The Jaguar C-type celebrates its 70th anniversary and tells amazing stories

The Jaguar managed to shine many more times at Le Mans, but in the summer of 1951, all the teams were enchanted by a brand new model with an obviously much lighter construction than ever before. Jaguar built three factory cars on the starting grid under the inconspicuously named XK-120 C. The letter “C” meant “competition”. The car was light, even so light that it weighed 450 kilograms less than a standard XK 120 sports roadster – specifically only 965 kilograms – while the in-line six-cylinder engine with a capacity of 3.4 liters reached up to 205 horsepower.

Photo: Jaguar

The legendary XK Series engine has a pair of camshafts and six cylinders in a row; this concept is basically unbeatable

With such a portion of power and gears ready to subdue the long-haul Mulsanne straight line, the aerodynamic XK-120C was able to take off at speeds in excess of 250 km / h. It’s as fast today as it was seventy years ago! After all, Jaguar already had several production car speed records at the time, although the most famous with test driver Norman Dewis on the expressway near Jabbeke, Belgium, is yet to be humiliated.

The Jaguar was small at the time, a family business led by aeronautical engineers, enthusiasts and a great visionary named William Lyons. One of the stories says that when he was taking home a test car home to Leamington Spa, the local boys always tried to drop each other over the wall of Lyons’ mansion on Saturday mornings and watched the master at work. Lots of ideas used in both the design and functional solutions of racing cars came into being directly in Lyons’ head. He had no renowned Italian designers on hand, but aeronautical engineer Malcolm Sayer, a young test driver, and the omniscient Norman Dewise and a few others. That was all.

Photo: Jaguar / Jaguar Heritage Trust

The period film captures the famous trio of Jaguars C-type at the start in Le Mans in 1953, Stirling Moss started with the number 17 and the famous winning pair Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton has the number 18

Victory in Le Mans

All three cars aroused great interest in Le Mans, and another private crew with the XK120 car took part. The head of the Lofty England racing team was to be proud of something. Although two cars did not finish the race due to an engine failure in one and a faulty oil pump in the other, Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead drove their car to the finish line, even with a record nine-lane lead on Talbot Lago T26 by French crew Pierre Meyrat, Guy Maitresse. The Jaguar XK120 private crew finished 11th. This year, the Mercedes W196 300 SL, which will plague the Jaguary factory in the following years, has not yet participated.

Photo: Jaguar

The Jaguar C-Type has had disc brakes since the 1952 season, an experiment that they have tirelessly tested in the Jaguar, but it has paid off.

The disc brakes were ahead of Mercedes

In the early spring of 1952, Jaguar tuned its C-type further, and the first task was to complete the fully functional form of the disc brakes, which evolved from the originally Dunlop aircraft disc brakes. The story of test driver Norman Dewis tirelessly circling former military airports, knocking down straw bales in multiple attempts to repeatedly stop abruptly from high speeds, I brought to this site some time ago. It was in connection with an article dedicated to the memory of Norman Dewise, the most famous honorary ambassador of the Jaguar brand.

Photo: Jaguar / Jaguar Heritage Trust

Jaguar C-type on the track of the legendary race in Le Mans

In the spring of 1952, he finally sat in a C-type with Stirling Moss and embarked on a frantic pilgrimage across Italy in the Mille Miglia race. They arrived at the start of northern Italy in Brescia on their own axis from Britain and returned home in the same way. Well, not in that race car that unfortunately broke down on the track. In any case, they had a chance to fight for podium positions with Ferrari and Mercedes, which at the time had the legendary Rudolf Caracioll among its pilots. Moss then sent a short and concise telegram to Coventry after the race: “We need to squeeze even more speed out of the car into the Le Mans race.”

Duncan Hamilton and the most amazing racing story in history

Unfortunately, the 1952 season did not turn out as planned, after modifications and lightening, the cars constantly had problems with engine cooling. Unfortunately, he did not win the coveted laurels on the Le Mans C-type, the cars did not finish the race, but the British finally chose luck in the following season. Brit Duncan Hamilton indelibly entered the history of circuit racing that year with a story unparalleled. We have already mentioned it in the Garage in the past. I definitely recommend reading the whole story, because he won’t get bored, although it’s hard to know if he wasn’t partially made up.

At that time, only two Jaguar cars could be admitted to the race. The stewards disqualified the third crew with the number 18. Duncan Hamilton – Tony Rolt, due to the fact that two cars with the same start number appeared on the track during training. This was a spare car driven by Norman Dewis. During the night before the race, however, Lofty England managed to explain the whole matter. The stewards understood that Jaguar could not gain any advantage over the other teams due to his mistake, and she evaluated the two cars in training at one time as a mere mistake against the rules. They paid a fine and were re-admitted to the race. But in the meantime, the crew went to drink their grief at a bar in the city, and when the head of Lofty England found them, it was quite clear that neither Hamilton nor Rolt could start in such a state in the afternoon.

Photo: Jaguar / Jaguar Heritage Trust

Jaguar C-type crew Tony Rolt / Duncan Hamilton crosses the finish line after 24 hours in Le Mans 1953

But history has shown something else. The Jaguar team won. Hamilton was doped first with black coffee and then, according to the legendary story, he preferred to have a shot of brandy during the pit stop so that his hands would not shake. In the end, Hamilton finished the race with a broken nose, because a bird flew into his cockpit at high speed. Racing was extremely dangerous at the time, but from today’s point of view it was fascinating, in short, a sport only for the really brave.

The original has an astronomical price tag, but you can enjoy a replica

It is probably difficult to drive a Jaguar C-type. One of the originals was last offered at the Bonhams auction last year for 160 million crowns. The eight newly built specimens that you see in the gallery above will certainly also have an astronomical price tag. Anyway, they are already sold into one. However, just as in the case of the later D-type model or the even rarer road version of the XKSS, the C-type can also be purchased as a replica based on technology using a combination of parts of the old Jaguars E-type and XJ. There, the price is rather in units of millions of crowns, depending on the quality of processing and technology used.

You can buy one of the most successful replicas of the C model from Proteus, and the rebirth of the legendary XKSS was created by Lynx. Some time ago, this car was even entrusted to me for a shorter drive. I wish everyone to experience the feeling of holding the big steering wheel right in front of your chest, nothing protects you from the external elements of the weather, the gearbox is drowning on your feet and the baritone of an amazing in-line six-cylinder with three carburetors is heard from the front. So it’s great that Jaguar doesn’t forget its history, it constantly invests in the Heritage department, where it handles the amazing anniversaries and important milestones of the brand, those amazing models that wrote important automotive history.


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