Jaguar D-Type

Jaguar D-Type 1950s British classic sports racing car

In the mid-Fifties, the Jaguar D-Type was motor racing’s top dog. It won consective Le Mans 24 hour races – in ’55, ’56 and ’57. At the ’57 event – come the chequered flag – D-Types occupied five of the first six places. Fair to say, then, it was their day. Not only that – but they were all privateer entries. It would seem the famous French circuit was a second home to Jaguar at the time. Silverstone, of course, being their racetrack of choice.

As was apt, the Jaguar C-Type blazed the trail. ‘C’ stood for Competition. Jaguar turned to their XK120 sports car. It was a proven success – on both road and track. William Lyons was boss at Jaguar. He opined that – when it came to racing – pure production cars could no longer cut it. A dedicated Jaguar motorsport division was required. As a result, a race-spec body kit was grafted onto the XK120 chassis. The C-Type subsequently won twice at Le Mans. In doing so, it demonstrated its new-fangled disc brakes were the way to go. The race department was paying for itself already!

The D-Type was Jaguar’s first full-on racer. It hit the grid in ’54. From the get-go, it was clear Jaguar had been busy. The flowing curves of its bodywork came courtesy of Malcolm Sayer. The stabilising fin at the rear looked like it had been lifted from a land speed record car. Beneath it sat a monocoque chassis. Disc brakes were fitted all-round. They had been jointly developed by Jaguar and Dunlop. The front-mounted 6-cylinder engine fed 250bhp to the rear wheels. Top speed was 175mph. In the ’54 Le Mans race, a D-Type harried a Ferrari all the way to the flag. Though Ferrari fended it off, it had a much bigger motor. When it came to the press conference, Jaguar no doubt chalked that up as a moral victory! The D-Type was still available to privateer drivers, and race wins were duly recorded around the world. Coventry, England was Jaguar HQ. The city was now well and truly on the automotive map. The D-Type was a racer, rather than a roadster. To that extent, it changed motor racing. No longer were competition cars within easy reach of the average driver. Motor racing would become less accessible. Few cars, then, have moved motorsport on more dramatically than the Jaguar D-Type!

Dodge Charger Daytona 500

The Charger Daytona 500 was Dodge’s response to Ford dominance. Specifically, in the form of NASCAR racing. The Charger car had been competitive in terms of outright power. But, it had been held back by an excess of speed-sapping drag. The Charger 500 version was an attempt to redress the balance. The Charger’s nose was duly enclosed. Its rear window fitment now sat flush with its surrounds. Those two changes alone made a big difference. In the ’69 season, the 500 won 18 races. Unfortunately for Dodge, its biggest rival – the Ford Torino – won 30! More was clearly needed. In short order, the 500’s nose grew 18″. Most noticeably, the car sprouted a huge rear wing. The updated model was 20% more aerodynamically efficient. It was duly dubbed the Daytona. NASCAR’s tables had turned!

505 Daytona road cars were built. Racing homologation rules required it. Sadly – from a Dodge point of view – they did not sell well. But – just as the showroom dust was starting to settle – TV rode to the rescue. The Dukes of Hazzard series turned the Charger tide. Indeed, for many – in the guise of the General Lee – the Charger was the star of the show. Week after nerve-racking week, the Sheriff seemed in perpetual pursuit of the Dodge-borne Dukes. Though, thanks to its GM Magnum V8 engine – and the 375bhp it provided – the good ol’ boys were able to stay out ahead! For real-life drivers, there was the choice of a 4-speed manual – or 3-speed TorqueFlite – gearbox. Suspension was by torsion bars, upfront – and leaf springs, at the rear. Respectively, they were connected to disc brakes and boosted drums.

Ironically, the new nose and rear wing – game-changing for the Daytona racer – hindered the roadster. The added weight slowed it down. And it was not travelling fast enough for the aerodynamic package to really kick in. That said – if performance took a tumble – turned heads and double-takes turned up by the shedload. But, it was on the oval banking that the Charger truly came into its own. Buddy Baker, for instance, drove a Daytona to NASCAR’s first 200mph lap. That was in 1970 – at Talladega, Alabama. The Daytona was, after all, named after one of the world’s most iconic race-tracks. Luckily, the Dodge Charger Daytona 500 fully lived up to the legend!

Ferrari 250 GTO

 

The Ferrari 250 GTO was about as focused a car as has ever been built. Designed by Giotto Bizzarrini, everything about it was geared to speed. Its cabin, for instance, was conspicuously spartan. The GTO – Gran Turismo Omologato – was made to win races, not comfort contests! Specifically, races in the World Sportscar Championship. The Ferrari 250 GT had been struggling in said series – mainly on account of poor aerodynamics. Which is where Bizzarrini came in. His brief was to draft a more slippery shape. One that could deliver more than 150mph, at any rate … which was what the GT was currently mustering. Bizzarrini went to work. The grille was made smaller. The headlights were faired in. A foreshortened rear end now sported a spoiler. Ferrari were pleased. The GTO’s top speed was clocked at 173mph.

But, Bizzarrini’s bodywork was just for starters. The GTO had other weapons in its race armoury. Like a 3.0-litre Tipo 168/62 Colombo V12. The 300bhp it produced took the Ferrari from 0-60mph in 6.1s. That called for a stiff chassis. An alloy-tubed frame was duly installed. The aluminium V12 engine was suckled by six twin-barrel Webers. Because it was dry sump, the motor sat lower – as did the rest of the car. More grist to the aerodynamics mill. A 5-speed gearbox turned the rear wheels. Only suspension let the side down a tad – being somewhat outdated. Saying that, it clearly did not hamper the whole package too much. In ’62, the GTO won the World Sportscar Championship. And again, in ’63 and ’64. At Le Mans, in ’62, while it came second in the overall standings, it took the coveted Group 3 GT class.

