Peter Sargent

Racing Driver – Co-Driver with Peter Lumsden of the Lightweight E-Type 49 FXN

1964 Peter Sargent

This article by Anthony Pritchard first appeared in JDHT’s Jaguar Heritage Magazine (No. 25) in January 2006.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, amateur drivers could buy a Jaguar C-type or D-type for a relatively small sum of money.  They obtained a high-performance sports-racing car which, if it had been looked after and properly maintained, would prove reliable and capable of winning races at Club level.  A C-type would give a good grounding in handling a high-performance car under racing conditions and the driver would then, often, move on to a more powerful D-type.  Another important advantage was that the factory competition department still offered owners, even of obsolete cars, excellent back-up in terms of both service and repairs.  Peter Sargent was a driver who followed this route and went on, in partnership with Peter Lumsden, to race and develop two E-Types and a potentially formidable Lister-Jaguar. 

Peter John Sargent was born on May 6, 1933 in Purley in Surrey.  Before World War Two his father moved the family down to Minehead in Somerset.  Peter hated the regulations and restrictions of school life, left school and took a job in the City. 

Early Racing – MG TC and XK120

He went to one of the earliest race meetings held at Goodwood.  He enjoyed the day immensely and thought that racing was something he would really like to do.  So he bought an MG TC, in 1953 and raced it in standard form.  He learned about a small engineering business in Thornton Heath run by father Jack Playford and his sons Brian and John.  Somebody he knew recommended them; they were craftsmen and very good. They always did him well and he stayed with them over the years.

Playfords modified the TC extensively and Peter raced it through to the end of 1954.  He then acquired a Jaguar XK 120 two-seater, an ordinary standard production car that his brother had owned.  Over the next three years Sargent and the Playfords worked on it; they fitted larger carburettors, the cylinder head was skimmed and they made some changes to the suspension.  The braking was the weakest point. Everybody had trouble with the standard XK 120 brakes and they tackled it in different ways.  The Playfords fitted scoops to get more air to the brakes, drilled holes all round the wheels to let the air out and drilled holes in the brake drums so the dust that collected in the drums during a race blew out.  All that made a huge difference to the XK 120’s ability to stop quicker.

1958 Peter Sargent driving his C-type XKC038 leads an
MGA at the Aston Martin Owners’ Club
meeting at Silverstone (Anthony Pritchard)

C-type XKC038

For 1958 Peter moved on to a Jaguar C-type.  It was chassis XKC 038, the semi-lightweight car built by the works for the Carrera Panamericana Mexico road race, but not run there.  Duncan Hamilton had raced it in 1954, then Dan Margulies in 1955-56, followed by Gillie Tyrer and Peter Mould (See Jaguar Heritage Issue Number 10).   The C-type appealed to Peter because it was a sports-racing car, as opposed to a sports car, and he wanted to climb the ladder a little.  He raced the C-type for several years, mainly in Club events.  He drove it to a few meetings on the road, but soon bought a transporter, an ex-London Transport Green Line single-decker bus.

The C-type was noisy and uncomfortable on the road and there were other considerations.  Peter took the view that it was fine getting wet in a race, but he did not want to drive an hour and a half to or from a race in the rain.  Nor did he like driving home from a race meeting, because he had been going quite quickly, which was, after all, the aim of the exercise.  As Peter puts it, “Speed is a relative thing and I found that I was always driving quicker than I thought when I was on the way home.” 

There were very few problems with the C-type, but Peter broke a con-rod in a race at Silverstone and was extremely lucky because it broke just below the piston and just above the crankshaft, it fell straight down the bore, did no damage whatsoever and finished up lying in the sump. 

The piston went straight up and stuck in the head, the top of the piston was the same shape as the cylinder head and no harm was done apart from a bent valve.  The engine was rebuilt with a fresh set of pistons and con-rods and went on racing trouble-free.  By this time the car had covered a high mileage and a successor was sought.

