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 Jaguar XK-D D-Type photo

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type

The Swallow Coach Building Company was founded by William Lyons with the purpose of creating aftermarket bodies for the 1920s Austin Motor Car. He began creating his own 'SS' cars during the early 1930s using various chassis, engine, and transmission configurations clothed with elegant bodies. After World War II, production resumed by October of 1945 under the name Jaguar Cars Ltd. Initially, production focused on prewar models with slight mechanical enhancements.

In 1948, the first truly new Jaguar was introduced, the XK 120 available as a saloon or drophead. It came equipped with a new double overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine, which was destined to power Jaguar motor cars in various configurations for nearly four decades.

After several privateers proved the racing competitiveness of the XK 120, it convinced Sir William Lyons and engineer Bill Heynes to create a purpose-built version of the XK 120. Mechanical improvements and lightweight components resulted in the XK120C (C-Type), with the C representing Competition. Three examples made the racing debut at LeMans in 1951, with one finishing in first place overall. The team was disappointed the following year when all three cars retired early at LeMans. The cars had been given new bodywork, which appeared more aerodynamic but did not provide sufficient airflow at speed, thus causing cooling system issues.

The XK-120C (C-Type) returned to LeMans in 1953 where they finished in first, second, and fourth place. Part of this success was attributed to the C-Type's disc brakes, the first such-equipped entrants to ever run LeMans. The car's low weight coupled with the disc brakes made the C-Types essentially unmatched through the cars.

Following the 1953 LeMans, it was quickly evident that the limits of the XK 120-based race car had been reached. To continue to compete for the overall victory at lemans, a new car was required.

The C-Type had been one of the earliest cars to be fitted with a steel-tube space-frame chassis. The car that followed, the D-Type, would be perhaps the first to use unitary monocoque construction, with the body and frame combining for structural integrity. The all-new, riveted aluminum-magnesium alloy monocoque was designed by Jaguar's chief designer and aerodynamicist, Malcolm Sayer. The engine in the D-Type was the same from the C-Type, but given triple Weber carburetors which brought horsepower to 245 bhp. The seven main bearing Jaguar engine was attached to a welded aluminum front sub-frame of square-section tubes, bolted to the monocoque. The engine was canted eight degrees from vertical to clear the low bonnet. With a dry-sump lubrication system installed, the engine was able to be mounted lower, reducing the overall profile and coefficient of drag. The D-Type was five inches shorter and more svelte than a C-Type. A thin body panel permanently divided the two-seat cockpit interior. The C-Type only had a door for the driver, but the D-Type had a door for the driver and passenger, albeit they were both very small.

The engine was backed by a new, all-synchromesh, four-speed Jaguar gearbox with a three-plate clutch. Dunlop provided the disc brakes with multi-piston calipers, and the knock-off magnesium alloy wheels, which were drilled for lightness and brake cooling. The rack-and-pinion steering was based on the XK140 road car. Two lightweight, rubber fuel tanks were placed in the rear of the car and could be accessed via a quick-release filler cap located in the driver's faired headrest, to which a slim tailfin was riveted to ensure high-speed straight-line stability.

Near the close of 1953, Jaguar's test driver, Norman Dewis, managed nearly 180 mph on the Jabbeke Highway in Belgium in a C/D-Type prototype. At the LeMans trials in April of 1965, the new D-Type hit 169 mph on the Mulsanne Straight. During the race, Stirling Moss managed 172.97 mph on the Mulsanne Straight.

Over a three-year period, 54 customer cars and 6 factory team cars were built.

Four D-Types were entered by the factory for the 1954 LeMans. Three of the cars were forced to retire early due to brake and engine issues. Despite spending considerable time in the pits, the D-Type driven by Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton finished in second place, just 105 seconds behind the much larger-engined Ferrari 375 Plus driven by Gonzales / Trintignant

A month after LeMans, the D-Type earned its first victory, at the 12 Hours of Reims, with a 1st and 2nd place finish. In the United States, a D-Type on loan to Briggs Cunningham won the Sebring 12 Hours while being driven by Mike Hawthorn and Phil Walters.

