Automotive

Le Mans winning Jaguar D-Type set to topple auction records at Monterey

The D-Type set to go under the hammer on August 19 at Monterey
The D-Type set to go under the hammer on August 19 at Monterey
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The D-Type first hit the track in 1954
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The D-Type first hit the track in 1954
This particular D-Type was piloted to Le Mans glory in 1956
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This particular D-Type was piloted to Le Mans glory in 1956
The 250 hp inline six that powered the D-Type 
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The 250 hp inline six that powered the D-Type 
Regulations in 1956 mandated a full-width windscreen like the one fitted here 
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Regulations in 1956 mandated a full-width windscreen like the one fitted here 
The D-Type had a fin on the back for greater stability down the Mulsanne Straight 
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The D-Type had a fin on the back for greater stability down the Mulsanne Straight 
Jaguar is a storied marque, with an impressive on-track history
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Jaguar is a storied marque, with an impressive on-track history
The car is finished in the colors of Scottish privateer team Ecurie Ecolette
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The car is finished in the colors of Scottish privateer team Ecurie Ecolette
The D-Type was a clever monocoque, as opposed to its spaceframe predecessor
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The D-Type was a clever monocoque, as opposed to its spaceframe predecessor
There's no doubting the D Type's beauty, or its pedigree
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There's no doubting the D Type's beauty, or its pedigree
The D-Type has seen two owners since it raced 
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The D-Type has seen two owners since it raced 
D-Type production was halted when the company pulled out of motorsports in 1957
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D-Type production was halted when the company pulled out of motorsports in 1957
The D-Type was designed to hit high speed down the Mulsanne Straight 
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The D-Type was designed to hit high speed down the Mulsanne Straight 
The D-Type's engine came from the C-Type, but the chassis was brand new 
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The D-Type's engine came from the C-Type, but the chassis was brand new 
The D-Type's cabin is compact, and far from luxurious 
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The D-Type's cabin is compact, and far from luxurious 
The wooden wheel  is a delightful throwback to a bygone era
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The wooden wheel  is a delightful throwback to a bygone era
The D-Type beat out Aston Martins and Ferraris for 1956 Le Mans glory
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The D-Type beat out Aston Martins and Ferraris for 1956 Le Mans glory
We can imagine things got a bit hairy around the top end of that dial
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We can imagine things got a bit hairy around the top end of that dial
The D-Type is finished in blue and white to celebrate the team's Scottish heritage
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The D-Type is finished in blue and white to celebrate the team's Scottish heritage
Jaguar's current design cues are still drawing on the D-Type for inspiration 
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Jaguar's current design cues are still drawing on the D-Type for inspiration 
This is a particularly privileged view out of the D-Type
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This is a particularly privileged view out of the D-Type
The car is compact and squat, but full of purpose 
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The car is compact and squat, but full of purpose 
The D-Type's fin was recreated on the Project 7
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The D-Type's fin was recreated on the Project 7
The plates proving the D-Type's value - chassis number is crucial here
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The plates proving the D-Type's value - chassis number is crucial here
This is the first customer D-Type to make it from the factory
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This is the first customer D-Type to make it from the factory
Weber carburettors are a throwback to a bygone era in racing 
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Weber carburettors are a throwback to a bygone era in racing 
The motor capable of shooting the D-Type to Le Mans glory in 1956
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The motor capable of shooting the D-Type to Le Mans glory in 1956
The D-Type is a Jaguar legend, and is expected to sell for more than £20 million
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The D-Type is a Jaguar legend, and is expected to sell for more than £20 million
The D-Type followed on from the C-Type as Jaguar's flagship racer
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The D-Type followed on from the C-Type as Jaguar's flagship racer
The bonnet bulge and louvres are all there with a purpose, but they all look beautiful
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The bonnet bulge and louvres are all there with a purpose, but they all look beautiful
The team's Scottish heritage is proudly on display on the flanks 
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The team's Scottish heritage is proudly on display on the flanks 
The D-Type won Le Mans in 1955, after Mercedes pulled out of the race
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The D-Type won Le Mans in 1955, after Mercedes pulled out of the race
The D-Type set to go under the hammer on August 19 at Monterey
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The D-Type set to go under the hammer on August 19 at Monterey
This is considered one of the most valuable Jaguars in the brand's history
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This is considered one of the most valuable Jaguars in the brand's history
The D-Type was a hugely successful racer 
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The D-Type was a hugely successful racer 
The D-Type was fast and reliable around Le Mans
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The D-Type was fast and reliable around Le Mans
The D-Type beat out Aston Martins and Ferraris for top step on the Ferrari 
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The D-Type beat out Aston Martins and Ferraris for top step on the Ferrari 
The D-Type is a flashback to a bygone era in racing 
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The D-Type is a flashback to a bygone era in racing 
The car was raced sporadically after 1956
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The car was raced sporadically after 1956
This D-Type never reached the heights of 1956 again
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This D-Type never reached the heights of 1956 again
The D-Type hasn't seen much time on the road since 1999
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The D-Type hasn't seen much time on the road since 1999
The D-Type was restored at the hands of its first owner, and sold in 1999
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The D-Type was restored at the hands of its first owner, and sold in 1999

