The Ex-Jack Ensley/Pat OConnor Sebring 12-Hours number 8
1956 Jaguar D-Type Shortnose Sports-Racing Two-Seater
Chassis no. XKD553
Engine no. E2046-9
Here Bonhams & Butterfields is delighted to offer one of the most attractively presented classical Shortnose D-Type Jaguar sports-racing cars it has ever been our privilege to handle, and during our auction teams long history we have handled a considerable number not only on the auction ramp, but also on circuit in successful racing competition
on three Continents.
This gently patinated, tastefully restored Jaguar sports-racing car exemplifies all that was most impressive, most innovative and perhaps above all most beautiful - about the legendary British manufacturers mid-50s design. The immortal D-Type survives today as the supreme example of multiple Le Mans-winning, semi-monocoque frontier technology.
The original series of Shortnose D-Types such as this was based upon the original works car design which was only narrowly beaten into second place at Le Mans 1954 by a much larger-engined Ferrari V12. Further advanced Longnose D-Type cars then humbled Ferrari and all other rivals for that matter in winning Le Mans twice, in 1955 and 57 while the race fell in the year in between to the ex-works Shortnose car campaigned by the charismatic Ecurie Ecosse team. Following in the wake of the works team cars enormous success, the Shortnose D-Types were produced in numbers for sale to enthusiastic and capable approved customers, and XKD553 offered here is one of this still select group of customer cars.
It was completed in white painted livery in 1956 and was factory fitted with the small headrest tail fin normally optional on these cars. It was used briefly that year by the world-famous Coventry factory as a dealer-display D-Type before being shipped to the USA for its first owner ex-works, Indianapolis-based businessman/amateur racer Jack Ensley.
He was President of Jaguar Midwest Distributors Inc and he had finished third in the World Championship-qualifying Sebring 12-Hours classic the previous year in a sister D-Type co-driven by USAC Indy track driver Bob Sweikert. This time round he entered his replacement car XKD553, fresh from England for the half-day race at Hendrick Field, Florida, on March 23, 1957. He had the car prepared for himself to co-drive with another USAC professional the Handsome Hoosier; Indianapolis racing hero Pat OConnor
This D-Type Jaguar was one of four FIA-sanctioned Ds to contest that classic event. It wore race number 8 that sunny day in Florida, no fewer than 49 years ago, but such is the ageless styling and beauty of the D-Type Jaguar that XKD553 offered here has retained all the attraction so much commented upon in period.
Sebring 1957 saw the Ensley/OConnor car run as high as 10th overall at the completion of the opening hour, but more experienced road racers began to forge forward and 553s race was ended after some six hours - 50 laps - had been completed, reputedly when its rear axle failed.
Late in 1957, Jack Ensley sold the car, reputedly to John C. Rueter himself one of the earliest pioneers of American amateur road racing as a regular competitor in Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) competition driving a Bugatti and the famous Old Gray Mare special. He went on to become a leading light of the postwar Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) during its formative years and was a successful author in his own right. Other sources suggest that the car was sold instead from Ensley to Dr H.E. Rollings, of Georgia, who finished third in a D-Type in a race at Courtland, Alabama, in July 1957.
From Rueter or Rollings this car was then acquired by Edmund (Ed) Rahal of Savannah, Georgia, who campaigned it enthusiastically in SCCA south-eastern region events, 1957-61. It proved to be an extremely successful car in his hands, winning at least twice on the new road circuit at Daytona, Florida once in September 1959 and again in January 1960. That latter race meeting was reputed to be the first occasion on which CBS Television had screened live automobile road racing coverage.
British Jaguar authority Philip Porters researches as set out in his definitive book Jaguar Sports Racing Cars (Bay View Books 1995) state that Ed Rahal reputedly won every SCCA race in region
After a relatively brief period in obscurity, the car was returned from the US to England, being re-imported by British enthusiast Mike Bradley in 1968-69 and club-raced by him during the latter season.
In August, 1971, the car was acquired by the celebrated enthusiast Bob Roberts, for his growing collection within the Midland Motor Museum at Bridgenorth in Shropshire. During 1972-73 he had the bodywork and running gear overhauled by F.W. Mays. The car was British-registered TVD 670G and fitted temporarily with a 3.8-litre engine in place of the original 3.4-liter. At the annual Brighton Speed Trials on the south coast it blasted through the speed traps in 25.09 seconds. The car then remained on display within the Midland Motor Museum until it was purchased by former Ferrari, Ford GT40 and Porsche 910 endurance racing driver Paul Vestey for his small private collection in Hampshire.
He had the car further restored and prepared to the peerless standards for which his Ferrari V12s are so widely renowned, before he sold the car via the Internationally-known and respected model specialists, Lynx Engineering, to Peter Kaus in Germany. He installed the car in his illustrious Rosso Bianco Collection, taking it out for various events and for fun during his long tenure. Indeed, during a recent inspection the Jaguar enjoyed a recent and modest road test where engine, gearbox and brakes were reported to be in good working order.
Just study this car today and beneath that shapely hood you will find its chassis serial stamped XKD 553 onto left-hand front suspension top abutment. The engine is back to 3.4-litre block configuration, with the original serial E2046-9 to be found on both the under-hood data plate and on the forward end of the engine cylinder head at the back face of its timing chain clearance housings. The cast-iron cylinder blocked is clearly marked 3.4-liter.
Ease the padded leather seat-back upholstery off its fastening poppers behind the passenger-side seat (left-hand side in this instance) and there you on the curved seat-back panel you will find the body number of the monocoque chassis tub - H2053 - punched into the manufacturers riveted-on tab there. It matches the serial numbers punched into the formal constructors data plate under the hood.
Open the drop-down trunk flap in the extreme tail and the interior has a highly original appearance. The spare Dunlop road wheel and tire are kept in place by an original-style retainer, now quite rare to see, while an outrigged rear number plate light is another practical, sensible, yet unusual feature of this beautiful car.
Overall, this is an apparently well-kept and particularly fine looking Shortnose D-Type with fin. It is evidently an older restoration which will itself for many collectors be an attraction since the paintwork has aged with light use and has taken on a most desirable light patina. The seat upholstery has plainly been replaced in relatively recent times, but has been very nicely hand-crafted. Lucas Halogen headlights are non-original modern fittings but again are indicative of a car which has been used quite seriously in recent times, for the lighting output of the original-style lamps behind their moulded perspex covers was always notoriously deficient for the 160mph speeds of which the D-Type is legendarily capable!
Overall, this is a good history Shortnose D-Type of particular attraction and charm. With it comes effectively the key to the entire panorama of classic and Historic motor racing, touring, concours and just plain old-fashioned fun events that the International collectors car scene has to offer