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1953 Jaguar C-Type Sports Racing Car
Auction : Vintage Motor Cars in Arizona (2006)
Auction House: RM Sothebys
Sale Value: $1,512,500.00 *
Estimated Value: $1,450,000.00 - 1,750,000.00
Chassis Number: XKC-014


Like many other legendary marques Jaguar had humble beginnings. Founder William Lyons always recognized that the successful sale of an automobile depended upon its appearance - no matter how well engineered, an ugly car would languish in the showroom. At first, his Swallow Coach Building Company provided attractive aftermarket bodies for the modest 1920's Austin Motor Car, offering the '£1000 look' for about £275. His own later 'SS' cars of the early 1930's, using various chassis, transmissions and engines continued this emphasis upon aesthetics. By 1936 the name of Jaguar was conceived and with it the first of William Lyon's three masterpieces – the SS Jaguar range, which truly established the marque as an important maker of its own motor cars prior to the war. The war years saw production of parts for Spitfire, Mosquito and Sterling military aircraft.

By October 1945, postwar production resumed under the name Jaguar Cars Ltd. although improvements to the prewar models were purely mechanical. The first truly new postwar Jaguar arrived in 1948 as saloon and drophead models as well as Lyons' second masterpiece – the XK 120 Series. Perhaps more important than its stunning appearance was the new double overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine, variations of which were destined to power Jaguar motor cars for nearly four decades. After a roadster was clocked at 132.6 mph at Jabbeke, Belgium, the competition potential of the XK 120 was fully exploited by both factory and private entrants. Three XK 120 roadsters contested LeMans in 1950, one of them running as high as second place on distance before mechanical problems intervened. If production Jaguars could do this well, what about a purpose built racing model, wondered William Lyons.

Thus, three of his new and aerodynamic C-Types were entered for the 1951 LeMans classic. The number 20 car, driven by two Peters, Walker and Whitehead, won the 24 Hour race outright after the Moss/Fairman C-Type had to retire from the lead, but not before setting a new lap record of 105.33 mph.


Design work on the competition XK 120 began in the fall of 1950. At first designated the XK 120C (for 'competition'), Jaguar's new car was designed, built and developed in total secrecy even as further record runs and competition entries were being undertaken by the factory in stock bodied XK 120s. The chassis was completely new. Based upon cross-braced channel section main elements, extensively drilled for lightness, it was an intricately triangulated tubing assembly that relied upon bulkheads for additional torsional strength. The cowl panels also contributed rigidity to the chassis structure. The frame itself ended in front of the rear axle, with only a lightweight structure carried from the back to support the body, spare tire and fuel tank. The suspension was the standard XK 120 independent at the front with torsion bars and larger tubular shocks, although the A-arms were slightly longer and an anti-roll bar was added. Rack and pinion steering provided better response and control than the standard XK 120 recirculating ball steering box. At the rear Jaguar got innovative, creating a system that suspended the live rear axle from trailing arms with a single transverse torsion bar fixed at the car's centerline. An upper triangular link at the right side located the axle transversely and took torque reaction.

The XK 120C's engine benefited from high lift camshafts that took advantage of a new cylinder head developed and ported under Harry Westlake's guidance. With the fabricated 3-2-1 exhaust system installed, the XK 120C engines all delivered over 200bhp. The brakes also received attention, with self-adjusting two-leading shoe front brakes that promised more longevity during endurance races. Center-lock wire wheels were used for faster tire changes and better brake cooling. The body resembled the XK 120 but was extensively wind tunnel tested by a new addition to the Jaguar team, Malcolm Sayer, a recruit from the aircraft industry at Bristol. The tall, triangulated frame sides made doors an afterthought and eventually only one was provided, on the driver's side, to satisfy technical inspectors. Sayer's design incorporated another innovative feature: the whole nose of the XK 120C's body was a single piece which hinged at the front to give the mechanics uninhibited access to the complete engine compartment. There was no mistaking the XK 120 heritage of the XK 120C, but it was also clearly a competition car, with no concession to weather protection.

The works cars were tested at the Motor Industry Research Association test track and once at Silverstone, but arrived at LeMans as a complete surprise. There they lapped at times competitive with the big 4.5 liter Talbots – Grand Prix cars with fenders – and settled in for the race under Lofty England's watchful gaze and careful planning. The three cars brought to LeMans were XKC 001, driven by Leslie Johnson and Clemente Biondetti, XKC 002 driven by Stiring Moss and Jack Fairman and XKC 003 driven by Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead. At four hours they led the race on the basis of consistently quick times and Lofty England's carefully choreographed pit stops, with Moss/Fairman in the lead, Walker/Whitehead in second and Johnson/Biondetti in third. Suddenly, at 50 laps, Biondetti in XKC 001 came into the pits with no oil pressure, a problem that could not be fixed – as the regulations required – with the tools carried in the car. At midnight, eight hours into the race, Moss in XKC 002 also lost oil pressure, throwing a connecting rod at Arnage. By now the Jaguar mechanics had identified the problem on the Johnson/Biondetti car in the pits, a copper oil line in the sump had fractured. Walker and Whitehead in XKC 003 were alerted and continued, trying to avoid engine revs that exacerbated vibration periods. For 16 more hours they pressed on, always alert for the fatal failure as the Talbots fell behind. At 4:00pm on Sunday Whitehead crossed the finish line, bringing the XKC 120C home first in the most demanding motor race of the year and in the car's first competitive appearance, in the process setting a new distance record of 2,243.9 miles and leading the second place Talbot by nine laps.

