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The 'Jaguar C-Type' (also called the 'Jaguar XK120-C') is a racing car built by Jaguar and sold from 1951 to 1953. Its aerodynamic body was designed by Malcolm Sayer, its lightweight, multi-tubular, triangulated frame designed by Bob Knight. A total of 52 were built. The "C" designation stood for 'competition', there being no A- or B-Type Jaguars.

Mechanically, it used the running gear of the contemporary Jaguar XK120|XK120 sports car (the C in the official XK120-C name stands for 'competition'). The twin-cam, straight-6 engine was tuned to around 205 rather than 160 to 180bhp of the road car. The custom, tubular chassis and aluminium body-panels, along with the elimination of all creature-comforts, helped the car to shed nearly {{Auto lb|1000|0}} compared to a comparable Jaguar road-car. The later C-Types were more powerful, using triple twin-choke Weber carburettors and high-lift camshaft. They were also lighter and better braked, by means of all-round disc brakes.

The Jaguar C-Type won the Le Mans 24 hours race at its first attempt in 1951, driven by Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead. Stirling Moss also drove one of the cars, but retired after running very strongly. In 1952 Jaguar, worried by reports of the speed of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, modified the aerodynamics to increase the top speed. However, this necessitated a rearrangement of the car's cooling system, and subsequently all three entries retired due to overheating. In 1953 the car won again, in a lightened, more powerful configuration, driven by Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt. This victory marked the first time the race had been won at an average of over 100 mph (160 km/h), to be precise). 1954, the C-Type's final year at Le Mans, saw a fourth place by the Ecurie Francorchamps entry driven by Roger Laurent and Jacques Swaters.

When new, the car sold for approximately $6,000 - approximately twice the price of an XK120. In an article in the June 11, 2003 issue of Autocar magazine ("Slick Cat Jaguar", p.70) the value of a "genuine, healthy" C-Type is estimated as �400,000, and the value of the 1953 Le Mans winner is circa �2 million while replicas are available from a variety of sources from �40,000.


The Jaguar D-Type, like its predecessor the C-Type, was a factory-built race car. Although it shared the basic straight-6 XK engine design (uprated to 3.8 litres) with the C-Type, the majority of the car was radically different. Perhaps its most ground-breaking innovation was the introduction of a monocoque chassis, which not only introduced aircraft-style engineering to competition car design, but also an aeronautical understanding of aerodynamic efficiency. The D-Type was introduced purely for competition, but after Jaguar withdrew from racing, the company offered the remaining, unfinished chassis as the roadgoing Jaguar XKSS, by making changes to the racers: adding an extra seat, another door, a full-width windshield and primitive folding top, as concessions to practicality. However, on the evening of 12 February 1957, a fire broke out at the Browns Lane plant destroying nine of the twenty five cars that had already been completed or in semi-completion. Production is thought to have included 53 customer D-Types, 18 factory team cars, and 16 XKSS versions.


The first factory production D-Type (XKD-509) was sold at Bonhams auction for �2,201,500 in July 2008. The previous highest confirmed price was �1,706,000, set in 1999. US$2,000,000+ is accepted by most Jaguar enthusist as the general value of most D-Types.


The new chassis followed aircraft engineering practice, being manufactured according to monocoque principles. The central tub, within which the driver sat, was formed from sheets of aluminium alloy. To this was attached an aluminium tubing subframe carrying the bonnet, engine, front suspension, and steering assembly. The rear suspension and final drive were mounted directly onto the monocoque itself. Fuel was carried in deformable bags inside cells within the monocoque; another aircraft innovation.

The highly efficient, aerodynamic bodywork was largely the work of Malcolm Sayer, who joined Jaguar following a stint with the Bristol Aeroplane Company during World War II. Although he also worked on the C-Type, the limitations of the conventional separate-chassis did not allow full expression of his talent. For the D-Type, Sayer insisted on a minimal frontal area. To reduce its height, Haynes and former-Bentley engineer Walter Hassan developed dry sump lubrication for the XK engine. By also canting the engine over by 8� (resulting in the trademark, off-centre bonnet bulge) the reduction in area was achieved. Care was taken to reduce drag due to the underbody, resulting in an unusually high top speed; for the long Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans, a large vertical stabiliser was mounted behind the driver's head. For the 1955 season, factory cars were fitted with a revised, long-nose version of the bodywork, which increased top speed even further.

