Automobile

Jaguar C-Type Continuation Revealed, Replicates ’53 Le Mans Winner

  • Jaguar’s fourth official Continuation model replicates the ’53 Le Mans–winning C-type. It’s expected to be priced in the seven-figure range.
  • One measure of its expected reception is that the automaker now says its Jaguar Classic division will build 16 copies, instead of the originally announced eight.
  • All cars are sold with FIA homologation so owners can compete in such events as the Jaguar Classic Challenge, which features rounds at Le Mans, Spa-Francorchamps, and Silverstone.

    When, in January, Jaguar announced that its fourth officially sanctioned Continuation would be a replica of the 1953 Le Mans–winning Jaguar C-type, the company also said it was planning to build no more than eight examples. But now that we are seeing the finished version, that total has been revised upward to “no more than 16.” So if you’ve got both the urge and pockets deep enough for the seven-figure price, don’t wait to get your name on that extended list.

    Yet the chance to see the car zero prototype in the flesh at Jaguar Classic’s HQ in England also proves that the finished car is close to being too perfect. The original C-type was a thrown-together endurance racer designed to compete and then fall to pieces as it crossed the line, made from thin-gauge metal, painted with brushes, and with minimal consideration given to details like panel gaps. Park an as-delivered 1953 example next to the 2021 version, and the new car would likely win the Concours rosette.

    Jaguar Classic acknowledges that the C-type Continuation is built to a standard far beyond that of the car it is copying. It has been created from a digitized CAD model of the original car, and although buyers will be able to choose color and trim, the production run will all be mechanical clones. These will be built using the same techniques as the original car, but with thicker gauge metal (“The originals dent if you lean on them,” explains Jaguar Classic boss Dan Pink), much tighter tolerances, and modern, water-based paint as well as beautifully tailored Bridge of Weir leather.

    Up close, the Continuation looks spectacular—but it is also clearly lacking the sort of patina that surviving original cars have earned in the past seven decades. It’s a bit like seeing an ultra-precise video game model brought to life. Like the 1953 Le Mans cars, the Continuation has six spare spark plugs screwed into a plate next to the driver’s seat, but it seems unlikely that the original competed with the head of each plug carefully turned to the same exact angle. Other exactly observed details include a spare ignition coil clipped to the chassis rail next to the main one, and an extra non-functional bracket on the brake fluid reservoir which replicates the fact the original car used one that had been hastily taken from another model.

    Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt’s Jaguar C-type at the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans.

    Bernard CahierGetty Images

    The new cars will have the chance to earn their own knocks and scrapes. Jaguar Classic acknowledges that some buyers may well keep their cars unused, and some will doubtless find ways to register them for on-road use in different territories, but the Continuation’s official purpose is as a historic racer. All cars are sold with FIA homologation to allow them to compete in various series that allow modern replicas to compete against storied originals, these including the Jaguar Classic Challenge, which features rounds at Le Mans, Spa-Francorchamps, and Silverstone.

    Changes are subtle, and they mostly match those which have been given to original cars in the decades since they were built. The Continuation gets a new rear crossmember that allows harnesses to be securely mounted to it, the original predating the arrival of belts, and each car will also be sold with a bolt-in roll hoop. This is removable—as proven by the fact you don’t see it in the official images—but it’s hard to imagine anyone choosing to race without it fitted. Other safety alterations include a safety lining in the fuel tank, fire extinguisher and a smaller steering wheel.

    There have been some other alterations, too – although only the best informed C-Type experts will be able to spot them. The Continuation has an electric cooling fan for its radiator and has also been given a slightly smaller steering wheel, most drivers struggling to fit themselves around the massive original. And while the engine is fitted with what appears to be a period appropriate Lucas generator, this actually contains modern alternator components for reliability. Which should cut down on those “prince of darkness” gags.

    But the important bits are all correct. Choosing to copy the 1953 C-type rather than the original 1951 car, which also won Le Mans, or the less successful ’52 long-nose means the Continuation gets a more powerful 220-hp version of a freshly cast 3.4-liter six-cylinder XK engine, fed by a trio of period-correct Weber 40DC03 carburetors. It also has the later and more disciplined Panhard-rod rear suspension and the pioneering fitment of all-raound disc brakes; Jaguar gave rotors their competition debut in the 1952 Mille Miglia. Jaguar’s early system worked with a gearbox-driven pump to create operating pressure rather than a servo booster. The Continuation has a carefully re-created version of this. While refusing to discuss potential future Continuation models, Jaguar Classic hasn’t ruled out ultimately offering versions of earlier C-types, too.

    Behind the scenes, there has already been a bitter legal battle about the intellectual property rights to the C-type. Earlier this year Jaguar successfully sued a Swedish enthusiast called Karl Magnusson for copyright infringement when he built his own C-type replica. (Jaguar says Magnusson was planning a commercial business; Magnusson says he dropped plans to build more than one car when JLR’s lawyers got in touch.) Jaguar has also sent a lawyer’s cease-and-desist letter to at least one U.K.-based creator of C-type replicas.

    So if you do want a new C-type, then one of the officially sanctioned Continuation models looks like the only option. With an undisclosed (but seven-figure) price, you’d better start saving.

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