My Car Quest

August 16, 2018

The Italian D-Type Jaguar

Yes, it existed, but not with Jag’s permission.

by Wallace Wyss –

In tracking valuable sports cars, you run across some strange stories. There was a stretch there, when researching my Incredible Barn Finds series (Enthusiast Books, Hudson WI) that I hit a whole raft of cases where the now-treasured car was toodling about for a time with the wrong body, or at least not the body it was built with.

One of these was a D-type Jaguar, XKD-513.

K & R replica of the car in its '58 livery

K & R model of the car in its ’58 livery

This was a genuine D-type Jag, bought new by a Frenchman from Lyons named H. Peignaux who bought from a dealer named Delecroix in Paris. He in turn sold it to Jean-Marie Brussin; where it was run at the 1957 Le Mans, with Jean Lucas co-driver, the team called the “Los Amigos” team.

Now Jaguar was ready willing and able to prepare the car for racing and it was tested by no less than Jag’s official full time test driver Norman Dewis. At some point it had been fitted with a 3-liter engine (EE1208-10 with 35/40 head) at the factory.

That was a great year for Jag, this car finished third place but two other D-Types finished 1st and 2nd and there was another fourth, so the closest Ferrari could get to the winner’s circle that year was fourth.

Turin Show in 1963

Turin Show in 1963

The car was re-entered at LeMans in ’58. Drivers were Jean Marie Brussin (nicknamed “Mary”) and the records show a co-driver named Guelfi.

It came a cropper because Bruce McLaren’s Aston Martin DB4 blew its engine, causing 20 liters of oil to cover the track. The next two cars that came along, Ninian Sanderson’s AC Cobra hardtop and Michael Salmon’s Ferrari 330 LMB, were able to find a unoiled portion of the track to squeeze through but Roy Salvadori’s E-type lightweight hit the oil, spun and hit the bank bursting into flame.

The accident was over. Next comes the René Bonnet Aérodjet LM6 of Jean-Pierre Manzon who hit the Jag. Then Heins Alpine comes along, he spins out, goes off into a post, killing Heins. Manzon and Salvadori were injured.

Hard to say if it still had the D-type chassis by this time...

Hard to say if it still had the D-type chassis by this time…

Then comes Brussin, on his 47th lap, who crashed fatally. There’s a long telephoto shot of the car on a Jag Register on the net, sitting abandoned by the side of the track still on its four wheels, the bonnet and tail section torn off in the accident.

The car was scrapped at Le Mans and sat in storage for two years.

ALONG COMES A COACHBUILDER

Then came somebody who wanted an old race car. Not a racer. No, this guy’s motives weren’t stated but it was thought that, as a coachbuilder, he wanted to impress Jaguar that he could build a stylish car on one of their chassis. So Giovanni Michelotti bought the wreck, and cut away the damaged body panels right down to the rear bulkhead cross-members and foot box area. He designed a modernistic (clue: more flat planes than gentle curves) coupe body and displayed it three years later at the Geneva motor show.

The body lives on, aboard an E-type

The body lives on, aboard an E-type

In the late 1960s an American named Richard F. Carter (Georgia); bought it not to race or tour in but (yes—the laws permit it) to use it for display to get donations to a church.

Well, a Jag fan in England thought a D-Type should be racing so in 1973 Andrew Gortway (UK) bought it and shipped it to a firm already famous for making very exacting D-Type replicas. They removed the upper Michelotti body shell and then found a customer named Laurence Bristow who was willing to restore the car as a D-Type again, using many of the bits Michelotti had taken off.

I am not sure if the Monterey Historics were in full swing then but I remember the name Peter Giddings who raced it in California; before selling it to Bob Baker (Nebraska);and in January 1986 it achieved fame for being on the front cover of Road and Track an issue that inside had a test by two LeMans veterans, Phil Hill & Innes Ireland.

