GRR

This E-type's last race was Le Mans 1962

25th April 2018
Ethan Jupp

What is the perfect Goodwood car? That probably depends on what you think we’re all about. Racing? Seems obvious really. Yet a winning car isn’t necessarily the embodiment of our values. We’re about evoking better times, better grids when racing cars were as much objects of desire as they are tools and a sturdy set of spanners were more useful than a laptop. 

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Yes, the winners, the wheel-to-wheel racers are a big part of that. If anything though, a historically fortified grid is even more important than the front-runners. A Goodwood grid should be a gathering of the most storied machines in motorsport’s history, as well as the most succesful. This should be a place where drivers, owners and spectators alike can swap anecdotes and become ever-more engrossed in the history of our sport.

So, what did John Corrie’s pretty blue E-type bring to the table for the Moss Trophy at 76MM? If the avid Goodwood enthusiast and spectator is looking at 503 BBO and thinking “I’ve not seen that one before…” there’s a very good reason for that. This E-type hasn’t turned a wheel in anger since its debut at Le Mans in 1962, under the ownership of one Maurice Charles. It’s one of the three earliest E-types to first tackle La Sarthe and as of the conclusion of its participation, nearly 58 years ago, it was benched.

“As an early E-type with important period history [one of only eight E-types to ever have raced at Le Mans] the Moss Trophy at 76MM was the perfect event and race to bring the car back into the public eye," said John of his pride and joy. "This is an historic car which is still absolutely to original spec, and Goodwood is, therefore, the only place to race it”.

So, what comprises one of the first racing E-types? Fundamentally, it’s still a factory Fixed Head Coupe, so a Lightweight both in noun and adjective, it isn’t… It was, however, subject to significant modifications and enjoyed a degree of factory support for its run at Le Mans.

“The bonnet, doors and tailgate were replaced with alloy components." John told GRR. "Front and rear brakes were upgraded – as supplied by the factory. Chromework was removed and a forty-gallon fuel tank installed with an outside D-type filler cap through the rear tailgate… 1962 was a full year before the dozen factory lightweights were introduced, so this was really a heavily modified road car with considerable help from the Jaguar factory”.

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That’s not to say that it sidled off the track in 1962 and into an air-locked container for 40 years, with the car emerging as-was ready for Goodwood duty. How a racing car treats its custodians on race day is usually a good indicator of how they’ll treat it afterwards and, well, 503 BBO conked out at Le Mans four hours in. The custom inline-six that had been prepared for it – an E-type wet-sump block with weber-carburated D-type head – dropped a valve before the race even began. The spare Jaguar works engine that Maurice “exerted some pressure” to procure met a similar fate mid-race, as metal not adequately cleaned from the oil-cooler pre-swap came back to haunt them. Needless to say, what was a fairly smash and grab effort may well have been doomed from the start – a car’s treatment pre-race definitely has some bearing on the prior-discussed causality…

Alas, Charles very swiftly moved the car on not long after, when somewhere along the way it would be divided. The story of the car’s re-emergence began when the near-bare shell was found on the Channel Islands in 1989, overgrown in a yard. If not for the interested party noting some curious modifications – holes in the shell for quick access to the brakes, for one – this would have been used as a parts car. Smelling something fishy, new owner Stanley Higgins did some digging, starting with the faded 503 BBO plate he’d tossed aside on initial inspection. Only then did he realise he’d accidentally procured an ex-Le Mans Jag. Some dedicated research, calls to those in the know and connected folks alike and 503 BBO was virtually ready to be reassembled. How did John come across it?

“I acquired it very recently via Gregor Fisken who got it from the Blackhawk Collection," John said. "The car was restored by Nigel Dawes in the late '80s prior to going to the Blackhawk Collection.”

As was in period is how we found it at 76MM, returned to its former glory – D-type lump and all… “Engine spec today is exactly as it was then; 3.8L iron block, wet sump, wide-angle head and triple Weber 45 DCO3s. The engine in period generated 296bhp, which it still does today," John added.

If you didn’t know 503 BBO’s story, a distinctive grille and red wheels at the rear mark it out, though not everything has an explanation: “A grill was installed in the nose protecting the air duct for the Weber carburettors. The rear wheels were painted dark red, but history does not record why!”

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Perhaps poetically given the uncertainty surrounding how it would perform all those years ago at Le Mans, John wasn’t too sure how BBO would do at Goodwood – his focus very much being on putting on a show and getting it back in one piece. Indeed, conditions weren’t conducive for a flat-out run for what would effectively be a 58-year hiatus-breaking shakedown for this car. It’s like we say, not all grid value comes from the winners.

“It came out of long-term museum storage and it’s been a huge effort to even get it ready to be on the grid for the meeting," said John. "The engineer, David Brazell, did a fabulous job with his team to get it there, but it's bottom half result car at the moment. Getting it seen at Goodwood and bringing it home safely were the priority”. 

So, has this car’s run out in the Moss Trophy at 76MM marked the start of an illustrious second life? John seems keen to come back to Goodwood, although some static display duty might make for an easier night’s sleep.

“The car will be used for rallies and possibly Concours events. It will only be raced at Goodwood this year (and next if invited!)," he added.

So, there we have it – an E-type that last saw competition at Le Mans, exhumed from a fairly anonymous grave, restored and eventually returned to duty at the Members’ Meeting. That’s the kind of story we look for on a Goodwood grid.

Photography by Tom Shaxson and Jochen Van Cauwenberge

  • Jaguar

  • e-type

  • Le Mans

  • 76MM

  • 2018

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