Enter the D-type XKD601

Peter bought a Jaguar D-type for 1961.  This was chassis XKD601, raced in 1956 by Mike Hawthorn and crashed and severely damaged during the 1957 Le Mans race and was returned to the factory to be rebuilt.  It is believed that some of the parts from XKD505, most likely the tub and tail section, were used in this rebuild.  Racing cars are identified by their chassis number irrespective of how many body parts have changed but this car has sometimes been described as ‘XKD505/601’.  It is now owned by Ralph Lauren. 

Sargent found that the D-type handled better than the C-type, it had greater adhesion and it stopped better.  When he bought it, it had the 3-litre engine.  He was competing against D-types with the 3.8-litre engine and usually finished behind them.  Although he had the option of changing the engine for 3.8, he decided to settle for having fun with the 3-litre and if he could beat the odd 3.8, so much the better.

Although the 3-litre Jaguar competition engines were notoriously unreliable, Peter had no trouble whatsoever with his.  It was prepared and maintained by the Playfords, they looked after it and did whatever they thought was necessary.  Peter was very careful not to over-rev and avoided exceeding 5,800-6,000 rpm.  He had spun the C-type at Druids at Brands Hatch, revolving it into the bushes, but he does not remember ever spinning the D-type.

Peter Sargent met Peter Lumsden at the Playford’s when he was having his Lotus Elite prepared by them for long-distance racing.  Lumsden used to share the car with Peter Riley who was unable to do the Nürburgring 1,000 Km race with him in 1961.  He asked Peter Sargent to drive with him and they finished second in the 1,300 cc GT class behind another Elite driven by Wagstaff/Stacey.

When Peter Sargent heard that a new sports Jaguar was being introduced, he put the word around that he wanted one to race.  The outcome was that Jaguar decided that he could have one of their early production E-Types.  This car, a roadster, arrived in London in July 1961, before Henlys in Piccadilly, the London distributors, had their demonstrator.

E-Types in Competition

1962 Peter Sargent in his E-Type 898 BYR
at Le Mans (Anthony Pritchard)

E-Type 898 BYR (chassis 85009)

The two Peters always paid cash for their cars; they split the buying and running costs between them and never had any disagreements about money.  Chassis 85009 was ordered by Peter Sargent with a competition clutch and a close ratio gearbox and registered 898 BYR. 

Before they first raced it, they had time to lighten the car without doing any major work and sort out the brakes, which were horrendous on the early cars.  They had a dual system put in with a proper servo which made all the difference.  Also fitted were Koni shock absorbers.  They then competed in a GT short race in the wet before the German Grand Prix at the beginning of August.  The E-Type understeered badly and this needed sorting out, but it lasted the race.

Further extensive work on 898 BYR was carried out by Brian and John Playford. 

By the time that the Peters ran it at Le Mans in 1962, it had been totally rebuilt and re-engineered.  Although the roadster screen was retained, the Playfords fitted an aluminium roof and tail section and this was much lower than the standard fixed head coupé.  There was an aluminium-alloy bonnet, more bulbous than standard because it had formed over a standard production bonnet.  Brian Playford made internal alterations so that there was a proper footwell and more legroom.  A wide-angle head, dry-sump D-type engine and gearbox were fitted.  Power output was just a fraction under 300 bhp. 

1962 Peter Lumsden and Peter Sargent on 898 BYR
after finishing 5th at le Mans (Anthony Pritchard)

The Playfords also fitted special, larger brake discs; they were Mark IX blanks, which had to be very carefully machined, so that they just fitted (the standard Mark IX discs were too big to fit).  They installed a pump and radiator to cool the oil in the rear axle and a specially made, larger-capacity fuel tank (140 litres) was installed over the rear axle.  The car was delivered in silver metallic green and was repainted British Racing Green.

At the Le Mans Test Weekend in April 1962, the E-Type was only partially finished, but it achieved 155 mph (250 km/hr) on the Mulsanne Straight.  In the 24 hours race itself, in June, the two Peters drove steadily, although admittedly both sometimes took the kink on the Mulsanne Straight flat-out, and right to the end of the 24 hours the engine would still pull 6,000 rpm in top gear.  By midday on the Sunday they had risen to fourth place, but they were likely to finish third as the Ferrari in front of them was definitely ailing.

