Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive history of Jaguar's Competition Department in the 1960's, 20 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Cat Out of the Bag!: Jaguar - the Competition Department 1961-1966 (Paperback)
Author Peter Wilson became a friend of mine because of this outstanding book! I purchased a first edition of 'Cat Out of the Bag!' when it was released in Spring 2008, online from the very respected Paul Skilleter Books, PJS Publishing, in Hampshire, UK. It was not available in the US at that time, and even today it is hard to find stateside. So impressed after reading, I contacted Peter to ask him to consult on the completion of my Tempero-built replica of the legendary one-off Jaguar XJ13. From 1961 to 1966, Peter was one of a very small and elite group of men who comprised the ultra-secret Competition Department at Jaguar's famous Browns Lane factory (sadly, now demolished) in Allesley, Coventry, and who built the XJ13 in 1965.

This authoritative book is the result of the author's enduring passion for this era in his long and productive automotive career, and is a "must have" for your library if you are a Jaguar enthusiast. Peter's perspective of the Competition Department from the inside out is a story that could be told ONLY by a member of this small team, and this is the first and perhaps the only such account that will ever be written. Although the focus is on the race cars, there are numerous accounts of ideas born in the Competition Department which found their way into production cars, notably the E-Type. 'Cat Out of the Bag!' is a gold mine of technical and engineering information and photographs which have never been publicly revealed. There is a treasure-trove of interesting bits of Jaguar history in print for the first time, as well as additional information which adds detail and substance to stories of events previously published in other books. If you haven't read this book, your knowledge of Jaguar history is most likely either inaccurate or incomplete!

The purpose of this book is to let the leaping cat out of the bag; to reveal what really happened with respect to the Jaguar factory's involvement in racing from 1961 to 1966 (did they, or didn't they?!!), and to reveal the truth behind the development of such cars as E1A, E2A, the Lightweight E-Types, and XJ13. Also revealed is exactly why the XJ13 was never fully developed or raced, and why there is confusion about the identity of individual D-Types and Lightweight E-Types today. You may think you know these answers, but you're probably wrong about at least some of this if you haven't read 'Cat Out of the Bag!'. Much has been written both in print and online purporting to answer these questions, but a lot of it is pure bunk and that's what prompted Peter to write this book from the insider's perspective. 'Cat Out of the Bag!' sets the record straight in a most definitive manner, and does not mince words regarding those who have spread inaccurate information about these cars, their history, and the men who developed, raced, and maintained them during their glory days. Peter also clearly chronicles exactly who worked in the Competition Department, I'm sure much to the dismay of the many pretenders who have claimed to have worked there but in fact, "...didn't even know where the door was!" While I would love to reveal the truth of all this here, it is of course all Peter's story to tell in his book - and it does take an entire book to tell it all!

Several things in addition to Peter's "insider" status make this book unique. The author is not a professional historian or a professional writer, but one who actually lived the experiences he writes about in the first person. Peter is talented in not only the automotive realm, but he is an artist and a naturally engaging writer. Many of Peter's own contemporaneous drawings, notes, logbooks, and schematics are reproduced in the book, lending further authenticity to his already impeccable credentials, reputation, and integrity. Peter's long-standing close relationship with the Jaguar-Daimler Heritage Trust (now `Jaguar Heritage') personnel and archives closes the loop with respect to the historical accuracy of this work.

'Cat Out of the Bag!' is necessarily a back-and-forth between narrative story-telling and technical description of a particular car or mechanical device. Peter's writing style makes the transition from one to the other effortless for the reader. From my own experience I can say that reading the book is much like listening to Peter recount events in person. Along the way there are some absolute gems of stories which alone are worth buying the book. I will tease you with these; E2A and the Maxarent brakes, the borrowed Ferrari GTO, and the GT40 that went missing! Peter worked with "Sir Bill", and thus has some first-hand insights of how and why the founder of Jaguar, Sir William Lyons, ran the company the way he did.

This book should be treated as a historical record of this slice of Jaguar history, particularly so because of the reproduction of Peter's documents and personal papers from that period. The book is not an opinion piece, not speculation, not interpretation, and not a re-telling of someone else's stories. It is first-hand, well-documented FACT, written by a man who was there for it all!

The first edition is hardback. The second edition is soft cover only, but is superior because it contains additional information, narrative, and photos not available for the first edition. The second edition's photos seem a bit more crisp on the pages. Because of the small number of copies in print, I predict that this book will become a sought-after volume which will some day rarely be available on the second-hand market - much like Peter Brock's out of print 'Shelby Daytona Coupes' (try to find a copy of that for under $500!). Buy `Cat Out of the Bag!' new while you still can, and you'll be glad you did!
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