Jaguar F-Type Rally Twins Prove That More Manufacturers Should Send Their Sports Cars Off Jumps
Images courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover
Sir William Lyons first displayed the Jaguar XK120 in 1948 at the Earls Court Motor Show and two years later his daughter Pat co-drove it in the Alpine Rally with her husband, Ian Appleyard. The 1950 event was the first of three consecutive years that the pair would complete the taxing route through the elements, and in 1951 the Appleyards won both the 3,400km-long Tulip Rally and the RAC with the same XK120, a car that would evolve and even lend some of its parts to the company’s Le Mans winners to come. It was the fastest production car in the world at one point, but its in-period successes and lasting impact are far more important than an ethereal grip on a speed record.
2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the model, and as a birthday present to themselves Jaguar decided to build some convertible F-Types to take off a few jumps in Wales. As a tribute to the XK in general and the Appleyards’ “NUB 120”-registered example in particular, Jaguar modified two of its two-liter inline-four F-Types into FIA-spec rally cars. The pair of convertibles is said to be for fun and not competition, but they didn’t skimp and you can clearly tell these one-time sweet-sixteen dream cars weren’t just jacked up a few inches for some pictures.
The brakes are grooved discs with four-piston clamps front and rear, the three-way adjustable dampers were built by hand (in whatever capacity that means these days) and feature precision spherical bearings, the spring rates and travel have been modified to cope with hydraulic-handbrake-controlled slides instead of red lights and parking lots, the tire and wheel package is stated to be set up for gravel first and foremost, and under the roll cage are bucket seats with six-point harnesses. The motor is the same seemingly unmodified 2.0L turbocharged inline-four that you can buy in the road car, which produces 296hp and 295lb-ft of torque. The F-Types have that repurposed look that road-turned-race cars get once they’ve been converted to their new purpose, but the fact that the modifications were overseen by Jaguar Design and Engineering means they attaint the levels of quality that separate works cars from the rest—it’s too bad they won’t be racing against either.
Since demoing the cars in on a rally stage in Wales at Walters Arena, Jaguar has announced that the F-Types will be tagging along with the brand to a few events over the coming months. Hopefully they’ll keep them around after the XK120’s anniversary year is over so they can throw them off some jumps at Goodwood next to some peers from this niche group of premium sports cars turned rally machines—we aren’t likely to see a group of popular factory-backed RWD sports cars racing each other on a consistent basis without something smooth underneath them, but no corporate budgets can stop us from dreaming about cars like this F-Type chasing the rally-spec Cayman GT4 and V8 Vantage down some dirt. It’s nice to see the leather-wrapped leftovers in the interior next to some basic buttons and switches with sticker labels underneath them, because who said white convertible sports cars need to be the exclusive property of shopping mall and valets?