An ex-1953 Le Mans 24 Hour and Spa 24 Hours Jaguar C-type blasted past its pre-sale estimate of just under £4m to sell for £5,709,060 at Bonhams’ Les Grandes Marques sale in Monaco.
The ex-Ecurie Francorchamps racer is one of the most original Jaguar C-types in existence having remained unrestored and in the same family’s ownership since 1963. It was bought by racing photographer Guy Griffiths for £635 after viewing the car with his then-teenaged daughter Penny.
As well as being in astoundingly original condition the car boasts an impressive race history, having been driven to ninth place at Le Mans while supporting the works Lightweight C-types, which finished first, second and fourth. Less than a month later it ran at Spa, appearing in the Nürburgring 1000km the following month. It was then sold to Dunlop and used as a test mule for new tyres, before being bought and raced by Michael Salmon, Gordon Lee and Robin Sturgess.
“I went with Dad to see the C-type,” said Penny Griffiths. “I just thought it was fantastic! He played it cool and we drove home again. But later than week he said ‘I’ve been thinking about the C-type. It’s an awful lot of money but – yes, we’ll have it’ and I remember being so excited. It was our first Jaguar and remember it coming home for the first time. Guy really didn’t like the look of the cockpit, complaining it had apparently been sprayed a cheap, horrible silver. My mother had trained as a dressmaker. She said ‘Don’t worry about that. Black Rexine. That’s the stuff. I’ll cover it.’ And she did, and that Rexine is still in there today.”
The car’s racing career ended when it was bought by the Griffiths’, but it continued to see regular use on Jaguar tours and events, including several ‘raids’ to the Le Mans 24 Hours. Penny recalls one such trip to the Rallye Georges Durand: “Roger and I set off in the C-type for about 20 minutes to the next village, where we were all encouraged to mark the occasion with the local cider. Then we drove for another 20 minutes to another village – where we were offered Calvados. Another 20 minutes, another village – huge lunch stop with wine…All the time we were being escorted by the Gendarmerie on their motorcycles, but nobody seemed to turn a hair. It was rural France in the 1980s, but today all of us would have been arrested – quite rightly. Standards were just different then.”