It has been 70 years since the Jaguar C-type first raced to victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours. In celebration of the iconic model’s motorsport heritage, Jaguar Classic has announced a limited run of the Jaguar C-type Continuation. The landmark vehicle made its public debut at the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace on Friday, 3 September.
The C-type Continuation will be hand-built at Jaguar Classic Works in Coventry to the specification of the 1953 ‘works’ C-types. The model dominated 1953’s Le Mans 24 Hours, scoring the C-type’s second win, continuing a run of success for Jaguar.
The team at Jaguar Classic has painstakingly researched the C-type’s history for the Continuation’s exacting specification. They are bringing Jaguar’s heritage to life through modern technology and engineering expertise. This includes the use of the same authentic techniques and build methods as in period.
Dan Pink, Director, Jaguar Classic, said: “The C-type is one of the most iconic cars in Jaguar’s illustrious racing history, driven by some of the most admired drivers in history. The C-type Continuation keeps Malcolm Sayers’ iconic and advanced design alive thanks to the first application of 3D CAD drawings by Jaguar Classic, marrying design and motorsport heritage with the very latest engineering tools.”
The C-type’s glorious motorsport history
Originally dubbed the XK120C, and using that vehicle as its base, the C-type would become one of the most important cars in Jaguar’s racing history.
The C-type used the XK120’s engine, transmission and suspension.
Its slippery shape was the vision of Malcolm Sayer, legendary Jaguar Cars designer, aerodynamicist, engineering prodigy and artist. He used complicated mathematic formulae to create three-dimensional curves. Then he applied his unique artistic skill and aerodynamic expertise to make the exotic design come alive.
The C-type originally raced from 1951 and secured victory at Le Mans first time out. Its pioneering shape helped the winning drivers, Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead, achieve a record-breaking average speed of 93.495mph.
However, it was the first use of disc brakes from 1952 that was particularly notable. Combined with upgrades to the engine and suspension, the brakes developed with Dunlop contributed to C-types dominating the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hour.
Designed with a drilled tubular chassis frame to prioritise weight saving, the C-type represented key improvements on the XK120 all-around. After the application of disc brakes, came the use of 16-inch 60-spoke wire wheels to improve cooling for the brakes. Meanwhile, innovations such as using a Panhard rod for the rear suspension also improved the vehicle. It was eventually honed into its ultimate 1953 configuration.
Then, at the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours, the updated C-type broke the 100mph 24-hour average speed record at 105.85mph. This represented a significant step forwards from the 93.49mph 24-hour record-breaking average speed the C-type set in 1951.
Contributing to this success was the use of three Weber 40DCO3 carburettors. They boosted the 3.4-litre straight-six engine’s horsepower from 200bhb (147kW) to 220bhp (162kW). The extra power, combined with the disc brakes and the lightweight body, contributed to the Jaguar’s second Le Mans triumph.
The bonnet vent at the top of the engine bay directing air straight into the carburettors identifies 1953 specification models. The intricately designed airbox is just one of several unique touches on the 1953 car that all C-type Continuations will also feature.
Driven by Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt, the winning car in 1953 led to much wider adoption of disc brakes for both race and road use. Jaguar’s engineering innovations set the tone for the whole industry, using its motorsport know-how to improve driving experiences for all.
A treasure hunt for authenticity
The creation of the C-type Continuation required a deep dive into the C-type’s history and heritage. This subsequently informed the build approach, its specification and its racing prowess.
Before the physical development could begin Jaguar Classic spent almost two years compiling data. The quest to build this iconic car in the 21st century became something of a treasure hunt into Jaguar’s archives, drawings, documents and pictures.
As well as using available original drawings and reviewing in-period parts, the team needed to consult the original engineering ledger. Copy typists fully digitised everything the team needed to know. The original ledger listed over 2,000 items. Jaguar’s current team of highly skilled engineers then checked all of this information.
Thankfully, Norman Dewis OBE (1920 – 2019) – former test driver and engineer for Jaguar Cars – provided invaluable guidance on the build process. The team also had access to an example C-type and photographs, along with Malcolm Sayer’s notes for the sleek body. Obviously, this all helped to construct a ‘Car Zero’.
The collation of all of this information culminated in the construction of a 3D CAD (computer-aided design) model. This is the first time Jaguar Classic created a whole Continuation vehicle in this way.
The methodology began with the major elements of the body as well as the overall structure. This provided key visuals to the engineers, allowing them to ensure that everything matched up to the original information available. The state-of-the-art tools in Jaguar Cars’ arsenal today helped validate the authenticity and ingenuity of the original C-type.
Jaguar C-type Continuation specification
Of the 53 C-types built in the 1950s, Jaguar sold 43 to private owners. Production C-type specification was more like that of the 1951 Le Mans competing cars, limited to drum-braked cars with twin SU carburettors and 200bhp (147kW).
