Tuesday 16th July 2019,

Jaguar C-type XK120C 1951 – 1953: First 100MPH average speed at LeMans

In 1951 Jaguar decided to exploit the huge success of the XK120 by producing a purpose-built racing car. Originally named XK120C the car quickly became known as the C type. This was Jaguar`s first foray into serious competition.

The C type used the power-train and running-gear of the XK120 but utilized a tubular steel space-frame designed by Bob Knight. The alloy body was designed by Malcolm Sayer, late of Bristol Motors. The XK120`s engine`s output was 180 bhp at this time, but for the C type it was boosted to 205 bhp. By 1953 the C type was developing a reputed 260 bhp.

High-lift camshafts and triple side-draught Weber carburetors were fitted. Initially the C type had drum brakes all-round but from 1952, four-wheel disc brakes were employed. Cylinder-head modifications vastly improved performance to the point that `the C type head` became the modification of choice for many later road cars.

Constantly improving the `power to weight ratio` made the C type the car to beat. Performance figures are hard to come by but the 1951 C type with it`s 205 bhp and 220 ft/lbs of torque had a power to weight ratio of 207 bhp per ton. Top speeds were arguable due to the varying gear ratios used for racing. 150+mph is not an unreasonable `guesstimate`. The C type was built and sold primarily for competition rather than road use. Of the 53 cars built 43 went into private hands.

Jaguar C type at Lemans:

In 1951 three Jaguar C type cars were entered in the Le Mans 24 hour race. Oil pressure problems caused the retirement of two of them but the Peter Whitehead /Peter Walker car won the race at the first attempt.

In 1952 Le Mans, two cars blew head-gaskets and the third retired with low oil-pressure. The water-pumps were the culprits, causing over-heating problems. Four-wheel disc brakes developed by Dunlop were fitted for the first time. This was all new technology and the C-types were the test cars that have set the standards for modern braking.

1953 Le Mans, the `53 cars had lighter bodies and the triple 40 mm Weber carburetor installation. Power output was now 220 bhp. The Rolt/Hamilton car came home in first place at an average speed of 105.85 mph, the first Le Mans winner to exceed 100 mph average speed.

Jaguar C-type 1951-1953
Body Type2 seater roadster
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
FrontDrum/Discs (from 1953)
RearDrum/Discs (from 1953)
Cargo VolumeEnough for a spare tyre
Engine3.4 XK 12V DOHC Hemispherical (2 carb)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement3442 cc210 cui
Power149 Kw200 bhp6000 RPM
Torque264 Nm195 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight207 bhp/t
Top Speed224 km/h139 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph8.1 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight965 kg2127 lb
Engine3.4 XK 12V DOHC Hemispherical (3 carb) Max Tuned
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement3442 cc210 cui
Power194 Kw260 bhp6200 RPM
Torque298 Nm220 ft. lb4600 RPM
Power/weight278 bhp/t
Top Speed232 km/h144 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph6.5 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight935 kg2061 lb


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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.

In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.

As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.

At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!

When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.

I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.

Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.

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