These cars, which are at home on the road or track, are very affordable in relation to Ferrari racers from the same era Normally my life revolves around cars that “ran when parked.” Volvo 122s with hardly any rust, Fiat 850 Spiders that are mostly complete, and even BMW 2002s that have potential to be restored. That’s the stuff of “Affordable Classics.” But this is SCM’s Monterey issue, and only in Monterey could a $2,000,000 car (or $2,299,999) be called an Affordable Classic. Jaguar D-type s/n XKD558 sold for $2,299,000 at RM’s Sports and Classics Auction of Monterey, CA, on August 14, 2010. No kid who ever owned Matchbox model 41-b, which was a British Racing Green Jaguar D-type, could fail to be captivated with Malcolm Sayer’s bulgy, slippery shape with a dorsal fin and wrap-around windscreen, all in tiny model form that fit in the palm of nearly any 10-year-old hand. It was a favorite toy of mine, and a large number of other serious car guys that I know. I’d wager that serial D-type/XKSS owners such as Terry Larson and Gary Bartlett owned these charming toys as kids. For the average enthusiast trolling the affordable spectrum of car collecting, there is little point of reference for most of the famous sports racers of the 1950s. Books and the “Seat Time” portion of this publication are the sole resort for most of us seeking to understand a little about a pontoon-fender Ferrari Testa Rossa or a Maserati 300S. In the case of the D-type, an affordable relative—the E-type—provides more than a bit of insight. To an owner of an E-type, there are numerous familiar things about a D-type, beginning with the experience of entering the car. While the D-type’s aluminum door feels far flimsier than that of an E-type (which is anything but stout-feeling and contains a roll-up window), the overall feeling on entering or leaving  with the impossibly high sill that the D-type shares with the E-type is rather similar. It’s  far more extreme in the D-type, where the sill—because of the car’s monocoque construction—is so high that the only sane way of entry involves stepping over it and putting your feet on the seat cushion and then lowering yourself into the car. The black bezel Smiths gauges with a typeface similar to the E-type are also familiar items when one settles into the D-type’s seat, as is the wood-rimmed steering wheel. Firing up a D-type involves little drama, and anyone who has ever driven a 3.8-liter E-type with an alloy flywheel and an open exhaust will get the picture. The feeling upon getting underway, however, is vastly different. The lighter, faster D-type Where an E-type (particularly a 4.2-liter car) feels torquey but out of breath by about 4,500 rpm, the 3.4-liter D-type feels quite revvy. Once under way, the D-type’s weight of around 1,900 lbs—nearly 1,000 pounds lighter than an E-type—and its super-slippery shape contribute to a vivid acceleration and an extremely high top speed of around 175 mph. D-type gearboxes also felt vastly superior in terms of speed of change to the standard Moss boxes of the era—and indeed well into the E-type era. One area where the E-type is clearly superior is in rear suspension design. The D-type makes do with a live rear axle, not unlike that of the C-type. But the E-type uses Jaguar’s first fully independent rear suspension. While few D-type owners will carp about the ride quality of their cars, on public road tours, such as the Copperstate 1000 or the Colorado Grand, attacking a corner at high speed on rough pavement is a bit more secure and enjoyable in an independent rear suspension car, although the method of location on an E-type leaves much to be desired. In most competitive situations, the live axle of the D-type would probably have proven superior. Cats for the track and the road Although it’s not often the case, here the auction catalog description was a virtually hyperbole-free zone. The D-type quite simply was one of the ultimate sports racers of the 1950s. But, unlike modern single-purpose race cars, D-types are perfectly usable off the track. And, with very little modification, Jaguar took 16 leftover D-types and turned them into the ultimate road-going sports car, the XKSS. Both cars are a staple on events like the Colorado Grand and the Copperstate 1000, and they are generally quite reliable, as one would expect of a car that did rather well in endurance races. A relatively affordable $2m car As collectibles, D-types have always seemed undervalued in comparison to Ferraris of the era. These Ferraris are beautiful and visceral, but they still shared none of the D-type’s technical sophistication. For example, at the very same auction, a pontoon fender 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa was bid up to $10.7m and resulted in a no-sale. Granted, there are nearly three times as many D-types as pontoon fender Testa Rossas, and the Colombo V12 is simply in another league from the XK straight 6-cylinder. However, the fact that the market deems the Jaguar D-type to be worth 20% to 30% of the Ferrari Testa Rossa—admittedly, this D-type’s crash story and relative lack of history held this example to the low end of the price spectrum—seems odd. And, for that reason alone, even at over $2 million, D-types seem very affordable in relation to Ferrari cars from the same era. Give the buyer a star here.

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