When the Jaguar D-Type emerged in May 1954, it was the most advanced car of its time. Its construction owned much to the aircraft industry experience of Malcolm Sayer and many others who were recruited to join him at Jaguar's Experimental Department. The D-Type pioneered a monocoque center section fabricated from aluminum alloy sheet with riveted fasteners, standard aircraft practices in the Fifties but the first use of monocoque techniques for a competition race car. Other techniques and equipment sourced from aircraft production included a leak-proof rubber bladder fuel tanks, which was important in a riveted sheet metal structure. The rear suspension was from the C-Type, with lateral torsion bar springing but now with parallel trailing arms. Mounted under the bonnet was the venerable XK unit in competition form fitted with dry sump lubrication that both improved reliability and reduced the engine's height. This allowed Sayer to further reduce the frontal area and smooth airflow across the body. The design was routinely tested in wind tunnels, reducing aerodynamic drag by 28-percent between the C- and D-Types and 20-percent between the ultimate 1953 C-Type and the long-nose D-Types of 1955.
At its first time at Le Mans, the D-Type nearly repeated its predecessor's feat of winning the event. The D-Type driven by Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton finished a bare 1 3/4 minutes behind the Ferrari 375 Plus driven by Gonzalez / Trintignant.
Jaguar scheduled 100 production D-Types to be created. This number was later reduced to 67 in August of 1955, and by the end of that year all the cars were basically completed and had been assigned chassis numbers. Many had been sold, though some were still seeking ownership. By early 1957, in an effort to boost sales, some unsold D-Types were used to create the XK SS.
This particular car is chassis number XKD 544 and powered by engine number E5018-10. It had been constructed in 1955 and was painted in the traditional British racing green. By autumn it was undergoing tests at the M.I.R.A. test track at Nuneaton with nearly all of the D-Types being tested by Les Bottril of the experimental department. XKD-544 was sent to Jaguar's main dealership of Brooklands of Bond Street in central London and put on display and would not return back to the factory in January of 1957. It was then updated with all the current modifications form the race program. By this point in history, it still had not found a buyer and was eventually reduced to spares. Jaguar completed this auction on August 12th of 1957.
Near the close of 1957, Harold Thompson, the head of the fiberglass department, was tasked with creating a fiberglass composite to replace the fabricated aluminum alloy sheet skin. After the body was completed, Norman Dewis, the factory development engineer, tested the car at M.I.R.A. on several occasions. The results of those test found that the construction, fiberglass materials, and resins were not strong enough to cope with the power of the car. The car remained as a factory test mule and for display and demonstration for several years. After the D-Type was replaced by the E2A, eventually becoming the E-Type, this car was lost to history. It re-appeared in early May of 1959, when Autosport Magazine carried an advertisement for the car on behalf of Philip Newby Cars Ltd. of Allesley Road, Coventry. The purchaser is not known, and later re-appeared up for sale in Dyserth, North Wales, advertised again in Autosport on August 14, 1964.
The car was purchased by Peter Butt, a London dealer specializing in XK Jaguars. Peter Butt began acquiring original D-Type parts for a restoration project. He sought out Harold Thompson, the original builder of the car, to learn more about the car. Thompson revealed that the car was the officially-sanctioned fiberglass D-Type whose body shell he had built in the factory experimental fiberglass shop, using a D-type chassis frame and other D-type parts.
By 1975, Peter Butt realized he was not going to complete the restoration of the car and sold it to John Pearson, who sold it to David Cottingham of DK engineering, who later sold it to Ronald Stern in 1978. The car was entrusted to Jaguar race specialist Lynx Engineering and commissioned them to make a workable car with an aluminum monocoque. The car was later sold to David Duffy who intended to prepare the car for historic racing.
The car was given a new D-Type aluminum alloy monocoque to exacting original specifications. New exterior panels were fabricated by RS Panels to original specifications. An appropriate (later) D-Type specification engine was built, displacing 3.8-liters and fitted with many other original D-Type parts. The restoration work was completed in 1981. Duffy raced the car for three years including a Mille Miglia retrospective before selling it in 1984 to David Vine. It was pass through several more owners throughout the years. It has been extensively raced in historic and vintage events.
Andrew Pisker of UK Oakfields purchased the car in 1995. It continued its racing career proving to be a competitive and highly reliable machine over a five year international historic racing career. Donaldson finished a close second in the prestigious Goodwood Revival Meeting. In 2001, the car was sold to Christian Trierenberg of Austria before it was purchased by its current owner in 2006.
This D-Type is one of only 42 production D-Types built and its historic identity is supported by the FIA papers it retains, making it eligible for important international racing events. The 3781cc engine has dual overhead camshafts, three Weber carburetors, and is rated at 265 horsepower. There is a four-speed fully synchronized manual transmission, a tube frame with monocoque center section, and four-wheel disc brakes.
In 2009, this D-Type XKD544 was offered for sale at the Houston Classic Auction in Seabrook, Texas presented by Worldwide Auctioneers. Bidding quickly exceeded one million dollars. From there it went to two million, and slowly climed to 2.25 million. This is where bidding would stop. As the gavel came down for the final time, the lot had not sold due to its reserve.