Continuing its program of issuing fresh versions of classic vehicles from its past, Jaguar Classic is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its celebrated C-type race car with limited production run of new C-type Continuation cars.
“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.
Jaguar Classic will hand-build eight C-type Continuation cars to the specification used in the 1953 Le Mans-winning works team car. That car was powered by a 220-horsepower 3.4-liter inline-6 engine with triple Weber 40DCO3 carburetors and disc brakes. Unlike the original, the Continuation cars can be fitted with an FIA-approved Harness Retention System, as they will be eligible for historic racing events.
The new model was created using the same techniques Jaguar Classic has used in the past, consulting original engineering drawings and records from the original C-type development team along with computer aided design that incorporates data scanned from an original C-type.
Jaguar’s Continuation car program has yielded a number of newly built old models, including the Lightweight E-type, XKSS and D-type. The program has been mimicked by a number of other automakers, including Aston Martin, which has produced new DB4 GTs and DB5s, as well as Bentley, which has produced a dozen new supercharged 4-1/2 Litre “Blower” Bentleys.
The birth of a legend
The C-type’s life started in 1948, with the introduction of the Jaguar XK-120 roadster at the Earl’s Court Motor Show. Named for its top speed and powered by a new double-overhead cam 3.4-liter inline 6-cylinder engine that developed 160 horsepower, the XK-120 could run 0-60 mph in 10 seconds. Originally intended as a limited-production model to showcase the engine, its success led Jaguar make it a regular production model in 1949, priced from $3,900 — or $42,327 adjusted for inflation.
It wasn’t long before the XK-120 was being raced and winning, most notably by Sir Stirling Moss at the 1950 Tourist Trophy. This led Jaguar to enter XK-120s in the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing so far back, the company realized a special design was needed.
Jaguar’s development team, consisting of designer/aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer, competitions manager Lofty England, and engineers William Heynes, Bob Knight and Norman Dewis went to work, replacing the XK-120’s steel chassis with a lightweight tube frame chassis – one of the first – draped in aerodynamic alloy designed by Sayer. A revised version of the XK-120’s engine and dual-exhaust bumped output to 200 horsepower. The result was a car that was nearly 25 percent lighter than the XK-120.
The first three C-types entered the 1951 the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where two failed to finish. But the third C-type won, the first British car to win the race since 1935, while setting new average speed and distance records, and leading the race for 16 of the 24 hours. It was the first of seven outright Le Mans wins for Jaguar.
While customer deliveries were already underway, Jaguar’s attempted repeat at Le Mans the following year proved disastrous, with all three cars failing to finish, although the C-type did go on to win the Reims Grand Prix in France.
For 1953, Jaguar fielding the C-type at Le Mans, albeit extensive modifications. Collaborating with Dunlop, Jaguar developed the very first disc brakes for its race car, a revolutionary advance that brought the end of drum brakes being used in racing. In addition, the straight six was fitted with triple Weber carburetors and higher-lift cams, raising horsepower to 220, while the body’s aluminum alloy panels were made thinner.
This time, the effort was well worth it. C-Types finished first, second, and fourth, with the car setting a new record, averaging more than 100 mph, a 10 percent improvement over the previous record.
But rapidly evolving race car technology rendered the C-type outmoded by this time, paving the way for the legendary D-type.
In all, 53 Jaguar C-types were built, 43 for private owners built to the 1951 spec, with drum brakes, twin SU carburetors and 200 horsepower. By contrast, the newly-built C-types are being built to 1953 specification – a crucial distinction.
Are they collectible?
Given its provenance, one has to wonder if the C-type Continuation cars are as valuable as their forbearers, which can bring anywhere from $2.4 to $6 million in excellent condition according to the Hagerty Price Guide, which follows the collector car market.
“You have the car that always has the asterisk after it, like, Barry Bonds home runs. It’s not the same thing, although it was made by the same manufacturer,” said David Kinney, the price guide’s publisher.
“They don’t carry the historic weight that the earlier cars have. So, in other words, you can think of it in the art world, where you have a painting that says, ‘after Michelangelo.’ It might have been done by his studio, but it wasn’t done by him. So, in the same way that carries significantly less gravitas in the art world, these cars will also carry less gravitas.”
But Kinney says the presence of Continuation cars is as much a benefit for automakers as consumers.
“The manufacturers themselves are concerned enough about their heritage that they want to go back and look through their files and see what they were doing many, many decades ago,” Kinney added. “And that’s an experience that will help them build better cars in the future, because they discover that DNA that got left behind.”
Jaguar couldn’t confirm if the cars were already spoken for, nor would they disclose pricing. However, previous Continuation cars from Jaguar Classic have typically cost between £1-2 million each, or $1.4 to $2.7 million, at current exchange rates.