1955 Jaguar D-Type, Chassis XKD 501
Auctioned by RM Sotheby’s in Monterey, California, on August 19, 2016
The first of the D-Types created for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, XKD 501 sat out the June race after two crashes in practice the previous month sent the car to the Jaguar factory for repairs. It rode to five victories and four second-places from July to season’s end in September, but it was XKD 501’s 1956 season that made it famous.
Five D-Types lined up the grid at Le Mans that year, three of Jaguar’s factory team and two privateers fielded by the Belgian team Ecurie Francorchamps and the Scottish team Ecurie Ecosse. Only two laps after the green flag, an accident wiped away two of Jaguar’s factory cars. Four hours later it’s third was sputtering fuel and as good as done. Ecosse’s car, XKD 501, gained the lead at 5 p.m., and for the rest of the race its drivers, Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson, dueled continuously for the lead with an Aston Martin driven by Peter Collins and Stirling Moss, seven laps ahead of the third-place car.
By the checkered flag, XKD 501 was in the favored spot. Ecurie Francorchamps’ D-Type came in fourth. Jaguar retired all factory-supported race efforts in 1957 and sold off its racing fleet of later-model D-Types, several going to Ecurie Ecosse. These 3.8-liter I6 D-Types saw great success that year, taking one-and-two victories at Le Mans in 1957. The older XKD 501, though, with its smaller 3.4-liter engine, wasted away the season with a few decent finishes, a few did-not-finishes, and many did-not-enters. It was retired from racing in June 1957 and passed to a succession of collectors. Its engine is unoriginal, but it’s the only Le Mans-winning C- or D-Type left intact in the world.