Following their win at Le Mans in 1953, where Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt led a veritable parade of C-types to three of the top four finishes, Jaguar faced a problem. The limits of the XK 120-based race car had been reached, and in order to remain competitive at Le Mans, a new car would be required.
While the C-type had been one of the first cars of its era to employ a steel-tube space frame, its successor was perhaps the first to claim unitary monocoque construction, with the body and frame combining for structural integrity. The successful and proven 3.4-liter XK engine was retained — but now fitted with triple Weber carburetors good for 245 horsepower. A dry-sump lubrication system was also adapted that reduced height, allowing the engine to be mounted lower, and correspondingly reducing the overall profile and coefficient of drag. It was clear that the design was effective when one of the new cars hit 169 mph on the Mulsanne Straight at the Le Mans trials in April 1954. As the previous Jaguar had been called the C-type for “competition,” the new Jaguar was dubbed the D-type.
Chassis number XKD501 was the first D-type produced for a private team, sold to the Scottish racing team Ecurie Ecosse, and dispatched on May 5, 1955. XKD501 was liveried in the team’s signature colors with the St. Andrew’s Cross emblazoned on the front fenders.