The elevation of the GT class to Manufacturers’ Championship status for 1963 prompted Jaguar to develop a small batch of very special lightweight cars to challenge Ferrari. The FIA’s regulations for the Gran Turismo category stipulated that a minimum of 100 cars had to be built, but permitted coachwork modifications, thus enabling Jaguar to claim that its lightweights were standard E-types fitted with altered bodywork. (This is the same loophole exploited by Ferrari to get the limited edition 250 GTO homologated, by claiming that they were re-bodied 250 GTs). In fact, all 12 lightweight E-Types constructed in period were built from scratch with aluminium bodies, though they were invoiced as a new standard road car with additional modifications and numbered in the normal production sequence, albeit with an ‘S’ chassis number prefix.
To create the 1963 lightweight version, the E-Type’s steel monocoque tub and outer body panels were remanufactured in aluminium and the engine dry-sumped and fitted with an alloy cylinder block, ‘wide-angle’ head and Lucas mechanical fuel injection, producing in excess of 300bhp. The production four-speed gearbox was used initially before a ZF five-speed unit was adopted towards the end of 1963. ‘4 WPD’, the works development E-Type racer campaigned by John Coombs and driven by Graham Hill, was converted to lightweight specification and served as the prototype.
The 12 cars built by the factory were intended for the use of competition orientated Jaguar dealers or specially selected private entrants. Today, modern interpretations of these rare competition variants are among the most popular and sought after of all E-Types.
M & C Wilkinson Ltd has over thirty years experience in the restoration and preservation of classic Jaguar cars. Completed in 2004, this stunning Semi Lightweight is first FIA specification E-Type which Mike Wilkinson prepared. The specification of this car really is remarkable. Based on a steel tub, the body is fitted with an aluminium bonnet, hardtop, doors, boot lid, rear wings, boot floor and a special ‘Custom Cages’ roll cage.
The competition engine features an aluminium block, wide angle head, wet sump, billet crankshaft, also Omega rods and pistons. Furthermore the engine has been fully CNC gas flowed, high lift cams fitted, also a harmonic damper, and the flywheel lightened. Breathing in is handled through Weber 48 DCOE carburettors, and out via a stainless steel full race exhaust system. The engine is cooled by an aluminium radiator and header tank with a modern fan switch. Power is transmitted via a close ratio straight cut gearbox (with heavy duty baulk rings), through a triple-plate clutch, to a steel-cased Limited Slip Differential. Braking is taken care of via AP racing brake master cylinders, a bias bar, upgraded front brake calipers, front and rear brake cooling, whilst a number of other features are fitted such as a heated front windscreen, Mallory distributor with MSD, 120 litre long distance fuel tank, upgraded handling kit all round, twin competition Facet fuel pumps, a filter king and regulator, aero-quip hoses, top quality stainless steel diff pump and cooler system, 7” front & 8” rear magnesium peg drive wheels, fire extinguisher and full race harness. The car is also supplied with an iron engine block to allow eligibility for the Peter Auto race series.
As you can imagine, this highly competitive Semi-Lightweight has enjoyed an extensive career in historic motorsport. XAS 885 was raced successfully by Stephen Radcliffe and Dianne Osborne for many years, then later driven by Desiree Wilson at the Jaguar E-Type Challenge 50th anniversary meeting at the Silverstone Classic 2011, before being purchased by our vendor in 2012. The car has been continuously developed over recent years, and regularly raced by Conor O’Brien, Matt Nicoll-Jones and John Bussell in the Masters Gentlemen Drivers, the HSSC Jaguar Heritage Race Series, the Silverstone Classic 2012, the HRDC All Stars and in the BSGTSCC race at Spa. More recent XAS 885 was upgraded to “Battle of Britain Trophy” winning specification at the Silverstone Classic in 2015, driven by Matt Nicoll-Jones to first place. XAS 885 is road registered and offered with a current FIA HTP, valid to 31st December 2025, in addition to a full racing and build/upgrade record, and spares package. Race-ready for the remainder of the 2016 season, this car is a mouthwatering prospect for the next owner.