RM Sotheby’s Monterey Auction – Jaguar Sports-Racing Cars

Jaguar’s post-war dominance of the 24 Hours of Le Mans seemed almost complete by the end of 1957, with the marque equalling Bentley’s tally of five overall victories. What was truly remarkable about Jaguar’s success was that its racing cars—unlike those of Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Aston Martin—utilised many common parts with its high-performance road cars. Sir William Lyons’ greatest strength was his ability to market his cars effectively, and he fully understood the importance of racing for improving the breed and selling to the wider public.

Jaguar’s competitive edge was almost entirely gained through chassis design and world-leading aerodynamic development, and while the XK 120 was a stunning car, it had its limitations. Fortunately, ex-Bristol Aeroplane Company aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer applied to join Jaguar in 1950, his abilities immediately recognised by Chief Engineer William Heynes.

Originally designated the XK 120C, the C-Type was presented as a heavily modified XK 120, but the reality was entirely different. The tubular spaceframe chassis was inspired by aircraft designs, a technology that was so new that it was only beginning to be adopted in grand prix racing. The bodywork was entirely unique to the C-Type, with a lithe, aerodynamic design that allowed a small cockpit opening with its occupants sitting as low as possible. The C-Type was ready just in time for its debut at the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead took a stunning victory in what would be a decade of unprecedented success for Jaguar at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Heynes and Sayer’s development work continued throughout the model’s production, with the notable introduction of the disc brake—an improvement that helped deliver another victory at Le Mans in 1953. In total, 53 examples would be produced by the factory.

RM Sotheby’s is delighted to present XKC 024 at its annual Monterey Auction on 17–19 August 2023. This stunning C-Type left the Browns Lane factory on 3 October 1952. Delivered to first owner Alex Thompson, the C-Type was regularly raced, with legendary racer Phil Hill taking the wheel for the 1953 Lone Star 200 race, where he finished 2nd. Ownership passed to James Harrison, but an accident at Riverside in November 1953 necessitated a new chassis, bonnet, and centre body section.

After its rebuild, XKC 024 became a regular on the West Coast racing scene at the hands of Bob Downey and Pearce Woods. Painted in a remarkable blue and white colour scheme and adorned with an obligatory Mobiloil Pegasus, this instantly recognisable C-Type was immortalised in Kodachrome and features in Tony Adriaensens’s incredible Weekend Heroes books. Not just a fancy livery, XKC 024 proved its competitiveness with victory at the 1955 6 Hours of Torrey Pines. XKC 024 would finish its racing career with Downey and Woods before going through a series of American and British owners. A full restoration by John Pearson and RS Panels in 1988 has held up remarkably well, with this C-Type now displaying a charmingly mellow patina. This Jaguar has fortunately been in the ownership of the consigning owner since the mid-1990s and has been lovingly maintained while being enjoyed at rallies and events.

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By 1953, it was clear that competition from the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz required a new approach—and what followed was arguably one of the biggest technological developments in automotive history. The Jaguar D-Type became the first major car to feature a lightweight and strong monocoque chassis with front and rear subframes. Mounted on either end of the monocoque were two of the most beautiful body sections ever created, aided by the introduction of dry-sump lubrication that reduced the height of the engine and, therefore, frontal area, reducing drag. Eventually, the restless development work of Heynes and Sayer resulted in the long-nose D-Type, which is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cars to ever be built.

The D-Type’s revolutionary design rewarded Jaguar with a hat-trick of victories at Le Mans, along with sports car victories around the world. The D-Type offered at RM Sotheby’s 2023 Monterey Auction is XKD 546, a great example with period US race history in the southern states. This D-Type eventually moved to California, where its racing career continued into the sixties. It then passed into the hands of its first Hollywood actor owner, Tim Considine, who had it prepared more as a road car and eventually transplanted a 3.8-litre engine.

Much like XKC 024, this D-Type returned to its homeland, where a restoration was carried out by Pearsons Engineering prior to it joining the collection of Nicholas Cage. This wonderful D-Type has been in the care of the consigning owner for 21 years, during which time it has been beautifully maintained.

Jaguar’s stunning success with the D-Type resulted in 54 production examples being sold, but as the factory began winding down its Works programme, a stock of parts for a further 25 cars remained. The prospect of 25 more sales after the end of 1956 seemed unlikely, and with the United States a strong market for sports cars, Jaguar devised a model specifically for the region: the XKSS. Essentially a D-Type with creature comforts such as a full windscreen, chrome bumperettes, a passenger door, hood, and luggage rack, the model was a roaring success, with 16 delivered before the infamous Browns Lane fire of February 1957 destroyed five of the cars and damaged the production line. The remaining four were dismantled to remain as parts.

1955 Jaguar D Type1371751 Min
1955 Jaguar D Type1371752 Min
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XKSS 707 is the final example in a trio of Jaguar sports-racing cars offered at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction. This XKSS found its way to first owner Sidney Colberg, who raced it along the West Coast. Colberg clearly loved his XKSS and kept it for 15 years, a key period for most of these cars as interest began to wane and, so too, their resulting care. Colberg sold his car to Anthony Bamford, the first of four well-known British connoisseurs who would look after XKSS 707. Eventually, this Jaguar joined the collection of Allen Lloyd, who regularly lent the XKSS to Jaguar for promotional and display purposes. Still fitted with its matching-numbers engine, rear axle, and much of its original bodywork, this very correct and rare XKSS would make an outstanding addition to any collection.

Through its competition programme, Jaguar created three of the greatest sports cars of all time—designs that changed the automotive world forever. It is very rare for a C-Type, D-Type, or XKSS to come to auction, so to offer all three together is a remarkable opportunity. Any one of these Jaguars would be welcome at the finest events in the world, and each of them is worthy of a place in a great collection.

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