Richard Dredge

Richard Dredge

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Richard Dredge

Richard Dredge

Guyson E12

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When William Towns performed surgery on a Jaguar E-Type V12, the result was striking…

You've only got to give the pictures above the briefest of glances to guess who was responsible for those angular lines. Yep, it's another one of William Towns' creations, this time based on a Jaguar E-Type Series 3. Only Towns could take one of the curviest cars ever made and turn it into a mass of straight lines and angles, with barely a curve to be seen. They say that E numbers are bad for you, and if you're an E-Type fan this rebodied Jag might just make you feel more than a bit queasy.

The Guyson E12 came about when Jim Thomson crashed his nearly-new E-Type in 1972. Thomson was the owner of industrial equipment maker Guyson International, and when he left the road and hit a tree, wrecking the nose of his E-Type V12, he decided that instead of getting it repaired he would get it completely restyled.

Thomson had become friends with William Towns after the pair had met up at various motor shows, where they had got to know each other better. Thomson commissioned Towns to come up with a radical new look for his beloved E-Type, and that's exactly what he got, because the E12 that resulted looks like nothing else before or since.

Towns removed the crumpled front section of the car, along with the undamaged boot lid, and he then built up the remaining bodywork with resin and glassfibre. As with the Railton Fairmile and Claremont which would arrive almost two decades later, new panels were simply bonded on to the Jaguar's original steel bodyshell, although the E12 featured glassfibre panels whereas the Railtons' were aluminium. The only thing that was left that was recognisably Jaguar was the windscreen surround, along with the interior which was left untouched.

When the E12 was finished in autumn 1974 it had been upgraded with bigger SU carburettors and Koni dampers; the latter were stiffer than standard to cope with the 102lb increase in kerbweight, most of which was concentrated over the back axle. Whereas the regular E-Type's weight distribution was split 52:48 front:rear, the Guyson E12 was rated at 49:51.

Thomson wanted some extra performance for his car, so it was despatched to Jaguar tuning guru Ron Beatty (of Kenilworh Racing Services), who fitted six Weber carburettors to squeeze 345bhp from the 5.3-litre V12. Unfortunately these carbs wouldn't fit under the huge flat bonnet that Towns had created, so a hole was cut in the middle and a power bulge was then incorporated. For those who wanted even more power, Kenilworth Racing Services would bore the V12 out to 5980cc to give more than 400bhp if the right camshafts and carburettors were fitted.

When Paul Skilleter first encountered the Guyson E12 for Motor in autumn 1974 he tactfully said:

"While ultimately styling is a matter of individual taste, Bill Towns' new shape is certainly interesting even if it has been achieved at the expense of greater bulk. Its detailing is extremely good, as one would expect from Towns, and considering that the car on which it is based has been altered so little structurally, it is an achievement indeed to have produced something looking so utterly different from the base vehicle."

A few months later the same magazine got to drive the E12 for the first time; by now the six Weber carburettors were fitted and as a result the power bulge had been fitted. At that point the E12 was painted yellow and it wore the registration UWU 10L; nowadays (and for many years) it's finished in red and has the number GUY50N. Which in theory shouldn't be possible because Thomson's E-Type was registered on 1 December 1972 yet the N-registration wasn't issued in the UK until 1 August 1974, and it's illegal to make a car look newer than it is, so go figure… Anyway, Motor rather liked the Guyson E12 despite its horrendous thirst. Gordon Bruce wrote:

"This car is quick, as any machine that can show an exhaust to the sadly obsolete but much vaunted Ferrari Daytone must be. Taking full advantage of Mr Dunlop's rubber on fat Wolfrace wheels and the limited-slip differential we blasted to 60mph in a mere 5.3 seconds and on to 100mph in only another 8.1 seconds. Even in the confines of MIRA we saw well over 140mph with the car still accelerating like there was no tomorrow.

"Now for the bad news. The carburettor conversion alone will require £395 plus VAT (£454), plus fitting, and the exhaust £75 plus VAT (£86) plus fitting. However, together they should grace your V12 with between 330 and 340 bhp (gross); quite some improvement (the standard E-Type V12 put out 272bhp). As far as we're concerned the conversion was without vice, maintaining that high level of tractability inherent in the V12 unit while providing the joy that always accompanies a healthy measure of power.

"The Guyson put its power down very well in all conditions and any uncertainty in the handling on bumpy roads has apparently since been eradicated by correcting the wrong assembly of the front subframe; the result of some inept repair by a northern British Leyland agent.

"Testing such performance cars is an all too rare occurrence for us nowadays. We enjoyed it. Yes, I know you can't ignore 10mpg, it is bad news. On the other hand, pleasure usually is expensive nowadays and if anybody can afford such running costs it is surely the man who purchases £2000 worth of conversion for an E-Type. Good luck to him."

As a result of the E12's publicity it seemingly proved such a hit that Towns decided to offer the modified bodywork for £1980 +VAT (£2277), to any E-Type owner who wanted to give their car a makeover. To promote the E12 better, Towns built a second example for himself, which he painted blue and because Towns decided not to go for the extra power courtesy of the Weber carbs, he could use the much neater bonnet line that he originally envisaged.

When Towns started doing the rounds to promote his E12 conversion, he raised the spectre of a targa-roofed edition, as well as a bespoke interior with much-improved ventilation and air conditioning. The car was planned to be sold through Towns' Interstyl brand, which also offered products as diverse as industrial equipment and garden furniture. But despite the claimed level of interest in reworked E-Types, the demand for an E12 conversion wasn't really there and just the two cars were built: Jim Thomson's and William Towns'. While the original car is still owned by the Thomson family, Towns' E12 is thought to have been converted back to standard E-Type specification in the 1980s.


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One Comment

  1. Graham Clayton 7th April 2023 at 11:34 am

    Did William Downs have a pathological hatred of curved styling features? LOL

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