With a rallying call to Scots, fans, collectors and speculators, reports Iain Robertson, a faithful reproduction of Jaguar’s illustrious C-Type, the predecessor to both D and E-Type models, is being made by the historically important Ecurie Ecosse.
Parked under glass, in a display cabinet, I own a personal slice of Ecurie Ecosse heritage. While the original, restored (by Lynx Engineering), 1960 Commer racing car transporter is now worth an astronomical sum of money (>£1.6m), I can claim a familial connection. My aunt and uncle were directors of Walter Alexander Ltd, the Falkirk-based coachbuilder and bus maker and I can still recall my visit to the works, just prior to the Ecurie Ecosse racing team taking delivery of their distinctly odd metallic blue and liveried vehicle.
Produced by Corgi Toys, my 1/43rd-scale transporter (mint condition but missing its much-needed original box) is still worth around £250 (2,500% increase on its original shop-bought 19s 6d). It is accompanied in its ‘pit lane diorama’ by a solitary D-Type and two C-Type models in the same scale, all of which represent my homage to Ecurie Ecosse (firstly) but, then, Jaguar’s racing heritage. It is this latter aspect that is being honoured by the revived team’s owner, Alasdair McCaig, in full-size, albeit slightly enlarged repro form.
In 1952, a young Scottish racing driver for Ecurie Ecosse, Ian Stewart, visited Jaguar Cars, at Browns Lane, Coventry, and collected his brand-new C-type. Subsequently, he drove the car to Jersey, for its first race against stiff competition from Aston Martin and Frazer Nash. The race victory was his and he opened the first chapter in Ecurie Ecosse’s international motor racing career.
No less than 59 podium places, achieved across the seven C-Types raced by Ecurie Ecosse, packed its trophy cabinet. Thanks to ingenious refettling by the team’s legendary manager, ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson, and judicious planning by the team’s founder, David Murray, it proved how capable was the Jaguar C-type, notably on an international stage but it also commenced a legacy that would take the Scottish national team to numerous victories, including Le Mans 24-Hours glory at La Sarthe.
The Jaguar C-type was highly advanced in its day. It was the first race car to employ wind tunnel technology to refine its aerodynamics that are so vital these days. It also pioneered the use of ‘bag’ fuel tanks (technology borrowed from the aviation scene) and was the primary test bed for Dunlop’s revolutionary disc brakes. A steel spaceframe chassis formed the rigid backbone of the C-Type, clad in a lightweight, thin-gauge, streamlined aluminium body that was designed by Malcolm Sayer. Its power came from Jaguar’s renowned ‘twincam’ straight-six engine, driving the rear wheels. Stirling Moss said of the car: “I always really rated the C-type; for me, it was a far better car than the D.”
Ecurie Ecosse has created a new car that, as outlined, pays homage to the team’s past successes. As Alasdair McCaig told us: “How better can we celebrate the historic success of the Ecurie Ecosse C-types, than by manufacturing a short run of cars in their honour? The seven near-priceless chasses raced in period still exist today, much coveted by their lucky owners, only occasionally seeing the light of day for race or concours events. We are paying homage to these cars by creating a numbered sister example to each of them (one through to seven). Each is meticulous in the details, as were their forebears, hand-built in Coventry and tuned by Ecurie Ecosse technicians.”
Ecurie Ecosse has retained all of the key elements that contributed to the roaring successes of the 1950s Jaguar racer, while, in the true spirit of co-founder ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson, making considered improvements. The aerodynamic outline remains, still crafted from thin-gauge aluminium alloy and mounted to a steel spaceframe chassis. Although almost unnoticeable, the homage cars are slightly wider, more accommodating and more rigid than before, the metal sections being laser-cut for a level of accuracy not feasible in the 1950s. The original cars were cramped to say the least but the new alternatives offer around an extra 12-inches in the pedal box area. The snarling Jaguar straight-six XK engine is also retained, although its capacity has been increased to 4.2 litres (it was originally 3.4, then 3.75 and later 3.8-litres displacement). Modern fuel injection is fitted to hike up the power to a zesty 300bhp at 4,750rpm, more than enough to zip the 998kg C-Type from 0-60mph in 4.9s, to a maximum speed of 156mph.
Unsurprisingly, to ensure that the ‘new’ C-Type can be totally usable (in the dry!), both its suspension and disc brakes have been uprated to cope with the additional road performance, while a five-speed manual gearbox is added to maximise both acceleration and top speed potential. The details of the homage models are breathtakingly beautiful, from the hand-crafted aluminium bucket seats that are padded and clad in supple blue leather by Crest, to the hand airbrushed Ecurie Ecosse shields adorning the cars’ flanks. A set of Tag Heuer ‘Master Time’ stopwatches are positioned on the dashboard, as they were on the original Le Mans race cars. If you wish to have a closer look at the first complete example, it is available for viewing and for test drive purposes at the Henley-on-Thames dealership for the team, Hofmann’s.
Naturally, there is a price tag for all of this heritage and an Ecurie Ecosse C-Type will set you back to the tune of £430,000, plus VAT. To be honest, it is not as shocking a price tag as I thought it might be and, as a strictly limited run of just seven sister cars to the originals, it is only the most recent of several other homages made to historically important model lines. Three, impossibly complex BRM V16 racing cars and six Vanwalls have already found highly agreeable buyers/investors, while Bentley is honouring its Le Mans successes with continuation replicas of its thunderously potent Blower model. All of them are now worth more than their acquisition prices, although not quite as valuable as the originals.
Conclusion: It helps if you have a few hundred thousand Pounds slushing around doing nothing but the classic car scene, especially in the prestige and motorsport-related segments, is presently vibrant for both collectors and speculators.