1955 Jaguar D-type
On only a few, rare, occasions do automobile design, performance and competition success coalesce into sublime expressions of form following function.
The list is short: Mercer Raceabout, Zagato and Touring’s Alfa Romeo 6C and 8Cs, Touring’s Alfa Romeo 8C 2900s, Giuseppe Figoni’s Talbot-Lago T150 CSS Le Mans ‘Teardrops’, Ferrari’s 330 P3/4.
And Malcolm Sayer’s D-type Jaguar.
‘XKD 520’, the seventh production D-type, was ordered through Brysons in Melbourne, Australia in June 1955 by up-and-coming driver Bib Stillwell, who later recalled: “I purchased the car new from Jaguar and it arrived in Melbourne, Australia in January 1956. I competed with the car for two seasons and had numerous successes with it.” These included the Bathurst 500, where ‘XKD520’ set the outright fastest sports car speed ever, also setting a new sports car record in the Rob Roy Hillclimb and winning the South Australia Trophy at Port Wakefield. After a brief hiatus when the car was prepared for the Australian Land Speed Record attempt it resumed racing in the Bathurst Road Racing Championship for Sports Cars, winning outright. A second place at Lowood in the Queensland TT and fifth in the Australian TT at Albert Park during the Australian GP meeting followed.
At the end of the ’56 season ‘XKD 520’ was sold to Ampol, the Australian Motorists Petrol Company, for Jack Davey, a colourful figure if ever there was one. The D-type was left in the care of Bill Murray in Surfer’s Paradise to prepare for the 6,000 mile Ampol Trial including a repaint in bright red and addition of a passenger windscreen. While driving the D-type to the start Murray lost control at high speed and smashed into an articulated lorry. Both the D-type and Murray were grievously damaged. In mid-1957 ‘XKD 520’ was sold to racer Frank Gardner who undertook its repair. In its April 1963 issue, which featured ‘XKD520’ on the cover as part of a feature entitled ‘Our Fastest Road Car?’, Australian magazine Sports Car World recalled: “The car was painstakingly rebuilt and all necessary parts crack tested. Alan Standfield made repairs to the alloy bodywork and the car returned to racing in 1958. Gardner’s choice for body color was white- the same as his previous racing cars.”
Gardner then proceeded to add further laurels to ‘XKD 520’s history including a second at Bathurst, first at Mt. Druitt, third in both heats at the Orange Racing Car Scratch Races (both bettered only by GP cars) and first in the over 1500cc race at Schofields.
David Finch acquired ‘XKD 520’ in November 1958 and continued to race it for the next three years, eventually fitting a factory-supplied 3.8-litre block after the original 3.4-litre added its expiration to the fitting name of Bathurst’s engine-testing Con Rod Straight. He earned a first place in the 1961 Queensland TT with the new engine. In 1961 an encounter with a fence at Warwick Farm exceeded the ductility of the original bonnet and Alan Standfield created a distinctively-shaped version of Jaguar’s long nose bonnet.
Ash Marshall acquired ‘XKD 520’ in May 1962 and commenced a plush restoration with chromed accessories, XKSS style side exhaust and heat shield, polished aluminum, a fully-carpeted interior and “a glass-like finish” as described in Sports Car World, complemented by the registration number ‘ASH 222’. Later owners in Australia include Peter Bradley and Richard Parkinson.
In 1967 ‘XKD 520’ was acquired by former Jaguar apprentice and future Le Mans 24 Hours winning racing driver and car dealer Richard Attwood in the U.K. He had it attended to by Jaguar’s Brown’s Lane facility and then displayed it in his Wolverhampton Mercedes-Benz showroom, ultimately selling it to Sir Angus Spencer-Nairn in 1977.
Jaguar expert and restorer Chris Keith-Lucas recounts its later history as follows:
“[It] came to us at Lynx on behalf of its new owner, Angus Spencer-Nairn. The car was generally quite well presented at that time, but required straight-forward recommissioning before being sent out to the Channel Islands….
“Over the next quarter century I maintained a regular acquaintance with the car…. He used it quite lightly; a few track days, some tours, a Mille Miglia, but no races….
“In 2004 the car sold to a new owner … who kindly brought the car to me [at CKL Developments] again for recommissioning. It is now  in good usable condition and pains have been taken not to spoil the pleasing patina of the car.
“… The car has retained its original tail, monocoque and the 3.8 engine supplied by the works early in the car‘s life. However, on working on the car…we decided to put right one outstanding feature which we felt had been unsatisfactory for many years. This was the bonnet: the one it had worn since its accident in Australia around ’57 was a locally-produced item, and was not any too beautiful, being a rather flattened semi-long nose, semi short-nose affair.
“The aim was to return it to its original body plan, and this we achieved with a genuine original short-nose bonnet which I managed to acquire for the project. This bonnet had at one time been fitted to an XKSS and had been discarded decades ago when that car was rebuilt…. The removal of the rather oddly-shaped tail fin improved the look of the car and was authentic for the car’s early appearance. It also gave us the chance to view the paint layers underneath, red and white, which were found to accord perfectly with the Andrew Whyte description.
“In my opinion the car remains one of the best production D types in existence, having had a long-term owner through the period when many other cars were spoiled by unsympathetic restorations and unfortunate ownership changes. To the very best of my knowledge the car has retained its principle components since the end of the 1950s. It is one of my favourite D types….”
In addition to fitting the original style short nose bonnet, CKL Developments’ work in 2005 included detail work to de-chrome plate and restore ancillaries and suspension elements to factory appearance.
Subsequent owners have been Joel Laub in the U.S., a well-known and highly regarded U.K enthusiast and the current European collector. It has been maintained in recent years by David Brazell and is being freshly serviced by Chris Keith-Lucas at CKL Developments before being placed in the hands of its next keeper.
‘XKD 520’s appeal is endorsed by both Bib Stillwell and Richard Attwood who at various times expressed their desire to re-acquire it.
Also included in the sale are the Australian-built semi long-nose bonnet and tail fin – both important attributes of the car’s continuous and significant history from new – a passenger windscreen, spare clutch and spare wheel. During its long term ownership by Angus Spencer-Nairn a substantial quality of documentation was accumulated including its FIA Historical Technical Passport, correspondence with Jaguar historians Andrew Whyte and Philip Porter, correspondence with Bib Stillwell and between Stillwell and the Jaguar works, old registration documents and ancillary correspondence and restoration and maintenance invoices which conclusively document ‘XKD 520’s history and originality.
Sympathetically preserved, restored and maintained, ‘XKD 520’ is one of the best D-type survivors of the 53 customer cars built, a choice example of the art of Sir William Lyons, Bill Heynes, Malcolm Sayer and “Lofty” England and the glorious competition history of Jaguar.
Whether you regard it as Britain’s rival to the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa or the roadgoing equivalent of a Supermarine Spitfire (it’s both), the new owner of Jaguar D-type ‘XKD 520’ is unlikely to ever regret acquiring it.