1956 JAGUAR D-TYPE SPORTS RACING CAR
Chassis No. XKD 537
Engine No. E2047-9
British Racing Green with brown leather upholstery
Engine: six-cylinder, twin overhead camshaft, 3,444cc, 275bhp at 6,000rpm; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Brakes: four wheel disc; Suspension: independent front suspension by torsion bars and unequal length wishbones, rear, live axle suspended on trailing links and one-piece torsion bar. Right hand drive.
Jaguar's magnificent legend was built at Le Mans during the 1950s where their initial C-type specialised roadsters first won the 24 Hour Grand Prix d'Endurance race in both 1951 and 1953. For 1954 a far more sophisticated sports racing car was developed and became known as the D-type. Entered as factory team cars, the first D-types were only narrowly beaten by a much larger engined (4,954cc) Ferrari V12 at Le Mans in 1954. The winning speed average at Le Mans was 105.1 mph but Jaguar quickly got their revenge a few weeks later when the D-types came in first and second at the 12 Hours of Rheims at an average speed of 104.55 mph. In the 1955 Le Mans race the works team won the 24 Hours classic and this was repeated twice more when entered by the private Ecurie Ecosse team from Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1956-57.
This D-type hat-trick of GP d'Endurance victories against the strongest opposition sealed the Jaguar marque's charismatic image, and these handsome machines have been acknowledged ever since as one of the greatest classic sports racing cars. Whilst the Le Mans race attracts the greatest attention the D-type was highly successful both as a works entry, and in the hands of private owners in innumerable races throughout the world. In addition to its outstanding competition record and capabilities, the D-type can also be used as a remarkably docile yet extremely exhilarating road car. Perhaps this is why these cars continue to be so sought after today.
In the eyes of many, the sleek lines and beautiful proportion of the D-type make it the best looking sports racing car of the post-war period. Although developed from the successful Jaguar C-type it was a major progression of design from both a mechancical and technical standpoint. Under the direction of the superb engineer, William Heynes and his mechanical team an almost entirely new car evolved. The most significant feature retained from the victorious 1953 "Lightweight" C-type Jaguars was of course the wonderfully reliable six-cylinder twin overhead camshaft production XK engine. Heynes continued his development of this engine and his experience gained from the last works C-types ensured the continued use of the triple Weber twin choke carburetors. With new competition valve timing, revised cylinder head and other modification some further 30 bhp was attained. At the same time the engine was importantly fitted with a dry-sump lubrication system which ensured an abundant supply of oil at the right temperature without surge or air bubbles. The water cooling system was much improved with a Marston aircraft-style alloy radiator and revised water routing, like the C-type no fan was employed and efficient cooling was vital.
The Borg & Beck triple plate clutch and flywheel assembly was revised and greatly assisted acceleration while providing the strength required for long distance events. The gearbox was also improved and strengthened and significantly was Jaguar's first all-synchromesh gearbox. The suspension was similar to that of its predecessor, yet again was much updated and improved. The superior disc brakes were again those supplied by Dunlop on the successful 1953 works cars with improved efficiency.
Undoubtedly the most innovative feature of the D-type was the revolutionary use of a central monocoque. Under the design direction of Malcolm Sayer, who strongly utlized his aircraft background the center of the car was built on a stressed skin principle. Built with light aluminum in a series of bulkheads it produced a very lightweight structure with great torsional rigidity. To this central tub was attached a triangulated rectangular frame from which the engine and mechanical components were supported. Apart from the savings in weight and distribution this design produced a much narrower cross sectional area and combined with the new sleek aerodynamic bonnet and tail section the drag was much reduced. Indeed at Le Mans in 1954 the Jaguar achieved top speeds of 172.8 mph on the Mulsanne straight, the best the 375 Plus Ferrari could attain was 160.1mph. Another visible modernization was the adoption of 16in Dunlop pressed alloy wheels which were stronger, lighter and far easier to change than the wire wheels previously used on the C-Types.
From a drivers standpoint not only was the D-type faster with superior accelleration, aerodynamics and lightness, it handled far better with delightfully direct steering and overall balance. In addition for those fortunate to have ever sat in a D-type cockpit it is true comfort in a highly relaxed and snug driving position with long leg room and easy to use pedals and instruments.
XKD 537 was sold new to Mauricio Miranda of San Salvador in mid 1956. Following a major accident in late 1956 he returned the car to the factory for repair. On February 12, 1957 while awaiting instructions to proceed, XKD 537 was in the service department when a major fire gutted both the service department and the Northern end of the factory. Not only was XKD 537 written off along with another eight D-types but the production line was also destroyed along with many other Jaguar models.
The factory decided to replace XKD 537 with another vehicle, chassis number XKD 549 which had previously been used for display purposes at Jaguar dealers during 1956. At the works in 1957, the chassis plate was changed, the original number stamped on the front subframe was ground off and the new number XKD 537 was placed on the car, therefore XKD 549 became XKD 537. On close inspection of the head and block numbers these appear to be unaltered and match those of the original destroyed car, E2047-9, and it is believed that the factory fitted a brand new engine with the correct numbers. The new car was then returned to Mr. Miranda and no doubt customs were none the wiser!
The D-Type was used very little by Mr. Miranda and as a result no racing results are credited to him. According to the authoritive books Jaguar Sports Racing Cars by Philip Porter and Jaguar Sports Racing & Works Competition Cars From 1954 by Andrew Whyte the car was advertised for sale in January 1962 and shipped to the USA. The car made its way to the north-eastern part of the United States. It was advertised for sale in Competition Press in 1966 by Thomas Foreman, Flemington, New Jersey; who described it as "one of the best and least-run Ds remaining". It appears that the car was purchased by Mr. Herb Wetson of W.R. Racing Incorporated who sold the car on March 9th, 1967 to Mr. Paul Petty of Kent, Connecticut for the sum of $6,500. The original contract of agreement accompanies the car.
Mr. Petty was apparently a tremendous Jaguar enthusiast who tended to hoard a number of Jaguars on his property. It would appear he used the car very sparingly, perhaps on the odd weekend summer run otherwise it was locked away in his barn. A few of Mr. Petty's friends recall that the D-Type was his pride and joy, and that he greatly cherished its originality. Some years ago Paul Petty was tragically killed in a farm accident, and we are led to believe that the car has not been run for around sixteen years. At one time the Petty estate was broken into by unknown thieves who had an appreciation for sports racing cars with impecable provenance! Luckily, they were disturbed and scared-off while pushing the car away. To this day the evidence is clearly enhanced on the car by the police detective's fingerprint powder.
XKD 537 left the Petty estate in July of 1996 and was unveiled by Christie's to the public for the first time in over twenty years at a London reception this past March. The XKD 537 surprised many Jaguar experts with its degree of originality. The current mileage of under 20,000 is believed from new. There are perhaps fewer than ten D-Types intact that still retain their original monocoque, sub-frame, engine, gearbox, bodywork and all major components. This car even has the original shock absorbers! This sale represents a rare opportunity to purchase one of the greatest examples of the legendary D-type Jaguar, and one of the best preserved Sports-Racing cars Christie's has ever had the opportunity to offer.