Jaguar turns into ‘bullet’ on wheels

Minsk’s do-it-yourself car enthusiasts revive legendary racing automobile

Minsk’s do-it-yourself car enthusiasts revive legendary racing automobile


“Wow, awesome!” exclaimed a motor-enthusiast friend of mine, on visiting a vintage car exhibition in Moscow’s Sokolniki. “I’ve never seen such a stunning car.”


Vintage car restorers Eduard Aksenchik (right) and Nikolay Demidov

Scrap iron in potato sacks


I looked in the direction to which he pointed and stopped in my tracks, my brows raised in admiration. The two of us were frozen by the sight of an elegant, silver Series-1 Jaguar E-type sports car, one of the fastest of its time, bearing Belarusian number plates.

Many of the world’s best known celebrities have driven the ‘wheeled bullet’, including Northern Ireland’s George Best. He, as one of the world’s greatest footballers, loved driving his Jaguar E-type: a mark of his good taste.

The E-type was a symbol of the 1960s as much The Beatles and miniskirts. Even Enzo Ferrari, who looked down on British vehicles, called the ‘E’ the world’s most beautiful sports car. Able to accelerate to 100 km/h within seven seconds, it was second to none on Europe’s racing tracks. For several years in a row, in the mid-1960s, it won the 24-hour Le Mans, the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

“Our car took part in that race once. It didn’t win, but still…” remarks a member of Minsk’s Time Machine auto club, Eduard Aksenchik, proudly. Mechanics with the club revived the Jaguar exhibited in Sokolniki, resurrecting it from a pile of rusty scrap metal brought to Minsk from Moscow. It’s a fabulous story, with some sad episodes, yet with a happy ending.

‘Machinists’


Moscow colleagues of the Minsk club began the restoration, being initially enthusiastic, but their zeal faded after they’d dismantled the car, removing the engine and wheels, and peeling off the paint with sandblast machines. They left the wreck by a fence where it remained for several years, going rusty. In this disorderly form, it was brought, with tender hope, to Minsk.

“What used to be a car looked awful. Some parts had disappeared, so we had to make them anew or order from the UK,” recollects another member of the Time Machine club, Nikolay Demidov. “We tried to restore the original, as a new-build would be a different creature. Authentic cars are what have value.”

The Minsk restorers studied various books, including 1960s factory catalogues from Coventry. They handled every bolt and screw, and sent chrome-plated parts to Volgograd for restoration.  Overhauling the hood presented a challenge, as each of its eight sections was dented. A new hood would have cost about 10,000 Euros plus the cost of delivery and customs clearance. It was too expensive, so they decided to renovate the old one.


Revived from pile of rusty metal

To the last bolt


“It was largely manual work,” says Eduard. “We repeatedly assembled and adjusted the hood and disassembled it again, maybe ten times. It has almost two hundred bolts. Screwing and unscrewing was maddening. It had to be done very accurately in order not to spoil the screw thread, as the bolts were originally English.”

The engine is the heart of the car and is a masterpiece when well-cared for. Sadly, this was completely dilapidated, without even spark plugs. “It looked as if someone had poured water into it and left it to turn rusty,” sighs Eduard. “We only managed to heave away the piston after we poured special liquid into it. We were like jewellers, using a tiny video camera with a lamp to see inside the engine; without that, repairs would have been impossible.”

The restoration of the racing car took 18 months, working seven days a week, but the results are incredible. They have created a gem from rusty scraps.

Good old E-type can upstage new cars


Seated behind the wheel, Eduard presses on the accelerator and it’s like a song. The engine is a perfectly tuned instrument, creating its own melody. On the track, it’s staggeringly effective, easily accelerating to a hundred miles per hour. It can upstage any cutting-edge youngster. It has no rival.

Annually, Belarus hosts an international vintage car rally, and the Jaguar E-type is always among the prize-winners. It’s hard to believe that it once lay in pieces, on potato sacks.

Time is powerless


Vintage cars will be shown to public in June. The restored Jaguar will take part in the traditional vintage rally, which starts on 11th June, from Minsk’s Palace of the Republic. More than fifty crews from Belarus, Russia, Latvia and Poland are participating.

By Boris Orekhov
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