After an exploratory trip to Le Mans by Jaguar in 1950 with three XK120s, it was realised that Jaguar had the makings of a successful competition car if weight could be saved and aerodynamics improved. Sir William Lyons was persuaded in 1950 by Engineering Director William “Bill” Heynes and the Manager of the Service Department, “Lofty” England, that a car should be produced solely with racing in mind. Hence was born the XK120C, or as the race-car is more generally known, the C-type. The “C” standing for Competition.
To reduce weight, a multi-tubular triangulated frame was chosen and designed by Bob Knight. The body was designed by aerodynamicist, Malcolm Sayer. Sayer was about to join the company from the aircraft industry and although Sayer’s design was not “original” in any sense and his artistic flair was constrained by a functional requirement – to win at Le Mans – Sayer worked within these constraints and penned a design that was to capture the hearts of generations of enthusiasts in the years to follow. His beautiful design certainly played a part in Jaguar subsequently employing him full-time!
A little over 70 years ago, Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead lined up on the grid of the 19th 24 hours of Le Mans in their works-entered Jaguar C-type.
They went on to win – first time out – followed by more successes at Le Mans.
54 C-Types were eventually completed by Jaguar, with the vast majority being raced. In salute to these wonderful cars, a large number were re-created by enthusiasts over the years – supported by a strong Replica Industry. Re-creations of these cars continue to be made to this day – not only built, owned and raced by enthusiasts worldwide but also past and present employees of Jaguar. Indeed, in celebration of the C-Type 70th Anniversary, Jaguar have recently announced their own C-Type replica/continuations.
In celebration of the C-Type, a road-run is being planned for 3rd October this year. Starting close to Browns Lane, spiritual home of Jaguar, the cars will begin their run following part of the route the cars took on their way to Le Mans in 1951. Other Coventry landmarks of significance to Jaguar, Malcolm Sayer and the C-Type will be passed before a final gathering south of Coventry.
Owners of C-Types are invited to join us on this celebratory run – replicas welcome as well as original cars!