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Raced just twice, but only on the prime stage at Le Mans, then reinvented as a showstopping GT before recently being restored back to original spec as the French Racing Blue Los Amigos team car, few Jaguar D-types have such an eventful history as chassis XKD 513.
First owner Jean-Marie Brussin wasn’t bothered about the unlucky number and the 1957 24 Hours challenge was a dream come true with his spectacular new sports-racer, but an attempt to repeat that glory would cost him his life.
Having made a fortune trading industrial diamonds, Brussin competed first in hillclimbs and French club races under the nom de guerre ‘Mary’.
His long-held ambition to race at La Sarthe was frustrated in ’55 by a late withdrawal, possibly because his D-type order wasn’t ready. Why he waited two years before entering again is a mystery: perhaps after the ’55 disaster his family discouraged him, but it all came good for Brussin’s remarkable debut aged 33 in 1957.
XKD 513 was ordered through the Paris Jaguar dealer,Charles Delcroix, via Lyon-based agent Henri Peignaux, who was also listed as the entrant for the Los Amigos team.
The car was painted French Racing Blue and registered 6478 AT 69, and, as with the Ecurie Ecosse, Equipe National Belge and JD Hamilton-entered D-types, was supported by the Jaguar works.
For his co-driver, Brussin chose Jean Lucas, a highly experienced 40-year-old who’d started racing an old Alfa Romeo Monza after WW2 and quickly achieved impressive results including victory in the 1949 Spa 24 Hours with Luigi Chinetti.
As team manager for Gordini, he’d stepped in for the indisposed Robert Manzon at the ’55 Italian Grand Prix.
A regular front-runner with fast Ferraris at Le Mans, Lucas’ only finish had been eighth in 1951 and after disqualification in ’52 he was determined to break his unlucky run.
When he later retired from racing, Lucas launched French monthly Sport Auto with Gérard ‘Jabby’ Crombac and managed Jo Schlesser, but his main income came from a sardine factory in Casablanca.
During practice the Los Amigos D-type qualified 13th, the slowest of the five Jaguars entered but only just behind the yellow Equipe National Belge entry of Paul Frère and Freddy Rouselle.
As Stirling Moss blasted clear from the start in the brutal Maserati 450S coupé, ‘Mary’ and Lucas maintained steady progress from 15th in the first hour.
Climbing up the leaderboard, they were running a strong fifth by midnight as the Ecurie Ecosse D-type of Ron Flockhart and Ivor Bueb set the pace at the front.
In the early morning the Belgian D-type was stranded for nearly an hour out on the circuit with ignition problems, which moved the excited French team up to the third spot they held to the finish, helping to seal a dominant 1-2-3-4-6 for Jaguar.
The British marque always had a loyal following in France, and Brussin was rightfully ecstatic at his debut podium.
Encouraged by this performance, Los Amigos entered XKD 513 again the following year and sent the car back to Jaguar for upgrades and preparation.
For the new regulations, the Coventry firm had agreed to develop a 3-litre version of the successful ‘six’ for privateer teams who wanted to continue racing D-types at Le Mans.
Based on the 3.4-litre block, the revised ‘works’ engine had different performance characteristics to the 3.8, with a higher power range between 5500 and 7000rpm.
It peaked at 254bhp, with maximum torque of 239lb ft at 5500rpm.
Initially Ecurie Ecosse went a different route, developing its own 3-litre with ace mechanic ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson basing his new unit on Jaguar’s shorter-stroke 2.4 block. The engine produced less power – 234bhp – at 6100rpm, but with a lower torque peak.
The Scottish team ran the revised straight-six in XKD 606 in the Nürburgring 1000km three weeks before Le Mans alongside two team cars with factory 3-litre engines, and it was the only D-type to finish with Jack Fairman and John ‘Jock’ Lawrence coming home fifth.
Despite the reliability issues with the works 3-litres, Ecurie Ecosse owner David Murray decided to fit them to his D-types for Le Mans. Within the first hour both Scottish cars were out with broken pistons and defective valvegear.
French Jaguar dealer Peignaux had good contacts with the factory, and following the team’s impressive 1957 finish XKD 513 got all the latest modifications for its second outing.
The works supplied the Los Amigos team with the same new head, and Norman Dewis carried out extensive development on the D-type in England prior to its return to the French crew.
Other tweaks included improved aerodynamics with a headrest fin and special ducts in the rear wings. The cockpit, too, was adjusted for the new regulations with a full-width ’screen. In contrast to the previous year, however, the 1958 race would have a tragic outcome.
