The very Jaguar D-Type that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1956 smashed the auction price record for a British car when it crossed the block at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale last weekend, reaching a staggering $21.78 million.
Chassis XKD 501 was delivered to Scottish privateer team Ecurie Ecosse in 1955, but didn’t appear at Le Mans until the following year. The factory D-Types were expected to dominate the race with their new 3.8-liter, fuel-injected engines. But crashes and reliability issues sidelined them all, which left the Ecurie Ecosse car at the head of the field.
Drivers Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson pounded round at a metronomic pace, the team’s pitstops were faultless and the car ran like clockwork. When the flag fell, 2507.289 miles had been covered at an average speed of 104.466 miles-per-hour to secure the second of the D-Type's three Le Mans wins.
Post-Le Mans, XKD 501 was only used occasionally, with rather mixed results. By June 1957, it had passed to the first of three subsequent owners, the most recent of which won many concours trophies with it. Crucially, it stayed in largely original condition, which hasn’t been the case with the other two Le Mans-winning D-Types. And it is probably that fact that pushed XKD 501 to such an astonishing price.
A 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato previously held the auction price record for a British car, set last year at $14.3 million. XKD 501 surpassed that by nearly $7.5 million. And it beat the record for a Jaguar, set last year by the C-Type that finished fourth at Le Mans in 1953, by $8.6 million.
According to Classicdriver.com, four collectors engaged in a 15-minute bidding war to win the D-Type. It’s worth noting that the $19.8 million hammer price - that $21.78m figure is inclusive of fees - was fractionally below the low estimate of $20 million. But no matter, it’s still a gigantic price and shows that collectors are putting a, extremely high price on originality and finally taking British cars very seriously, indeed.