Mechanically, many features were shared with the outgoing C-Type. The ground-breaking disc brakes were retained, as was the XK engine. Apart from the new lubrication system, as development progressed during the D-Type's competition life the engine was also revised. 1955 saw the introduction of larger valves, and an asymmetrical cylinder head design within which to accommodate them. The Jaguar D-Type was the second racing car to have Dunlop disk brakes. The Citro�n DS, introduced a year later, was the first production car with disk brakes in Europe. The Crosley Hotshot was the first American automobile with disk brakes, in 1949.

Elements of the body shape and many construction details were used in the iconic Jaguar E-Type.

Competition History

The D-Type was produced by a team, led by Jaguar's race manager Lofty England, who always had at least one eye on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most prestigious endurance race of the time. As soon as it was introduced to the racing world in 1954, the D-Type was making its presence felt. For the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans the new car was expected to perform well, and perhaps even win. However, the cars were hampered by sand in their fuel. After the fault had been diagnosed and the sand removed, the car driven by Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt quickly got back on the pace, finishing less than one lap down on the winning Ferrari.

The 1955 car incorporated the new long-nose bodywork, and the engine had been uprated with larger valves. The team again proved strong at Le Mans, and with no sand to worry about they were a good match for the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR cars who were hotly tipped to win. Sadly the contest was curtailed by one of the worst accidents ever to occur in motorsport: after only three hours of the twenty-four had elapsed, Pierre Levegh's SLR clipped the tail of an Austin-Healey, sending the German machine into the hay-bale barrier. The Mercedes erupted into a flaming ball and sent burning wreckage and debris into the crowd. More than 80 people, including Levegh, were killed, and many more injured. Mercedes withdrew from the race almost immediately, although at the time Juan Manuel Fangio was leading in his SLR, but Jaguar opted to continue. Some blamed Mike Hawthorn for causing the crash as he swerved his D-Type in front of the Healey, setting off the tragic chain of events. Hawthorn and his co-driver Ivor Bueb went on to win the race.

With Mercedes deciding to withdraw from motorsport at the end of the 1955 season, the field was clear for Jaguar to clean up at the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans race. However, it proved to be a bad year for the works team; only one of their three cars made it to the finish, and then only in 6th place. Luckily for the D-Type's reputation, the small Edinburgh-based team Ecurie Ecosse were also running a D-Type, driven by Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson, and this car came through to win ahead of works teams from both Aston Martin and Scuderia Ferrari. Away from Le Mans, the Cunningham Team raced several Jaguar D-Types after being offered the automobiles by Jaguar's head, Sir William Lyons, if Briggs Cunningham would stop building his own automobiles. In May 1956, the Cunningham team's entries in the Cumberland circuit in Maryland included three of those D-Type Jaguars � characteristically painted in the pristine white-and-blue Cunningham Team colors � for drivers John Fitch, John Gordon Benett, and Sherwood Johnston.

Ironically, after Jaguar had withdrawn from motorsport at the end of the 1956 season, 1957 proved to be the D-Type's most successful year. In the 1957 Le Mans race D-Types took five of the top six placings; Ecurie Ecosse (with a large degree of support from Jaguar, and a 3.8L engine) again took the win, and second place. This was the high-water mark in the car's career however.

For 1958, the Le Mans rules were changed, limiting engine size to 3 liters for sports racing cars, thus ending the domination of Jaguar's D-Type with 3.8 liter XK engine. Jaguar developed a 3-liter version of the XK engine, which powered D-Types in the 1958, 1959 and 1960 Le Mans races. However, the 3-liter version of the XK engine was never reliable and by 1960 was not producing enough horsepower to be competitive.

With ever decreasing factory support and increasingly competitive cars from rival manufacturers, the D-Type's star waned. Although it continued to be one of the cars to beat in club- and national-level races it never again achieved a podium result at Le Mans, and by the early 1960s had disappeared into obsolescence.


The Jaguar XKSS was a road-going version of the Jaguar D-Type racing car.

After Jaguar withdrew from racing the company offered the remaining, unfinished chassis as the roadgoing Jaguar XKSS, by making changes to the racers: adding an extra seat, another door, a full-width windshield and folding top, as concessions to practicality. However, on the evening of 12 February 1957, a fire broke out at the Browns Lane plant destroying nine of the twenty-five cars that had already been completed or were semi-completed. Production is thought to have included 53 customer D-types, 18 factory team cars, and 16 XKSS versions.