Less than two hours later Peter Sargent found that he had lost all the gears as he accelerated out of Arnage.  He managed to force the lever into fourth gear – never to be moved again in that race – and made his way back to the pits.  He then stayed at the wheel with a view to trying to finish.  The gearbox was making the most dreadful screaming noises and he could not use more than 3,000 rpm in top.  He was lapping at about 90 mph (145 km/hr).  They did finish, but minutes before the end of the race Roy Salvadori driving a Briggs Cunningham-entered E-Type passed Sargent and they dropped back to fifth place.

When the car was examined after the race, it was discovered that a reversible gasket in the pressure-fed gearbox had been installed the wrong way round at the factory, and this was starving the gearbox of oil.   

Subsequently, in August, Peter Lumsden drove the E-Type in the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, but he went off at the chicane and abandoned the car on the grass. 

Lister-Costin Jaguar WTM 446

1963 Peter Sargent driving the Lister-Costin
at Le Mans (Anthony Pritchard)

In 1963 the partners bought the last works Lister team car with a Frank Costin-designed space-frame chassis.  This had been completed for Jim Diggory in 1960.  Diggory sold the car to John Coundley, who crashed it and then sold it to them as a rolling chassis.  They commissioned Frank Costin to design a body for the Lister and the result was an aerodynamic coupé with a double-bubble roof, the doors set into the roof and very small frontal area.  Costin said that the bubble roofline reduced the frontal area and made the body stiffer.

Williams & Pritchard then built the body, but Brian Playford had them incorporate a windscreen frame just as he later did for the E-Type that allowed a quick change of windscreens.  A Jaguar D-type engine and gearbox were installed.  For Le Mans a logbook, showing that the car was registered in its country of origin, was necessary.  This Lister had never been registered, so they bought a logbook for a Lister registered WTM 446 that been written off in the making of the film The Green Helmet.  Although the chassis was four years old, prospects of success seemed good.

1963 The Lister-Costin at the Brighton Speed Trials
(Anthony Pritchard)

During practice at Le Mans, Peter Sargent noticed that at speed a large gap opened up between the top of the doors and the body this was resolved by fitting a bolt-retaining mechanism, but it made it obvious how much lift was developed at speed.  They ran steadily at Le Mans until just after three hours when the clutch bolts sheared.  They had been supplied from a bad batch and it was a very disappointing outcome when so much effort had gone into the car.  Up until then the only problem had been that Peter Sargent slightly damaged the sides of the car.  A René Bonnet had crashed in the Esses, Jack Sears (Ferrari) had braked heavily, but the Lister’s brakes were not so efficient, Peter was unable to stop, but managed to scrape between the two cars. 

The worst feature of the Lister was its handling.  There was a design fault in the rear suspension, which caused the rear wheels to toe out at speed and, anyway, the suspension was far too soft. 

After Le Mans, much stiffer springs were fitted.  Frank Costin freely admitted that suspension design was not his field, which was not much consolation. 

They ran the Lister in the 1963 Brighton Speed Trials and while it was still in their ownership entered it for John Coundley/Jack Fairman in the 1964 Nürburgring 1,000 Km race.  It did not run well and eventually the rear suspension fell apart.

Lightweight E-Type 49 FXN chassis 850663

Like Peter Lindner, Lumsden and Sargent acquired one of the 12 Jaguar Lightweight E-types built in 1963, the sixth Lightweight, chassis number 850663, registered 49 FXN and sold 898 BYR.  That year both lightweights: Lindner/Nöcker and Lumsden/Sargent, competed at the Nürburgring 1,000 km in May.  Unfortunately, Lindner had to retire due to lack of oil pressure. 

Peter Lumsden started the race and after an early pit stop, he began to make up ground.   By about three-quarters race distance the two Peters had risen to fourth place and Peter Lumsden was back at the wheel.  Because of a sudden shower of rain and hail he lost control at the Flugplatz, the E-Type rolled end over end, demolishing both itself and about 150 yards (135m) of fencing.  “I made a good start and led past the post after the first lap”.  He decided to return to the pits after hearing, “an awful banging noise”.  Nothing was discovered and he continued the race, “we were doing well and lying fourth.  It was raining, but the car was going well, the rain was stopping, and I thought I was only about 20 seconds behind the chap who was third.  So I kept up the pressure.  I came over one hill to find that it had been hailing and raining on the other side, and a little voice said,  “you are now going to leave the circuit”.  And I did” that’s when the accident happened.

