New or Rebuilt; Jaguar D-Type is the Most Phenomenal Thing that Ever Happened to the Marque

MOST D-TYPES were CREATED THE SAME, but almost sixty years on it is true to say not one is identical. They have generally had colourful lives, been crashed, repaired, and often cloned or recreated, if you prefer to put it that way. XKD520 is not amongst those!
Indeed, it is a very proud Jaguar D-Type with an immensely colourful and thoroughly documented life. That includes an exceptional number of high profile and successful owners. Most importantly, it has returned to Australia for the first time since 1967, and is staying.

Its full life will be explained in detail, but this much loved car is absolutely original except for a new bonnet. That is despite the most extraordinary things happening to it when it was raced seriously. Today it wears its history loud and proud, and it is possible to identify each episode of that life on its body.

Many rebuilt Jaguar D-Types look better than new, but XKD520 has signs of numerous crash repairs, and while the Australian-fabricated bonnet came with the car, it is in storage. According to Chris Keith-Lucas, owner of CKL Developments on the south coast of England, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on Jaguar D-Types: “In my opinion, this car remains one of the best production D-Types in existence”. I totally agree having seen it up close again.

It is the 27th D-Type built, and was completed on the Jaguar production line in Coventry on November 15, 1955. It was sold new to Melbourne racing driver and car sales businessman Bib Stillwell for £6000. His sons continue to run his businesses which include Silverstone Jaguar. Stillwell was born in 1927, and would become Australian Driving Champion four times. He raced an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato at Le Mans in 1961 with his friend Lex Davison, and later became CEO of Lear Jets. In the U.S he owned Jaguar D-Type XKD510.

Stillwell debuted XKD520 at Albert Park on March 11, 1956 by contesting the Moomba TT. Unfortunately, the gearbox locked up during the race, and while he did get through, he was out of a major place. The following weekend though at the same track, he won his first race in XKD520.

During the week he had contacted Jaguar Service Manager and racing boss Lofty England, who told him not to run castor oil in the gearbox as it was too light and would only cause more damage.

Stillwell later took out the South Australian Trophy against a Maserati 250F and a Ferrari Super Squalo. He also won the New South Wales Sportscar Championship at Bathurst where he was timed at 148 mph on Con Rod Straight.

Stillwell prepared the car to contest the Australian Land Speed Record, but because of bad weather that didn’t occur. Throughout his ownership he was pursued by Australia’s greatest and most popular radio celebrity Jack Davey. He wanted to buy the Jaguar D-Type!

Davey was extremely witty and enormously popular, but also a serious motoring enthusiast. He had already contested several RedEx Round Australia Trials – with microphone in hand.

Eventually, Stillwell cracked, and in early 1957 it was sent to Sydney dealer John Crouch who passed the D-Type to Jack Davey. He immediately had it painted bright red! There was another red D-Type in Sydney too – XKD532. It was owned by Jack Parker and raced by ‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray, a friend of Jack Davey and Frank Gardner.

Davey drove the D-Type 500 miles between Sydney and his AMPOL service station and penthouse residence in the centre of Surfers Paradise on the Queensland Gold Coast. His friends were terrified Jack would kill himself in the D-Type, and he had threatened to have a tilt at the Australian Land Speed Record.

There was even talk from the radio superstar that he would drive his Jaguar D-Type in the next Round Australia Trial!

However, it was his good friend Bill Murray, no relation to Jack Murray, and winner of the 1947 Australian Grand Prix and 1954 RedEx Round Australia Trial, who demolished the D-Type in an horrific road accident. Murray’s Corner at Bathurst is named after Bill. He had been despatched to Surfers Paradise to drive the D-Type back to Sydney for publicity purposes surrounding the LSR – held at the time by David McKay.

Davey also owned a rare and new Swallow Doretti sports car, a marque directly linked to Sir William Lyons’ first business, but he had a fall from a motor scooter and so any immediate crack at the LSR was on hold!

However, rumours swirled throughout Sydney on June 30, 1957 that Davey had in fact crashed the Jaguar D-Type, and perhaps had even been killed. The truth was that Murray had slid sideways into a flat bed truck at high speed near Harwood Ferry. The town is north of Grafton, so Murray was no more than a few hours into the journey when the crash occurred. No photographs appear to exist of the crashed D-Type, but Murray is reported in Jack Davey’s biography to have never fully recovered from the accident.

The Perspex window at the side of the cockpit seemingly cut his face up very badly, and the aluminium racer was so extensivelydamaged it was declared an insurance write off. Davey was very upset with what had happened to his friend, and considered sending the D-Type back to England to be sold for parts. He intended to buy a new Jaguar D-Type from the factory, but his colleges talked sense into him and XKD520 was offered for sale a few months later.

