XKC 011, a 1952 Jaguar C-Type. Photos by Matt Howell, courtesy Bonhams Auctions, unless otherwise noted.
Jaguar’s XK 120 C, commonly referred to as the C-Type, put the racing world on notice when it won the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans in its debut year. Built in 1952, C-Type chassis XKC 011 was raced by Sir Stirling Moss and a host of other drivers through the late 1950s, and since 1963 has been in the care of the same family. Though repainted over the years, XKC 011 has never been crashed or restored, and on May 13, this remarkable survivor will cross the auction stage in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Stirling Moss behind the wheel of XKC 011. Photo courtesy Revs Institute Digital Library.
Mechanical caretaker Andrew Tart Motor Engineering has documented the entire history of XKC 011, a car it refers to as “possibly the most original C-Type remaining.” Debuting as a Jaguar team car in May of 1952, XKC 011 first saw action at Silverstone, where driver Peter Walker retired early but still delivered a seventh-place finish. Perhaps Silverstone was a mechanical shakedown for Le Mans, but with rumors of a renewed Daimler-Benz presence at the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans, Jaguar found itself in need of a higher top speed than the C-Type’s 144 MPH.
The answer came in the form of a streamlined body, which increased the C-Type’s overall length from 157 to 167 inches but, presumably, lowered the car’s drag coefficient. The 3.4-liter inline six also received a bump in compression (from 8:1 to 9:1), raising output from 200 horsepower to 210 horsepower. Combined, these changes delivered a new top speed of 152 MPH, which Jaguar believed was sufficient to counter the threat from the German team.
Jaguar entered three reshaped C-Types for the 1952 event, and XKC 011 was assigned to Stirling Moss and Peter Walker. The changes had not been sufficiently tested in advance of the race, and all three team cars retired early in the event with overheating-related problems, initially blamed on the reshaped radiator opening. A change back to the original body after Le Mans failed to completely resolve the issue, which was later identified as cavitation in the cooling system caused by the use of an undersized water pump pulley.
Now bodied as a regular C-Type, XKC 011 next saw action at the Goodwood 9 Hour, held on August 16, 1952. Again pairing with Peter Walker, Stirling Moss brought the Jaguar home to a fifth place finish, but the car’s following outings delivered more impressive results for the team. At the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb, Walker delivered a class-winning performance, setting a new record time in the process. In September, Walker would repeat the performance at the Prescott hillclimb, and later that same month Tony Rolt would take victory at Goodwood.
Moss would drive the car twice in 1953, at the Mille Miglia, where a mechanical failure caused a DNF, and at the Isle of Man, where he finished fourth overall in the final. By the end of the 1953 season XKC 011 had been reserved for use as a development car, testing tires for Avon and Pirelli. Its moment in the sun with the Jaguar team had come to an end, but its racing days were far from over.
When Belgian team Ecurie Francorchamps crashed a C-Type in a road accident ahead of the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans, XKC 011 was hastily delivered to France as a replacement. With no time to repaint the car in the team’s yellow livery, a yellow stripe was added to identify the car, and the team was allowed two shakedown laps prior to gridding from the last position. Despite the handicap, Ecurie Francorchamps drivers Roger Laurent and Jacques Swaters drove to a fourth place finish in the race, a result the team later backed up with a heat win (and a third overall finish) at Zandvoort on August 15.
At the end of the 1954 season, the car was returned to Jaguar, where it was rebuilt, painted gray and loaned to Dunlop for tire and component testing. The D-Type was now the Jaguar model to have, limiting the C-Type’s appeal to club racers. Dunlop eventually returned the car to Jaguar, and in May of 1957, XKC 011 was sold to its first owner, Jaguar employee Michael Salmon, who actively campaigned the car with impressive results through the 1958 season.
In 1959, the Jaguar, now wearing a blue livery, was sold to its next owner, Gordon Lee, who raced it throughout 1959 before selling it to Robin Sturgess in January 1960. Sturgess opted to return the Jaguar to its British Racing Green livery, and ran the car into the 1961 season.
By now the Jaguar was a tired club racer, and it would pass through two more owners before landing with the consignor’s family in 1963. The buyer’s daughter raced the car into the late 1960s, and has since driven the C-Type on tours and in vintage events throughout Europe.
Though XKC 011’s ties to Sir Stirling Moss, and its documented competition history at Le Mans in-period are noteworthy, perhaps the most remarkable attribute is the car’s survivor status. Despite a lengthy competition history in the hands of up-and-coming drivers, XKC 011 has never been crashed, though its aluminum body does bear witness to a life lived at the limit. Beneath its current green paint, evidence of earlier liveries stand in testament to its authenticity, and Bonhams isn’t publishing a pre-auction estimate for the lot. For reference, the highest price paid for a C-Type to date, excluding lightweight models, was the $4.8 million paid for an ex-Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar, which crossed the block at a December 2013 Bonhams sale.
Bonhams Monaco sale will coincide with the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix Historique. For additional information, visit Bonhams.com.