Years from now, when people look at the bust and boom auto world of the 2010s, they’ll mention three things: The astonishing rebirth of the Big Three, the legitimatization of EVs, and the skyrocketing prices of collector cars. Compared to today, the 1980s – the era when classic car culture was first usurped from nostalgic tinkerers by professional investors and speculators in a big way – looks like tiddlywinks. In 2010, a mint 1969 Porsche 911T was worth around $44,000. Today? Try $93,000. And James Bond’s ride of choice, the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 was worth around $475,000 five years ago. Today, it’s worth $1.5 million.
And while blue-chip classics are now changing hands for what seems like Monopoly money to us mortals, no automaker captures the hearts and dollars of the well-heeled quite like Ferrari, whose most desirable vintage models are coming close to being quite literally worth their weight in gold. But while Ferraris can usually be counted on to be the blockbusters of every auction, there are a number of historic models that can come along to temporarily steal the spotlight from the Prancing Horse. Case in point: This 1956 Jaguar D-Type Works “Long Nose” that’s set to cross the block at RM Sotheby’s auction at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix on January 28th.
In 2015, RM Sotheby’s Arizona auction netted $63.7 million, and 2016’s could prove to be just as lucrative. Despite swimming in a sea of vintage Ferraris, Porsches, and Bentleys, the D-Type should be the belle of the ball. As Autoblog points out, the last Works D-Type to cross the auction block came in 2013, when it failed to sell despite a wining bid of $6.3 million. A source at the auction house told Autoblog that this car “is expected to fetch more than $5 million when it crosses the auction podium in January.” Any higher than that, and it’ll become the most expensive D-Type ever sold.
Understanding Jaguar’s sports car lineage is easier than most. The race-bred aluminum-bodied C-Type bowed for 1951, when the “C” stood for competition. Taking that car as a starting point, the company replaced it with the D-Type in 1954. Another competition-focused car, Jaguar managed to sell 16 D-Types (including one famously owned by Steve McQueen) as road cars under the name XKSS, but a fire at the factory destroyed a number of near-completed cars, ending production. Jaguar took the “-Type” suffix largely off the track for the 1961-’75 E-Type, before it went dormant for 38 years or so and was revived for the F-Type.
So to say the D-Type is a direct ancestor to the modern marvel that is the Jaguar F-Type is an understatement. In its day, the D-Type was one of the fastest, and most advanced sports cars in the world. Its wind-cheating aluminum body is one of the few instances where form and function seem to blend seamlessly. The ’56 that’s up for auction is even more valuable since it’s a factory-backed racer with a complete ownership history.
This Jag, XKD 604 (its chassis number) was one of just six long-nose cars built, and debuted at Silverstone in May 1956. With Lucas mechanical fuel injection and an independent rear axle, it was the most advanced Jaguar raced that year. The company retired it and sold it off to a Scottish racing team after the 1956 season, where it stayed until 1971. It was then sold, underwent a restoration in 1986, imported to the U.S. in 1992, and has been with the present owner since 2004. Recently, it’s been a staple of shows like the 2011 Monterey Motorsports reunion, and the Dana Point Concours d’Elegance.
If you’ve got a few million to burn on a classic car in January and aren’t much of a Ferrari person, then this D-Type Jag could be the car for you. After all, it probably beat its fair share of Ferraris in its day and is a stunning example of just how advanced Jaguar’s race cars were even 60 years ago. Like any big name auto auction of late, Arizona has the potential to be a record-breaker. It’ll be nice to see the big ticket cross the block in a shade other than Rosso Corsa.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
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