Jaguar C-type – the price winning Len Mans car

Le Mans racing circuit was very popular and prestigious not only in France but also in Great Britain. Jaguar Cars decided to take part in the race with their model Jaguar XK120 to find out if there was a real chance to win the race. Jaguar XK120 could not successfully compete with its rivals as it needed to improve its aerodynamics and to reduce the weight of chassis. It was decided to form a team to design a car to win Le Mans. The head of the team became Phil Weaver and work was organized by Lofty England. Jaguar Cars hired Malcolm Savyer, an aerodynamics specialist, who had worked for Bristol during the World War 2. Savyer specialized in exact mathematical calculations of aerodynamic car designs and their behaviour in airflow. His designs were then tested in wind tunnels.

First Jaguar XK120C prototypes (later only C-type) were assembled within seven months. The model was equipped with 3.4-litre straight-six DOHC engine. It was tuned to 210 hp by using a new cylinder head with different camshafts. The model was later tuned to 240 hp due to Weber carburettors. 

The 1951 Le Mans race entered three dark green Jaguars C-type. All cars were registered as private teams so that Jaguar Cars could dissociate from them in case of failure. All Jaguar cars were on first three positions during first fifty laps. The first car marked XKC003 (driven by C. Biondetti/Johnson) had to leave the race because of bad oil pressure. Second car marked XKC002 had to leave the race after twelve hours because of cracked connecting rod which was caused by damaged suction tube (later replaced by a copper one) in oil pan. The car managed to reach a new record of 168.23 km/h in spite of these technical problems. The last car marked XKC003 (P. Walker/P. Whitehead) won the race with an average speed of 150 km/h and Jaguar Cars became globally famous.

Other victories followed soon afterwards and S. Moss and three other Jaguar XH120C cars won Irish Tourist Trophy in 1951.

A Scottish team named Ecurie Ecose was formed in 1952 in Edinburg. This team used four Jaguars XK120 and one Jaguar C-type. These cars were driven by Ian Stewart, Sir James Scot-Douglas, or J. Duncan Hamilton. These cars were in dark blue finish and they gained great reputation among other racing teams.

One of the greatest rivals of Jaguar cars were Mercedes-Benz 300SL models. In order to improve aerodynamics and driving it was decided to change the design of the front part of bonnet for the 1952 Le Mans race. The bonnet was elongated, so called “droop snoot”, and cooling system had to be moved and adjusted. This change proved to be wrong as their engines were vulnerable to overheating and they had to retire from the race.

An interesting improvement in 1952 Le Mans race was using disk brakes in Jaguar C-type for all four wheels. Jaguar Cars had collaborated with Dunlop to develop these brakes. Although Jaguars did not succeed in the 1952 Le Mans race, they won in Reims and it was the first victory of a car equipped with disc brakes in history.

Jaguar cars were also successful in other races. S. Moss won in Monaco, Silverstone and Goodwood. Phill Hill won with Jaguar C-type on the circuit in Elkhart Lake. Numerous racing Jaguars were owned by private owners such as Duncan Hamilton (XKC004), Tomy Wisdom, Juan Miguel Fangion and Phill Hill who used it as a sports car.

In 1953, a test driver Norman Dewis reached a maximum speed of 148 m/ph (240 km/h) on Jabbeke circuit.

The year 1953 was also successful for Jaguar. Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton won the LeMans race and reached the speed 105.85 m/ph. A Jaguar driven by Moss/Walker was second and Whitehead/Steward was fourth in the race.

In 1954 Jaguars C-type competed alongside with their successor Jaguar D-type.

Only about 54 models were made and most of them were destroyed. This is why Jaguar C-type is a sought-after rarity and its value is rising. A price of an original model can rise up to $2 000 000.

Jaguar C-type Le Mans
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