1628 VC


Mike Hawthorn Museum

The information below is taken from ‘1628VC’ by Graham Searle, which appeared in Jaguar Driver April 1984, and brought up-to-date with a further feature (Jaguar World Vol 10 no 12 Jan 1999, written by Malcolm McKay) kindly provided by Chris Robinson, JEC Racing. With thanks also to Nigel Webb for providing pictures and confirming details.

 

Registration: 1628 VC

Make and Model: Jaguar Mark 2 3.8 Litre Saloon

Colour: Opalescent Dark Blue

DoM: 26th October 1960

Chassis number: 202313 DN

Original Engine number: LC 2789-9

Original Gearbox number: GBE 110 CR

 

1628VC is a remarkable car!

Initially allotted to Jaguar Experimental Department to be run to destruction.

It became the factory’s competition test vehicle.

6th June 1962 – sold via W.M. Couper & Co of St Albans to John Sparrow of Woburn Sands, Buckinghamshire.

 

Sentenced to death at birth, by Jaguar, whose records state ‘Allotted to Experimental Department to be run to destruction to find any fault that may develop. Will not be available for sale as new car.’

Not a good start for any car, 1628VC then went on to cheat death on the race track which makes it even more remarkable that this Mark 2 has survived. In fact, going on to become the factory’s competition test vehicle was probably what saved it!

1628VC holds the distinction of having been driven by Roy Salvadori on numerous occasions, and after a no doubt arduous life with Jaguar, was sold in 1962 to John Sparrow, and became a competition racer.

John Sparrow campaigned 1628VC regularly from 1962 to 1965, with a tremendous run of success. In addition to numerous club events (in which it only ever finished out of the first three due to mechanical failure) 1628VC was driven as a full blooded Group 2 contender in the European Saloon Car Championship.

Spectators recall the amusement of regularly being passed by Sparrow driving 1628VC home from the track, with all his family piled in the back. Then, as the competition hotted up, he removed the bumpers, saying “There’s a lot of weight there, you know” and continued to notch up success after success.

“We used Dunlop R5’s in the dry and R6’s in the wet – that’s as far as tyre technology went at the time,” he laughed. “Warwick Banks gave me a set of adjustable Koni’s to try; I put them on and wound them up tight, which improved the handling enormously. Before that it was a bit suspect at the front end.”

1628VC survived it all remarkably unscathed apart from a one-off incident into the straw bales at Goodwood.

John was purely a private entrant with little or no sponsorship, yet was still able to amass some amazing results, as listed at the end of this feature.

With the competition getting tougher as the years went by, the opposition was getting Sparrow down – he couldn’t keep up with the Mustangs, and felt that they were in the wrong category. In 1965, flying back from the Nurburgring, he found himself sitting next to Carroll Shelby, and complaining about not being able to match the Galaxies, and Shelby said the Daytona Coupe Cobra’s would be coming on line soon, so he sold 1628VC and bought a Cobra!

After 5 years of development testing and racing, 1628VC was becoming rather jaded, but didn’t deserve the fate that greeted it. Little is known of its next owner, but he may have been called Keith Sales, and within a couple of years 1628VC hit the track once more, in a very different form: as a drag racer. It probably ran with the original engine a few times, but wasn’t fast enough. More power was needed and duly supplied in the form of a 7.0 litre works Chevrolet Daytona 500 V8 engine. Being far too large for the engine bay, this and the transmission tunnel and floor pan were butchered with a sledge-hammer to make it fit – all in the pursuit of an additional 400 bhp!

It’s not known how successful it was with this transplant, and the original engine and gearbox have never been traced (at the time of the original feature in 1984) but after a few years 1628VC was gathering dust and rust at the back of a workshop.

 

A second Redemption

In a similar way to its first escape from destruction, 1628VC was saved once more, where all could so easily have been lost, when a friend of Trevor Kemp, the then Chairman of the Jaguar Drivers Club Mark 2 Register, was searching for a 7.0 litre Chevrolet V8. He told Trevor about the rusty Mark 2, with no engine and no trim and Trevor realised that this was something special, handing over £25 and towing it home. His friends fell about laughing – Mark 2’s were not sought after at the time and for a little more cash, he could have purchased a complete runner.

