Market Finds: This 24 Hours Of Le Mans-Winning Jaguar D-Type Is In Need Of A New Home

This 24 Hours Of Le Mans-Winning Jaguar D-Type Is In Need Of A New Home

Andrew Golseth By Andrew Golseth
July 13, 2016
1 comments

Photography courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Le Mans. Arguably the most grueling motorsport endurance in history, the 24 hour contest is ruthlessly unforgiving to the men and machines that rise to the challenge. Only the world’s best automobile manufacturers and wheelmen enter and even fewer finish. Since its inception in 1923, Circuit de la Sarthe has claimed the lives of nearly two dozen drivers, and many more spectators.

I’m not one for “participation awards,” but merely finishing Le Mans deserves praise and the achievement of overall winner? Well, that’s something entirely elevated… and something this 1955 Jaguar XKD, aka “D-Type” accomplished.

After steamrolling three out of the top four finishes at the 1953 24 Heures du Mans, Jaguar went back to the drawing board in hopes to repeat its success. Having raced the tube-frame XK120 chassis-based C-Types for several seasons an all-new monocoque chassis successor was designed. The tried-and-trued 3.4-liter straight-six was carried over from the XK, but fitted with triple Weber carburetors, increasing output to 245 horsepower.

Thanks to a new dry-sump lubrication system, the engine’s height was greatly reduced, allowing for a lower mounting point amidships the new single shell hull. With a stout powertrain housed in a slippery silhouette, the D-Type hit 169 mph down the (then uninterrupted) Mulsanne Straight. This new cat on the block wasn’t messing around.

Unfortunately, the D-Type’s first outing at the 1954 Le Mans proved problematic thanks to a misfire issue all three Jaguar team cars fell symptom to. Hastily, the Scottish racing group Ecurie Ecosse was able to resolve the firing issue and enter the race with drivers Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt. Despite their efforts, the larger displacement Ferrari 375 competitor took gold, leaving Ecurie Ecosse with Silver.

In order to comply with FIA race entrant requirements, Jaguar was forced to produce a small batch of homologation XKD for the 1955 season. Chassis XKD 501 (the sale car) was the first team-series production D-Type—one of just 54 constructed in total. The car was added to the Ecurie Ecosse lineup on May 5, 1955, and promptly given the team’s blue and white livery.

Jimmy Stewart (Jackie’s younger brother) crashed this D-Type twice during practice sessions. The damages incurred required the car to be shipped back to the factory for repairs, benching the car for the season in favor of three longnose variant D-Types—one of which went on to win the ’55 Le Mans despite one of the worst motorsport crashes in history.

Spared from the ’55 disaster’s bad omen, this voluptuous Jag went on to have a successful campaign at Charterhall, Snetterton, Crimond, Aintree, Goodwood, and more. By 1956, the car was equipped with a full wrap-around windscreen and the engine from chassis XKD 561. After a steady ’56 season, the Ecurie Ecosse team made their way to the Le Mans—at last, chassis 501 would get its chance at the 24 hours.

Many of the competitors, including three D-Type longnose factory cars, were running fuel injection for better mpgs, an adjustment made for new petrol restrictions. Despite this slight disadvantage, the Ecurie Ecosse’s carbureted car paced well, and by hour 23, just 14 entrants remained on circuit. With an incredible seven lap lead, this little blue roadster dominated the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans with more than 2,500 miles covered with an average cruising speed of 104.47 mph!

The car has been tediously restored to its appropriate Ecurie Ecosse paint scheme, and is said to be turnkey ready for classic speed exhibitions. Offered to the public for the first time in 16 years, this Jag has had just two caretakers since it’s ’56 LM victory. Here’s your chance to own one of Jaguar’s greatest pieces of motorsport history—where should it race next?

History
– Legendary overall winner of the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans, raced by Ecurie Ecosse
– Just two private owners since Ecurie Ecosse; in the same private collection for over 16 years
– The only Le Mans-winning C- or D-Type that has survived intact and remained essentially original to its winning form
– The first team-series production D-Type and the first to be designated by its chassis as a D-Type
– Unequivocally one of the most important and valuable Jaguars in the world

Specifications

~250 bhp, 3,441 cc DOHC inline six-cylinder engine with three Weber 45 DCO carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension, live rear axle trailing links and transverse torsion bar, and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 90 in.

Vehicle information

Chassis no.: XKD 501
Engine No.: E 2036-9

Valuation

Auction house: RM Sotheby’s
Estimate: (Upon Request)
Price realized: Auction on August 19/20

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