Drive

Af­ter a gap of more than 60 years, a very lim­ited- edi­tion pro­duc­tion of the com­pe­ti­tion- slay­ing Jaguar D-Type is un­der­way

Gulf Business - - LIFESTYLE - By Varun God­inho

We look at the re­turn of Jaguar’s D-Type af­ter a 60 year gap, and test ride Honda’s slimmed down 2018 Gold Wing mo­tor­cy­cle Varun God­inho and Tarak Parekh

THE 24 HOURS of Le Mans is the grand­daddy of all en­durance races. It’s where sec­ond-rung car­mak­ers are sep­a­rated from the all-time greats. In the bas­ket of the lat­ter is Jaguar, which had an en­vi­ously suc­cess­ful run in the 1950s.

Jaguar had a healthy habit of build­ing cars that be­gan life as race­cars and were then adapted to be­come road-le­gal cars as well. As a re­sult of its racing bent of mind, aero­dy­nam­ics and sheer power were al­ways at the fore­front of its de­sign and build brief. The C-Type, for ex­am­ple, had a lightweight tubu­lar frame and, rev­o­lu­tion­ary for its time, also boasted of disc brakes on all four wheels. That meant rac­ers could drive it at the very edge of its limit be­fore step­ping on the brakes at the last mo­ment as they en­tered a cor­ner. One of racing’s most im­por­tant tenets is not only how fast you go, but also how fast you scrub off that speed. The C-Type won the Le Mans in 1951 and then again in 1953. But with Fer­rari and Mercedes fu­ri­ously chas­ing down Jaguar, it was time to build a suc­ces­sor.

En­ter the D-Type. While the C-Type was a ven­er­a­ble racing ma­chine, one of its big­gest flaws was that it wasn’t able to go flat-out in the long straights of Le Mans, es­pe­cially the in­fa­mous nearly-6km Mul­sanne Straight. Mal­colm Sayer, a for­mer air­craft en­gi­neer, was drafted to work on the de­sign of the D-Type and was tasked with mak­ing it more aero­dy­namic than the C-Type.

In­stead of a tubu­lar steel frame as found in the C-Type, Sayer opted for a mono­coque con­struc­tion made from sheets of alu­minium al­loy. The fuel-filler was placed be­hind the driver’s seat, and in a move that ref­er­enced aero­planes; the fuel was stored in the tail of the car. The changes paid off and the D-Type ended up win­ning three Le Mans on the trot from 1955-1957. The re­designed car could now reach a top speed of 180mph – nearly 290kph – which is mind-bog­gling when you con­sider that it didn’t have a shred of elec­tronic gad­getry you see in mod­ern-day racing cars. The D-Type was des­tined for glory.

At around that time, Jaguar de­cided to build a to­tal of 100 D-Types. It ended up build­ing just 75. It de­cided to use the re­main­ing 25 D-Type chas­sis to build the XKSS. Un­for­tu­nately, only 16 of those XKSSs were built be­fore a fire swept

through the Jaguar fac­tory de­stroy­ing the re­main­ing nine chas­sis.

Fast-for­ward to 2017 and Jaguar Land Rover de­cided to set up the Jaguar Land Rover Clas­sic Works fa­cil­ity at the Browns Lane site in Coven­try. Spread across 14,000 square me­tres with 54 ser­vice bays, JLR says that it’s the largest fa­cil­ity of its kind in the world – a claim we can­not dis­pute. The scope of work at Clas­sic Works gen­er­ally cov­ers three ma­jor cat­e­gories: ‘con­tin­u­a­tion’, ‘restora­tion’ and ‘re­born’. Con­tin­u­a­tion is JLR’s way of fin­ish­ing up the pro­duc­tion of cer­tain his­toric mod­els that didn’t com­plete their full pro­duc­tion cy­cle for one rea­son or an­other. The restora­tion de­part­ment al­lows cus­tomers from around the world to bring in their clas­sics and have the team work on them with tools and tech­ni­cal references that you are likely to only find at JLR’s fa­cil­ity. The re­born pro­gramme in­volves the team scout­ing around for barn finds of ul­tra­ex­clu­sive mod­els, buy­ing them from their own­ers, restor­ing them and then re­selling them in the mar­ket.

The con­tin­u­a­tion de­part­ment is an ex­cit­ing one when you con­sider that there will be mint con­di­tion clas­sics rolled off from this fa­cil­ity. Some 62 years af­ter the last D-Type was made, Jaguar is mak­ing good on its promise. It will man­u­fac­ture the re­main­ing 25 D-Types.

It dug into its ar­chives to ex­tract the orig­i­nal draw­ings; tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions and de­sign point­ers out­lined for the orig­i­nal car as well as sourced special tools that were used in the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion ( in­clud­ing those sal­vaged af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing fire).

The re­sult is this faith­ful all-new D-Type, which de­buted at the Salon Retro­mo­bile show in Paris ear­lier this year. The hand­crafted riv­eted alu­minium body­work on it looks just like the orig­i­nal and the Dun­lop wheel, tyres and brakes are all pe­riod cor­rect as well.

The in­te­ri­ors have the same round speedome­ter dial and a glo­ri­ous wooden steer­ing wheel per­fo­rated with steel. There’s plenty of tanned-leather in this two-seater car (Le Mans rules stip­u­lated that there were nec­es­sar­ily two seats in the car) and a dis­tinc­tive wand-like pro­trud­ing park­ing brake. Un­der­neath the hood you’ll find a re­man­u­fac­tured ver­sion of the orig­i­nal in-line six-cylin­der 3.4-liter XK en­gine used in the D-Type of the 1950s, com­plete with widean­gle cylin­der heads and a four-speed man­ual gear­box that back then – as it can even to­day – made cham­pi­ons out of mere men.

You can order the car with ei­ther the long-nose or short-nose vari­ant and in a colour of your choice. Our rec­om­men­da­tion: opt for the long-nose vari­ant in the Ecurie Ecosse blue-and-white livery. As for the price? We don’t know yet, but here are some point­ers. The ac­tual 1956 Le Mans-win­ning D-Type auc­tioned for nearly $22m two years ago. An­other D-Type, owned by the bil­lion­aire for­mer F1-boss Bernie Ec­cle­stone was of­fered at auc­tion for around $12m not very long ago. For the new D-Types that Jaguar is build­ing, get ready to pay in seven fig­ures.

We’d stick our necks out and say that this is prob­a­bly the last time that you’ll be able to buy a brand new Jaguar D-Type. Once the Bri­tish car­maker ful­fils its promise of

Jaguar had a healthy habit of build­ing cars which be­gan life as race­cars and were then adapted to be­come roadle­gal cars as we l l .

build­ing those fi­nal 25 cars, it’s un­likely to re­visit the project. Score one now, and you’ll have a bonafide col­lec­tor’s item on your hand and a set of wheels which will be a hot favourite with auc­tion houses a few decades from now.

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