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Jaguar E-Type Group 44 in the driving report: Jag the Ripper

Dino Eisele
Jaguar E-Type Group 44 in the driving report
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D he sight of the Jaguer E-Type Group 44 is nothing earth-shattering in Roggliswil. Around the small town in central Switzerland, people are used to rare cars. Classic SS and Jaguar vehicles appear again and again, including the 'Battleship', a battered Mk I rally sedan, occasionally a Daimler DS 420 hearse or a three-wheeled Reliant Bond Bug. Since the summer of 2011, the white, lowered E-Type has been roaring along the narrow country roads without a windshield.

14-strong Jaguar specialist team

And the residents of Netzelen, Balzenwil and Pfaffnau stay calm. They already know that and check it off internally with an 'aha, drrr Dönni' as completely normal. 'Der Dönni' has a Jaguar workshop in Roggliswil that looks after the well-being of the British brand, from the full restoration of rare SS models in Pebble Beach quality to customer service on an XJ 40.

In a lavishly developed former carpenter's shop, the 14-person team of specialists and a huge spare parts warehouse, which even includes some XJ sedans and XJS coupés stacked outdoors, often do amazing things. This is also proven by the white broad-gauge E-Type, which is ready for a trip to Sursee.

E-Type made in USA

Jaguar fans immediately recognize the skilfully executed replica one of the most famous E-types of all time, the Group 44 V12 roadster from Bob Tullius (see below). With this hip flask without a windshield, Tullius won the B-Production championship of the SCCA (Sportscar Club of America) on the east coast against competitors such as Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911 and Datsun Z. Incidentally, a Jaguar E-Type V12 with almost identical optics but in silver, driven by Lee Mueller, also won in the West. So the E-Type, which was already at the end of its career, came to late racing honors with the V12, which was misunderstood as a fat softie.

Like a Phoenix from the ashes

But what does Bob Tullius have in common with the Swiss jaguar specialist Dönni? Quite simply: a colorful Jaguar calendar and Dönni's attractive wife Simone. About eight years ago, a burned-out Jaguar E-Type V12 Roadster from 1974 enriched the company's open-air spare parts warehouse, for which his wife Simone apparently felt sorry for. In addition, she discovered an E-Type in a Jaguar calendarfound very attractive. It was Bob Tullius' Group 44 racer. 'I like it very much,' she said to her husband at the time, 'do you think we can do something like this?' And because Georg F. Dönni can hardly talk his wife out of it, he and his team set to work.

The graduate restorer - Dönni studied at the Colchester Institute of Technology in England - also saw the matter pragmatically: ' The paint was down anyway and the cockpit was skeletonized, but apart from the melted carburetor, the mechanics could still be used to a large extent after a thorough overhaul. ' The fact that it took seven years to complete the racing roadster was due to the fact that people only worked on the Jaguar E-Type Group 44 after work and 'on the side'. After all, this resulted in around 2,000 working hours, because the replica should of course match the original as closely as possible.

Dönni oriented itself directly on Original

So Dönni used most of his visits to England to see the original Jaguar Group 44-E-Type, which is in the Jaguar factory museum in Coventry and was also on display during the Goodwood Festival of Speed to take pictures with his digital camera. The result is impressive: the bulbous fender flares are formed from sheet metal like the original. And the imposing side exhaust system makes every big-block Corvette green with envy when the twelve cylinders blow to attack. Only the bright green cockpit fairing is made of transparent Plexiglas on the original. For cost reasons, Dönni had to be content with painted sheet steel.

Except for the modified chassis and the installation of an American Richmond six-speed gearbox, the technology corresponds completely to the standard version: 5.4 liter displacement and 268 hp. Nevertheless, Dönnis Group 44-Racer is clearly superior to a normal V12-E-Type thanks to the gearbox, sports exhaust and a weight reduction of 135 kilograms. Not to mention the breathtaking broad gauge look and the white and green color mix in the style of the seventies. Incidentally, the green came from Tullius' then house sponsor, the US oil brand Quaker State, and marked every Group 44 racing car.

Helmets replace the windshield of the Group 44 racer

Now finally the Jaguar E-Type Group 44 rolls with a pithy, babbling V12 to the workshop exit. Full-face helmets for the driver and front passenger replace the windshield. The cladding-free cockpit - you look mainly at white sheet metal littered with holes - gives you an inkling of what is to come: the naked, lonely violence. Lonely, because from around 80 km /h it is no longer possible to talk to the driver without a headset. That's how strong the wind blows, and the sound mix of exhaust pipes and transmission yelp boom in the helmet. But there is at least some comfort, the Jaguar E-Type springs completelyPassable.

On the way to the pretty old town of Sursee, which is to serve as a high-contrast backdrop for the racing car, we now open onto the autobahn via a driveway. The Jaguar E-Type Group 44 hugs the asphalt with almost no side inclination, shoots itself like a pinball ball on the highway and hits two small hooks at full throttle in third. You can't do more in Switzerland if you don't want to go to jail.

Jaguar E-Type Group 44 - more than a café racer

We drive past street cafés with astonished guests. During a stopover, two enthusiastic girls want to be photographed with the Jaguar E-Type. In the town, the car looks like it is from another world, resembles a hallucination. But actually the Roadster should move like a real big cat in the wild.

It does too. Dönni has already made many trips with his Group 44 E-Type: international club tour from Coventry to Geneva for the 50th birthday of the E-Type, second trip to England to the Silverstone Classic with over 1,000 Jaguar E-Types on site, Altbüren Hill Climb, Alpenbrevet 2011 with 15 non-stop passes, British Car Meeting St. Moritz, Eifel Classic and more. He has now covered more than 15,000 kilometers - all without a roof or windshield.

Bob Tullius and the Group 44 Racing Team

Almost unnoticed in Europe, the racing driver and Team boss Bob Tullius continues the great racing successes of Jaguar from the fifties and sixties. The white cars with the bright green accents and the typical start number 44 received official support from British Leyland and the motor oil company Quaker State.

Since around 1965, the racing team has also included the Triumph models TR 5, TR 6, TR 8, Midget, Spitfire and GT 6. In addition, the Jaguar E-Type and XJS were added. The greatest successes were winning the production car championships with the V12 E-Type (1975) and XJS Coupé (1978). Group 44 mid-engine prototypes with Jaguar V12s did preparatory work for the Le Mans victories of 1988 and 1990 by Tom Walkinshaw Racing.

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