The legendary 1956 Le Mans 24 Hour-winning Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-type ‘XKD 501’ is poised to become one of the top sellers at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction on 19-20 August. Experts are expecting it to become the most expensive British car sold at auction, eclipsing the $14.3m paid for an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato at the firm's New York sale in 2015.
The D-type was the first to be sold to a privateer team and quickly proved itself on track, scooping podium finishes at Snetterton, Goodwood and Aintree in 1955. A rule change in 1956 saw the car equipped with a full width screen and the engine from ‘XKD 561’. It continued its success from the previous year, notably beating Ferrari’s TR Spider and finishing behind three works D-types at Reims.
Its biggest success came later that year at Le Mans, where it was driven to a comfortable overall victory by Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson in the face of stiff competition from the entire Jaguar works team – which fielded three fuel-injected longnose D-types – and the Aston Martin DB3S of Stirling Moss and Peter Collins.
An accident forced the retirement of Paul Frere’s D-type on just the second lap of the race, followed by a second three hours later which put out Jack Fairman’s factory car. Mike Hawthorne lasted just four hours before being brought in due to a misfire, leaving the only real opposition to the Ecurie Ecosse entry the Moss/Collins DB3S, which was outgunned by the more powerful Jaguar, and Maurice Trintignant and Olivier Gendebien’s Ferrari 625 LM, which crossed the finish line seven laps adrift.
Following its success on the biggest stage, 'XKD 501' was entered in the 1957 Mille Miglia and Goodwood’s Whitsun Trophy, as well as a handful of other meetings before being retired. With its racing career finally over it passed to Ecurie Ecosse financier Major Thomson, who kept it until 1970, when it was bought by Sir Michael Nairn. The collector commissioned a sympathetic restoration to its Le Mans-winning specification and used the car infrequently until 1999, when it passed to the car’s current owner.
In addition to its racing history, 'XKD 501' topped the Jaguar Competition class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2002.