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1955 Jaguar D-Type : Classic Cars

Jaguar already had Le Mans figured out, winning there in 1951 and 1953 with its C-Type race cars. But times were moving on and Jaguar had to progress too, so it developed the D-Type for the 1954 24-hour classic.

Malcolm Sayer, an aerodynamicist with an aircraft background, was responsible for the D-Type's shape. Proving beautiful form follows function, the wind tunnel-tested D-Type had a smooth rounded nose with an oval intake, rounded shapes along its hood, a low-cut one-person windscreen and a headrest with a tall fighter plane stabilizing fin.

Ferraris such as the 375 Plus (also in the Louvre show) are impressive for their look of strength and power, while the D-Type's appeal is more sublime, less emotional on a visceral level, but more thoughtfully beautiful.

And fast, as the 1954 D-Type was clocked on the Mulsanne Straight at 170 mph, 20 mph up on the C-Type and more stable. Sound progress when you consider that at the time the 3 1/2-mile straightaway made up almost half of a total Le Mans lap.

Taking another page from aeronautical thinking, the D-Type had a monocoque structure, not the traditional body-over-frame design. This added structural strength at a lower weight than the old method. Powering the D-Types was a 3.4-liter version of the twincam Jaguar straight-6, upgraded to 250 bhp.

D-Types would race throughout the world, but they were aimed straight at Le Mans. First time out, 1954, they could manage only a 2nd to Ferrari's 375 Plus. For the next three years, however, D-Types owned the place—a win by the factory in 1955, and then by the Scottish team Ecurie Ecosse in 1956 and 1957. That last year, several Jaguars had 3.8-liter engines and D-Types finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th. One D-Type tripped the timing equipment on the Mulsanne Straight at 178.8 mph.

The D-Type in the Ralph Lauren collection is rare; it's one of only 10 "long nose" D-Types and the first to get a fuel-injected engine (later converted to carburetors). The car's initial event was the most successful for this D-Type, a 2nd overall for Paul Frère and Mike Hawthorne in the 1956 12-hour race at the Reims-Gueux circuit in France. It was this car that enabled Patricia Coundley to become the fastest woman in Europe in 1964 at 161.278 mph.

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Sources : 1955 Jaguar D-Type Photo | 1955 Jaguar D-Type Article | 1955 Jaguar D-Type Photo 2 | 1955 Jaguar D-Type Interior Photo


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