CAT OUT OF THE BAG!
The Competition Department 1961-1966
By Peter D Wilson
Paperback, 272 pages
Includes large blueprint of Jaguar F1 Design Study
I have had the pleasure of reading Peter Wilson’s reminiscences of his years as an apprentice at the Jaguar Competition Compartment, entitled “Cat Out of the Bag!”. The book recounts Peter’s memories of his experience as a young man working for Jaguar as an Engineering Apprentice from 1961 to 1966. Most interesting, he worked in the Competition Compartment for his last 4 ½ years while an Apprentice. In 1959, at the age of 17, Peter was tired of working at the local garage and had applied to work at several local car companies, including Jaguar. Fortune was looking his way and he received an offer to work as an Engineering Apprentice in the Jaguar in the Chassis Design Office. But his sights were really set on gaining a position in the Jaguar Competition department, where production cars were modified to go racing. Two years after the start of his time with Jaguar, he was able to influence some key people and thus gain a transfer to the Competition Department.
As Peter describes it, work was very “hands on” in the Competition Department. If a particular part could be described by one of the engineers, it was expected that the craftsmen in the shop, even the apprentices, be able to come up with the desired part. Peter describes having to fabricate custom steering wheels, throttle linkages, racing seats, oil coolers, brake ducts, and various other parts from scratch. Of course, he worked under the tutelage of the more experienced men in the shop, who gave him much advice and encouragement. Peter’s time in the competition department, from 1961 to 1966, saw many interesting and subsequently historic cars pass through. He recounts efforts involving the development and testing of the MK2 GT, the Lightweight E-Types, an early version of the Borg-Warner automatic transmission, a 3.8L aluminum block racing engine, the ZF 5-speed gearbox, the XJ13, the 2+2 E-Type, and prototypes for the 420 and the XJ6. The book is full of period photographs (black and white of course). Peter also kept an apprentice’s notebook, which he still has. The book contains sketches and notes from his notebook regarding the work he did. I’m sure the notebook was a great help in jogging his memory so many years later.
There is a fascinating chapter discussing a possible Formula 1 Jaguar from the 50’s. As Peter describes it, one of his early jobs in the Chassis Department was to go through and throw out those that were no longer current. During this activity he came across a rolled-up print with “F1 Layout” written on it. Peter found the drawing to contain a complete ¼-scale layout of a mid-engined single-seater racing car, penned by Alex Frick in July of 1960. As we now know, nothing came of this design effort but Peter had the fore-sight to retain this drawing till this day. The book contains a full size re-print of this drawing folded behind the front cover. It is quite interesting to see!
I found the book to be a very interesting and worthwhile read. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to supplement their knowledge of all things Jaguar.