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Jaguar C-Type


Jaguar C-Type Design for LeMans 1953
The Jaguar C-Types that competed in the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1953 reflected Jaguar's growing base of experience with a further increase in power.

There was another change of carburetion, to a trio of two-barrel, 40-mm Webers, which were fed not from the nose but from a scoop atop the hood. These and other alterations resulted in a little more top-end power, for a total of about 220 horsepower, but at lower, safer revs, 5,200.

The extra power gave back half the speed lost to readopting the original body, and the best of the cars was clocked at nearly 149 mph. Even more useful was a further swelling of mid-range power for yet better acceleration.

Additional detail improvements included a stronger crankshaft damper; new, better-sealing piston rings; a stronger but smaller-diameter triple-plate racing clutch; and a water pump and radiator core redesigned for better water flow.

Though the 1953 Jaguar C-Types looked a lot like the original 1951 C-Types, they were more than 50 pounds lighter. Some of the weight-saving came from lighter-gauge frame tubing, some from thinner body metal, some from painstaking detail changes to things like the electrical system. Even the main battery cables were now aluminum, rather than copper, a common aircraft trick.

Also borrowed from aviation were rubber-bladder fuel cells, which were not only safer but lighter and more durable; the previous aluminum tanks had sometimes split in tough races.

Racing breakages also led to a change in the rear suspension, where the axle torque-link, originally A-shaped, was now just a simple bar because it had been relieved of its task of lateral location.

That job was now handled by a more conventional Panhard rod, running from the right side of the axle to a bracket on the left side of the frame.

And then there were the disc brakes. The research and development program had been long, difficult-and sometimes exciting when test drivers would occasionally arrive at a corner with no braking ability at all. But the early problems of pedal effort, pad knock-back (improper seating in caliper), and fluid boiling had finally been solved and the relentless, fade-free power of the servo-boosted disc brake played a major role in Jaguar's second LeMans victory.

The 24 Hours of LeMans 1953 was harder-fought than the contest of two years earlier, the Jaguars facing factory efforts from Alfa Romeo, Allard, Aston Martin, Cunningham, Ferrari, Frazer-Nash, Gordini, Porsche, and Talbot. Little had been expected of the C-Types, not only because of their early retirement the year before, but also because of a string of more recent failures.

The weekend even started on a distinctly unpromising note, officials objecting to Jaguar numbering its fourth, practice car the same as one of its actual racers. That was considered a serious infraction, and the drivers involved figured their car was disqualified.

Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton, two of the larger-than-life characters typical of motorsports (particularly in Britain), went off to enjoy Friday night in their own way amidst the giant party that was, and is, LeMans.

But William Lyons managed to mollify the officials with a fine of 25,000 francs, and got the car reinstated. The only remaining problem was the condition of his two wandering drivers, who had not bothered to get any sleep.

For more on Jaguar and other great cars, see:

  • Jaguar Cars: Check out more information on the great sporting cats.
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  • Ferrari: Learn about every significant Ferrari road car and racing car.
  • New Jaguars: Reviews, ratings, prices, and specifications on the current Jaguar lineup from the auto editors of Consumer Guide.
  • Used Jaguars: Reviews, recalls, trouble spots, and more on pre-owned Jaguars starting with the 1990 model year. From the auto editors of Consumer Guide.

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