For his co-driver, Brussin switched to the wealthy French-Moroccan André Guelfi, who coincidentally had a sardine business – his nickname was ‘Dédé la Sardine’ – and who’d also raced for the Gordini team.
A wheeler-dealer from the age of 17, when he started out as a debt collector, Guelfi was later implicated in the Elf Aquitaine scandal.
He was a LeMans veteran with a best of sixth sharing a Gordini T15S with Jacques Pollet in 1954, but seemed jinxed with unlucky co-drivers afterJean Larivière fatally crashed their Ferrari 212 Export on lap six in ’51.
Like the Ecurie Ecosse cars, XKD 513 struggled with engine problems in the early hours and by 5pm, after further pitstops, the distinctive blue D-type had dropped to 49th and last place.
The race had started in bright sunlight and soaring temperatures, but the conditions changed dramatically in the early evening as relentless rain made driving very challenging.
The French team plugged on, climbing back through the field to 34th in the fifth hour, then in the gloom at 10pm Brussin roared by the pits for the final time, splashing past American Le Mans rookie Bruce Kessler in the NART Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa.
The overtake resulted in Brussin arriving too fast into the Dunlop Curve, which was awash with mud from the outer bank.
The D-type smashed into the perimeter, spinning around and throwing Brussin on to the track just before Kessler arrived. As he took evasive action, the Ferrari cannoned into the wrecked Jaguar.
Brussin was killed instantly while Kessler, having sat up on the headrest to prepare for the impact, was thrown clear.
As he climbed up the bank, the Ferrari burst into flames. Spectators tried to douse the inferno with earth, but the Latin exotic was a blackened wreck by the time fire crews arrived. Kessler was taken to hospital in a pick-up where the nurses were confused to find a chicken snack hidden in his overalls.
Marshals retrieved the Jaguar’s crumpled bonnet and tail, which were thrown into the ditch, while the wreck was left against the bank with only a gas lamp highlighting the obstacle.
The grim scene nearly claimed a second D-type when Duncan Hamilton arrived at high speed in XKD 601, but thankfully he spotted a spectator on the far bank throwing his hat in the air as a warning and immediately slowed, just avoiding the car hidden around the corner.
The charismatic ace powered on through the sodden darkness up to second place, his life having been saved by a stranger in the night.
But at Arnage on Sunday morning, during another heavy storm, Hamilton lost control in a big way while avoiding a parked Panhard.
After somersaulting, the D-type landed upside down across a flooded ditch; had two spectators not pulled him out, Hamilton could have drowned.
In a reversal of the glorious ’57 race, all five D-types entered had retired or crashed, taking the life of one of their privateer troop.
XKD 513 remained by the side of the track until the end of the race when, following an investigation by the French authorities, the tub was sent back to Browns Lane by dealer Peignaux while the front and rear body were scrapped.
The D-type then sat untouched in storage at the factory until Giovanni Michelotti acquired the remains in 1960.
The Italian stylist had just launched his own design company and was looking for a project to create a new GT concept for promotional display at motor shows.
Like their E-type siblings, D-types always look a mess after an impact due to the vulnerable aluminium bodywork, but the main monocoque and subframe of XKD 513 had survived.
The body panels were cut away, and the Torinese stylist produced a sleek coupé around the original wheelbase.
Finished in metallic blue with light trim and still running on Dunlop alloy wheels, the Jaguar Le Mans made its debut at the 1963 Geneva Salon where it won a top award.
Still with minimal mileage – it had only raced twice, remember – the remodelled XKD 513 was used occasionally by Michelotti as his daily transport around Turin, registered 3730 BR 69, but its competition tuning with triple Weber carburettors and long Le Mans axle ratio weren’t practical for the city.
By the late 1960s space was getting tight at Studio Tecnico Design Carrozzeria on 35 Corso Francia, and Michelotti accepted an offer from Richard F Carter, who shipped the Jaguar to Georgia, USA, where it was used for display purposes to raise money for a local church.
Historic racing took off in the UK in the early ’70s, and D-types were much in demand.
Andrew Gortway did his homework, tracking down the Michelotti coupé in the Deep South, and convinced Carter to sell.
Back in England, the handmade body was separated from the original D-type tub and the unfinished rebuild was eventually sold to Laurence Bristow, who instructed Guy Black and Chris Keith-Lucas to complete it.
As well as the subframe and monocoque, the rebuild used many period parts including a complete factory tail section. Finished in original ‘short-nose’ style with a tailfin and 3.8-litre engine, it was predictably painted British Racing Green.
