| Hi Yo
by Mark Stephenson, Jaguar Club of Central Arizona
"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty 'Hi Yo Silver!' The Lone Ranger. With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early West. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!"
He may not wear a mask, he may not have Jay Silverheels at his side, and, OK, the time frame is a little off, but other than that there are a lot of parallels between "that masked man" and Art Dickenson.
Take, for example, their trusty steeds: Both are named Silver but instead of a "horse with the speed of light," Art drives a 1983 XJS Coupe, the fastest thing on a JCNA Slalom Course.
Where it really gets interesting is the "daring and resourceful" part. Taking a four thousand pound car to the pinnacle of slalom success requires a lot of that, and a heck of a lot of work, too.
Originally, Art showed the car and slalomed in stock condition until Concours Class 16 (Modified) was created. Like the Lone Ranger, who was constrained by the legal system as a Texas Ranger, until he left to become the Lone Ranger; the modified class gave new freedom to Art. He could now do anything to the car and still enter the Concours. Immediately, resourcefulness kicked in.
A visit to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust Museum in Coventry, seeing the Tom Walkinshaw, 1984 European Sportscar Championship winning XJS, inspired Art. By fitting Fittipaldi Monolithic wheels with Dunlop D40 M2 tires, and a Tom Walkinshaw racing steering wheel, the car was now officially concours-modified. Up at the Canadian XK Jaguar Register in Vancouver, he was the slalom chairman. Every dry weekend, they held slalom practices. He shaved his original Pirelli P5s to the wear bars and learned that overinflating the fronts to 50 and the rears to 40 psi lowered the times.
Persistence paid off. He was the stock slalom champ for three years running. Then along came another fortuitous rule expansion. The JCNA increased the number of slalom classes to include modified / heavyweight.
The speedy Es had dominated the single modified class, but were now considered lightweights, not in the competitive sense, just in terms of weight. Considering that they were at least a thousand pounds lighter, they still had the fastest times for the overall competition. Art even acknowledges that they are a "tough lot." Undaunted, he changed over to racing tires, urethane bushings, and competition shocks. He was a little faster.
The next year he modified the transmission. He was gaining on them.
By 1998, at, appropriately enough, the Western States Meet, Art and Silver scored the overall fastest time of the day - beating the E brigade - the first time an E-type didn't hold the top spot.
The year after that, he lowered the car and stiffened the springs. The following year came a diff replacement, dropping the ratio from 2.88 to 3.54.
In Art's words, "the list goes on and on, every year lightening and/or changing things, searching for ways to go faster on a grass-roots racer budget, or less is no easy task. The biggest bang for your buck, although sometimes only for one event, is the softest race tyres you can find."
By 2002, Silver sported four throttle bodies, free-flow exhaust, and a reprogrammed ECU. The passenger seat was replaced with a racing seat. The rear seats were replaced with Jaguar faux-fur. A roll bar stiffened the chassis.
New for 2003 is even more tranny tweaking, Dunlop race slicks, and more Jag fur. The bonnet has been replaced with a lightweight Fiberglas skin.
Like the Lone Ranger, who defined morality in our youth, Art Dickenson has set the standard for the slalom. A couple E-types beat him below forty-seconds, but Art and Silver were the first and only duo to cross the 39-second barrier. Will we see 38 or even 37 seconds fall?
A fiery Jag, a cloud of tire smoke, and a hearty "Hi Yo Silver?" We'll see.