It would have to be a very special Jaguar to command that kind of money, and Sotheby’s are confident this Lightweight C-Type will bring in that kind of money.
In just six weeks, Jaguar produced the XK120C, later called the C-type, which used modified mechanicals from the XK120 in a tubular steel space frame, covered in a wind-cheating aluminum body styled by Malcolm Sayer. Only three works C-type Lightweights were ever constructed, and one of those cars, chassis XKC 052, is the one to be offered at Sotheby’s Monterey sale.
The Jaguar set numerous benchmarks in the process, including a lap record of 105.232 MPH, a 24 hour speed record of 93.495 MPH; and an event distance record of 2,243.886 miles to win Le Mans in 1951.
For 1953, Jaguar produced a new version of the C-type, fitted with a lightweight aluminum body crafted from thinner panels than the original, a lighter tubular steel space frame, a rubber fuel bladder and a more powerful 3.4 liter engine. A new cylinder head was fitted, a higher-lift camshaft was added, and the original pair of SU H8 carburetors were replaced by three 40 mm Webers. The net result was boost in horsepower from 200 to roughly 220, and with the C-type Lightweight’s use of disc brakes in all four corners, providing better braking.
In 1953 XKC’s were first and second at Le Mans and XKC 052, driven by Peter Whitehead and Ian Stewart (and the car to be offered by Sotheby’s) was fourth. At the end of the 1953 season, XKC 052 was rebuilt to Le Mans specifications and sold to the Ecurie Ecosse. As an Ecurie Ecosse entry (Border Reivers), the C-type Lightweight enjoyed success at the hands of drivers like Jimmy Stewart (older brother of Jackie Stewart), Roy Salvadori and Ninian Sanderson. By the end of 1954, XKC 052 had delivered eight wins, four seconds, four thirds and three fourth-place finishes for Ecurie Ecosse, (and some of those successes I watched as a school boy at the Charterhall circuit).
In 1971 the C-type Lightweight was bought by collector Martin Morris, who kept it for 30 years, and oversaw another restoration in 1986.
In 2000, XKC 052 was sold to an American collector, who returned it to its 1953 Le Mans mechanical specifications and in Ecurie Ecosse livery. Great care was taken to replicate the original body as closely as possible. Since the work was completed, the C-type Lightweight has been exhibited at venues like the Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance.
Definitely a car with an amazing history – but USD 9 million? I’m not so sure! And it is a bit like grandfather’s axe.