C-Type Jaguar at Le Mans

Please excuse my english, we do our best…..

It was in 1950 that William Lyons, founder of the brand Jaguar, decided to launch the design of the first car for competition only and especially at the 24h of Le Mans. The fame of this race was, at the time, much more important than today. The F1 championship did not exist yet and a victory on the French circuit had direct repercussions on sales. « Win on Sunday, sell on Monday ». For the 1950 edition, three prepared XK120s started under the cover of a private engagement, and finished with an honorable 12th place. One of the three XKs, the one driven by Johnson and Hadley even climbed to 3rd place in the standings for more than half of the race.

The design of the C-Type was far removed from that of the XK120, even though its official name was 120C which was to prove to be a commercial move to boost sales of the XK120 model as a result of the C-Type competition results.

Its chassis is tubular and lightweight. This is the famous XK 3.4L engine, 6 cylinders in line of the XK120 developing 160 hp. Which once prepared for the C-Type will increase to 205 hp thanks to its 2 carburetors SU H8, a camshaft « high lift « , an increase in the diameter of the exhaust valves and a modification of the springs of those one. The suspension is improved and the steering gets a more precise and direct rack.

The design of its aluminum body is entrusted to aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer. He will study a revolutionary line more drawn and meeting new aerodynamic standards. The only compromise required by William Lyons, the addition of a grille reminiscent of the XK120 model to satisfy the pride of customers of its road model.

It is thus armed with its 205 hp and its 940 kg that the C-Type presented itself at the tests of the 24h of Le Mans of 1951.

Jaguar came with three cars: the XKC001, XKC002 and XKC003 chassis, under the registrations: 153RW, 210RW and 032RW. Note that at that time the cars went to France by road in convoys …. element hard to imagine nowadays.

The competition was large and mainly composed of Ferrari 340 America and 212, Talbot Lago T26 and their formidable 4.5 l engine, Cunningham and Aston Martin DB2.

Stirling Moss on the XKC002 in the lead had to give up in the middle of the night but after the double round clock it was the Jaguar C-Type XKC003 of Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead who passed in first position under the checkered flag after having traveled more than 3611 km.

Bringing the first victory on the Le Mans circuit at Jaguar.

For the 1952 season, a new bodywork was imagined to increase speed in the interminable straight line of Hunaudieres which was not cut by its two chicanes. This body was mounted on XKC001, XKC002 and XKC011 chassis.

The competition was sharp, in addition to Ferrari 340 America, Aston DB3 spyder, Cunningham and Talbot-Lago, Mercedes returned to the Sarthe after 20 years of absence and its 300 SL seemed formidable.

The temperatures of June 1952 were particularly high at Le Mans and the low air intake of the new C-Type bonnets caused the abandonment of the english cars by overheating, leaving the victory to the Mercedes 300SL.

Note that during this edition, Pierre Levegh drove more than 16 hours without stopping at the wheel of the Talbot-Lago then at the head of the race. This feat ended with the breaking of a bolt on the crankshaft less than two hours before the finish but the driver was acclaimed by the crowd for his feat.

For the 1953 Le Mans, the C-Type received Webber carburetors and disc brakes developed by DUNLOP, which was a revolution. The Jaguars reached the speed of 245km / h, against 250km / h for Cunningham. Thanks to their braking system they made up for lost time. Mercedes was not present at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1953 but Alfa Romeo lined up its 6C / 3000CM, Ferrari the 340MM, Cunningham C4 and C5 and Talbot-Lago its T26.

The start of the race was unbelievably tight but the night was fatal for the reliability of the Alfa Romeo. At daybreak the C-Type occupied the 1st, 2nd and 4th place that they were not to leave.

1st Jaguar Type-C XKC051 N18 Rolt-Hamilton, 2nd Jaguar Type-C XKC053 N17 Stirling Moss-Walker, 3rd Cunningham Walters-Fitch and 4th Jaguar C-Type XKC052 N19 Whitehead-Stewart. 

Following this victory Jaguar decided to launch the studies of its new model: the Jaguar D-Type which will represent the brand at the world championship and the 24h of Le Mans from 1954 to 1957. This will be the subject of a future article. 

Some vintage photos:

Jaguar Type-C. 24h du Mans 1951 photo : Wieck Media Services
Jaguar Type-C 24h du Mans 1952 photo : Jean-Paul Hegner
Jaguar C-Type 24h du Mans 1953 photo: Dominique Gachette

You will find many pictures of Jaguar C-Type on the website http://www.pistonsandwheels.com, here are some examples. It is exclusively authentic Jaguar C-Type chassis number: XKC004 – XKC008 – XKC006 – XKC037 and XKC021.

Toute reproduction interdite sans l’autorisation de l’auteur – Reproduction prohibited without permission of the author

@waltheradriaensen pistonsandwheels

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