It is a great pity that Trevor was not in time to save the trim before it was sold, as it included a pair of extremely rare Mark 2 competition bucket seats, and the other differences between this car and a ‘standard production’ Mark 2 he noted in the May 1975 issue of Jaguar Driver:

  1. Offside inner wing relieved, in order to accept triple Webers. (Initially, Trevor thought this was from the car’s early drag racing days, but John Sparrow confirmed that these were fitted when he purchased the car from Jaguar, and Sparrow was told that it was to increase airflow to the carburettors).
  2. Extra box section welded over rear inner wheel-arch to stiffen it over the back axle. (thought to have been done by Jaguar Competitions Department?)
  3. Alloy front suspension uprights (this is thought to be a red herring, as there were never any alloy uprights – they were normal parts, painted silver, in Sparrow’s day).
  4. Rear seat pan/rear axle torque arm mounting reinforced with plates bolted in with 3/4″ bolts.
  5. Identification plate in engine compartment has tappet clearances stamped as: Inlet 6 thou, Exhaust 10 thou. These clearances are as recommended for competition E-types and must have been stamped on the car by the factory.
  6. 1628VC was manufactured in 1960, so it is interesting to note that the engine number stamped on the ID plate is a 1962 number, suggesting that the engine and plate may have been fitted just prior to the sale to John Sparrow.
  7. The gearbox number is indicative of a Mark 2 experimental gearbox – EB relating to 3.8 E-type and CR standing for Close Ratio.
  8. 30 gallon fuel tanks. Extra tanks tailored to fit at the back of the boot over the rear axle and in the spare wheel well. Normal size Monza filler on nearside wing acting as a vent for loading via monster Monza filler on offside wing. (Sparrow recalls that he could do a full 6 hour race without refuelling!)

 

Trevor had great ambitions to restore 1628VC but was fully aware of the work that would be required and the rare parts that would have to be sourced. Although he saved the car from certain death, he was unable to start work on it and sold it, and at this point the recorded history of 1628VC reads thus:

Trevor Kemp                           owned for ?                             untouched

friend of Tim Spital                 owned for 3 years                   untouched

Tim Spital                                purchased in August 1981      untouched

By 1984, Tim had collected various parts, ready for a rebuild, but the original engine, gearbox and interior had not re-surfaced at that time.

In the information made available to me, the story is picked up in the late 1980’s, when 1628VC is said to be ‘residing at RS Coachworks’. It is not clear whether Tim Spital still owned it or not.

While residing at RS Coachworks, it is said to have come to the attention of Tony Cavell, preparer of racing Jaguar saloons in Southampton. Cavell alerted enthusiast Jonathan Suckling, who purchased 1628VC and committed it to Cavell’s care for restoration

 

Resurrection

The bodyshell was found to be in remarkable condition, apart from the butchered engine bay – even the sills are original. The transmission tunnel and parts of the bulkhead, however, were so badly damaged that they had to be cut out and another Mark 2 was sacrificed to provide replacements. The wheel-arches also needed reinstating. A number of unusual features were found, including the position of the wiper spindles which are closer together than on production Mark 2’s, lending credence to the suggestion from one ex-Jaguar employee that this was one of the first four prototype Mark 2 bodyshells: the wiper spacing is the same as on the Mark 1 and there is a pressing for the Mark 1 air filter on the nearside.

Suckling had just lost his racing 420 in a massive shunt, so 1628VC was to be prepared for historic racing, and replace his 420. This meant that under current regulations modern competition seats and a full roll cage would be required, thus the loss of the original Mark 2 bucket seats was less of an issue.

The modifications included in the rebuild are listed below, and develop 280 BHP at the rear wheels.