In 1985, it was re-sold to Bill Chizar (California); who in 1987, sold to Terry Larson, a well known and respected Jag historian in Arizona who used it regularly in historic races and tours. In 1999, he sold to Fred Bohlander (USA). By now the car was in the proper livery color it had raced at when it was entered at LeMans, French blue. When sold the car came with the spare engine block and original crankshaft (EE1208-10) that it ran with at Le Mans in 1958.

The Michelotti body was bought by someone who found an E-type that could carry it, though there had to be some major refitting since the two cars are only cousins, not identical twins under the skin.

It has kicked around from auction to auction but is not one of the all time greats, though it should be recognized as Michelotti’s last car (compare say the Alfa GTZ Cangaro with a one off body by Bertone designed by Giugiaro, which is worth well over a million dollars).

What’s the lesson to be learned here? That old race cars, particularly smashed old race cars sometimes are regarded almost as throwaways but somebody, that first buyer, recognized the car had potential to live life as a D-type again. If it were a single car accident, I would be wary wondering if whatever made it crash could re-occur but in this case it was the oil, and all the accident that occurred immediately before it came around the turn.

And so it is you learn another lesson of barn finding. You don’t let the wrong body throw you. Or the replacement of parts. In my rather liberal view, the body is not important, as Marilyn Monroe in a red dress was the same as Marilyn Monroe in a blue dress, n’est-ce pas?

Update – a photo from Dennis Gray

The photo below was sent in by Dennis Gray.

Bill Chazar D-Type ©2018Dennis Gray.jpg copy

Bill Chazar D-Type –
©2018 Dennis Gray

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of 18 car histories. He is currently writing the sequel to his action thriller Ferrari Hunters.

 
 
 
 
 

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Summary
The Italian D-Type Jaguar
Article Name
The Italian D-Type Jaguar
Description
What’s the lesson to be learned here? That old race cars, particularly smashed old race cars sometimes are regarded almost as throwaways.
Author

Comments

  1. Rob Krantz says:

    What a great story. The Michelotti designed body is beautiful. I’m glad it was saved and lives on clothing an E-Type chassis. Michelotti was pretty prolific, doing some nice work for Triumph in the day. He was responsible for the design of the Stag, of which I owned two of at different times (one terrible and one wonderful). Peter Giddings who is mentioned in the article was a Bay Area TV weatherman and car enthusiast.

  2. Bruce Caron says:

    Thank you for turning me on to another great Italian designer. I googled Michelotti’s cars and found a Ferrari 330 gt that looks very Iso Grifo, and Fiat Dino like from the front. Also I found a red BMW 3200 that is unbelievably beautiful. Italian designers like Michelotti’s, Giugiaro, etc., were true artists comparable to the greats of the renaissance.

    So many cars, so little money.

    • The red BMW 3200 is nothing more than the Michelotti design for the BMW 507, another design came from Loewy, but the most erotic one is the Görtz one…

  3. I photographed Bill’s D Type in his Sears Point garage. My assistant and I drove from my Culver City studio in the studio van loaded with equipment to turn Bill’s garage into a studio.
    As I remember the story Bill had just traded his TR250 silver with a red stripe to Bob Baker. Bill had in his garage this D-Type a Lotus Eleven S2 and a Lister Chevy. All taken in trade on the TR250. I believe the TR250 is now owned by Lawrence Stroll of Canada.
    The D-Type was a very deep blue and in nice condition as you would expect any car from Bob Baker to be.
    Side story. Chizar had the original engine from the TR250 in his living room with a glass sheet placed on top and used it as a coffee table. He also had a big block Chrysler he used as a coffee table.
    Just thought I might add to your collection of stories.
    I have attempted to add one of the images to this comment.
    Ciao
    Dennis
    Dennis Gray Photographer
    415.269.5419
    dennisgray711@me.com
    DennisGrayPhotographer.com
    Staff photographer Sportscardigest.com

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