Bizzarrini also took care that the GTO’s styling was suitably seductive. As well as being one of the all-time great racers, as a roadster its low-down looks were sublime. Ferrari played a bit fast and loose with the facts, however … in true motorsport tradition! They passed the GTO off as just a streamlined GT. That got them off the hook, homologation-wise. Otherwise, they would have had to build 100 GTOs, to go racing. As it was, only 39 were built. In truth, though, the new car was unique. While the GTO – and its GT forebear – did indeed share many components, there was enough that was fresh about the GTO to set it apart. It certainly was a streamlined GT – Bizzarrini’s wind-cheating wizardry had seen to that. But – should there be any doubt that the GTO was special – a price comparison is telling. When Ferrari produced the car – between ’62 and ’64 – it cost £6,000. In 2014 – at Bonhams Quail Lodge auction – one sold for £22,843,633. Which made it the most expensive car ever, at the time. The Ferrari 250 GTO was a one-off, all right!

Ford Shelby GT350

 

As motoring luminaries go, they do not shine much more brightly than Carroll Shelby. So – in ’65 – when the erstwhile racer trained his tuning sights on the Ford Mustang, the sports car community sat up. The first-model Mustang had been released the previous year – to great acclaim. It had impressed in every area … except one. In performance terms, the Mustang underwhelmed. Enter Carroll Shelby!

Styling-wise, the Mustang was fine. So, that was left alone – apart from new side-exhausts and stripes. Shelby headed straight for the engine – a Cobra 4.7-litre V8. He already knew a thing or two about it. He had, after all, been the catalyst for the AC Cobra. When Shelby picked up his spanners, the Mustang’s V8 made 271bhp. Ford had already uprated the original spec. Shelby, though, was sure there was more. He was right. By the time he put down his spanners, output had risen to 306bhp. That came, in the main, by modifying the manifolds. Though a Holley carburettor certainly helped. Top speed had risen to 149mph … with a 0-60 stat of 6.5s. Ensconced in their LA workshops, Shelby and his team had turned a meek and mild Mustang into a muscle car!

But, it would not have been a ‘Shelby’ without racing attached. It came in the form of the SCCA B-Production road-race series. The Shelby GT350R duly hit the grid. And went on to take the ’65, ’66 and ’67 titles. The R dished out 360bhp. While the roadster was not quite in that league, it was no slouch. Koni suspension was suitably solid. The chassis was well up to taking the strain. Front discs – and rear drums – provided safe and assured braking. Transmission was 4-speed. Carroll Shelby had done it again. Cut from the same cloth as the AC Cobra, Ford’s GT350 was already a thoroughbred sports car. And when a class act like Shelby got a hold of it, sparks were always going to fly. In a perfect trajectory, of course!

Ford GT40

The Ford GT40 could have been a Ferrari! In the mid-’60s, Ford were in the throes of a Ferrari takeover. With the deal all but closed, though, their offer was snubbed. That displeased Henry Ford II – to say the least. Hackles suitably raised, he determined to come out fighting … and hit Ferrari where it hurt. At the racetrack! The GT40 would be his weapon of choice. Fortunately, Ford were in a position to recruit race car constructor Lola to their cause. The British firm had just put the finishing touches to their Mk6 GT car. It had been fitted with a Ford V8 engine. Plainly, the prototype was packed with potential. Perfect timing! Ford leapt at the chance to bring Lola on board … and duly acquired the rights to the Mk6. Eric Broadley – Lola’s founder – would oversee the project.

Not that Ford would be taking a back seat. They would be styling the new car, for starters. Trouble was – for all their commercial success – Ford were not race engineers. The shape they came up with was aerodynamic – but not as much as it could have been. Lola could have made it still more slippery. That was their stock-in-trade, after all. Plus, Ford’s plans for the GT40 included roadsters. Which would, of course, need to be factory-built. Thinking ahead – in terms of parts – Ford gave the go-ahead for a steel monocoque chassis for the GT40. It went without saying that it was relatively cheap. The specialised light aluminium tub Broadley had designed was surplus to requirements. So now, not only was the GT40 less aerodynamic than it might have been – it was heavier, too. Ford wanted to have their cake and eat it, too. They wanted a race car to beat Ferrari – while, at the same time, cutting production costs!

The proof of the pudding would come at Le Mans – in the form of the ’65 24-Hour race. Sadly – to Ford’s palate, at least – the pudding did not taste good. Ferrari won! The following year, though – after some winter-time fettling – the GT40 came on song. Indeed, it would win at La Sarthe the next four times out. The ’66 and ’67 campaigns were under Ford’s own aegis. A privateer team took charge in ’68 and ’69. In the course of that string of victories, the GT40 did more than just win. It was the first car to notch up 3,000 miles in 24 hours – with New Zealanders Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon doing the driving. And after that – with Jacky Ickx at the wheel – the GT40 beat a Hans Herrmann-piloted Porsche to the flag, by a mere 100m. After a full day’s high-octane racing, that was a pretty tight margin. To put it in context, the GT40 topped out at more than 200mph. As a sports car, then, it was anything but lacklustre. Its 4,727cc V8 engine made 485bhp. And no car wins four times on the bounce at Le Mans, without having something special going for it. The Ford GT40 was a fantastic racing car. It was just that – had Eric Broadley and his Lola colleagues been given free rein – it could have been even better!

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