Designer: Malcolm Sayer
Chassis Num: XKD 501
Engine Num: E 2036-9
Sold for $21,780,000 at 2016 RM Sothebys
In 1953, the Jaguar C-Type would win at LeMans with Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt sharing driving duties, followed by a parade of C-Types that would take three of the top four finishes. The C-Type had been one of the first cars to use a steel-tube space-frame setup. By as the 1950s continued on, it became evident that the limits of the XK 120-based car had been reached.
Jaguar's successor to the C-Type would be the D-Type. The 3.4-liter XK engine was retained, but fitted with triple Weber carburetors and a dry-sump lubrication system.
The D-Type was perhaps the first to use unitary monocoque construction, with the body and frame combining for structural integrity. The engine was mounted low within the body, which helped reduce the overall profile and coefficient of drag. The design proved to be very successful, as one of the new cars achieved 169 mph on the Mulsanne Straight at the LeMans trials in April of 1954.
At the 1954 24 Hours of LeMans, Jaguar debuted their D-Type, with Rolt and Hamilton tasked with repeating their victory of the prior year. Unfortunately, all three of the Jaguar's team entries were plagued with firing problems. Two of the D-Types were forced to retire prematurely before the #14 car of Hamilton and Rolt was adequately sorted to contend. At the end of the 24 hours, a Ferrari 375 Plus drive3n by Froilan Gonzales and Maurice Trintignant had a narrow lead over the D-Type, beating the Jaguar in one of the closest Le Mans finishes ever.
Jaguar would construct six team cars for the 1954 season, with chassis numbers in the range of XKD 401 through XKD 406. The following year, they began selling team and customer cars with 3.4-liter carbureted engines, gradually moving towards the minimum necessary to satisfy FIA homologation requirements. In total, fifty-four cars were eventually built, with chassis numbers starting at XKD 501 (the first privateer team car).
The 1956 edition of 24 Hours of Le Mans had 49 cars on the starting grid with just 14 of those finishing the grueling race. One man lost his life.
On the starting grid was the Jaguar D-Type with chassis number XKD 501, clothed in traditional Scottish blue with a white cross, the colors of the Ecurie Ecosse team. Driving duties were assigned to Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson.
XKD 501 had been dispatched on May 5th of 1955. The Ecurie Ecosse team was founded in 1951 and had been a principal factory customer. They had successful raced C-Types through the early 1950s, and eventually purchased several D-Types. Their signature colors and liveries included the St. Andrews Cross emblazoned on the front fenders.
XKD 501 was initially given to driver Jimmy Stewart, brother of Jackie Stewart. Unfortunately, Jimmy crashed the D-Type twice during practice in May of 1955. On each occasion, the car was returned to the factory for repairs. Due to the repairs, it was sidelined during June of 1955, when Jaguar entered three longnose D-Types at LeMans.
Due to a very tragic accident which claimed the lives of many spectators, Mercedes-Benz withdrew from the race, even though they were holding 1st and 3rd place. The D-Type would win the race, a full five laps ahead of the 2nd place finisher, the Aston Martin DB3S.
XKD 501 raced at the Leinster Trophy on July 9th, where Desmond Titterington drove it to 9th overall, and 1st in class. Ecosse driver Ninian Sanderson assumed driving duties at the British GP on July 17th, claiming 6th place. In early August, Titterington finished 1st and 2nd at the races at Charterhall, followed by two 1st place finishes at Snetterton a week later. Sanderson rotated in for a 1st and 2nd place at Crimond, and the two drivers teamed up for a 2nd place finish during the nine-hour race at Goodwood on August 20th. Titterington placed 2nd at Aintree on September 3rd, XKD 501's last race of the 1955 season.
As racing evolved, so did safety and laws. For the 1956 season, rule changes mandated the use of full-width windscreens. XKD 501 was modified to comply with the rules, and later received the engine from XKD 561 (engine number 2036-9).
XKD 501 finished 3rd at Aintree and Charterhall, and a 1st and 2nd place at Goodwood on May 21st, while piloted by Ron Flockhart. For the 12 Hours of Reims on June 30th, Flockhart and Sanderson teamed up and finished 3rth, behind the three factory D-Types at 1-2-3.
The 24 Hours of LeMans was delayed from its usual June date due to modifications to the circuit to make it safer for drivers and spectators. The race commenced in late July, and Jaguar again fielded three D-Types with longnose bodywork. Despite the latest rule restrictions, the cars were fitted with fuel injection. Two carbureted 1955 privateer D-Types were also entered, fielded by the Garage Francorchamps and Ecurie Ecosse (XKD 501).
Hawthorn in the factory D-Type took an early lead. An early accident eliminated two possible winners. After four hours, Hawthorn was forced to come in due to a misfire. By the race's final lap, just 14 cars remained. The D-Type had a seven-lap lead on Trintignant and Olivier Gendebien's Ferrari 625 LM spider, and a narrow lead over Stirling Moss in the Aston. In 4th place was Swaters' D-Type, and this would be the order in which the cars finished. The Jaguar D-Type, chassis number XKD 501, claimed victory at the 24 Hours of Lemans. It had completed 2,507.19 miles at an average speed of 104.47 mph, and a maximum speed of 156.868 mph on the Mulsanne Straight.
XKD 501 later placed 2nd at Aintree and 3rd at the Goodwood Trophy Race.
After the 1956 season, Jaguar retired from factory racing and sold their longnose D-Types, with several cars acquired by the Ecurie Ecosse team. These cars became the team's focus. XKD 501 was raced occasionally, beginning with the Mille Miglia on 12 May, where the car retired early with Flockhart driving. Most of is outings for 1957 resulted in DNS, as well as 3rd, 5th, and 7th place finishes. In June, however, it did capture a final checkered flag at the Goodwood Whitsun Meeting. After June of 1957, the car was essentially retired, and ownership soon passed to Ecurie Ecosse financier Major Thomson of Peebles, Scotland.
In May of 1967, the car was demonstrated and presented at the Griffiths Formula 1 race at Oulton Park, driven by Alistair Birrell.
Sir Michael Nairn purchased the car in October of 1970, and over the following few years treated it to a sympathetic restoration to its 1956 LeMans specifications. Sir Nairn then used the car rather frequently, including presentation at the 1996 Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Silverstone Classic.
The current owner acquired the car in 1999. In 2002, it was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, winning the Jaguar Competition class and the Road & Track Award.By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2016