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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1954
Numbers built:5
Internal name:XKD
Designed by:Malcolm Sayer
Successor:Jaguar D-Type Works Long Nose
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 20, 2014
Download: All images
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWell over 20 years after Bentley had dominated at Le Mans another British make stood up to the 24 Hours challenge: Jaguar. In charge of development of Jaguar's first post-war sportscar was an old 'Bentley Boy', Walter Hassan. With the alloy bodied version of this sportscar, the XK 120, Jaguar scored their first racing successes. Although these results were promising, Hassan and Jaguar founder William Lyons found more was needed to win at Le Mans and production of a competition version of the XK 120 was started.

Shown to the public for the first time at the 1951 Le Mans tests, the XK 120 C or C-Type looked ready for the challenge. It shared its XK straight six engine with the XK120 production model, but sported a much lighter tubular frame chassis. In competition tune, breathing through three Weber Carburetors these engines were good for 210 bhp. Although two of the three C-Types entered failed to finish the 24 Hour, it was a good weekend for Jaguar, with the remaining car finishing well ahead of the competition.

For the 1952 24 Hours race Jaguar fielded an experimental, un-tested long tail, low drag C-Type. Overheating problems caused all three cars to drop out early in the race. No risks were taken for 1953 race, where Jaguar fielded more conventionally bodied C-Types. The works cars were among the very first equipped with disc brakes, giving them a clear edge in the race and another win for the boys from Coventry. In the meantime Jaguar worked hard on a completely new model to continue the company's successful endurance racing campagin.

By the spring of 1954 the new car was running. Although it had no official name but names like C-Type Mk II and D-Type were rumoured, the latter stuck. It was the first Jaguar to use a monocoque type chassis. Attached to the monocoque was a front subframe, carrying the engine and front suspension. On the six cars built in 1954, the subframe was welded to the monocoque, but on later cars it was bolted on for easy detachment. Of course the disc brakes from the C-Type were carried over.

Jaguar again relied on the XK engine, but some modifications were made to limit frontal area. The sump was halved in height by switching from wet to dry-sump lubrication. The engine was also mounted at an 8-degree angle, with the off-centre bump in the engine-cover as a result. Mechanically, the only difference between the 1954 and 1955 works cars was the use of larger valves on the latter. Extra space was required to house the larger valves. Frontal area was not sacrificed as the 1955 works D-Types were the first Jaguars to use an asymmetrical head that would come to be known as the '35/40 head'. The intake valves were mounted at 35 degrees, whereas the exhaust valves were mounted at 40 degrees.

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  Article Image gallery (123) Chassis (5) Specifications