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Jaguar D-Type (1955 LeMans winner) from Autoart

By Mark Savage
Published: July 14, 2014
Autoart Jaguar D-Type
Autoart Jaguar D-Type inside
Autoart Jaguar D-Type open
Product: Jaguar was a post-war powerhouse with its C-Type sports cars, which won the famous 24 Hours of LeMans twice in three years. The C was a straightforward sports car with a long nose and a 3.4-liter straight-6 that made 220 horsepower.

By 1954 the competition, mainly Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari, was stepping up. Jaguar needed a new design that was lighter and faster, so the D-Type, with its distinctive stabilizer fin, used airplane technology with a monocoque cockpit and an aluminum alloy to keep the car light.

Its shape was aerodynamic, too, thanks to the design work of Malcolm Sayer, and its frame was strong and rigid. Other developments included a dry sump lubrication system, canting the engine at 8.5 degrees, and a deformable aviation-style bag in place of a standard gas tank.

Jaguar kept the underbody clean in an effort to boost the top speed on LeMans’ famously long Mulsanne Straight, where racers today hit 250 mph. In 1955, the Jag was reaching 172 mph, compared to about 160 mph for other competitors.

As a result, the D-Type won its second time out at LeMans in what became known as the tragic 1955 race. Jaguar and Mercedes had a terrific dual, but Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes crashed into the crowd, killing Levegh and 83 spectators. Jaguar’s D-Type had been leading, but the rest of the Mercedes team soon withdrew from the race, allowing Jaguar to take the win. It repeated the win the following two years, filling five of the top six spots in 1957.

Jag’s D-Type also was successful in many other sports car events during that same period. But by the early 1960s, rule changes and a less reliable 3.0-liter engine designed to meet those new rules forced the D-Type to the sidelines. Jaguar didn’t win at LeMans again until 1988.

Performance: Autoart does its usual superior job of creating this historic racer in 1:18 scale, from the 1955 racer’s elongated nose to that crisp fin behind the cockpit. In total, this model is expertly made of 391 separate parts, many of them metal.

There are two key features that make this model unique. The first is the second cockpit seat cover, which pops off to expose a gray leather seat, a dead pedal and an emergency brake lever. A sliding latch locks the cover in place, the way the car was raced. Second, in back there’s a small trunk with a cover that folds down on metal hinges.

There are several other finely hinged items here, including a gas cap cover in the fin behind the driver. Beneath that, and under the forward-opening hood, are working gas caps, too.

Under the car’s long snout is a replica of the car’s 3.8-liter straight-6 XK engine. A wide-angle head and larger valves were added to the 1955 model to boost the car’s power to nearly 270 horses.

Autoart nicely reproduces the engine with three Weber carbs and an intricate oil-and-fuel delivery system. Black exhaust pipes feed out the engine’s left side to a detailed underbody.

This all looks simple compared with today’s motors, but the detail is good.

Like the C-Type, the D has four-wheel disc brakes, and the front and rear suspensions are well-executed for those who display their cars on mirrored bases. The tires and wheels also are realistic.

For those of us more into the body work, there are finely reproduced headlights with rivets printed in the black-edged shells. The tiny red taillights also look great, and there are rivets printed all the way around the tall windscreen, which blends beautifully into the tail fin.

Interiors in this era were sparsely ap-pointed. Beyond the gray leather seat, there’s a large wooden steering wheel featuring a four-spoke metal hub with machined holes. The dash has a couple of small gauges that are viewable through the wheel, and a larger one to the far left. Three pedals are on the floor, and pads lie along the large transmission tunnel to save the driver some pain while racing.

The Jaguar’s body is perfectly shaped and slathered in a British Racing Green paint job, with simple white circles on the hood, left side, rear deck and right fin that include a black No. 6. There are molded-in rivets at all the seams, which also adds to the car’s authentic look.

In a word, the D-Type is gorgeous!

Die-cast collectors love history and the variety of styling that made 1950s and ’60s cars, especially racers, so appealing. Boomers will enjoy seeing a LeMans-themed display with this D-Type as the centerpiece.

Remember that Autoart and other companies offer a variety of 1:18- and 1:43-scale models that could appeal to various levels of collectors. Autoart’s 1:43 C-Types are handsome and less costly, and the company also makes various colors of the popular E-Type in both scales.

A LeMans display also could include a lot of the newer prototype and GT class racers that are available in today’s slot-car lineups. If you have a track in the store, it could help you sell both the slot cars and the historical die-cast models because these racers look great in action.

Product: Jaguar D-Type (1955 LeMans winner)
Maker: Autoart
Scale: 1:18
Stock number: 85586
MSRP: $286
Availability: Autoart

• Historically significant racer
• Beautiful body detail
• Great chassis and engine detail