Apart from the menacing vertical fin that often frightens swimmers onto the beach, there is none more recognizable than that adorning the rear bodywork of the 1955 Jaguar D-Type. This distinctive fin was one of the side benefits of World War II aviation technology, which was also incorporated in the D-Type's monocoque chassis construction. Although the D-Type shared the powerful and reliable 3.4 litre straight six engine with its C-Type predecessor, everything else was new and different. The elliptical body shape reduced drag, and the fin added stability at speeds that topped out at around 180 mph, incredible for the time. In order to reduce the car's frontal section, engineers canted the engine 8 1/2 degrees from the vertical; a practice not uncommon in racing.
Following a D-Type's second place at LeMans in 1954, the next season's car was increased in length by 7 1/2 inches, and the aerodynamics were refined further. This was evidenced by a nearly 13 mph advantage on the Mulsanne Straight over the much more powerful Ferraris. In fact, the 1955 D-Types were considered a fair match for Mercedes' mighty 300 SLR's, especially under braking. Sadly, this was never borne out as Mercedes withdrew from LeMans (and racing altogether) after Pierre Levegh's horrific crash.Jaguar triumphed again at LeMans in 1956 and 1957, all due to the ultra-competitive D-Types.
We are delighted to have AutoArt's 1:12 scale rendition of the 1955 LeMans winning racer, and it is a real gem. The dark British Racing Green paintwork is superb, and the panel fit is extraordinary, especially considering everything opens. Obviously, when working in a larger scale, greater detail and accuracy are possible than in smaller models, and AutoArt has taken full advantage. The list is so long, we almost don't know where to start (or stop!).
From the ground up, the wheels and tires are stunning, featuring razor-sharp Dunlop lettering on the wheels, beautiful three-eared knockoffs, and delicate, tiny valve stems. The engine hood is secured with working levers, and the real leather safety straps and buckles are fully functional as well. The engine bonnet is ventilated with lovely open louvers, through which the straight six is visible, and even the securing screws for the headlight covers, Perspex windscreen and rear bodywork are perfectly slotted and hand-applied. Gently open the cockpit door and you'll be presented with a great rendition of the four spoke, progressively drilled steering wheel (favored by driver Mike Hawthorn), realistic seating and cushion surfaces, a prominent rev counter, working brake and clutch pedals, and a host of other wires, fuse boxes, and gauges.
Incorporated into the headrest/fin assembly is the functional fuel filler door with real leather limiting strap. The filler cap pops open, and the model actually displays well with this feature left open. The metal tonneau cover is removable and is secured by a spring-loaded catch that provides a very tight fit. It locks in place with a reassuring click. Moving aft, the boot lid is operated by a working lever incorporating a minute coiled return spring. Once again, the larger scale pays dividends! The boot interior features a metal limiting cable, as well as wiring for the license plate light. Lurking just out of sight are the Jag's twin exhausts.
Last but certainly not least, the 3.4 litre triple Weber carburated engine is very respectably modeled. Most prominent are the Weber's beautifully turned metal velocity stacks, plethora of wiring, and accurately reproduced fluid reservoir and catch tanks. All in all, pretty first rate for a model in this price range. In our estimation, AutoArt has hit it out of the park with this piece. Only available on the secondary market, the D-Type's values are accelerating, and our example (serial # 1212) is in new, undisplayed condition with COA, instructions and all factory packaging.
As an aside, for those interested in AutoArt's other D-Type in 1:12 scale (1955 Reims winner, race #3), the model is completely incorrect. The Reims car was actually a short nose D-Type, and AutoArt chose (understandably) to maximize their tooling costs with the LeMans long nose and offer a 'Reims' version. Cool model, but dead wrong.
Our LeMans D-Type, piloted by none other than Mike Hawthorn will be a real standout in any Jaguar or sports racing collection.