Mike Wilkinson is the owner of M&C Wilkinson, a classic Jaguar restoration and sales specialist that’s been going for more than 30 years. His family also run the Sayer Selection, the number one place in the UK to buy old and rare Jaguar road and racing cars. They caught our eye when we came across this Motul-liveried Jaguar TWR XJS FIA Group A touring car that’s for sale. We gave Mike a call to find out more about it.
Mike, what’s the story behind the Jaguar TWR XJS?
I used to watch Jaguars race as a younger man. The real cars that I liked were the TWR cars. Because everything that Tom Walkinshaw did was not only a good attempt, but he used to win. His cars won the touring cars championship, Le Mans twice for Jaguar and Group C. There was no question he was a capable guy. He went along to Jaguar and said he’d like to build a car to compete with the BMWs. He’d watched the Jaguar Broadspeed XJ coupes race and knew he could do better with the XJS than what the Broadspeed cars had done. This car has the heritage certificate that shows the car was never sold by Jaguar. It was one of their cars they were using for testing. Until the previous owner Chris Scragg registered it, it was never owned by anyone other than Jaguar Cars Coventry. The last time it was taxed for the road it ran out in 1981. Jaguar gave the car to Walkinshaw for nothing to turn it into a racing car.
What challenges did he have to overcome getting the XJS race ready?
When you have a touring car the rear passenger compartment needs to have a minimum height. So, you measure from the seat pan without the seat into the roof. The XJS wasn’t high enough so he very quickly persuaded Jaguar to put an extra press in the rear seat pan so that it met the requirements. It’s very simple. That’s what Walkinshaw did. There were many other things he did that people felt were a bit close to the rules and regulations. The deal he did with Jaguar was if he won the race he got £30,000. If he came second he got £20,000 and for third he got £10,000. He went on the basis of payment by results.
What changes did Walkinshaw make to the standard XJS?
This car is chassis number one. He called it “Tom’s hack”. They decided to see the potential of the XJS. He put a V12 engine in it with Weber carbs and cut a big hole in the bonnet to let the carburettor trumpets protrude through. He also gave it a manual V12 gearbox rather than the automatic. And did various things to the suspension. Among other modifications, TWR implemented the single wheel nut and compressed air jacking systems to speed up their pit stops. The TWR001 was heavier than the BMWs and needed extra pit stops as it used its slicks quite quickly. They painted the car white because they wanted it to look anonymous. They took the car to Goodwood to test it and the car did quite well and thought it had potential. At the time one of their main sponsors was Motul and they repainted it in the Motul colours.
Did it win many races?
The car raced at the TT at Donnington and various other races. It won the touring cars championships three times. They were winning races regularly and doing well. Suddenly, because of this success Jaguar has the car painted white and green with Jaguar written on it, and Motul is a smaller part of the car’s livery. Jaguar wanted to put the car on display so fans could see it, and was on display for years at the Browns Lane showroom.
How did the car come to be up for sale and how much is it going for?
We purchased it and prepared it for the Silverstone Classic. We decided we would put the car back to how it originally was in the Motul colours because we felt that was the most significant part of its life. We’ve got it back to how it was. The market for these cars is not as buoyant as it was. It was valued at £500k but I’d say near to £400k is a realistic price. This XJS is a hell of a thing. I love it. It’s an out and out race car.