Jag a piece of history
John McCormack is ever the pragmatic engineer and analytical former racing driver. Superlatives are not usually his thing – especially when it comes to racecars with roofs. That makes his thoughts on being united with the Charger, Celica and Jaguar he built four decades ago particularly notable. And why we started this issue’s cover story section with a ‘grab’ from his wider feelings on the matter.
“There are so few surviving frontrunning Sports Sedans from that era, much less meticulously restored examples. That all three of the cars I was responsible for have survived is remarkable.
“To have all three of the cars together in the one place for the first time was really something.
“I suppose we’re fortunate that the right people have the three cars – Mark [Trenoweth] and Bruce [Gowans]. They are such enthusiasts. By ‘they’ I mean Mark, Bruce and all of those who put so much time to get them here. “I feel a bit guilty, actually... Guilty? “That I was not one of the enthusiasts,” McCormack offers by way of a clarification. It’s a reference, we think, encompassing both his preference for open-wheelers generally and the amount of work involved in building these bespoke beasts.
“Maybe it was because it was such hard yakka the first time around!”
It must be said that John remained keenly interested in the restoration of both projects, as he has the long racing career of the evergreen Jaguar. Now about that XJS... Regular AMC readers will recall that the V12 ‘Big Cat’ was featured in detail in issue #88 in mid 2016. The story noted that Mark Trenoweth’s ex-McCormack Jaguar XJS could be termed both purebred and feral. It’s most certainly a rare bred of Historic Sports Sedan in being prolifically raced for much of its life but surviving unmolested today.
The Unipart Jag followed a similar design philosophy to the Charger, but with a couple of key differences. One was the longer, 6.0-litre V12 engine. The other was the drivetrain layout. The rule in Sports Sedans that required the Charger to have its gearbox located behind engine had been relaxed in the intervening years, so that for the Jag McCormack was free to run straight F5000-style transaxle gearbox/final drive assembly in the rear, without having to resort to running a pair of Hewland DG300 transaxle housing – one behind the engine to house the gearbox and another (sans gearbox) at the rear carrying the final drive, as had been the case with the Charger.
McCormack debuted the XJS in April 1980 and raced for the rest of that season until his racing career was cut short due to injuries sustained in a road accident.
McCormack sold the car to Trenoweth in 1982 and the Queenslander has owned it ever since. Mark (seated in the car, right) raced it prolifically through the 1980s and achieved plenty of success, particularly in Amaroo Park’s Comalco Wunderlich Sports Sedan Series. He restored it back to its original Unipart colours in the late 1990s and it’s, to this point, been the highest profile car on the Group U Historic Sports Sedan scene.
The low-slung machine was part of the 2016 Muscle Car Masters’ Sports Racing Car Invitational demo sessions for historically significant vehicles.
Issue #88 with our full 11-page ‘Pedigreed and Wild’ story is available as a back issue via mymagazines.com.au or 1300 361 146.
The group shot above shows (from left) Scott Bettes, Marty Steel, Mark Trenoweth, John McCormack, Simon Aram, Bruce Gowans, David Fidler and Adam Gowans.