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XK120C (C -Type), D-Type and XKSS The XK120

class f xk120c (c -type) d-type and xkssThe XK120 race results indicated to engineer Walter Hassen that if Jaguar was to be successful it was essential to have a specially designed competition car. In October 1950 Lyons gave the green light to design and develop, in less than nine months, a completely new car to race at Le Mans the following June, the XK120C (C for competition).

The quality of the design and the engineering team Lyons gathered is probably best demonstrated with the development of the C-Type. With the exception of the wonderfully reliable 3.4 litre XK engine (developed to give 210bhp) an entirely new car was designed. A tubular space-frame was developed. Malcolm Sayer, Jaguar’s aerodynamicist, provided the stroke of genius with his beautiful and sleek aluminium bodied masterpiece. Weight was reduced to 940kg, 400kg lighter than the XK120. Rack and pinion steering and a mass of other mechanical improvements were designed, built and developed.

Not only did they meet the deadline, three C-Types were completed in time for the race, but the history books show that the C-Type, driven by Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead, won with a record average speed of 93mph! A total of 53 C-Types were produced for sale in 1952 and 49 still existed in 2001, all very valuable. For 1953 a lighter C-Type (880kg) with 220bhp (using 3 twin-choke Weber carburettors) and disc brakes was developed and came 1st (average speed 106mph), 2nd and 4th at Le Mans.

In 1954 a new competition car, the D-Type, was unveiled. The magnesium alloy monocoque construction gave excellent structural strength. A substantial front sub frame was attached to carry the engine and suspension, and the rear axle and suspension were attached to the rear mono bulkhead. Major changes to the engine were a dry-sump lubrication system and being canted over at 8 degrees allowed a lower frontal height. Power output was up to 250bhp, weight was 880kg.

A D-Type came 2nd at Le Mans in 1954 and was 1st in 1955 but the victory was marred by the tragic accident involving a MercedesBenz. For 1956 the 1955 factory cars were transferred to Ecurie Ecosse and the factory ran two D-Types with fuel injected 3.8 litre engines giving 285bh. But both failed to finish and an Ecurie Ecosse car won the race. In 1956 Ecurie Ecosse D-Types filled the first four places!

In 1957 Jaguar had unsold production D-Types (about 70 were made with 3.4 litre engines and 250bhp. All now are very valuable!) and started to convert them to road cars with a windscreen, hood and door. Just 16 were converted from D-Types when a disastrous fire at Browns Lane on 12 February 1957 consumed 300 finished or near finished cars including five D-Types scheduled for conversion together with all the relevant tooling. This put an end to the now fabled XKSS line. Try to buy one now! There are no factory production C-Types in Australia and only two production D-Types, both in NSW. Our Club Cs and Ds are replicas and worthy to represent the marque.