The converters : Guyson E12 by William Towns

Dating from 1974, this archetypal Towns design was essentially a reclothed E-type…

Story by Declan Berridge

One stormy night in 1972, hill-climb champion Jim Thomson – who was also Managing Director of shot-blasting equipment manufacturer Guyson International – lost control of his Series III E-type Jaguar on a country road near Wetherby in Yorkshire. Most people would have surveyed the damage, contacted their insurers and either arranged to have the damage repaired or visited a local showroom to order a new car. But Thomson had other ideas. He commissioned William Towns to come up with a completely new body for his beloved car.

Towns set about his task by firstly removing the damaged bonnet and the still-pristine bootlid, and then caked the remaining front and rear bodywork with the kind of clay used in styling studios when honing prototypes. He then skillfully crafted the shape he had defined in his intial drawings (one of which can be seen at the top of this page). The next stage was to make a set of moulds from the resulting pseudo-prototype, from which a set of glassfibre body panels was created.

These panels were then attached to the E-type’s bodywork by means of screws and resin, leaving the car’s basic superstructure (and most of its original panelwork) entirely intact. Indeed, if the owner so desired, the car could be returned to its standard form by removing the glassfibre panels, refitting the original bonnet and bootlid – and making good any superficial damage incurred by the method of attachment.

The car was finished in yellow, and then passed to Jaguar tuning supremo Ron Beatty, who rebuilt its engine to give an output of around 345bhp, achieved with the help of six 44mm Weber LDF carburretors which, unfortunately, were so big that a hole had to be cut in the top of bonnet so that they could poke through. Nevertheless, when Thomson finally took delivery of his new creation in 1974, he was suitably impressed.

And he wasn’t the only one: when he stopped at a motorway service station, he reportedly returned to his car to find a man from Jaguar ‘drooling over it’, and bemoaning the fact that his own company produced nothing like it. Imagine his surprise when he learned that this was little more than a rebodied E-type (although one can’t help feeling that the distinctive E-type windscreen should have been a dead give-away).

Motor magazine were also impressed: they tested the Guyson E12 against a Ferrari Daytona (costing over four times as much as a standard E-type with the engine upgrade) and the Guyson promptly came out on top. Meanwhile, for Fast Car, simply beholding the car was privilege enough, likening Town’s reinterpretation of the E-type to one of Rachmaninov’s sublime variations on a theme of Paganini…

It has to be said that Towns himself was also much-enamoured of his latest design, for he wasted no time in applying the same conversion to his own E-type, this time finishing it in blue; he decided to forego the engine upgrade, though, no doubt uneasy with the effect it would have on the sleek lines he had devised for the car.

He also had it in mind to offer the conversion commercially for around £2000 on top of the E-type’s £3300 list price, but decided against this as the car was, by this stage, on the verge of being replaced by the XJS. Little could he have known back then that one day he would undertake a similar rebodying exercise on the XJ-S itself…

Thomson’s E12 – before the bonnet had been modified to accommodate the massive
Weber carburettors

Keith Adams


  1. Looks every inch a William Towns creation- lots of flat surfaces and angles.

    I think Town’s best work was for the Autosleeper fibreglass bodied coachbuilt campers, which still look fantastic today even when mounted on a Bedford CF body and painted two-tone beige and white.

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