Modern competition seats

Full roll cage

Spax adjustable dampers all-round

Shorter, stiffer front springs

Modified rear spring location

High ratio steering box

Modified brakes

Jaguar all-synchro gearbox

AJC sourced an authentic, period 1960 3.8 Mk2 engine fitted with correct ‘B’ type head prepared for racing by Peter Lander of Sigma Engineering, which uses Kent cams. The bottom end is lightened and fully balanced and uses Ross Racing forged pistons to AJC’s own specification.

Twin 2″ SU carburettors

Flowed standard manifold

 

Nearing completion 1628VC was accepted to race at Goodwood Revival  1998, and the then Top Gear presenter Tiff Needell , wanted to drive it! The work was completed just in time, but there was no time for fine tuning or testing. Consequently, Tiff found the car a nightmare to drive. The massive power of the full-race engine (almost double what the car would have had in 1960) proved too much for the near-standard brakes. Tiff was not impressed, but did not have to drive it for long, as an electrical issue crept in after just a few laps, and forced 1628VC out of the race.

Jonathan Suckling owned 1628VC till 2009 when it was purchased by Nigel Webb, its current owner, who has restored it again and in 2011 it took part in the Goodwood Revival Meeting. It has subsequently taken part in several meetings, the last being Goodwood Revival 2018.

 

 

1628VC INFORMATION AT-A-GLANCE

Original Specification

Jaguar Mark 2 3.8 Litre Saloon

Opalescent Dark Blue

DoM: 26th October 1960

Chassis number: 202313 DN

Original Engine number: LC 2789-9

Original Gearbox number: GBE 110 CR

Registration: 1628 VC

 

Later Specification, as rebuilt by Tony Cavell

Modern competition seats

Full roll cage

Spax adjustable dampers all-round

Shorter, stiffer front springs

Modified rear spring location

High ratio steering box

Modified brakes

Jaguar all-synchro gearbox

AJC sourced an authentic, period 1960 3.8 Mk2 engine fitted with correct ‘B’ type head prepared for racing by Peter Lander of Sigma Engineering, which uses Kent cams. The bottom end is lightened and fully balanced and uses Ross Racing forged pistons to AJC’s own specification.

Twin 2″ SU carburettors

Flowed standard manifold

 

Ownership History

Date Owner Notes
26th October 1960 Jaguar Cars Allocated to Experimental Department
Became Competition Test Vehicle
6th June 1962 John Sparrow Successful racing career
1965 Keith Sales? Drag racer
early 1975? Trevor Kemp found unrestored, and sold on as such
friend of Tim Spital owned for 3 years? left unrestored
August 1981 Tim Spital still unrestored
RS Coachworks unrestored and residing at
Tony Cavell 1628VC came to the attention of Cavell –
while it was residing at the above premises
Jonathan Suckling alerted by Cavell, and purchased 1628VC
restored by Cavell and raced by Suckling
2009 to present day Nigel Webb re-restored and raced regularly

 

 

Racing History

Year Race Placing
1962 Whitsun National Meeting, Castle Combe 1st Overall
1962 BARC Whitsun Meeting, Goodwood 2nd Overall
1963 Goodwood Easter Monday Meeting 2nd Overall
1963 Nurburgring Six Hours, ETC Round Broke halfshaft
1963 Zandvoort Trophy, ETC Round 2nd Overall
1963 Whitsun Meeting, Silverstone 1st Overall
1963 Whitsun Meeting, Mallory Park 2nd in Class
1963 Motor Six Hour Race, Brands Hatch Overheated
1963 Bank Holiday Meeting, Snetterton No result
1964 Snetterton International, March 1st in Class
1964 Goodwood Easter Monday Meeting 1st in Class
1964 Aintree 200 Meeting 1st in Class
1964 May, Silverstone No result
1964 Nurburgring Six Hours, ETC Round 2nd in Class
1964 Nurburgring Twelve Hours, ETC Round 1st in Class
1964 Zolder, ETC Round 2nd Overall
1964 Zandvoort Trophy, ETC Round 1st Overall
1964 Motor Six Hour Race, Brands Hatch Wheel collapsed
1964 BRSCC Saloon Car Championship 13th Overall
1965 Coupe de Francorchamps, Spa 2nd Overall

 

1628VC in action