Jaguar D-type Restoration

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'OKV3' - The Very First Jaguar D-type to Win a Race

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.

We are extremely proud to announce that the restoration of the 1954 Jaguar D-type Le Mans 24hr Works entrant, OKV 3, has been completed. A four-and-a-half year long meticulous and conservation-focussed restoration to Le Mans specification that has spanned over four years.

OKV 3, chassis number XKC404, is a car steeped in period history, being the first D-Type to ever win a race when it finished first in the 1954 Reims 12 hours. It is a short-nosed D type with a groundbreaking aluminium monocoque chassis; and this specific car features unique details such as its front hinged Le Mans tonneau cover and asymmetrical headlight.

OKV 3 was driven by Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton at Le Mans, while OKV 1 was entrusted to Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton, and OKV 2 to Stirling Moss and Peter Walker. All three D-types were struck by fuel-feed problems early in the race, but late on Saturday evening Whitehead was once again circulating quickly in OKV 3 and worked his way up into third place. The D-type then moved into second behind the Ferrari 375 Plus of José Froilán González and Maurice Trintignant, but frustratingly OKV 3 retired with gearbox failure on Sunday morning and Ferrari took victory.

OKV 3 was again entrusted to Wharton and Whitehead for the Reims 12 Hours, when Ferrari faced a three-strong D-type entry with a single works 750 Monza in the hands of Umberto Maglioli and Robert Manzon. When the Italian car was sidelined with transmission failure, the British team found itself largely unopposed.

OKV 2 retired shortly before dawn, leaving OKV 1 and OKV 3 to trade the lead as daylight broke and Wharton established a new lap record of 2 minutes 43.8 seconds during their duel. With 30 minutes to go, Duncan Hamilton brought OKV 1 into the pits with smoke coming from the differential, and Whitehead was clear to take the D-type’s first-ever victory.

Later that year, Norman Dewis drove OKV 3 in the Brighton Speed Trials, Peter Walker took it to Prescott hillclimb in Gloucestershire, and in November Jaguar used it at a test day to evaluate drivers for the following season.

After being displayed at the Brussels Motor Show in early 1955, OKV 3 reappeared at Silverstone in May for the Daily Express meeting. Mike Hawthorn set a new lap record in it and was leading comfortably until a water pipe failed; he crossed the line fourth.

In August 1955, OKV 3 was lent to Hamilton and Rolt for the Goodwood Nine Hours, but they were an early retirement with distributor failure, and that turned out to be its final race while it was owned by the Jaguar factory.

Only five D-types were built in 1954 and they differed from the 1955 and 1956 cars in several respects. The basis of Malcolm Sayer’s design was an aluminium monocoque, to which a subframe was attached for the engine and front suspension. On OKV 3 and the other 1954 D-types, this subframe was made of aluminium tubing and was welded to the front bulkhead. From 1955 onwards, the subframe was steel and was bolted to the bulkhead.

Carrying out in-depth research into the smallest details on OKV 3 has been fascinating, such as the way in which the inner wing panels were manufactured and fitted. We’re returning everything to exactly as it would have been during the car’s works career, including the tonneau cover, which was hinged at the front for the Le Mans 24 Hours rather than being removeable. We’re grateful to have received support from Jaguar itself as well as numerous other marque specialists.

Although the car was modified during its post-period racing career, all of those changes were easily reversed and OKV 3 is a remarkably original survivor. Conservation has been key throughout, with repair rather than replacement being at the forefront of our thinking for this most historic of Jaguars. It helps that we’ve long had a passion for the marque.

‘I’ve loved D-types since the mid-1960s,’ said David Cottingham, ‘when I was racing the ex-Bob Berry XK 120, which had a D-type engine in it. I was also good friends with John Pearson and Jim Abbott and used to watch them working on D-types, including Peter Sutcliffe’s car.

‘When people ask me what I think is the greatest car ever, I always say the D-type and the Ferrari 250 GTO. I’d put the D-type slightly ahead. To me, the noise from that straight-six engine is even better than a Ferrari V12.’

The restoration of OKV 3 is one of the most exciting projects we’ve undertaken and we were immensly proud to debut the car in its painstakingly restored state at the 2023 edition of the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace.

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