The current TMR undertaking is, The BONNEVILLE BAD CAT JAGUAR project, which is a long term, 4 to 5 year project, researching requirements and building a 1989 V12 XJS Jaguar into a fast running salt flats cat. This project came about from having an 89 XJS, in need of quite a bit of attention. This will provide a test platform for several theories and strategies ranging from frame and cage design, suspension modifications, performance engine modification and more..
While others, including Jaguar themselves recently, have taken Jaguars to the salt flats, many have simply used the Jaguar body, and transplanted some other power plant into it. Obviously, with the exception of Jaguar themselves, this is a much simpler solution to attaining incredible speeds without dwarfing the national debt. I on the other hand, have never been known for taking the easy way out. In fact, I can get a bit of an attitude, and dig my heals in just to prove a point. And with that..
What to do, what to do.. Then it came to me. What a perfect solution. I like Jaguars, I like speed, and I like to build cars and try new things. PERFECT! After all, I was already half way there right! Well as it turns out, more like 20% of the way might be more accurate. After 2 years of researching and trips to Bonneville, which is just outside Wendover Utah, for Speed Week and World of Speed to become familiar with the requirements, the environment, the people and the experience in general. It did not take long to realize that if I wanted to make this happen, and get serious about going REALLY fast, it was going to take a lot more than building a roll cage. Not that I actually thought that was all there was to it, but, a dose of reality helps you get your focus on the task.
You might initially think, what is the big deal? The V12 cars run to 150mph already. First off, 150 wont even get you entry onto the long course, which is 7 miles long. At less than 175, you’re making your runs on the short course which is 3 miles in length. To compound the problem, there is slippage when running on the salt. It’s not unsimilar to driving on snow or ice. How much slippage you ask? Well, that depends on the conditions present at the time. Experienced participants have found that anywhere from 5 to 15 percent slippage occurs. As a general rule of thumb, plan for about 10% slippage. So, what ever your target speed, add 10% to that speed, to determine what you must run at to hit your mark. That said, the stock production V12 normally runs to 150 on the asphalt. That only gets you 130 or so on the salt. That means getting the car into the 170 range just to get the equivalent of its street speed. Then, compound that by targeting well in excess of 200 mph, or faster still, take aim on an existing record, such as the /PRO (production) class of 234 (at time of writing), and you have got a serious challenge on your hands. Remember that 10% slippage? Well, now we start trying to get a rear wheel speed of 275 mph in order to have a realistic shot at an actual speed of 234 mph. Ever considered doing a burn out at 200 mph? Well, that’s about how this equates. It’s not unheard of to hear drivers speaking of the sideways adventures at 200.
Just to make matters a little more interesting, Lawton “Lanky” Foushee, former chief mechanic at Group 44 Inc. , advises the XJ-S has a habit of getting light in the back end around the 200 mph speed. THAT could make things very interesting.
If that is not enough, now things get REALLY challenging. First, in most performance environments, you can solve a lot of your performance challenges by simply reducing and/or shifting the weight of the car. This primarily impacts the acceleration and handling characteristics of the car. When dealing with top speed, it is not uncommon to ADD weight to the car. This all boils down to getting the engine performance, RPM, tire circumference, transmission and differential ratios worked out to get the car up to the required speed. While you are not running a drag race, so acceleration is not the big challenge, you still have to pay attention to it as well as while the salt flats are vast, the long course is only 7 miles in length. You need all that length to squeeze every last bit of speed out of the car.
Finally, try running down to your local speed shop and digging out your credit card to purchase your hearts desire to turn your engine into the ground pounding screamer you need to go fast. Oops.. There is a problem. While it might not be quite so challenging if your home base is across the pond in the UK, it is DEFINETLY an obstacle when you are on THIS side of the Atlantic. Creative solutions and custom made components are the order of the day and THAT eats a budget up quickly.
Here we are, back from Speed Week. As always a great event, read about it under the ‘Images’ tab, and the challenges faced to attend..
That said, feeling a little (lot) light in the pocket, but, rejuvenated and inspired from all the great vehicles, I’m motivated to get back at the car. With a little luck (like the lottery), I’m hoping to get the safety requirements out of the way and perhaps get those licensing runs out of the way this year yet at World of Speed in September (not likely), or, more likely, at the World Finals in October. So, I’ve got to get that roof panel finished off, get the windshield out, and get to work on the roll cage. That’s what is in the weeks ahead.
I’ll do the best I can to get regular updates on progress. It’s a real challenge fitting all these things into a day. I haven’t even finished getting all the photos up from Speed Week, and only half way through the story of the trip. Have yet to start on the information of the ‘Rest Stops and Interest points..