The car used the running gear of the contemporary XK120 in a lightweight tubular frame and aerodynamic aluminium body. A total of 53 C-Types were built.
The road-going XK120’s 3.4-litre twin-cam, straight-6 engine produced between 160 and 180 bhp (134 kW). The version in the C-Type was originally tuned to around 205 bhp (153 kW). Later C-Types were more powerful, using triple twin-choke Weber carburettors and high-lift camshafts. They were also lighter, and from 1952 braking performance was improved by disc brakes on all four wheels. The lightweight, multi-tubular, triangulated frame was designed by Bob Knight. The aerodynamic body was designed by Malcolm Sayer. Made of aluminium in the barchetta style, it was devoid of road-going items such as carpets, weather equipment and exterior door handles.
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 having had a full-sized radiator hurriedly fitted, 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. In addition the header tank was in front of the passenger-side bulkhead, far from the radiator, and the tubing used was 7/8 inch. When the tubing diameter was increased to 1 1/4 inch and the water pump pulley increased in diameter, the car ran without problem. 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 120 mph (193 km/h). The chassis numbers of the cars were XKC 001, 002 and 011, the last existing today as a normal C-type, the others being dismantled at the factory.
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 220 bhp (164 kW). Philip Porter mentions additional changes:
Further weight was saved by using a rubber bag fuel tank ... lighter electrical equipment and thinner gauge steel for some of the chassis tubes ... [T]he most significant change to the cars was the [switch to] disc brakes.
Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt won the race at 105.85 mph (170.35 km/h) – the first time Le Mans had been won at an average of over 100 miles per hour (161 km/h). 1954, the C-Type's final year at Le Mans, saw a fourth place by the Ecurie Francorchamps entry driven by Roger Laurent and Jacques Swaters.
When new, the car sold for about $6,000, approximately twice the price of an XK120. In an article in the June 11, 2003 issue of Autocar magazine ("Slick Cat Jaguar", p. 70) the value of a "genuine, healthy" C-Type is estimated as £400,000, and the value of the 1953 Le Mans winner is about £2 million; replicas are available from a variety of sources from £40,000. A C-Type once owned and raced by Phil Hill sold at an American auction in August 2009 for $2,530,000.
- ↑ Philip Porter, 1995. Jaguar Sports Racing Cars, pp. 20, 24. Bay View Books Ltd.
- ↑ Philip Porter, 1995. Jaguar Sports Racing Cars, pp. 40, 41. Bay View Books Ltd.
- ↑ Philip Porter, 1995. Jaguar Sports Racing Cars, p. 42. Bay View Books Ltd.
- ↑ Philip Porter, 1995. Jaguar Sports Racing Cars, p. 46. Bay View Books Ltd.
- Coventry Racers – Pages for each of the 55 C-Types, including photos and short histories for many.
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