Everything old is new again. In the case of the 1953 Jaguar C-Type, the British sports racer who pioneered the use of disc brakes on automobiles and finished first, second, fourth and ninth in that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans there, it is not an idiom but a manifesto. The 2022 C-Type Continuation is not a replica, but a real Jaguar built by the company to the almost exact specifications of the C-Types created 70 years ago.
Only 16 will be made, each costing between $1.4 million and $2.7 million.
The C-Type Continuation follows in the wheel tracks of the D-Type, Lightweight E-Type and XKSS continuation cars created by in-house heritage arm, Jaguar Classic. And in some ways, that was the hardest to create.
Designed, engineered and built in just six months, the original 1951 Type C used the road-going XK120 engine, transmission and suspension. The mechanics were wrapped in a lightweight, aerodynamic aluminum body designed by former aeronautical engineer and aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer. The car won its first outing at the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Only 53 C-Types were built, 43 of which were privately owned.
The 2022 C-Type Continuation is built to rare 1953 racing specs, which means disc brakes, 60-spoke 16-inch wheels and better cooling. Only six were made.
During a two-year deep dive, Jaguar Classic consulted the original drawings and the engineering log, which contained the details of over 2,000 parts, to create a 3D digital model of the entire car to ensure that every component made for the Type-C suite was genuine. Even so, figuring out how to build it was a major challenge, said C-Type Continuation project engineer Dave Moore.
“By the time the 1953 Le Mans cars were built, they had already decided they were going to make the D-Type,” says Moore. “They didn’t write down how to build this Type C, because why would they? As soon as the car was finished at Le Mans, it was going to be scrapped. All we had was the register, written to the original ink, which was really just a list of parts, with their part number and a brief description.”
All parts brought in from outside were simply noted as such, along with the name of the company that supplied them. “Most of these companies have now gone bankrupt, so we couldn’t ask, ‘Do you still have the design?’ or ‘How did you make these components?’ We had to figure it out ourselves,” Moore says.
The fact that the C-Type Continuation was Jaguar Classic’s first car with a tubular steel chassis – the D-Type, E-Type Lightweight and XKSS all have aluminum monocoques – created another set of difficulties. To be true to the original, the chassis had to be arc welded, and finding a welder who knew how to do this was not easy.
“Our supplier had a guy who had qualified as an arc welder during his apprenticeship,” says Moore. “He was in his late 50s and was thinking of retiring. But he said, ‘I’m going to stay because I want to do this’, even though he hadn’t touched a stick in 20 years.” The frame of the car shown here was the first to be completed. “He kind of used it as a test base,” says Moore, who points out that it’s difficult to ensure dimensional accuracy of a frame built this way.
The fact that no definitive 1953 Type C exists in the real world also made it difficult to fine-tune the suspension. Jaguar Classic has remade the C-Type Continuation dampers from the original designs. “We were able to interpret the data, understand the damping curves, and then reinterpret them into the component,” Moore says. “We are confident that the car behaves as it did during the period.”
The C-Type Continuation is powered by a remanufactured 3.4-litre version of the famous XK twin-cam straight-six that takes nine months to build by hand. In keeping with the 1953 Le Mans specification, the engine is fitted with three Weber 40DCO3 carburetors rather than the two SU carburetors that powered the 1951 and 1952 cars, which helps the engine deliver 220 horsepower.
The interior features a clock and gauges recreated to original Smiths Instruments specifications. Vintage Lucas mirrors are the genuine item – Jaguar Classic only knew of one at the start of the project, but managed to track down 15 more in what CEO Dan Pink calls “a grueling treasure hunt” .
An artificial leather fabric called Rexine, which dates back to 1915 and was used for binding before being adopted by British car manufacturers in the 1920s – it was still used by the British Motor Corporation in the 1970s – can be found on the dashboard and the side panels. It comes, says Pink, from the last roll of this type of material available.
Other carefully designed period details include the six spare spark plugs screwed into a plate next to the driver’s seat, just like in the 1953 Le Mans cars, a spare ignition coil fixed to the rail of the chassis next to the main one and an additional non-functional support. on the brake fluid reservoir, just like the one on the original car, which came from another vehicle. There’s no Jaguar logo in the center of the three-spoke steering wheel, like on racing cars (they didn’t want the glare to distract drivers), although owners can order their car with one if they wish.
There were a number of subtle changes from the 1953 specification, mostly in the interest of reliability and safety. Brakes have been upgraded and racing harnesses fitted so the car can meet historic FIA racing regulations, for example. An FIA-approved fire suppression system for the cockpit and engine compartment is fitted, operated by vintage rocker switches. And hidden in the rear bulkhead are connection points that allow the fitment of FIA-approved rollover protection.
The aluminum gauge used for the body has been increased from 1.2mm to 1.5mm so the panels won’t bend so easily if accidentally pressed. “The original cars were built to last 24 hours,” said Dave Foster, Jaguar Classic’s head of engineering. “These are designed to last longer.”
As difficult as the C-Type Continuation is, Foster acknowledges that Jaguar Classic has now created the most obvious and easily replicated cars in Jaguar’s pantheon of great drivers. So what’s the next step? “Well, there’s always the Holy Grail,” he said with a smile.
“It’s not a plan we’ve ever discussed if I’m being honest,” Foster said. “But we have it in the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust collection, and we always look at it and think, ‘That would be really cool.’” Indeed, it would.