Afterwards Peter Lumsden said that he had ducked beneath the scuttle, clutching the gear-lever to brace himself, there was a series of crashing sounds, interrupted by moments of comparative silence.  After the silence had lasted a little while, he peered over the scuttle and saw that the car was standing on its wheels in a field.  Lumsden was badly shaken, but otherwise unhurt, although the car was wrecked front and back and needed a complete rebuild. 

Following the crash, the Lumsden/Sargent Lightweight was returned to the Jaguar factory for rebuilding around a new aluminium tub that had been laid down for production of another Lightweight.  The car was raced by Lumsden and Sargent for the rest of the 1963 season including Goodwood, Silverstone and Sargent winning its final race at Brands Hatch in October. 

1964 Lightweight E-Type 49 FXN
Re-built in ‘Low Drag’ form at Le Mans Test

Both Peters thought that the appearance of the car was unattractive, with the hard top stuck on it, and they would get a better performance out of it by giving it a decent shape.   

Having worked with Sami (pronounced Sammy) Klat on the Lister-Costin they turned to him to try and improve the sahpe and reduce its drag.  With assistance from Harry Watson, Klat made considerable changes to the bodywork, coming up with his own version of a ‘Low Drag’ roofline (flatter than Malcolm Sayer’s), with a more raked and flush-fitting windscreen.  He extended the nose, reminiscent of Frank Costin’s Vanwall and modified the rear. 

The two Peters, Samir and the Playfords, were working very much on their own as the factory would not offer any assistance.  There were a vast number of chassis modifications, but among the most significant was the lowering of the car by four inches.  This was achieved by repositioning the gearbox and the steering rack and lowering the inside pick-up for the upper front wishbone arms; the latter modification induced sufficient negative camber at the front to increase grip and eliminate the usual E-Type bump-steer.  Prior to the Le Mans race the engine was extensively tested at Imperial College.

A much improved coupé body, with long tapering nose, reminiscent of that of the Vanwall, complete with NACA duct, was designed.  There was a very aerodynamic roofline and much flatter rear decking.  The base of the windscreen was pushed right out to the scuttle, that was some six inches or so, but left the top in the same position so that there was a much more raked windscreen.  The Playfords were particularly good at making the roofline and windscreen very flush and smooth. 

1964 Peter Sargent driving Lightweight 49 FXN at Le mans

Brian Playford made up an aluminium surround that fitted round the windscreen and was fixed by screws.  Then he gipped the whole lot in with plastic padding and just before the gip went off, he ran a Stanley knife round it.  The result was a completely smooth finish and almost no wind resistance whatsoever.  Brian made up two of these frames for long-distance racing, so, if a windscreen broke, the pit staff could undo the screws, throw the screen away and put a new one in. 

When the car appeared at the Le Mans Test Weekend, German driver Peter Lindner, whose E-Type coupé was developed and prepared at the factory, complained bitterly that the Peters’ car was much lower and better looking than his.  At Le Mans they had problems yet again.  The car was very fast and achieved 174 mph (280 km/hr) on the Mulsanne Straight and they were well positioned, 12th, after five hours, but gearbox trouble developed and they retired at around midnight. 

The problem was that the ZF gearbox had only a small oil capacity, it had become very hot and some of the oil had disappeared.  At this stage in the race they were not allowed to top it up and there was no alternative to retirement.

Sargent retired from racing in 1964 after a motor accident (not race related) and Lumsden continued to develop and race 49 FXN for the 1965 season.  Jack Playford drove it at the 1964 Brighton Speed Trials and Peter Lumsden then raced in British events in 1965.  Power output on the test bench was eventually 348 bhp, rather more than the works achieved on the Lindner car.

