The Jaguar C-type “Continuation car” has the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours race specification.
If you weren’t around in 1953 to watch the Le Mans 24 Hours — and it’s pretty likely you weren’t — you missed the triumph of one of the most beautiful race cars of all-time, the Jaguar C-type. The 1953 Le Mans win was the second in three years for the illustrious model. Tony Bolt and Duncan Hamilton drove the car to victory in the race four laps ahead of Stirling Moss and Peter Walker in another C-type. One of the 1953 model’s chief claims to fame, beyond its simple beauty, was its innovative use of disc brakes, developed by Jaguar and Dunlop.
Now Jaguar Classic has announced the creation of a “strictly limited” production run of new C-type Continuation cars, which will be hand-built at the Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works facility in Coventry, U.K. Though said to be honoring the 70th anniversary of the model, the continuation C-type will not replicate the drum brake-equipped 1951 XK120-C version of the car but will, instead, clone the 1953 disc-brake-equipped “works” C-type, essentially in race-ready form.
Jaguar C-types at Le Mans, 1953.
This will mark the first time that private customers will be able to buy disc-brake-fitted C-types directly from the factory. Just 53 Jaguar C-type sports cars were built in the 1950s, and 43 were sold to private owners. But the “production” C-types had drum-brakes, and the famed straight-six engine was fitted with twin SU carburetors. While its 200 horsepower made it a potent machine, the 1953 Le Mans cars with three Weber carburetors offered at least 20 more horsepower.
The limited-production-run C-types will use the 1953 Le Mans-winning works team car specification, including a 220-horsepower rendition of the famed 3.4-liter inline-six engine complete with triple Weber 40DCO3 carburetors plus disc brakes. In a nod to one of their expected uses the cars will also offer the option of an FIA-approved harness retention system.
The C-type continuation car’s stark cockpit.
Eight of the C-type “Continuation cars” will be built prior to a racing-inspired celebration event for their newly minted owners that is planned for next year. Though there is a bit of controversy around replicas like the continuation C-types, Jaguar says they will be for historic racing, track, and closed-road use. The legality of their use on the street is murky since they are technically new cars and thus subject to current safety and emissions regulations.
Just owning one of these lovely machines might well be enough, however. Though many of us who write about historic automobiles moon over the later E-type Jaguar as perhaps the most beautiful car of all time, there is a lot to recommend the pure shape of the C-type penned by Jaguar Cars designer, aerodynamicist, and artist Malcolm Sayer. Compared to today’s supercars that seem to revel in wretched excess, the spare, fluid design of the C remains an inspiration.
From any angle, the Jaguar C-type is stunningly alluring.
Beyond its victories at Le Mans in endurance racing, the C-type was successful in many other prestigious venues in its day. The model scored the first win for a disc brake-equipped car with Stirling Moss at the Reims Grand Prix in France and had notable success in the Mille Miglia. Even after its 1953 Le Mans victory the car continued to race successfully in private hands at sports car events around the globe.
“Driven by some of the most-admired racing drivers in history, the C-type laid the foundations for Jaguar’s success in endurance racing and is synonymous with design and engineering innovation,” said Dan Pink, director, Jaguar Classic in a statement at the continuation car’s introduction. “Seventy years on, Jaguar Classic is proud to be able to utilize the latest innovations in manufacturing technology – alongside traditional skills and unrivaled expertise – to reintroduce this legendary car for a new generation of enthusiasts to enjoy.”
Jaguar plans a race-inspired event for owners of the new continuation cars next year.
With lessons learned from previous Jaguar Classic Continuation programs for Lightweight E-type, XKSS, and D-type models, Jaguar Classic engineers consulted the Jaguar archives and cross-referenced scan data taken from an original C-type as the plans for the new build were developed. To create the most authentic new C-type possible, computer-aided design (CAD) technology was used in conjunction with original engineering drawings and company records created by the original C-type development team, including Sayer, competitions manager Lofty England, and engineers William Heynes, Bob Knight, and Norman Dewis.
Taking CAD a stage further, Jaguar Classic has launched an online configurator to allow enthusiasts to visualize their C-type Continuation virtually. This tool allows users to compare color and trim options from the 12 exterior colors and eight interior colors available, and apply optional racing roundels, steering wheel badges, and hood badging.
And in a fit of technology that the original owners and buyers of the car could never have even dreamed of, enthusiasts can share their favorite C-type Continuation builds using #70YearsofCTYPE, for the opportunity to be featured on the @JaguarUSA Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
Ah, I long of the 1950s.
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