Following Jaguar's withdrawal from competition at the end of the 1955 season, a number of completed and partially complete D-types remained unsold at the Browns Lane factory. In an attempt to recoup some of the investment made in building these unused chassis, and to exploit the lucrative American market for high-performance European sports cars, Sir William Lyons decided to convert a number to full road-going specification. Only minor changes were made to the basic D-type structure: the addition of a passenger side door, the removal of the large fin behind the driver's seat, and the removal of the divider between passenger and driver seats. In addition, changes were made for cosmetic, comfort and legal reasons: a full-width, chrome-surrounded windscreen was added; sidescreens were added to both driver and passenger doors; a rudimentary, folding, fabric roof was added for weather protection; chromed bumpers were added front and rear (a styling cue later aped on the E-type); XK140 rear light clusters mounted higher on the wings; and thin chrome strips added to the edge of the front light fairings. In total 16 XKSS variants were made, with most being sold in the USA, before the Browns Lane fire destroyed the remaining chassis.

The American actor Steve McQueen owned a Jaguar XKSS for personal use.

Low Drag Coup�

Shortly after the introduction of the E-Type, Jaguar management wanted to investigate the possibility of building a car more in the spirit of the D-Type racer from which elements of the E-Type's styling and design were derived. One car was built to test the concept designed as a coup� as its monocoque design could only be made rigid enough for racing by using the "stressed skin" principle. Previous Jaguar racers were built as open-top cars because they were based on ladder frame designs with independent chassis and bodies. Unlike the steel production E-Types the LDC used lightweight aluminium. Sayer retained the original tub with lighter outer panels riveted and glued to it. The front steel sub frame remained intact, the windshield was given a more pronounced slope and the rear hatch welded shut. Rear brake cooling ducts appeared next to the rear windows,and the interior trim was discarded, with only insulation around the transmission tunnel. With the exception of the windscreen, all cockpit glass was plexi. A tuned version of Jaguars 3.8 litre engine with a wide angle cylinder-head design tested on the D-Type racers was used. Air management became a major problem and, although much sexier looking and certainly faster than a production E-Type, the car was never competitive: the faster it went, the more it wanted to do what its design dictated: take off.

The one and only test bed car was completed in summer of 1962 but was sold a year later to Jaguar racing driver Dick Protheroe who raced it extensively and eventually sold it. Since then it has passed through the hands of several collectors on both sides of the Atlantic and now is believed to reside in the private collection of the current Viscount Cowdray.

Lightweight E-Type

In some ways, this was an evolution of the Low Drag Coup�. It made extensive use of aluminium alloy in the body panels and other components. However, with at least one exception, it remained an open-top car in the spirit of the D-Type to which this car is a more direct successor than the production E-Type which is more of a GT than a sports car. The cars used a tuned version of the production 3.8 litre Jaguar engine with 300 bhp (224 kW) output rather than the 265 bhp (198 kW) produced by the "ordinary" version. At least one car is known to have been fitted with fuel-injection.

The cars were entered in various races but, unlike the C-Type and D-Type racing cars, they did not win at Le Mans or Sebring.

Material courtesy wikipedia: C-Type, D-Type, XKSS, E-Type


You may leave a comment or question about this article:

2013-07-19 03:25:50 | Steve Burrows writes:

Hi, Im from Australia and a Jag-maniac.

Your article should include the other race cars that Jaguar was 'toying' with as per Peter Wilsons book who had first hand knowledge in the Experimental Dept (the "Green Door"), that is the XJ13 was planned as the next race car to replace the D-Type and never was to be a road car.

Also Peter Wilson confirmed in the closing pages of his book that Jaguar had secret plans for a F1 open wheeler that indicates a flat 8 engine. The plans were shelved and when Jaguar and Coventry Climax pulled out of racing both these cars were abandoned.

I have during 2013 constructed the Jaguar F1 Open wheeler per Peter Wilsons book and is believed to be the only prototype of the still born racer with all Jaguar parts of the period of 1966 to 1970.

If you want some pics to include in your article let me know. In Sept I plan to undertake a 2nd car with refinements from the prototype.

History may have been very different if Walter Hassan had decided to remain in the racing program.



2013-10-19 01:01:29 | Patrick writes:

I agree, Jagmania build Jaguar historic F1 race cars and one day these will become collectors cars and should be included equally with Cunningham, Walkinshaw and other original race constructors or Jaguar cars. Every generation produces Jaguar specialist & enthusiests who do outstanding work.

2013-12-18 00:44:00 | Burrows Jaguar Australia writes:

I am pleased to state that we have progressed with our historic F5000 V12 Jaguar Race car, which progress can be viewed at

Coventryracers is a great site to include all types of Jaguar pure bred racers which other build. The age of Owners race car construction is alive and well.

2019-06-23 01:11:14 | Jonte Bourne writes:


Can you tell me if you have any information on the C/d Light Alloy 1953 Jaguar Test car.This was a one off car ,that i have not heard anything about other than a few pictures.

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