Before the invention of track-only supercars, wealthy enthusiasts could simply buy a race car like this 1955 Jaguar D-Type. The rare Jag will be auctioned off by RM Sotheby's Jan. 22.
Introduced in 1954, the D-Type earned three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans victories from 1955-'57, the last two years with privateer teams. Jaguar built just 17 works race cars (including 11 "long-nose" variants), plus 54 customer race cars. Some D-Type chassis were also converted into XKSS road cars, a process that was cut short by a 1957 fire at Jaguar's Coventry, England, factory, which destroyed the final five cars earmarked for conversion.
The car up for auction—chassis XKD 518—is not a Le Mans veteran, but is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. It left the factory not in traditional British Racing Green, but in red—a color normally associated with Jaguar's Italian rivals. XKD 518 was also sold to its first private owner by future Formula 1 czar Bernie Ecclestone.
1955 Jaguar D-Type XKD 518 (Photo by RM Sotheby's)
That first private owner was race driver Peter Blond, who ran XKD 518 at British tracks like Silverstone and Goodwood during the 1956 and 1957 seasons. Blond sold the car in August 1957, and it changed hands many more times over the years, ending up with its current owner in 2008.
Under the hood sits a 3.4-liter XK inline-6 with a numbers-matching block and head, which makes 245 horsepower, according to the listing. XKD 518 left the factory without the trademark D-Type fin, and with a low windscreen, according to the listing, but it sports those items now. They were added to the car at some point during its racing career, and are thus period correct, the auctioneer noted.
Pre-auction estimates for the red D-Type are between $5.7 million and $7.5 million, which seems like a relative bargain compared to the $21.8 million paid for a Le Mans-winning D-Type in 2016. Note that this car failed to sell at a 2018 auction, because bidding didn't meet an $8.8 million reserve.