other words, if this car drives as well as it looks and sounds, it’ll fit the brief.

Author
Discussion

Gorilla Boy

Original Poster:

7,750 posts

115 months

Monday 4th March 2013
quotequote all
I had the chance to drive an xk150 once, love the old jags smile

Still unsure about the f-types rear lights however.

joshleb

759 posts

86 months

Monday 4th March 2013
quotequote all
My father has a pristine XK120, concours winner, UK postage stamp etc and the amount of attention it gets far surpasses anything that it is out with it, from classics to modern marvels!

Hope for Jaguars sake the F-Type does well, tempted to take it for a test drive, but it just wouldn't be practical for me.

Would fit nicely into the XK120 and E-Type line up we have at home though...

sunbeam alpine

4,417 posts

130 months

Monday 4th March 2013
quotequote all
Hells teeth! When did that happen?

I live just up the road. Can't believe I missed it! frown

LaurasOtherHalf

14,975 posts

138 months

Monday 4th March 2013
quotequote all
nice article, there's something about those old XK's isn't there?

hopefully this thread won't be trolled by that strange bloke who thinks jaguar-LR are spawned by the devil himself & anyone who likes them has been "got at" by the lizard illuminate.

or something hehe

ItsJustARide

106 posts

99 months

Monday 4th March 2013
quotequote all
LaurasOtherHalf said:
hopefully this thread won't be trolled by that strange bloke who thinks jaguar-LR are spawned by the devil himself & anyone who likes them has been "got at" by the lizard illuminate.
Oh come on he provides some of the best entertainment on here.

I also have the deepest admiration for his ability to type whilst having a chip the size of Wales on his shoulder.

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Mr.Jimbo

1,698 posts

125 months

Monday 4th March 2013
quotequote all
LaurasOtherHalf said:
nice article, there's something about those old XK's isn't there?

hopefully this thread won't be trolled by that strange bloke who thinks jaguar-LR are spawned by the devil himself & anyone who likes them has been "got at" by the lizard illuminate.

or something hehe
Of course Jeep did this first, the press merely bought into the JLR Zeitgeist.

Or is there another one?!

Stokemon

76 posts

137 months

Monday 4th March 2013
quotequote all
F-Type passed me while I was cycling yesterday. Roof down, dropped a gear and nailed the throttle. Those cars are lovely. They look so good in the flesh smile.

The Crack Fox

13,426 posts

134 months

Monday 4th March 2013
quotequote all
I got a speeding ticket on that same boring bit of road myself 10 years ago, about 80mph slower than the Jags though, in a Gti.

Gorbyrev

1,030 posts

96 months

Monday 4th March 2013
quotequote all
Don't know about the rest of you guys but the JLR PR machine is working well on me. That is one cracking car. Love the fact that they have a tenor V6 and a thuderous bass V8 and that neither seems to be the poor relation.

Esprit

6,364 posts

225 months

Monday 4th March 2013
quotequote all
Lovely article..... the F-Type makes my loins feel funny... can't wait to test pilot one.... V6S or V8S... I'm not fussy! smile

Cotic

469 posts

94 months

Tuesday 5th March 2013
quotequote all
Gorbyrev said:
Don't know about the rest of you guys but the JLR PR machine is working well on me. That is one cracking car. Love the fact that they have a tenor V6 and a thuderous bass V8 and that neither seems to be the poor relation.
Indeed. It actually seems as though the V6 will be the pick!

sideways man

629 posts

79 months

Tuesday 5th March 2013
quotequote all
Taken from a book on that record braking xk120 run;

 
In 1953, a Spanish Pegaso had gone to the Jabbeke straight - which was in fact part of the normal motorway between Brussels and the Belgian coast - and set a new record of over 150 mph. The men of Jaguar were stung into action and in October of that year they returned to the scene of their 1949 triumph.
They came with an XK 120 that had a specially-prepared engine and a body smoothed and streamlined to help it cut through the air as efficiently as possible. The headlamps were rounded, and the parking lamps were removed from their place on top of the front wings. The bumpers were removed, a metal cover hid the passenger seat, and in place of the racing screen of the 1949 car was an enclosed bubble canopy, similar to that of a fighter plane. Test driver Norman Dewis drove the car to a speed of 172.412 mph, proving to anyone who might have been tempted to question the fact that Jaguar had the fastest production sports car in the world. Once again, the engineers of Coventry had decisively made their point.
 
“Dewis and Jaguar had taken a stock XK120, added a full body pan, race-tuned the engine, replaced one headlight with a ram-air intake, covered part of the radiator, lowered the differential ratio, removed the windscreen, replaced it with a squat perspex bubble, and sealed the body. Except they sealed it too well. During a preliminary run, Norman almost died from asphyxiation, when the oxygen ran out. At one point he even considered kicking a hole in the perspex bubble. Knowing that would ruin their record chances, held on, to emerge, red as a beet, from the car, when they unsealed the bubble. Wisely, they cut a few air holes in the cockpit for the remaining runs.”
 
