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RACING LEGENDS Image Credit: Top Gear
RACING LEGENDS Image Credit: Top Gear

Racing Legends

Jaguar D-type

Jason Barlow

Loving the D-type is a bit like loving The Beatles or George Best. It’s such an icon that it’s also a bit of a cliche, at which point it’s tempting to say you always preferred the Stones or Denis Law.

The trouble is, the D-type is actually better than folklore has it: it’s beautiful to look at, fantastic to drive, and it won the Le Mans 24 hours race three times on the trot, in 1955, 1956 and 1957, under the command of hero drivers.

Jaguar’s design team had almost certainly clocked Alfa Romeo’s 1952 Disco Volante, which advanced the idea of all-enveloping bodywork. But in creating the successor to the lovely and successful C-type – itself a Le Mans winner in 1951 and 1953 – the design focus was as much on reliability and robustness as aero to maximise chances at Le Mans, a circuit renowned for its high-speed sections and car-breaking properties.

Enter Malcolm Sayer, whose background in aviation would help give the D-type its remarkable appearance. The chassis used a central tub made of riveted aluminium, which was advanced for the time. The D-type’s engine was and remains a thing of wonder. The 3.4-litre XK twin-cam was an all aluminium unit to reduce weight, and dry sump lubrication meant the engine could be dropped 3in in the sub-frame, and there was less chance of oil surge during fast cornering. Triple Weber carbs fed the engine, which produced 250bhp and, although truculent at low revs, pulle

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