 

Race Results- Mainly Jaguar Related

Year

Date

Race

Result

Car / Co-driver

Entrant / Team
(if not himself)

1954 27 March Goodwood 
BARC Handicap
(his first race)
6th MG TC  
1955 24 September Goodwood  
BARC over 3.5 litres (his first Jaguar race)
DNF Jaguar XK120  
  1 October Castle Coombe
International
DNF Jaguar  
1956 14 April Goodwood  
BARC handicap
4th Jaguar XK120  
  21 May Mallory Park  
NSCC over 2.7 litres  
3rd Jaguar XK120  
  23 June Silverstone
National  
2nd Jaguar XK120  
  6 July Goodwood  
BARC over 3.5 litres
4th Jaguar XK120  
1957 22 April Goodwood  
Autosport Production
6th Jaguar XK120  
  10 June Crystal Palace
Autosport Production
4th Jaguar XK120  
  22 June Goodwood  
National Handicap Race 1
3rd Jaguar XK120  
  22 June  Goodwood  
National Handicap Race 2
5th Jaguar XK120  
  6 July Mallory Park
BRSCC Autosport Production
7th Jaguar XK120  
  5 August Brands Hatch
Autosport Production
7th Jaguar XK120  
1958 29 March Mallory Park
BARC over 1.1 litres
4th Jaguar XK120 Peter Sargent
  22 April Mallory Park
over 1.5 litres
3rd Jaguar D-Type XKD601  
1959 25 April Brands Hatch
Martini Trophy
4th Jaguar C-Type XKC038  
  9 May Silverstone

3rd Jaguar C-Type XKC038  
  22 May Snetterton
over 1.1 litres
6th Jaguar C-Type XKC038 Peter Sargent
1960 18 April Goodwood
Sussex Trophy
DNA Jaguar D-Type XKD601 P J Sargent
  18 April Goodwood
Fordwater Trophy
DNA Jaguar D-Type XKD601 A C Lefort
  14 May Silverstone
International
6th Jaguar D-Type XKD601 P J Sargent
  22 May Nürburgring, Germany
1,000 kms
21st Lotus Elite P Lumsden
  6 June Goodwood
Whitsun
6th Jaguar D-Type XKD601  
  25 June Goodwood
BARC Handicap
6th Jaguar D-Type XKD601 P J Sargent
  17 July Brands Hatch 3rd Jaguar D-Type XKD601 P J Sargent
  1 August Brands Hatch
International
13th Jaguar D-Type XKD601 P J Sargent
  13 August Silverstone
6 hour relay – handicap
  Jaguar D-Type XKD601 Jaguar Drivers Club
  16 October Brands Hatch
over 1.5 litres
5th Jaguar D-Type XKD601 P J Sargent
1961 3 April Brands Hatch
over 1.2 litres
3rd Jaguar D-Type XKD601 P J Sargent
  6 August Nürburgring, Germany
Rheinland-Pfalz Preis
5th Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR Peter Lumsden
  20 August Snetterton
over 1.1 litres
4th Jaguar D-Type XKD601 P J Sargent
  30 September Snetterton
3 hour Autosport
3rd Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR P J Sargent
  26 December Brands Hatch
Peco trophy
1st Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR P J Sargent
1962 7-8 April Le Mans, France
Test
3rd Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR with Peter Lumsden P J S Lumsden
  27 May Nürburgring, Germany
1,000 kms
DNF
(suspension failure)
Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR with Peter Lumsden P J S Lumsden
  23-24 June Le Mans, France
24 Hours
5th Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR with Peter Lumsden P J S Lumsden
  6 August Brands Hatch
Peco trophy
9th Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR P J S Lumsden
  18 August Goodwood
Tourist Trophy
DNF
(spun off)
Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR P J S Lumsden
  8 September Silverstone
JDC meeting – Colibri Trophy
1st Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR  
  15 September Firle Hill Climb 1st in class Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR  
  16 September Brighton Speed Trials 1st
in over 2,500 cc class
Jaguar E-Type 898 BYR driven by Jack Playford P J S Lumsden
1963 17 April Le Mans, France
Test
8th Lister-Costin Jaguar with Peter Lumsden Peter Sargent
  19 May Nürburgring, Germany
1,000 kms
DNF
(crashed after 33 laps – classified 32nd)
Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN with
Peter Lumsden
P J S Lumsden
  16 June Le Mans, France
24 Hours
DNF Lister-Costin Jaguar with Peter Lumsden P J S Lumsden
  6 August Goodwood
Guards Trophy
DNF Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN driven by
Peter Lumsden
P J S Lumsden
  24 August Goodwood
Tourist Trophy
9th Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN
P J S Lumsden
  7 September Silverstone
Jaguar drivers’ Club Colibri  Trophy
1st Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN
P J S Lumsden
  6 October Brands Hatch
BRSCC A Race
1st Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN
P J S Lumsden
1964 30 March Goodwood
Sussex Trophy
7th Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN driven by
Peter Lumsden
P J S Lumsden
  18-19 April Le Mans, France
Test
7th Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN with
Peter Lumsden
P J S Lumsden
  31 May Nürburgring, Germany
1,000 kms
DNF
(engine failure after 28 laps – classified 51st)
Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN with
Peter Lumsden
P J S Lumsden
  20-21 June