Over the past ten years, Jaguar has clawed its way out of an ugly slumber. The revival has come on the back of a set of sharply designed, sharp handling saloons which hark back to an era where the Big Cat was all about wrapping sledgehammer performance in a velvet glove. On the track, no car epitomizes Jaguar's past success better than the D-Type which won Le Mans in 1956. So what price do you put on one of Jaguar's most significant racers? We'll know when it goes under the hammer at Monterey on August 19.

Goodbye C-Type, hello D-Type

The D-Type was fast and reliable around Le Mans
The D-Type was fast and reliable around Le Mans

Before it was usurped in 1954, the C-Type sat at the pinnacle of Jaguar's sports car pyramid. It won Le Mans in 1951 - its first attempt, no less - and managed first, second and fourth in 1953. The winning car from that year was the first to average more than 100 mph (161 km/h) over the course of the race, a feat achieved with Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton behind the wheel.

In spite of this success, the top brass at Jaguar decided the car's steel-tube underpinnings had reached their ceiling. A replacement was commissioned, and the D-Type was born.

The D-Type was a more sophisticated proposition than its predecessor from the outset. Gone was the steel-tube spaceframe, and in its place was a high-tech monocoque for greater torsional rigidity. Rather than using a conventional fuel tank, the car was fitted with a deformable bag system derived from aviation, and the fin behind the driver's seat was put in place to improve stability down the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans.

Early D-days

The plates proving the D-Type's value - chassis number is crucial here
The plates proving the D-Type's value - chassis number is crucial here

Hampered by fuelling problems in 1954, time in the pits cost the D-Type a shot at victory. Instead the Jaguar came in second, hot on the heels of the leading Ferrari 375 Plus and well clear of the chasing pack.

Come 1955, Le Mans played host to one of the worst accidents in the history of motorsports when the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL driven by Pierre Levegh flew into the crowd, killing more than 80 spectators. Although it hung in the race through the night, Mercedes pulled both of its remaining competitors the following morning. With the first-placed 300 SL no longer in the running, Mike Hawthorn's D-Type jumped into the lead and took out the win.

D-Type XKD 501: privateer, winner

This particular D-Type was piloted to Le Mans glory in 1956
This particular D-Type was piloted to Le Mans glory in 1956

Up for auction this month is XKD 501, the first D-Type to be delivered to a private racing team. It was delivered to its Scottish owners, Ecurie Ecosse, on May 5, 1955, before Jimmy Stewart crashed it during practice. The car was duly repaired, returned to the team and crashed again.

Because of Jimmy Stewart's two testing prangs, XKD 501 didn't line up on the Le Mans grid in 1955. Instead, it would be forced to wait until 1956.

In 1956, the Ecurie Ecosse D-Type was up against some seriously stiff competition. On top of the factory-backed Jags, the Scottish D-Type would have to beat entries from Aston Martin and Ferrari. Early in the race, two of the factory-backed Jags were wiped from contention in an accident, and the third struggled with fueling issues.

The door was open for Ninian Sanderson and Ron Flockhart in XKD 501, which crossed the line ahead of Stirling Moss and Peter Collins in an Aston Martin DB3S.

Last of its kind

The car is compact and squat, but full of purpose 
The car is compact and squat, but full of purpose 

After 1956, the role of XKD 501 changed dramatically. Jaguar withdrew from racing in 1957, selling its last D-Type Longnoses off to privateers in the process. Ecurie Ecosse scooped a few up, which meant XKD 501 wasn't relied upon as heavily. Although it was occasionally wheeled out, it never reached the lofty heights of 1956 again.

In 1970, the car was sold to Sir Michael Naim, who promptly had it restored to a close replica of its 1956 specification. Jaguar took care of the engine head and block, and the suspension was restored using genuine components. The car was driven at revivals and demonstrations up until 1999, when it was sold to an American collector.

According to RM Sothebys, XKD 501 is the only C-Type or D-Type in existence which remains true to "winning form." As you might imagine, that makes it (very) valuable. Estimates suggest it will sell for between £20 million and £25 million (US$26,103,800 and $32,629,750), which would make it the most expensive British car to sell at auction.