Jaguar Classic will build the first C-type Continuation cars ahead of a racing-inspired celebration event for their owners in 2022. Each example will reflect the 1953 Le Mans-winning works team car specification, including its 3.4-litre straight-six engine with triple Weber 40DCO3 carburettors, producing 220bhp (162kW), and the ground-breaking disc brakes that contributed to the record-breaking triumph at the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours.
The Jaguar Classic team will deliver another continuation vehicle with unparalleled attention to detail and craftsmanship.
For the 3.4-litre straight-six engine, each of which takes nine months to construct, the Weber carburettors are all meticulously refurbished to an exacting standard. Other details in the engine bay are also in-period. This includes the Plessey hydraulic pump on the gearbox that pumps hydraulic fluid into the brakes.
Attention to detail
The attention to detail extends to elements such as the brake fluid reservoir. On the original cars, it featured brackets designed for application in another vehicle. For the C-type, they serve no purpose, however, all Continuation cars will retain this original anomaly.
Similarly, 1953-specification C-types featured a different Lucas fusebox cover to previous C-types from 1951 and 1952. All Continuation cars feature reconditioned original versions of the correct design that Jaguar Classic sourced.
The Lucas rear-view mirrors fitted to all C-type Continuations have also been sourced after an exhaustive treasure hunt for authentic components. At the start of the process, Jaguar Classic had just one. They managed to source enough originals to ensure every Continuation features an in-period Lucas rear-view mirror, to complement the three-quarter Brooklands race screen and Smiths clocks in the cockpit.
The original-spec clocks and gauges are an illustration of the hours of craftsmanship that go into creating a C-type Continuation. Not only are they faithful to the originals, but the way in which they are integrated – including the surrounding switches – is an example of the fine and delicate attention to detail that Jaguar Classic engineers employ to create the perfect example.
The ignition switch on the C-type Continuation also embodies this approach. The precisely re-engineered component replicates the original’s start-up procedure. Reliable and high-quality components were used to ensure the operation is as it should be, every single time. Of course, the task of intricately reproducing the rev counter ahead of the driver, including the way it revs counter-clockwise, has also been carried out with an emphasis on authenticity and originality.
For all C-type Continuations, materials sourced for the interior respect and reference the original’s heritage. Old blends effortlessly with new, to ensure authenticity while also providing a high quality and reliable finish for owners. The Hardura trim used for the cockpit has been retrimmed to a level that wasn’t found on the original C-type. However, it is trimmed in silver to evoke the period item.
The Rexine finish on the dashboard and side panels of the Continuation cars is from the last roll available. Obviously, this provides as authentic an ambience as possible, delivering the same type of finish as 70 years ago.
The seats, finished in a choice of eight leather hues, are upholstered by Bridge of WeirTM and are complemented with racing harnesses. These fit onto a newly constructed component behind the rear bulkhead to comply with FIA regulations.
In addition, the Bluemel steering wheel is true to the original, with no roundel affixed to the centre. Jaguar omitted it from the original race cars to reduce glare and reflections. However, customers can specify the iconic Jaguar badging if they desire.
All C-type Continuations are FIA-approved, with eligibility to participate in historic race championships. These include the Jaguar Classic Challenge, which races at Le Mans, Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone. To comply with regulations, the C-type Continuations feature an FIA-approved Harness Retention System as well as rollover protection, integrated into the rear bulkhead. These safety measures are also reassuring for those customers just looking to enjoy on track or closed-road use.
Other FIA-required fitments include a fire extinguisher with engine and footwell extinguishers, neatly controlled by in-period toggle switches in the cockpit.
Owners have 12 exterior colours to pick from, including Suede Green, Cream, Pastel Blue and British Racing Green. They also have the opportunity to enhance the exterior with door roundels finished in White or Old English White.
The meticulous paint process takes one week to complete using modern water-based paint, while Jaguar badging can also be specified.
Jaguar C-type Continuation: technical specification
Powertrain and chassis
- Hand-built 3.4-litre DOHC in-line six-cylinder engine
- Produces 220bhp (162kW) @ 5,800rpm
- Triple Weber 40DCO3 carburettors
- Four-speed manual transmission
- Plessey pump fitted to gearbox
- Hand-rolled 16-gauge aluminium
- 12 exterior paint options
- Optional door roundels
- Optional Jaguar badging
- 16-inch, 60-spoke wire wheels
- Eight leather seat colour options
- Original Lucas rear-view mirror with three-quarter windscreen & Brooklands Aeroscreen
- Smiths clocks and gauges
- 15-inch Bluemel steering wheel
- Optional harness retention system
- FIA-approved fire extinguishing system