Tracing the Evolution of a Legacy: The Jaguar Heritage Display

Group 44 XJS and XJR-5 in Jaguar Heritage Display.

When fans at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion aren’t watching racing, they have plenty to explore, including the race paddocks, shops in the Yamaha Marketplace and special display, such as this year’s museum-quality Jaguar Heritage Display, which expertly chronicles the history of Jaguar and the development of its most important cars.

The display timeline starts when 21-year-old William Lyons founded his Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922, while the earliest car displayed is the SS100, first introduced in 1936 and produced until the outbreak of WWII. This car is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cars of its time, and with only about 300 of them built, it makes it one of the rarest Jaguars produced.

The timeline ends with Tom Walkinshaw and his TWR organization, which took over from Group 44 with Walkinshaw’s Jaguar XJR-9 (also on display). This car won six out of nine races in 1988 in the World Sportscar Championship and won Le Mans –Jaguar’s first win since 1957.

The cars appearing in between these bookends are equally fascinating:

The XK120–Produced from 1948 to 1954 and the first to be badged as a Jaguar, its 120 mph top speed made it the fastest production car of its day. The great American racer Phil Hill established himself as a winner by racing an XK120 in the early days of his career and the Jaguar racing pedigree was established by this remarkable car.

C-Type–It utilized the running gear of the XK120 in combination with a light-weight tubular chassis. In 1951, the C-Type was victorious in its maiden Le Mans race. In 1953, the C-Type was again victorious, and this time it became the first car to average 100 mph at the 24-hour endurance race.

D-Type—This was the next phase of the Jaguar evolution, winning Le Mans in 1955 and 1956. In 1957, Jaguar D-Types finished first through fourth and sixth, proving that aerodynamic design was an essential element to motor racing success. The D-Types were achieving over 170 mph along the Mulsanne Straight.

E-Type–Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, the Jaguar E-Type made its racing debut in 1961, only one month after it was introduced at the Geneva motorshow. Graham Hill and Roy Salvadore dominated the race at Oulton Park and gave the E-Type its first win. The following year,Briggs Cunningham and Roy Salvadore won their class at Le Mans and throughout its racing years E-Types proved to be the cars to beat. In 1973, Jaguar introduced the V12 engine for the E-Type, and it was with this engine that Bob Tullius won the SCCA B Production Championship in 1975.

XJS–Jaguar replaced the E-Type with the XJS in 1975. Bob Tullius and Group 44 developed this new car for the Trans-Am series and won that series in 1977.

XJR-5–Tullius developed further momentum when his Group 44 built the magnificent XJR-5 around the proven V12 engine. The Jaguar XJR-5 is regarded as one of the most beautiful race cars ever designed. This car won its first GTP race in 1983 and was the inspiration behind Jaguar returning to Le Mans after a 22-year hiatus and then won its class in 1985.