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1953 marked the second victory at the Le Mans 24 hours in three years for Jaguar and the C-type. With so many lessons learned and competition hotting up, an all new car was needed to help keep them at the front of the grid. From these learnings, the D-type was born. Retaining the 3.5 litre XK engine from the C-type, the car now sported an aeronautical-inspired, magnesium-alloy central monocoque tub, an aluminium spaceframe and all-round Dunlop disc brakes.
The D-type was created in time for Le Mans 1954 with Jaguar fielding three cars in the race. Unfortunately, all developed misfire-related issues causing both retirement and extensive setbacks. 1955 however brought success with Jaguar achieving 1st and 3rd. Victory continued for the next two consecutive years, with 1st,4th and 6th in 1956 and 1st,2nd, 3rd,4th and 6th in 1957 respectively, albeit by privateer teams...
Within the upper echelons of Jaguar D-Types, chassis no. XKD 603 sits amongst the very best in existence. Of the 11 works-prepared, long-nose D-Types; Just six remain in existence today and of those six, only two remain in ‘private’ hands.
XKD 603 was built to be campaigned by Jaguar as a works-prepared entry for the 1956 season. Although its first two outings at Silverstone and the Nürburgring 1000 kms resulted in DNF, the car finished an impressive third place at the Reims 12 hour race at the hands of Desmond Titterington and Jack Fairman. At that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the car was intended to be a spare car but was pressed into action once XKD 606 was damaged in practice. Raced by Paul Frère and Desmond Titterington, its race was unfortunately cut short when it was involved in an accident within the first hour.
For the 1957 season, XKD 603 was sold to Ecurie Ecosse, perhaps the most iconic privateer team to have campaigned Jaguars in period, who campaigned it in the World Sportscar Championship. Crossing the Atlantic to Buenos Aires, it placed fourth overall with Roberto Mieres and Ninian Sanderson. Returning to Europe, it failed to finish at both Spa and the Nürburgring 1000 kms, but achieved a very impressive win with Sanderson at St. Etienne in France.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1957 was arguably Jaguar’s finest moment in motor racing. Five of the top six places were occupied by D-Types, with XKD 603 finishing an incredible second overall thanks to John Lawrence and Ninian Sanderson. Even more impressive was that XKD 603 was running a 3.4-litre straight-six instead of the 3.8-litre motor in the winning car, and finished just eight laps down over 24 hours.
Driven straight to Monza immediately after Le Mans, XKD 603 finished 4th overall with Jack Fairman.
Over the course of the next two years, the XKD 603 continued to be campaigned by Ecurie Ecosse and returned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in both 1958 and 1959, making for a total of four consecutive appearances at the fabled race. Both 1958 and 1959 resulted in DNFs, but the car proved to be a front runner in both events, running as high as second in 1959.
Following the conclusion of the 1959 season, XKD 603 was acquired by an American by the name of James Munro. Munro contacted Ecurie Ecosse directly wanting to buy their Le Mans winning D-Type (XKD 606) and the team agreed initially but later changed their mind and send XKD 603 instead. Upon its arrival in the U.S. he continued to race the car until 1971 when it was acquired a prominent collector who returned it to the U.K.
603 continued to race in historic motorsport in the U.K. where it proved to be highly successful.
Amazingly, XKD 603 has never been fully restored, a result of having been carefully and thoughtfully maintained throughout its life and never being involved in any serious accidents since it was raced in period. Evidence of the car’s original British Racing Green paint can even be seen in some places on the bodywork.
Importantly, the car is accompanied by an incredible array of accessories including the following:
- Its original nose and tail
- Two spare engines, including the engine that was fitted to the car when it finished its racing career with Ecurie Ecosse in 1959
- The original upholstery (one of only two D-Types to retain its original upholstery, the other resides with Miles Collier in the REVS Institute).
- The original scoop from Monza
- Its original works log books
- Le Mans Entry Forms from 1957
- Ninian Sanderson’s goggles from BA when he was hit by a bird
- Ron Gaudion’s original 1958 Ecurie Ecosse overalls.
The motorsport resume of XKD 603 is truly incredible. In addition to four outings at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (including placing second overall), it was raced at almost every significant circuit in Europe including Silverstone, the Nürburgring, Reims, Spa, Monza, Goodwood, as well as Buenos Aires and Sebring. Seven 24Hr Le Mans winners piloted the car in period; Mike Hawthorn, Duncan Hamilton, Paul Frère, Ivor Beub, Ron Flockhart, Ninian Sanderson, and Masten Gregory.
Not only should it be considered one of the most historically significant Jaguar’s in existence, it can certainly be argued that it is one of the most historically significant automobiles ever built in the U.K. It will surely be welcomed to any automotive event worldwide with open arms and would be the cornerstone of any collection on the planet.