In preparation for the 1955 season, the D-Type received several modifications, including a brazed steel front sub-frame that was stronger and lighter than the previous aluminum unit. Along with structural improvements, new 'long-nose' bodywork was fitted (lengthening the car by 7.5 inches), with large cooling ducts in the front. The Works long-nose D-Type received a wraparound windscreen that faired into the driver's headrest and a tapered fin that blended into the rear of the body. Cylinder head medications brought horsepower to 285 bhp at 5,750 RPM.

The body modifications made by Sayer improved stability and increased the top speed, now in excess of 180 mph. With these changes, the D-Type claimed the marque's third victory. It had faced strong competition from the Mercedes-Benz SLRs, but the team withdrew after one of their cars crashed and was launched into a crowd of spectators, killing dozens. After Mercedes retired, there was little competition for Jaguar. The powerful Ferraris had retired due to mechanical failures or accidents, leaving the Jaguar to claim the victory.

For the 1956 Le Mans race, 49 cars lined up to contest the overall victory. As was tradition, the race began at four o'clock in the afternoon with the drivers sprinting across the front stretch and jumping into their cars. The start began in the rain, making this dangerous race even more treacherous. The list of drivers included legends such as de Portago, Trintignant, Maglioli, Gendebien, Behra, Fangio, von Trips, Hill, and Castelloti. The list of manufacturers contesting the race included Talbot, Porsche, Lotus, Jaguar, Ferrari, Gordini, and Aston Martin. Of the 49 cars that started, only 14 will finish, and one life was lost.

Jaguar entered three factory D-Types, with only one finishing the race, in sixth place. The race was won by a D-Type entered by the Edinburgh-based team Ecurie Ecosse and driven by Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson. The Ecurie Ecosse team would win again in 1957. For the 1958 season, rule changes were implemented which limited displacement to 3-liters, which made the D-Types virtually obsolete. Jaguar did create a three-liter version of the XK-engine, but it was unable to keep pace with the stiff competition.

The short-nose production D-Types were raced with much success by privateers on both sides of the Atlantic. The remaining unsold chassis was equipped for road use by Jaguar and sold as the XKSS. Sixteen examples were built prior to a fire which ended the production run.


by Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2020

Related Reading : Jaguar D-Type History

The Jaguar D-Type sports cars were produced from 1954 through 1957. These factory-built race cars were similar to the C-Type, but given more powerful engines, improved chassis, and aerodynamic bodies. Walter Hassan was tasked with designing a sportscar for Jaguar. The result was the XK-120 which showed promise on the racing circuit. Although the alloy bodied cars were fast, it would not be a serious....
Continue Reading >>

1955 Vehicle Profiles

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD530
Engine Num: E 2044-9

It's hard to conceive of a more iconic sportscar of 1950s Le Mans than the D-Type Jaguar. From the tragic 1955 race to a run of dominance that would continue throughout the end of the decade, there was no denying the greatness of the creation from th....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD507

The D-Type Jaguar was supposed to win at LeMans in 1954 just like the C-Type had done the year before. With Jaguar's legendary twin cam six further developed and the C-Type's space frame replaced by a monocoque tub with load bearing external panels t....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XD-515

Unveiled in 1954, the legendary D-Type replaced the C-Type as Jaguar's factory racer. The slinky D-Type was lower, wider, and more aerodynamic and faster thanks to a ten percent weight reduction and medications that coaxed 250 horsepower from the twi....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Chassis Num: XKD-575

The British Racing Green, chassis XKD521 Jaguar D-Type was delivered to Jaguar SA in Cuba and sold to Sr. Alfonso Gomez Mena.....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Chassis Num: XKD529