Cooling problems, due to new bodywork, which looked more aerodynamic but did not provide sufficient airflow at speed, sidelined all three of the 1952 LeMans entries. Back to normal coachwork for LeMans 1953 where the C-Type Jaguars dominated, finishing 1st, 2nd, 4th and 9th overall and beating the favored Alfa Romeo and Ferrari teams.

Just as William Lyons had planned, the international racing success of the XK-C or simply the C-Type as it became known, provided massive publicity, which in turn inspired road car sales in numbers hitherto unimagined by his small company. Only 53 C-Types were built, of which fully 42 percent were exported to North America, where its simplicity of construction, ease of maintenance and user-friendly speed made it popular with well-to-do gentleman drivers taking part in newly popular sport of amateur road racing. American drivers like John Fitch, who won the C-Type's first trans-Atlantic victory in the 1952 Seneca Cup at Watkins Glen, New York as well as Phil Hill, Masten Gregory and Sherwood Johnston notched up many stateside victories in the 1952 to 1954 period.


The history of the C-Type that RM Auctions is privileged to present at Vintage Motor Cars in Arizona is most interesting. Chassis number 014 remains as one of the most original examples of its kind in that it retains its factory chassis, body and engine and most other important parts. Although it was certainly raced, this example seems to have escaped the ravages of crashes, blow-ups and other maladies that this type of car is often exposed to.

XKC 014 was sold by Max Hoffman, the New York City importer, to Commander John Rutherford, a great sporting car enthusiast. Rutherford wasted no time demonstrating his new Jaguar's speed potential by being certified by NASCAR as having been timed at 134.07 mph on the beach at the Daytona Speedweeks early in 1953, thereby joining the exclusive 'Century Club.' Commander Rutherford's further speeding activities are not known, but in 1960 David S. Burtner purchased it from him.

Burtner, a Dow Chemical Company engineer, living in Buffalo, New York, raced the car in SCCA regional racing for a few years. Sometime later, he sold the Jaguar to Ralph Steiger, an Ohio schoolteacher for the princely sum of $2,000. (Ah, the good old days!) In the early/mid 1960's, either Burtner or Steiger, for reasons not known, fitted a Valiant slant-six engine, but fortunately, retained the original Jaguar engine, gearbox and other parts that accompanied the car to its next owner. (In any case, the Valiant slant-six was a fairly practical retrofit, being very similar in size, weight and horsepower to the original Jaguar unit and likely not requiring major chassis modifications.)

The next owner of record, Berkhard Von Schenk of Germany was really the true savior of this C-Type's provenance, for he commissioned British restorer Peter Jaye to carry out a full and proper restoration to original condition, of course utilizing the original engine. For those who do not know of Peter Jaye, it should be emphasized that he is likely the world's foremost restorer of C-Type Jaguars and that the result of his labor is a product that is indistinguishable from that produced by the factory in 1952. The coachwork restoration was subcontracted to Bob Smith's RS Panels firm, another standard bearer for perfection of the UK trade. In a recent interview, Peter Jaye described XKC 014 as he received it, 'a nice original car with its matching engine and having most of its factory parts including the coachwork and requiring only minor chassis repairs, mostly in order to refit the original engine and gearbox.'

Berkhard Von Schenk kept the car for quite some time, eventually selling it to racing school and Lime Rock racing circuit owner, Skip Barber, through Jaguar expert and Classic Jaguar Association Registrar, Terry Larson, in 2002.

Skip Barber maintains a 20 car collection of esoteric and beautiful cars in Sharon, Connecticut and the C-Type quickly assumed the status of 'favorite driver.' Although Mr. Barber did not race XKC 014, it is road registered and was often driven over the twisty 'sports car roads' that connect his home with an office in Lakeville, Connecticut.

Skip Barber will be attending the Arizona auction and is available to speak with potential buyers of this wonderfully original Jaguar.

In a recent interview he explained his enthusiasm for C-Types and this car in particular, 'These cars won LeMans twice and countless other major and minor races and yet it is as comfortable and practical a road sports car as one could wish for! I love the dual-purpose nature of such cars, a state of affairs that is totally bypassed by modern racing machines. The factory would often drive their cars on public roads to LeMans, race there and drive them back to England after the race. Great, just great, I think, and what a wonderful era this was!'

Source : RM Sothebys
* includes buyer's premium

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