Bonhams announced two headline consignments for its upcoming Collectors’ Motor Cars and Automobilia auction at the Goodwood Revival Meeting on 16 September, 2011.
In the 50th anniversary year of the E-Type Jaguar, these two consignments are the ex-Sir Robert Ropner ‘Semi-Lightweight’ E-Type plus the ex-Briggs Cunningham Team 1958 Lister-Jaguar ‘Knobbly’ sports-racing car.
While the ‘Semi-Lightweight’ E-Type is one of only two built by the Jaguar factory, the Cunningham team car – which was driven in period by American road racing superstars Walt Hansgen and Ed Crawford – is billed as one of the finest of all surviving Lister-Jaguars.
James Knight, International Managing Director of Motorcars at Bonhams, said, “In recent years we have been privileged to have offered some very important Jaguars such as E2A and a customer D-Type and we are thrilled to offer two more. This Semi-Lightweight has never been offered for sale at auction before. From the initial interest received we know it has struck a chord with top-end collectors who covet this unique and bespoke factory supplied E-Type. It is a close as you can get to the Competition Lightweights and is perhaps the ultimate road going Jaguar. For those who covet a Lister, this example is the ideal combination and ticks every box on the wish list: a car run in period by a well known and respected team, Jaguar power, and Knobbly body. You could not ask for more.”
For the 1963 International motor racing season Jaguar built a now legendary batch of 12 Grand Touring competition cars known as the ‘Lightweight’ E-Types. They featured monocoque chassis which were aluminium-skinned – instead of steel-skinned – together with aluminium body panels and aluminium-block 6-cylinder 3.8-litre fuel-injected engines.
Two special road-going cars were also built by Jaguar, a roadster with hardtop and a coupe. The more prominent of the two is now being offered for sale by auction at the 2011 Goodwood Revival Meeting. It was sold to north-eastern shipping company magnate Sir Robert Ropner, and featured a production-type steel-skinned monocoque chassis with weight-saving aluminium bonnet and boot lid, plus numerous other definitive racing ‘Lightweight’ features.
It was powered by a special iron-block, wet-sump engine that featured the ‘35/40 wide angle’ cylinder head made famous on the Le Mans-winning D-Type sports cars of 1955-57. This special cylinder head had its inlet and exhaust valves disposed at a wider included angle than the standard production units, greatly enhancing gas flow and consequently power and torque.
The Ropner Jaguar’s engine also featured polished crankshaft and connecting rods, a lightened flywheel and high-lift camshafts, and it breathed through three twin-choke Weber carburetors. Drive to the ‘Lightweight’ alloy Dunlop wheels was via a five-speed ZF ‘box and Tork-Lok limited-slip differential. The new car perhaps most distinctively featured neither bumper bars nor external bonnet handles, but wore the hardtop of the definitive ‘Lightweight’ competition cars.
On the open road Sir Robert Ropner’s semi-Lightweight E-Type was capable of 165 mph and he famously used its prodigious performance to the full whenever the traffic thinned and the opportunity presented itself. This E-Type Jaguar is offered after some thirty years in the same sympathetic and enthusiastic ownership.
The ex-Briggs Cunningham team 1958 Lister-Jaguar ‘Knobbly’ is also expected to attract interest. This well-preserved Lister-Jaguar is renowned as being one of the most original and unspoiled of all these wonderful sports-racing cars still surviving from the late 1950s. It has a record of Sports Car Club of America Championship-winning success when run by the Briggs Cunningham team. In the hands of the late Walt Hansgen, it dominated SCCA national road-racing through 1958-59.
The first production ‘Knobbly’, chassis ‘BHL 101’, was bought by the renowned Briggs Cunningham for his private team early in 1958. It was the first of two ‘Knobbly’ Listers supplied to him – and ‘BHL 101’ is now being offered by Bonhams direct from some twenty years in its most recent ownership. The car is credited with having been driven by Walt Hansgen to dominate those two US Championship seasons of 1958-59 when Walt Hansgen and his Cunningham Lister-Jaguar team-mate Ed Crawford proved almost unbeatable on such renowned US race circuits as Watkins Glen, Bridgehampton and Marlboro.
It has been mechanically refreshed within the past three years, and is to be offered in unspoiled, well-patinated running order.