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Bocar XP-5 | Showpiece of the Week

Is the Bocar a superstar or FUBAR?

By Dafydd Wood / Monday, August 12, 2019

The story of Bob Carnes will be familiar to many a motorsport enthusiast - or, rather, the general plot points will be. An engineer by trade - aeronautical, in his case - Carnes was also an avid racer, though he quickly decided that the cars available direct from showrooms just weren’t quite enough for him. So, having finished second in the Pikes Peak Hillclimb’s inaugural Sports Car Class in 1953, it didn’t take him long to start tinkering. A more powerful Cadillac V8 soon found its way beneath the bonnet of his XK120, which he dubbed the Jagillac. That wasn’t to be his last noteworthy portmanteau, though, with Carnes soon set to begin production of his very own racing machines. 

Bocar - see what he did there? - was founded in 1957, with the aim of creating road-worthy vehicles which focussed on racing performance. His initial design, the X-1, paired a custom chassis with the Jaguar suspension and brakes with which he was familiar and added a lightweight fiberglass body and a Chevrolet V8 engine. It finished fifth in class at Pikes Peak in 1958 - finishing at all being a rather respectable achievement for the fledgling manufacturer.

Over several months and multiple revisions, Carnes perfected his design. He used components from Volkswagen and Porsche, Pontiac and Chevrolet, Girling and Borg-Warner, and eventually settled on a combination with which he was satisfied. This he dubbed the XP-4 (P standing for production) and made available to buyers in either fully-assembled or kit form. 

It was with that car’s successor that Bocar would finally go toe-to-toe with Carnes’ former manufacturer of choice, though. The XP-5 featured the same tubular space frame and fibreglass body as the XP-4, but the relocation of its 290hp Corvette V8 improved weight distribution and uprated brakes increased stopping power. In much the same way as modern equivalents, the track-focussed XP-5 was available with or without multiple mod-cons including a radio, heater and hardtop roof, while seven different suspension setups, a selection of wheels and tyres and a choice between carburetted or fuel-injected engines were also available. 

In January of 1960, driver Art Huttinger finished second at Daytona behind only the D-Type Jaguar of Ed Rahal. The XP-5 would go on to set a speed record of 175 mph at Daytona Beach, proof of its staggering capability, but with its Chevy engine often proving a weak link, Huttinger soon made the switch to a Lister Knobbly, dubbing his unreliable Bocar the “Blowcar”. Several owners persevered, swapping in powerplants with as much as 400hp, however, following the manufacture of just 15 XP-5s and with development of his new ‘Stiletto’ racer well underway, a fire destroyed Bob Carne's workshop in 1962, effectively ending the Bocar story. 

This week’s Showpiece looks to be a fantastic example of Bob Carnes ambitious creation. Built bespoke to its original owner, it stands slightly wider than standard to accommodate larger wheels; probably for the best given stability at its 180mph top speed will likely be at a premium. With Porsche 356 underpinnings, Jaguar wheels and FIA approved safety systems, the car is ready to compete in a variety of historic events, adding another chapter to the Bocar story long after it seemed to have drawn to a close. 

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