“The canopy was from a war plane and so low that he could barely see over the cowl. They had to remove the seat and he was just sitting on a cushion/pillow because his head would hit the canopy. The canopy was screwed on and had to be removed from the outside. He finally quit driving because he could barely breathe from the fumes and heat.”
“Having done the calculations, Norman knew that he had to hold 5800 rpm to break Pegaso's record, but once out on the road, he saw that he could easily run at 6300. He blazed down the straightaway, holding the 6300 through the timed mile, turned around and did the same coming back.
As he brought the car to a halt, he expected to hear triumphant cheers from all present. Instead he was greeted with quizzical expectation. "Was there a problem?" asked Bill Heynes.
 
"I was running at 63 ticks," Norman protested, "I must have broken the record."
To their credit, the Jaguar factory people kept their composure for a little longer, while Norman tried to make sense of the situation. Finally, they could hold it no longer, the cheer went up. Norman had gone into the record books with a two-way speed through the flying mile, of 172.412 mph.”

I love reading stories like that!

USA64

55 posts

121 months

Tuesday 5th March 2013
quotequote all
sideways man said:
Taken from a book on that record braking xk120 run;

 
In 1953, a Spanish Pegaso had gone to the Jabbeke straight - which was in fact part of the normal motorway between Brussels and the Belgian coast - and set a new record of over 150 mph. The men of Jaguar were stung into action and in October of that year they returned to the scene of their 1949 triumph.
They came with an XK 120 that had a specially-prepared engine and a body smoothed and streamlined to help it cut through the air as efficiently as possible. The headlamps were rounded, and the parking lamps were removed from their place on top of the front wings. The bumpers were removed, a metal cover hid the passenger seat, and in place of the racing screen of the 1949 car was an enclosed bubble canopy, similar to that of a fighter plane. Test driver Norman Dewis drove the car to a speed of 172.412 mph, proving to anyone who might have been tempted to question the fact that Jaguar had the fastest production sports car in the world. Once again, the engineers of Coventry had decisively made their point.
 
“Dewis and Jaguar had taken a stock XK120, added a full body pan, race-tuned the engine, replaced one headlight with a ram-air intake, covered part of the radiator, lowered the differential ratio, removed the windscreen, replaced it with a squat perspex bubble, and sealed the body. Except they sealed it too well. During a preliminary run, Norman almost died from asphyxiation, when the oxygen ran out. At one point he even considered kicking a hole in the perspex bubble. Knowing that would ruin their record chances, held on, to emerge, red as a beet, from the car, when they unsealed the bubble. Wisely, they cut a few air holes in the cockpit for the remaining runs.”
 
“The canopy was from a war plane and so low that he could barely see over the cowl. They had to remove the seat and he was just sitting on a cushion/pillow because his head would hit the canopy. The canopy was screwed on and had to be removed from the outside. He finally quit driving because he could barely breathe from the fumes and heat.”
“Having done the calculations, Norman knew that he had to hold 5800 rpm to break Pegaso's record, but once out on the road, he saw that he could easily run at 6300. He blazed down the straightaway, holding the 6300 through the timed mile, turned around and did the same coming back.
As he brought the car to a halt, he expected to hear triumphant cheers from all present. Instead he was greeted with quizzical expectation. "Was there a problem?" asked Bill Heynes.
 
"I was running at 63 ticks," Norman protested, "I must have broken the record."
To their credit, the Jaguar factory people kept their composure for a little longer, while Norman tried to make sense of the situation. Finally, they could hold it no longer, the cheer went up. Norman had gone into the record books with a two-way speed through the flying mile, of 172.412 mph.”

I love reading stories like that!
Me too! Thanks for sharing

Oakman

157 posts

100 months

Wednesday 6th March 2013
quotequote all
If Jaguars PR team were really on the ball, they would have had a green car to match the classics - preferably the colour of the C Type ;-)

Would have looked better than 'fashion white' !


PS. Cue debate?


markCSC

2,983 posts

157 months

Wednesday 6th March 2013
quotequote all
Brilliant story (rubbish title though)

To save you Googleing

This is a Pegaso Z-102



And this is the xk120 that did the original run


gdelargy

73 posts

137 months

Wednesday 6th March 2013
quotequote all
Ahh, the good old days when racing drivers had names like ‘Soapy’ Sutton.
hehe

dinkel

24,917 posts

200 months

Wednesday 6th March 2013
quotequote all

Rob_F

3,962 posts

206 months

Wednesday 6th March 2013
quotequote all
Could we have the shot of the two cars as a wallpaper please? smile

Rob

big_peaches

421 posts

138 months

Thursday 7th March 2013
quotequote all
"Veterans old and new" more like old and older ;-)

...al get me coat

Twincam16

27,646 posts

200 months

Thursday 7th March 2013
quotequote all
I'd be interested to know what Norman Dewis (should be Sir by now IMO given his services to the motor industry) thinks of the F-type, given his well-documented off-the-record views on most cars designed since the Eighties.