Throughout the 1950s, Jaguar worked feverishly to establish its dominance in sports car and endurance racing. The XK120 was a popular choice for club racers, although the factory required something more focused for use in world-championship events. The legendary C-Type (officially the XK120-C) used modified XK120 running gear in a lightweight tubular frame and skinned in a beautiful alloy body. The light and powerful C-Type won the 24h of Le Mans on its first attempt in 1951, sparking a string of victories at the French classic that continued throughout the 1950s. Dunlop disc brakes arrived in 1953, marking one of the most significant developments in motorsport, and are widely credited for Jaguar’s second Le Mans win that year. In 1954, the revolutionary D-Type replaced the C-Type as the top works racing car. Designers scrapped the tubular chassis in favor of a light and sturdy semi-monocoque tub and then wrapped the car in stunning bodywork courtesy of Jaguar’s aerodynamics-obsessed stylist Malcolm Sayer. Despite a horsepower disadvantage, the slippery shape allowed it to be more than 12 mph faster down the Mulsanne straight than the brutally powerful 4.9-liter Ferraris, and Jaguar scored three more victories at Le Mans in 1955, 1956 and 1957.
While the E-Type road car shared much of its DNA with the purebred D-Type, Jaguar never seemed as committed to developing it into a top-tier racer. The first attempt was a fixed-roof GT known by its famous registration number “CUT 7.” That car wore gorgeous low-drag bodywork designed by Sayer, with an evolution of the D-Type engine. But instead of developing the low-drag concept, Jaguar abruptly changed course in favor of a lightweight, all-alloy version of the E-Type OTS roadster. The styling was essentially the same as the road cars, but subtly widened to accommodate the fat Dunlop alloy wheels, but the real difference lay in the use of aluminum for the tub, bodywork, and 3.8-liter block. By the time the lightweight E-Type debuted in 1963, a new prototype class had opened up the World Sportscar Championship to more exotic, purpose-built machinery, effectively killing Jaguar’s chance of continuing their streak of overall victories at Le Mans and Sebring. Jaguar sold just twelve of a planned sixteen cars, and while works cars saw limited results, privateers like Briggs Cunningham, Peter Sutcliffe, and Peter Lindner proved the Lightweight E-Type could be a winner, even against Ferrari’s formidable 250 GTO. Today, the works lightweights are some of the most valuable cars in the world, making even Jaguar’s factory-built continuation cars seem like a relative bargain at over $1M apiece. But many enthusiasts keep the legend alive through recreations built from standard E-Type road cars, and these so-called “semi-lightweight” E-Types are quite popular in historic motorsport events around the world.
This Jaguar E-Type 3.8 is an evocative and beautifully prepared “semi-lightweight” built to a very high standard from a 1962 OTS donor car. Mr. Mark Wright of Leicester, England, commissioned Brian Wilkinson’s Zealia Engineering to create this car for use in the highly-competitive club racing scene in the UK. The late Mr. Wilkinson was highly respected in motorsport circles, noted as the founder of the roll cage and harness manufacturer Safety Devices Motorsport. Later in his career, he founded Zealia Engineering, which specialized in building lightweight E-Types such as this.
In the transformation from standard to “semi-lightweight,” Zealia Engineering scrapped much of the original sheet metal, leaving only the steel tub and subframes. To that, they fitted high-quality fiberglass panel including a one-piece bonnet, lightweight doors, hardtop, boot lid, and a flared tail section made to accommodate fatter rear rubber. The car now wears a beautiful opalescent gray livery with white roundels, similar to the early works cars. Paint quality is excellent, and the fit of the bodywork is quite good, particularly for a purpose-built club racing car. The ventilated lightweight boot lid and hardtop stay true to the original form, and details such as outside bonnet locks with leather straps, an oversize Monza-style fuel filler, flush headlamp covers, and magnesium Dunlop pin-drive wheels complete the look.
The two-place cockpit features period-correct bucket seats trimmed in dark blue leather and is otherwise stripped out for the singular purpose of racing. Zealia Engineering built the FIA-approved roll bar and added a “works” style transmission tunnel – which allows mechanics to change the gearbox without first removing the engine. Instrumentation consists of Vicarage tach and speedo, with updated minor gauges and switchgear in the standard locations. The co-driver’s side features a Halda Speedpilot trip computer and a chronograph, great for competitive historic rallying.
At the heart of this E-Type is a 3.8-liter, dry-sump XK with 9:1 pistons, wide blade rods, and large stainless steel valves. Three Weber DCOE carbs attach to a high flow manifold, and cooling is suitably updated with a Series 2 water pump, large alloy radiator, Kenlowe fan, and the 3-gallon Zealia belt-driven dry-sump oiling system. The engine feeds a 5-speed Getrag gearbox, going back to a 3.31 limited-slip rear diff with lightened half-shafts. The suspension consists of adjustable Spax dampers, uprated springs and torsion bars, and lightweight rear wishbones. Braking is by AP 4-piston calipers with huge ventilated discs in front and uprated Girling calipers from an XJ in the rear.
Previous caretaker Mark Wright competed in numerous Jaguar Owner’s Club and Aston Martin Owner’s Club track events in the UK, with highlights including an impressive pole-lap of 0:57.68 at Brands Hatch, and beating the famous CUT 7 in a JOC event at Silverstone. An impressive stack of time sheets accompanies the history file, which also includes build records, correspondence, and a copy of a FIVA Passport in a previous owner's name. Equipped for street, rally, or race duty, it remains in superb running order and is properly quick while also proving quite tractable and driver-friendly, even for the occasional blast along your favorite back roads. This is a fantastic opportunity to acquire a proven and beautifully prepared “semi-lightweight” E-Type for historic rallying, circuit racing, or thrilling fast-road enjoyment.
Offers welcome and trades considered