The C-Type is the car that launched the Jaguar racing legend and began a Le Mans love affair for the men from Coventry. In the 1950s, Jaguar boss Bill Lyons was intent on winning Le Mans laurels for Britain, just as Bentley had done a quarter of a century before. After testing mildly modified XK120s in 1950, Jaguar came up with a competition version, the XK120C (C-Type) for 1951.
A C-Type won that year, failed in 1952, then won again in 1953. By then the C-Type’s place in history was assured, for it had laid the cornerstone of the Jaguar sporting legend that blossomed through its successor, the D-Type, which bagged three Le Mans 24-hour wins in four years.
C-Types were sold to private customers, most of whom used them for racing rather than road use. They were tractable road cars though, often driven to and from meetings; after their days as competitive racers were over, many were used as high-performance highway tourers.
Jaguar’s Bill Lyons dictated that the C-Type racer should bear a strong family resemblance to production Jaguars, and the Malcolm Sayer body, fitted to a special frame, achieved that aim.
A car built for racing does not need to carry baggage; rear deck covers the massive fuel tank.
Quick-release gas cap was another racing feature and could save valuable seconds in a race.
It was easier to step over the door than open it; the passenger did not even get one.
The C-Type introduced disc brakes to road racing in 1952, though most examples used drums.
Telescopic shocks smoothed the ride.
The clever blend of beauty and function retained the pouncing-cat Jaguar “look,” while creating an aerodynamically efficient tool for the high-speed Le Mans circuit.
The C-Type was always most at home on the track, though more at Le Mans—where it won the 24-hour classic in two out of three attempts—than on shorter circuits such as Silverstone.
The engine was taken from the XK120 and placed into the competition version. Horsepower of the silky six was boosted each year until some 220 bhp was available.
Engine snuggled neatly into its bay, ready for action.
Hood hinged forward to ease midrace adjustments.
Designer Malcolm Sayer’s aircraft industry background shows through in the smooth aerodynamic styling. Louvers on the hood help hot air escape; the engine cover is secured by quick-release handles and leather safety straps.
The cockpit was designed for business, not comfort, but was roomy enough for two adults; passengers were provided with a grab handle in case the driver thought he was at Le Mans. In racing trim, cars ran with a single airshield; this car has an additional full-width windshield.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Jaguar C-Type (1951–53)
BODY STYLE Two-door, two-seater sports racer.
CONSTRUCTION Tubular chassis, aluminum body.
ENGINE Jaguar XK120 3442cc, six-cylinder, double overhead camshaft with twin SU carburetors.
POWER OUTPUT 200–210 bhp at 5800 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Four-speed XK gearbox with close-ratio gears.
SUSPENSION Torsion-bars all around; wishbones at front, rigid axle at rear.
BRAKES Lockheed hydraulic drums; later cars used Dunlop discs all around.
MAXIMUM SPEED 144 mph (232 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 8.1 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 20.1 sec
A.F.C. 16 mpg (5.7 km/l)