The 1950's and 1960's
An era of Jaguar racing supremacy
The Jaguar name becomes synonymous with racing success, thanks to a series of record-breaking sports cars.
1951 – THE WINNING BEGINS
Jaguar’s first success on the race track came with the C-Type, originally called the XK120C. Its beautiful, rounded shape was inspired by the principles of aerodynamics. More powerful, yet 25% lighter, than the XK120 it was based on, the C-Type claimed victory at its first appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
See film of the C-Type in production >
1954 – A DESIGN TRIUMPH
With its distinctive stabilising tailfin, the Jaguar D-Type, designed by Malcolm Sayers, was one of the most beautiful competition cars ever built. It also featured the first serious use in motorsport of a moncoque construction, still found in the majority of racing cars today. D-Types achieved remarkable success at Le Mans, finishing first, second, third, fourth and sixth in the 1957 race.
1956 – RECOGNITION FOR JAGUAR’S FOUNDER
William Lyons was knighted in recognition of his services to the British car industry, particularly Jaguar’s export success. He had formed the company’s forerunner, Swallow Sidecars, on his 21st birthday and excelled as a designer as well as an entrepreneur.
1957 – JAGUAR PLANT BURNS
In the evening of 12 February 1957 a fire broke out in the service area of Jaguar’s Browns Lane factory and swept through the production line. The blaze caused damage worth £3 million – a colossal sum at the time – but the plant was back in action, working at one-third capacity, just a fortnight later, thanks to the incredible efforts of the workers.
1961 – A TRUE AUTOMOTIVE ICON
The iconic Jaguar E-Type caused a sensation when it was launched at the Geneva Motor Show, leaving all its rivals in the shade. Described by Enzo Ferrari as “the most beautiful car ever built”, it exuded feline grace, power and beauty, with its impossibly long, elegant bonnet.
See E-Type film >
1966 – WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN…
Often described as “the greatest Jaguar that never was”, the Jaguar XJ13 was developed specifically to race at Le Mans. However, a change to the race rules meant it was unable to compete. The only surviving XJ13 was badly damaged in an accident in 1971 but has since been rebuilt and is now the rarest, most priceless of all Jaguars.
1968 – THE BIRTH OF A LEGENDARY LINEAGE
The XJ6 saloon was the last car designed by Sir William Lyons and became his longest lived creation, with more than 400,000 sales in the following 24 years. With its emphasis on comfort and a smooth, quiet ride, the car set standards of refinement that would lead the luxury car market for years to come.