Befitting of “Throwback Friday” today’s Jag is the track proven ’53 C-Type, doesn’t get much more classic British racer than this.
The C-Type was successful in racing, most notably at the Le Mans 24 hours race, which it won twice.
In 1951 the car won at its first attempt. The factory entered three, whose driver pairings were Stirling Moss and Jack Fairman, Leslie Johnson and 3-times Mille Miglia winner Clemente Biondetti, and the eventual winners, Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead. The Walker/Whitehead car was the only factory entry to finish, the other two retiring with lack of oil pressure. A privately entered XK120, owned by Robert Lawrie, co-driven by Ivan Waller, also completed the race, finishing 11th.
In 1952 Jaguar, worried by a report about the speed of the Mercedes-Benz 300SLs that would run at Le Mans, modified the C-Type’s aerodynamics to increase the top speed. However, the consequent rearrangement of the cooling system made the car vulnerable to overheating. All three retired from the race. The Peter Whitehead/Ian Stewart and Tony Rolt/Duncan Hamilton cars blew head gaskets, and the Stirling Moss/Peter Walker car, the only one not overheating, lost oil pressure after a mechanical breakage. Later testing by Norman Dewis at MIRA after the race proved that it was not the body shape that caused the overheating but mainly the water pump pulley that was undersize, spun too fast, caused cavitation and thus the overheating. What the body shape did do though was to create enormous tail lift, which caused the cars to squirrel their way down the Mulsanne (properly called the Hunaudières) straight at speeds over 120mph. The chassis numbers of the cars were XKC 001, 002 and 011, the latter existing today as a normal C-type, the others being dismantled at the factory. An exact copy of XKC 002 has since been created by CKL Developments in England, complete with FIA papers.
In 1953 a C-Type won again. This time the body was in thinner, lighter aluminium and the original twin H8 sand cast SU carburettors were replaced by three DCO3 40mm Webers, which helped boost power to 220bhp.