Le Mans, France 24 Hours

DNF
(gearbox failure after 80 laps)
Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN with
Peter Lumsden
P J S Lumsden
  9 August Brands Hatch
BARC Race Meeting
2 races
2nd and 6th Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN
 
  29 September Goodwood
Tourist Trophy (his last race)
8th (5th in class) Lightweight E-Type
49 FXN with
Peter Lumsden
P J S Lumsden

 

Retirement from Racing

Old Tollgate Hotel, Bramber, Steyning

Peter Sargent broke his back in an off-road accident with a Haflinger all-terrain vehicle and his injuries put him out of racing for 12 months.  Although he recovered after nearly 6 weeks in hospital and then some time wearing a corset, he decided to retire at the end of the 1964 season – aged 31.  He thought it was time he concentrated more on girls.  Then aged 38 he met the woman he would subsequently marry. 

Peter Sargent worked in the City until he was 40 and then teamed up with a first-class chef and bought the Old Tollgate Hotel in Bramber near Steyning in Sussex.  The venture was remarkably successful and over the years the hotel has been considerably extended.  Apart from very comfortable three-star accommodation, there is an excellent restaurant.

Lightweight E-Type ‘49 FXN’ After Lumsden and Sargent

Jaguar Lightweight E-type
The Autobiography of 49 FXN

The car was first advertised in Autosport in February 1965, for £3,000 but did not sell.  Lumsden advertised it again in Autosport in March 1966, this time for slightly less, £2,975, with a rebuilt engine and it sold.  It was bought by John Scott-Davies who crashed it in practice at Oulton Park in May 1966, rolling it and damaging the roof.  The car was re-built but the roof was not quite the same profile as that produced by Sammy Klat.  

It went through a number of owners; Mike Drane, R A Gibson and continued to be raced.  Gibson advertised the car in Autosport in January 1968 now for only £2,000 and the car was bought by Dave Cottingham of DK Engineering who tidied up the bodywork and resprayed the car.  By the time it was moved on again in 1972 it was painted red and had an alloy engine block.  It changed hands a few more times until it was purchased by US-based Englishman Howard Cohen spending approximately 20 years in America, during which time it was occasionally raced in historic meetings and displayed at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

February 2020 Peter Sargent
signing a copy of the 49 FXN book (Jane Hartley)

In 2000 Fisken’s brought it back to the UK for Sir Anthony Bamford who returned it to serious competition.  Over the subsequent three years, it was raced at historic meetings by the likes of Frank Sytner and Willie Green.  From Bamford, the car passed to Viscount Cowdray, who continued in the same vein.  Jochen Mass and Derek Bell both raced 49 FXN at the Goodwood Revival.  In the hands of subsequent owners Ross Warburton and its current custodian, 49 FXN has continued to compete at the top level of historic motorsport.  Each owner has added their own chapter to the history of this most charismatic and beautiful of E-types, and to see the car now is to see evidence of its various lives.

In 2017 Porter Press published a book on the car titled Jaguar Lightweight E-type – The Autobiography of 49 FXN written by Philip Porter and James Page.

In 2018 49 FXN was sold by Fiskens who produced an excellent video summarising it’s history and development. 

 

Authors: Anthony Pritchard

Race results from www.RacingSportsCars.com

© Text and Images – Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust  (except where stated)

 

Sources and Further Reading: