An Unsuccessful Streamliner

Jaguar, Stirling Moss, Le Mans, klemcoll

Here is a rare view of a rare car. It is a rare view because this car lasted only about three hours and a rare car because its bodywork and related mechanicals were scrapped after its race was over. This rara avis is a Jaguar C-Type, here driven by Stirling Moss during the early laps of the 1952 Le Mans 24 Hours on June 14, 1952, one of three such entries.

A privately-entered but works supported Jaguar C-Type had won Le Mans in 1951, driven by Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead, covering 267 laps. However, Jaguar decided that the pace would be faster in 1952, especially with a challenge due from Mercedes-Benz, with their new 300SLs, and powerful entries from Ferrari and Cunningham as well. So the Jaguar racing department contrived a streamlined version of the otherwise reliable C-Type. But without prior testing, this revision was likely to fail, and it did. A different radiator system with unreliable circulation was found to cause worrisome overheating in practice. The cause of the fault was not immediately determinable, so there were long faces in the Jaguar pits even before the start.

Moss was teamed with Walker, the prior year’s winner, and the other Jaguar entries were for Tony Rolt/Duncan Hamilton and Ian Stewart/Peter Whitehead. Although the Jaguars were indeed faster than before, none of the three would make it even to the four hour point. In the meanwhile the Mercedes, not by any means the fastest runners, would take the first two places, the winners covering 10 laps more than had been achieved by the Jaguar in 1951, but probably drier conditions helped that result. The latter part of the race ws not without drama when the leader, a Talbot-Lago driven solo by “Levegh” (Pierre Bouillin) retired when in an apparently unassailable lead.

However, Jaguar would recover from its Le Mans disaster of 1952 when Rolt and Hamilton would pilot a normally-bodied C-Type to victory there in 1953, covering no less than 304 laps, with two other works C-Types in second and fourth.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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