The first prototype of the Jaguar D-Type was first tested in 1953 at Jabbeke, Belgium, where it managed a top speed of 178.3 mph. Replacing the race winning C-Type, the D-Type was designed by stylist Malcolm Sayer. During their racing careers D-Typ....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD 513

This Jaguar D-Type is chassis number XKD 513 and powered by a 3.8-liter engine. The first owner, a Mr. Henri Peignaux of Lyon, purchased this car through C.H. Delecroix. Mr. Peignaux was the owner of one of the French racing team Equipe Los Amigos.....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD 575

Like many competition cars of its time, this D-Type with chassis number XKD 575, has had several lives. It started out as a Jaguar D-Type in 1955, and as rules changed and customer demands evolved, the Jaguar factory decided to modify the car, which ....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD 544
Engine Num: E5018-10

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....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD521

The British Racing Green, chassis XKD521 Jaguar D-Type was delivered to Jaguar SA in Cuba and sold to Sr. Alfonso Gomez Mena.....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD601

This is the first of the six longnose D-Type Jaguar works team cars from 1956. This car, chassis number XKD601, was built with lightweight panels and fuel injection and first ran at Goodwood in February of 1956. After a few non-finishes at Sebring an....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD 552

XKD 552 began life simply enough. After making the rounds at several dealer shows in the United Kingdom, the car was returned to the factory, where it was refurbished.....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD 501
Engine Num: E 2036-9

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 sp....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD 536

The car was originally sold in 1955 to Loyal Katskee of Omaha, Nebraska. It was raced numerous times on the east coast including at the 1955 Nassau Speed Week, Texas National Championships, Aggie Sports Car Race, Rib Mountain Hill Climb and Milwaukee....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD 554

The car was dispatched unassembled to Mexico due to the prohibitive Mexican import duty on complete cars. It is not clear what 'unassembled' means for a D-type. It was sold to Julio Mariscal who raced it throughout Mexico and occasionally in Californ....[continue reading]

1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type vehicle information

Roadster
Designer: Malcolm Sayer

Chassis Num: XKD 541

Dispatched on November 11, 1955, #XKD 541 was sold to co-owners Charles E. Brown and Dr. Harold A. Fenner who owned the car until the late 1960s. This was one of the only 53 D-types produced as customer cars. It sat in storage for about 10 years unti....[continue reading]

Roadster
Chassis #: XKD530 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD507 
Roadster
Chassis #: XD-515 
Chassis #: XKD-575 
Chassis #: XKD529 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD 513 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD 575 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD 544 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD521 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD601 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD 552 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD 501 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD 536 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD 554 
Roadster
Chassis #: XKD 541 

Recent Vehicle Additions

Performance and Specification Comparison

Price Comparison

$1,070-$9,875
1955 XK-D D-Type
$9,875-$18,050
1955 Jaguar XK-D D-Type Base Price : $9,875

$3,455 - $4,100

Model Year Production

#1#2#3Jaguar
1960Chevrolet (1,653,168)Ford (1,439,370)Toyota (1,068,321)4,934
1959Chevrolet (1,462,140)Ford (1,450,953)Volkswagen (575,407)5,839
1958Chevrolet (1,142,460)Ford (987,945)Volkswagen (451,526)4,607
1957Ford (1,676,449)Chevrolet (1,505,910)Plymouth (726,009)3,685
1956Chevrolet (1,567,117)Ford (1,408,478)Buick (572,024)3,685
1955Chevrolet (1,704,667)Ford (1,451,157)Buick (738,814)3,573
1954Ford (1,165,942)Chevrolet (1,143,561)Plymouth (463,148)3,349
1953Chevrolet (1,346,475)Ford (1,247,542)Plymouth (650,451)3,349
1952Chevrolet (818,142)Ford (671,733)Plymouth (396,000)3,349
1951Chevrolet (1,229,986)Ford (1,013,381)Plymouth (611,000)1,702
1950Chevrolet (1,498,590)Ford (1,208,912)Plymouth (610,954)912

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