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THERE IS no mistaking the principal appeal of R&T, May 1956: A first road test of the Jaguar D-Type, a sports racing car already on its way to legendary status. Plus, in the magazine’s coverage of that year’s Daytona Speed Week, another D-Type is pictured, together with two cars I’ve actually seen in the flesh er… metal, sort of.
“ ‘A thrill that comes once in a lifetime’ is an overworked cliché,” R&T editors said, “but it describes perfectly our impressions after conducting a full-scale test on the D-Type Jaguar.”
By May 1956, the D-Type had already dueled in the rain at the 1954 Le Mans and won after playing a role in the tragic 1955 Le Mans. Still to come were its Le Mans victories in 1956 and 1957, the latter, where D-Types took five of the top six places, and the car’s not always aesthetic interpretation of post-1955 Le Mans regulations.
Wrote R&T of the 1956 test: “He [Woods] and two mechanics arose at 5:00 A.M. and 4 hours later we had all the data we needed.”
“… the exact spot is our secret. The time was 8:30 on a Sunday morning. The altitude was sea level, the temperature 60º F, wind zero, visibility less than a mile (fog, not smog).”
Our intrepid testers reported delicate clutch work getting the D-Type off the line, with 0-60 times varying from 4.2 to 5.0 seconds; their average, 4.7. Quarter-mile postings worked out to 13.7 seconds at 106 mph. And top speed, 162.16 mph.
Impressive indeed for Brookhurst Street. Oops, I let it out of the bag. Back in those days, it would have been a two-lane road through an orange grove, and must have looked narrow indeed at that speed.
In a substantially different venue, the sands of Daytona Beach, Florida, a D-Type had posted a run of 164.14 mph. Also cited in “Everyone Turns Up a Winner At Daytona Speed Week,” R&T cited a 4.5-liter Grand Prix Ferrari’s run of 170.53 mph, speeds of both the Ferrari and D-Type achieved in 1955, when beach conditions were considered better.
This Grand Prix Ferrari sure looks like the one that Carroll Shelby campaigned for John Edgar. It was the first real race car I ever came near, this when Shelby “broke the minute” at Pennsylvania’s Giant’s Despair Hill Climb in 1956.
At Daytona 1956, Chuck Daigh drove a modified Ford Thunderbird in a standing quarter-mile shootout with Zora Arkus-Duntov’s similarly prepped Chevrolet Corvette. The T’bird’s 92.14 mph pipped the Vette’s 89.17. (The year before, Duntov had run a 91.69 in a production Vette.)
Another of Daigh’s T’birds, a 1957, is now being vintage-raced by Dr. John Miller, my GP of a different sort entirely. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016