Renowned English collector Bill Lake acquired the Michelotti body and interior, and commissioned Lynx to rebuild it using a written-off 4.2-litre E-type as a donor.
Painted an unflattering red and registered 20 KOG, the finished car was a gift to Lake’s wife, Rosemary.
After display in the Jaguar collection of Roland Urban, the coupé was acquired by Belgian enthusiast Lucas Laureys, who was determined to make it more authentic.
XK Engineering was tasked with rebuilding it to 1963 Geneva show style, including a repaint in powder blue.
Lake had fitted a Mk2 dashboard, but the Coventry specialist went to great lengths to recreate the handmade original.
Few photos survive and Michelotti’s sketches were long lost, so finding reference material was a challenge, but the finished car is a superb tribute to Michelotti, back on 16in centre-lock Dunlops and with a 300bhp 4.2-litre engine rebuilt by Ron Beatty.
The D-type was sold to California-based Briton Peter Giddings, and raced extensively.
Later owner Bob Baker lent it to Road & Track for a group test against a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa and a Porsche RSK, with Phil Hill, Innes Ireland and Bob Holbert swapping seats around Laguna Seca for the cover of the April 1986 issue.
It passed through the hands of Bill Chizar before Arizona-based Jaguar guru Terry Larson acquired XKD 513, by then painted dark blue.
Over the ensuing 12 years, few had more fun or were more intimate with D-types than Larson, who enjoyed driving his new acquisition as much as fettling it and researching its history.
As well as racing at the Monterey Historics, Larson ran it around America’s greatest routes during the Colorado Grand and the Copperstate 1000.
The D-type was also shipped to Europe for two factory cavalcades from Browns Lane to Le Mans, where Larson began a rewarding friendship with Dewis.
“XKD 513 was my first D-type so the memories are extra special,” says Larson. “I’ll never forget driving the Trail Ridge Road in Colorado: 91 miles and 460 turns up to 9000ft, with very little traffic.
“Norman loved westerns and Clint Eastwood was his hero, so he always enjoyed our tours. We once stopped out on the Greer Prairie for a cattle herd to cross and he was thrilled to see real cowboys.”
Larson eventually sold XKD513 to Fred Bohlander, who repainted it in a lighter blue finished with roundels and the number 17, but in 2001 it returned to Europe with Austrian Dr Hans-Jörg Holleis.
In September 2017, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Le Mans victory, XKD 513 joined the two Ecurie Ecosse team cars, XKD 606 and XKD 603, for a reunion road trip from Coventry to the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace.
It was a special trip for the Austrian and his brother Günther: the event reunited Dewis with the car, and a conversation about XKD513’s correct blue with Queenie Louwman prompted Holleis to think about a repaint.
Compatriot Egon Zweimüller was enlisted for the job.
“The car came to my workshop after Hampton Court and we stripped it down to the monocoque,” recalls the specialist. “Fortunately, I also had the very original XKD 553, which was the perfect reference.”
A lengthy period of research, tracking down historic photos, film and memories made sure the details were authentic.
The owner wanted to retain the finned style and 3-litre specification, but it was decided to stick with the number 17 from its third place in 1957.
“We found colour photos of Dewis testing at MIRA with the ’58 upgrades but still the old lucky number 17,” says Zweimüller, “so that’s the window of history we rebuilt it to. We also discovered it was originally green before the French Blue overpaint.”
During the rebuild, the rivets were removed and replaced with authentic aviation-spec items, and the tailfin was remade to the correct shape.
The ’58-style rear wing vents and the little fins behind the rear arches were also added.
The correct blue was a challenge, but eventually a 1955 Glass colour chart gave a clue, with a tone that was later used on the XK140.
Final touches were the hand-painted registration, roundels and tri-colour detail on the tip of the fin.
The completed D-type was extensively tested by Zweimüller, who confirms that the 3-litre engine has a special character: “It still has strong torque but the revvability is better. It’s more like a Maserati 300S and the sound is sharper, too. The uprated six-piston brakes are fantastic, and on smooth roads the handling is superb.”
Its return to La Sarthe was postponed, but hopefully in the future XKD 513 will compete at the Le Mans Classic.
Determined to have one good run in 2020, the Holleis brothers entered the Mille Miglia last October where the Jaguar was enthusiastically applauded by fans.
Images: Johann Wimmer/Zweimüller Cars
Thanks to Egon Zweimüller, Hans-Jörg Holleis and Terry Larson