C is for Cat – inspired by the Jaguar C-Type
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About the same time as I started this sculpture, our first grandchild was of an age for us to start reading her books. “C is for Cat” therefore clinched the title of my latest Jaguar piece. I have no idea if she will come to worship the automobile as reverently as I do, but I can only hope. Perhaps I could author an A-to-Z book for her that had solely performance car references…..
As WWII drew to a close, Managing Director William Lyons’ first order of business was to jettison the unfortunate “SS” acronym (Swallow Sidecar) reference from the masthead. In its stead, Lyons spread what had been a SS pre-war model name, (Jaguar), across the entire line-up.
The 1948 release of the XK120 sports car, was arguably the most important (production) performance car debut of the 1940s. The chassis was a traditional ladder-style body-on-frame, while the engine was an impressive DOHC inline six. The moniker “120” referred to its promised top speed of 120 mph. The XK sported the looks to match, initially with aluminum bodies, and then soon after only in steel. Factory and privateer entrants had success with the XK120 in production car racing, including at LeMans in 1950.
Motorsport was to play an important role in Jaguar’s corporate success and prestige over the next decade. Consequently, the factory debuted in 1951 a XK120 based tube-framed “Competition” variant (XK-120-C, though in common usage “C-Type”). Aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer had produced a gorgeous drag-cheating shape, and with an aluminum body also cut the weight by some 25% from then-current production XK models.
The C-Type reigned supreme at LeMans, with an outright victory on its debut in 1951. The 1952 race saw further aerodynamic changes to the body, but these changes contributed to overheated engines and embarrassing retirements. In 1953, the XK120-C triumph again at LeMans, this time with original aerodynamics, more horsepower, lighter weight, and disc brakes.
Jaguar then debuted equally-iconic the monocoque-chassis D-Type for 1954. By the end of the 1950s, Jaguar sat atop the marque list of outright wins at LeMans, tied with Bentley, at five victories each.
Jaguar constructed 53 C-Types, 43 sold to privateers of numerous nationalities. All C-Types were right-hand-drive. A notable privateer C-Type result came from Ecurie Francochamps, finishing 4th overall at LeMans in 1954. Former 1953 factory team cars would likely trade today in the tens of millions of dollars.
Guatemala Verde (GV) is a rather hard marble, that consequently holds edges and detail well. It also finishes to a high gloss. Depending on the GV sample, it ranges from mid-green to near black when finished. Veins, dots and islands of off-white, grey, dark green, and black add a complex character to the stone when viewed from a close distance.
“British Racing Green” is not a specific color. Different British brands competed in different colors of green between racing seasons, and even within seasons. Jaguar also changed is paint systems and suppliers completely in October-November 1952. Jaguar was providing French privateers C-Types in French Blue, Belgian privateers in Yellow, to Italians in red (etcetera)…. but primarily to Americans (most appropriately) in white with blue stripes.
How is it that a stone quarried in India has the name Guatemala Verde? I wondered that too. Oral history I chased down says….Originally the stone was quarried in Guatemala. Doing business in that country has its challenges, so 30-ish years ago, when the Italian import / export concern handling GV learned they could also source the material from India, they made the switch. (Thank you Myles of 2Sculpt for that story.) It further demonstrates how Carrera, Italy remains the world epicenter of the marble trade.