Jaguar’s chief engineer William Heynes said that until he went to the 1950 Le Mans race, he had “never seriously contemplated designing a car for racing.” Then he watched Leslie Johnson push his more or less standard XK 120 as high as 3rd until the clutch failed.
William Lyons watched the race with Heynes, and Johnson’s performance was enough to convince Lyons of the car’s potential: Jaguar was going racing, with the aim to win Le Mans in 1951.
Work began on the prototypes in autumn 1950, and the XK 120C-the C stood for “competition”-became known as the C-type Jaguar. Three C-types lined up for Le Mans in 1951. An oil pipe flange failure eliminated two cars, while Peter Whitehead and Peter Walker took the victory a staggering 77 miles ahead of the second place finisher. Jaguar would win Le Mans five times in the 1950s.
Three months later, in the Tourist Trophy, C-types came 1st, 2nd, and 4th. Stirling Moss rounded off the C-type’s debut season by winning at Goodwood in September. Works cars and privately owned C-types had won numerous races in Britain by the end of 1952.
Delivery of production C-types to the United States began in August 1952, and the cars made their mark in the hands of Sherwood Johnson, John Fitch, and-most notably-Phil Hill.
Chassis number XKC007 was delivered to New York on August 1, 1952, to its first owner, Charles Hornburg, Jaguar’s West Coast dealer, based in Beverly Hills. Hornburg had convinced William Lyons that competing in America would increase sales, and XKC007 was the very first C-type to arrive in the U.S.
The Jaguar C-type Roadster was driven straight to Elkhart Lake for the last-ever street race on the 6.5-mile Wisconsin circuit, held September 6-7. Hornburg hired Phil Hill to race XKC007, with George Weaver driving a second C-type Roadster, XKC009. Hill took the victory, Phil Walters’s Ferrari was 2nd, and George Weaver 3rd.
Phil Hill recalled the arrival of XKC007 in America. “It was a big moment. These cars were not just a replacement for the XK 120. People expected these cars to be a darn sight better. The 120 was ‘gee whiz’ in ’49 and still ‘gee whiz’ in ’50 but by ’51 they were passé. I was just in awe of the C-type when I first stepped into it. The steering was light-almost scary light. It was the first car I ever drove that had a really precise feel about it-it really felt like a racing car.”
XKC007 was purchased by noted C- and D-type expert Terry Larson in 1986 and completely restored. At the time, the original head was not installed, but it has since been reunited with the car and is included in the sale. The current owner has shown the car at concours events since 1993 and achieved many 100-point scores and first places in the Jaguar Club of North America competitions. This 1952 C-type Roadster was awarded the Best Sports Car Award at Meadow Brook in 1996 and was Second in Class at Pebble Beach in 1997.
The glorious C-type Jaguar presented here would grace all the great historic events of the world and could surely be a race winner once again. Phil Hill described this car as “the most tractable go-to-the-store-type sports racing car I have ever driven.”