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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1953
Numbers built:3
Predecessor:Jaguar C-Type
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:August 01, 2018
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIn 1950, virtually production standard examples of the Jaguar XK120 were surprisingly competitive in international sports car races. These results convinced William Lyons that with a little more effort the car had the potential to become a regular race winner. The Jaguar founder had a keen eye for marketing and set his sights on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which was the most internationally revered sports car race and also attracted considerable interest from the important American market. During the 1950 edition, a privately entered XK120 had already ran as high as fourth for quite a long time.

Developed in great secrecy by a small team lead by engineer William Heynes, the new sports racer was initially dubbed the XK120 C (for Competition) to underline its connection to the production road car and also to hide that it was a purpose-built race car to the competition. Very shortly after its debut, the car was simply referred to as the C-Type. In addition to the name, what was carried over from the production car was its fabulous twin-cam, straight-six engine. Displacing just over 3.4 litres, it was equipped with a revised cylinder head, high-lift camshafts and racing pistons. Breathing through a pair of SU carburettors, the C-Type engine produced 200 bhp compared to the 160 bhp claimed for the road going XK120's engine.

To win races, Lyons and Heynes recognised that above all the new C-Type had to be lighter and slippier. To this end a brand new multi-tubular chassis was conceived with a separate subframe to house the engine and front suspension. This was through double wishbones, while at the rear a live-axle was fitted. Torsion bar springs were used on both ends. Stopping power was provided on all four corners by sizeable, hydraulically operated drum brakes. The sophisticated rolling chassis was clothed in a smooth aluminium body that with some imagination resembled the XK120 it was inspired by. Crucially, the new C-Type was over 350 kg lighter than the aluminium bodied XK120 road car.

Three C-Types were readied for a works run assault at Le Mans. It was not surprising to see two of the brand new cars succumb to mechanical failure. The third did survive and in the hands of Peter Whitehead and Peter Walker claimed the first win for a British car at Le Mans in over two decades. In a very convincing show of form, the C-Type had beaten the next closest rival by a staggering nine laps. Later that same year, Stirling Moss also won the Tourist Trophy in a C-Type and also added two wins at Goodwood to the new Jaguar's tally. Early in 1952, Moss won again with one of the early C-Types, clinching victory in the International Trophy at Silverstone.

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  Article Image gallery (33) Chassis (3) Specifications