The D-Type goes under the hammer on August 19 in Monterey.

Source: RM Sothebys

Over the past ten years, Jaguar has clawed its way out of an ugly slumber. The revival has come on the back of a set of sharply designed, sharp handling saloons which hark back to an era where the Big Cat was all about wrapping sledgehammer performance in a velvet glove. On the track, no car epitomizes Jaguar's past success better than the D-Type which won Le Mans in 1956. So what price do you put on one of Jaguar's most significant racers? We'll know when it goes under the hammer at Monterey on August 19.

Goodbye C-Type, hello D-Type

The D-Type was fast and reliable around Le Mans
The D-Type was fast and reliable around Le Mans

Before it was usurped in 1954, the C-Type sat at the pinnacle of Jaguar's sports car pyramid. It won Le Mans in 1951 - its first attempt, no less - and managed first, second and fourth in 1953. The winning car from that year was the first to average more than 100 mph (161 km/h) over the course of the race, a feat achieved with Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton behind the wheel.

In spite of this success, the top brass at Jaguar decided the car's steel-tube underpinnings had reached their ceiling. A replacement was commissioned, and the D-Type was born.

The D-Type was a more sophisticated proposition than its predecessor from the outset. Gone was the steel-tube spaceframe, and in its place was a high-tech monocoque for greater torsional rigidity. Rather than using a conventional fuel tank, the car was fitted with a deformable bag system derived from aviation, and the fin behind the driver's seat was put in place to improve stability down the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans.

Early D-days

The plates proving the D-Type's value - chassis number is crucial here
The plates proving the D-Type's value - chassis number is crucial here

Hampered by fuelling problems in 1954, time in the pits cost the D-Type a shot at victory. Instead the Jaguar came in second, hot on the heels of the leading Ferrari 375 Plus and well clear of the chasing pack.

Come 1955, Le Mans played host to one of the worst accidents in the history of motorsports when the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL driven by Pierre Levegh flew into the crowd, killing more than 80 spectators. Although it hung in the race through the night, Mercedes pulled both of its remaining competitors the following morning. With the first-placed 300 SL no longer in the running, Mike Hawthorn's D-Type jumped into the lead and took out the win.

D-Type XKD 501: privateer, winner

This particular D-Type was piloted to Le Mans glory in 1956
This particular D-Type was piloted to Le Mans glory in 1956

Up for auction this month is XKD 501, the first D-Type to be delivered to a private racing team. It was delivered to its Scottish owners, Ecurie Ecosse, on May 5, 1955, before Jimmy Stewart crashed it during practice. The car was duly repaired, returned to the team and crashed again.

Because of Jimmy Stewart's two testing prangs, XKD 501 didn't line up on the Le Mans grid in 1955. Instead, it would be forced to wait until 1956.

In 1956, the Ecurie Ecosse D-Type was up against some seriously stiff competition. On top of the factory-backed Jags, the Scottish D-Type would have to beat entries from Aston Martin and Ferrari. Early in the race, two of the factory-backed Jags were wiped from contention in an accident, and the third struggled with fueling issues.

The door was open for Ninian Sanderson and Ron Flockhart in XKD 501, which crossed the line ahead of Stirling Moss and Peter Collins in an Aston Martin DB3S.

Last of its kind

The car is compact and squat, but full of purpose 
The car is compact and squat, but full of purpose 

After 1956, the role of XKD 501 changed dramatically. Jaguar withdrew from racing in 1957, selling its last D-Type Longnoses off to privateers in the process. Ecurie Ecosse scooped a few up, which meant XKD 501 wasn't relied upon as heavily. Although it was occasionally wheeled out, it never reached the lofty heights of 1956 again.

In 1970, the car was sold to Sir Michael Naim, who promptly had it restored to a close replica of its 1956 specification. Jaguar took care of the engine head and block, and the suspension was restored using genuine components. The car was driven at revivals and demonstrations up until 1999, when it was sold to an American collector.

According to RM Sothebys, XKD 501 is the only C-Type or D-Type in existence which remains true to "winning form." As you might imagine, that makes it (very) valuable. Estimates suggest it will sell for between £20 million and £25 million (US$26,103,800 and $32,629,750), which would make it the most expensive British car to sell at auction.

The D-Type goes under the hammer on August 19 in Monterey.

Source: RM Sothebys

1 comment
vblancer
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but how can anyone look at that car and not consider it one of the most beautiful automobiles ever built? Never mind that it raced to a win in one of the 2 or 3 most important races in the world? How can ANY "beholder" look upon this car and not consider it beautiful from it's skin to the engineering that is still used today?