Origin of the C-Type
One would like to know what was going on in the minds of Heynes and Lyons, the two Jaguar executives, who decided in the late summer of 1950 to take part in a race that would be held only a few months later at Le Mans. When the factory team arrived on the Sarthe in 1951 for training, the cars were unproven. Were Heynes and Lyons really looking for a chance to win? The answer came in the form of subsequent victories of the C-Type at the Sarthe 1951 and 1953.
At the London Motor Show in 1948, Jaguar introduced its brand new XK 120 as a limited production model for use in motorsport. Fascinated by the XK120 form and its technology, the crowd surprised the Jaguar managers with significantly higher demand. Lyons decided to continue to develop the XK120 as a production vehicle and to offer it worldwide. In North Americ, the sale of the vehicle had overwhelming success. With its very close-to-introduction XK120 achieving an extraordinarily honorable success at 1950 Le Mans, William Lyons and Bill Heynes soon agreed to get the big shell in the following year with a Jaguar.
Development of the C-Type
Developed with goal Le Mans
The long-distance classic was the main target for Jaguar, and its management was aware of the marketing effect of a success in Le Mans. Accordingly, Jaguar put emphasis on high reliability, good handling characteristics, and aerodynamic balance of speeds. Chief engineer Bill Heynes did a great job. The engine of the XK 120 was upgraded with larger SU carburetors to 210 hp. The chassis was redeveloped as a tubular frame. In addition, Jaguar introduced a lightweight aluminum body with only one door for the driver. The design was a contribution by Malcolm Sayer, a gifted engineer who had years of experience designing for the English RAF aircraft.
The cockpit was protected only by a small racing disc. Also, the space in it was rather than narrow. But Jaguar drivers like Moss, Walker or Whitehead found in the cockpit of the C-Type all the necessary instruments and even spare spark plugs and tools for repairs during the race event.
Successful (almost) everywhere
The new car was tested in the hinterland near the Jaguar home in Coventry. There were a few things that could be improved, and then they set off with their drivers to France. Jaguar came, drove and won. The lead on the runner-up was nine rounds! The drivers also set a new distance record. After the success in Le Mans in 1951, other victories followed, including in Goodwood, Reims, Torrey Pines, and, of course, the renewed victory at Le Mans in 1953.
The appearance of Jaguar at the Sarthe 1952 failed, and all three vehicles were eliminated by overheating of the engines. It was rumored that Stirling Moss thought the new Mercedes SL were stronger than they actually were in the race. The failure of the Jaguar fleet made the Mercedes victory no less valuable, but a little easier. The next attempt came in 1953. The Jaguar team was equipped with more powerful engines, three Weber carburetors and Dunlop disc brakes in the improved C-type. It was followed by game, set, and victory. Among the first ten vehicles that flew past the panned flag on June 27, 1953 were four C-Type: 1st, 2nd, 4th and 9th. William Lyons dedicated this triumphal march to Queen Elizabeth, who had just been enthroned. Her Majesty returned the favor in her own way and knighted the Jaguar chief in the spring of 1956.
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