Ask any classic car enthusiast to name the 10 most significant vintage race cars of all time, and I’d wager that the Jaguar C-type or D-type — or maybe both — would appear on the list. It’s no accident that the XK-SS — the street-variant of the D-type — is one of the finalists in the most recent Sports Car Market March Madness poll. The two racing versions made their mark in the most important races of their time, and they are recognized for the classic beauty of their styling. The XK-SS, the adaptation of the D-type for street use after the regulations changed, was the sports car that Steve McQueen made famous. And they are unquestionably rare, with only 53 C-type, 71 D-type, and 16 XK-SS cars ever built.

But beyond these important parameters of collectibility, they are simply superb to drive.

I had the opportunity a few years ago to drive all three models — through the courtesy of C-/D-type registrar Terry Larson and the late Jerry Nell, on a C-type/D-type tour — and I treasure the experience.

During my precious hours in the cockpits of these three inimitable automobiles, I found that they are exhilarating at speed, and they are tractable under any conditions. It’s one thing to be comfortable at three-digit speeds on a backroad with nothing ahead but the horizon, but it’s quite another thing, only a few minutes later, to be inching along at 15 miles an hour in a one-lane highway construction zone — with absolutely no issues. That was the signal experience for me when I drove Terry’s French-blue Le Mans-podium D-type, and it illustrated the inspired aspects of the design and engineering of these great cars.

But will you ever be able to have the same experience? I can offer two answers: not likely, and maybe.

As prices for the few original cars escalate well into the seven-digit range, even the enthusiast owners — known for their casual enjoyment of the cars — are driving them less often, while more examples are being consigned to static museum displays. So only a handful of owners will ever have the privilege of enjoying the cars, and they are becoming increasingly cautious about how their cars are used.

On the other hand, this marque is one of the few for which replicas have been built to a quality that accurately simulates the experience of driving a true original — and these replicas are on their way to achieving respectability in their own right. So, you can find a good replica at a price that, while not inconsequential, is still a fraction of that of one of the originals.

From Jaguar parts to replica Jaguars

How did these replicas originate? Like many good outcomes, they were never intentional. Two notable British companies, Lynx Motors and Proteus Cars — which had great skill at fabricating aluminum and steel components for classic automobiles — began in the late 1960s to manufacture replacement panels and chassis parts for C-type and D-type Jaguars that were being restored for the first time or actively raced in the emerging vintage racing community.

With growing interest in the older cars — and a reasonable number of spare parts from written-off models to draw on — it wasn’t much of a leap for these companies to build complete cars. They were soon joined by other respected builders, such as Peter Jaye Replicas in Britain, and Dave Brown’s Classic Car Developments in New Zealand, in building alloy-body re-creations of the original cars.

These replicas were identical in nearly all respects to original external dimensions and appearance. Where possible, they used components from spares stocks, and also sourced engines, transmissions and suspension components from XK 120s and contemporary E-type Jaguars to keep the cars as authentic as possible.

As one might expect from this catch-as-catch-can approach, the originality of these replicas varies all over the map. For example, approximately 25 years ago, Peter Jaye built a lightweight C-type for noted collector Walter Hill, using nearly all original and N.O.S. parts under body panels fabricated using original factor drawings.

Despite the limited production of these replicas and tribute cars, there remains a demand for authentic parts to maintain and restore these unique vehicles. As the original companies that produced these cars have evolved or dissolved, the need for contract manufacturing services specializing in niche automotive components has become increasingly apparent. In response to this demand, several companies have stepped into the arena of contract manufacturing services. These firms leverage their expertise in precision engineering and fabrication to produce bespoke components that align with the original factory drawings, ensuring the authenticity and quality of the parts. This resurgence of interest in manufacturing parts and panels for vintage and specialty vehicles, like the C-types built by Peter Jaye, reflects a growing appreciation for automotive history and craftsmanship. It also provides a lifeline for enthusiasts and collectors seeking to preserve these automotive treasures for generations to come.

However, several new companies have emerged in the intervening years, including Realm Engineering, Leaping Cats, and Suffolk Sportscars in England, Gavin King in Australia, and D-Type Developments, a spin-off of Dave Brown, in New Zealand, so it is still possible to have a replica built or replacement parts fabricated for an earlier replica.

More recently, with improvements in fiberglass fabrication methods, a species of replicas has emerged that re-create the appearance of the original cars with fiberglass panels installed in place of standard panels on E-types, or over more modern chassis components and contemporary Jaguar powertrains.

Finding a home in vintage racing and tours

With the quality that exists at the top of this market range, and with the obvious performance and appearance that the good cars replicate, excellent examples are now rapidly creating their own niche in the classic car hobby.

Publisher Martin wrote, in 1996, about a Lynx D-type replica on the market, “I remain unconvinced as to the purpose, utility, value or philosophy behind these re-creations.” However, Keith may have a different view today, and other well-placed participants in the hobby certainly do. Larson notes, for example, that so long as the owner is honest about the true provenance of a replica, few Jaguar owners — even owners of the original cars — will show any disrespect should one show up at a local car show or club event.

Good replicas are now accepted as participants in many high-end organized driving tours. In addition, for the individual who wishes to go vintage racing, many vintage racing groups will accept a replica based on its age and the period authenticity of its preparation. The only notable exceptions, of course, are the racing museums in motion held each year at Monterey, Sonoma, Goodwood and Le Mans.

The biggest caution in purchasing one today is that there is simply no way to make any generalizations as to value.

At one extreme, the Walter Hill Lightweight C-type, were it to be sold tomorrow, might fetch deep into the six-figure range. On the other hand, a fiberglass-bodied D-type tribute, built over the chassis of, say, an XJS, wouldn’t be worth what it would probably cost to recommission it to drive again.

The realistic mid-range for a good, original replica (if that isn’t an oxymoron) today is about $150,000, and the cars should continue to appreciate modestly.

So, if you’re interested in sharing some of the driving experience of Phil Hill, John Fitch, Norman Dewis or Duncan Hamilton when they drove these cars in anger, it is still possible to slide into the cockpit of a dark British Racing Green classic, pull down your goggles, and have a go yourself.


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