Young Frank Gardner and his uncle Hope Bartlett knew Jack Davey well because of Hope’s boat. Frank had purchased the wreckage of C-Type XKC037 and D-Type XKD520 through the same insurance agent. He rebuilt the D-Type to replace his C-Type which had already put him onto the national stage.

In November 1957 the damaged car was transported to his Mobilgas Service Station at glamorous Whale Beach north of Sydney. Working strictly after business hours, he and his friends stripped it in two days to begin a painstaking restoration.

Gardner was a qualified Jaguar specialist, but admitted many years later the job was huge. The driver’s side was wrecked, the steering wheel was into the headrest, the engine dislodged and the chassis rails bent so heavily they had to be cut away with an oxy acetylene torch. They were replaced with new items purchased from the factory.
Frank Gardner always considered himself to be an engineer first and racing driver second, so there was no way his rebuilt XKD520 was going to be anything less than perfect … which it was.

The chassis repairs by Jack Meyers were compared alongside the Jack Murray D-Type for correctness, and Frank’s friend and panel beater guru Alan Standfield repaired the body. He even made a near perfect job of recreating the bonnet from photographs and the few remaining useable pieces. It would later be modified by a different owner following a crash.

Engine damage was superficial, but still it was overhauled. The car, finished in Gardner’s white livery, reappeared on March 23, 1958 at Schofields, a wartime RAAF base on the northern outskirts of Sydney. That followed five months of hard work.

In typical Gardner fashion, it was a winner straight out of the proverbial box. Frank had Standfield create the bonnet in the manner of the latest works ‘Long Nose’ cars, and added their brake ducting holes in the nose. He still owned the C-Type, and sometimes raced both at a single meeting.

His first major outing with it was Bathurst where he ran against the established Jaguar D-Type star Bill Pitt (XKD526), and David McKay in his ex-works Aston Martin DB3S.
That Aston Martin had finished second at Le Mans in 1956 behind the Ecurie Ecosse D-Type, but remarkably, Gardner took out the Bathurst Road Racing Championship! Frank declared his aim was to reach 180 mph on the notorious Con Rod Straight, but for that he would need better tyres.

However, he did have bigger plans for his engineering career. He leased his service station, and sold the D-Type to David Finch in order to sail to England in November 1958, to further a diploma with Jaguar.

Finch was successful, racing it regularly in New South Wales and Queensland until the New South Wales Sports Car Championship at Bathurst in 1960. At this meeting the engine blew up and punched two holes in the block!

David purchased a new 3.8 litre D-Type block from the factory, and it remained in the car until recently.

In October 1961 Finch crashed it into a wooden fence at Warwick Farm horse racing track. That’s when the nose was remodelled by Alan Standfield. Finch sold it soon after to Ash Marshall who had Clive Adams repaint it red (again).

Marshall had hoped to top 200 mph in it, but in June 1965 it passed to Rick Parkinson, and in December 1966 it was advertised for sale at £4200.

Frank Gardner was back in Australia racing then, and told his friend Paul Hawkins about the Jaguar D-Type. Hawkins, a much loved Australian living and racing in England, already owned several D-Types, so he in turn told his friend Richard Attwood in Wolverhampton.

The Attwood family had a Jaguar dealership in the city, and Richard had been a Jaguar Student Apprentice. He was yet to win Le Mans (1970), but had raced in F1. He bought the D-Type, and it returned to Browns Lane where he had it inspected, and shipping damage repaired. It would take two years to have a new steering wheel supplied by Jaguar, and an original tail fin was added when it was repainted at the factory.

Attwood owned it until 1977, at which time it was sold to Angus Spencer-Nairn in Jersey. He sent it to Lynx Engineering for a tidy up, and used the car sparingly until selling many years later.

“The car came to us at Lynx on behalf of Angus Spencer-Nairn, was generally quite well presented and required straight-forward recommissioning before being sent out to the Channel Islands …”

Chris Keith-Lucas at CKL Developments remembers the car with fondness. “Over the next quarter century I maintained a regular acquaintance with the car, and in 2004 it was sold to a new owner who kindly brought it to me at CKL. Pains were taken not to spoil the pleasing patina of the car.

“It retains its original tail and monocoque, but we decided to replace the bonnet. We acquired a genuine original short-nose unit which had been fitted to an XK-SS. It was discarded decades ago when that car was rebuilt, and the fin was removed too. That gave us the chance to view the paint layers underneath – green, red and white.

“In my opinion the car remains one of the best production D-Types in existence, having had a long-term owner through the period when many other cars were spoiled by unsympathetic restorations and unfortunate ownership changes. To the very best of my knowledge it has retained its principle components since the end of the 1950s. It is one of my favourite D-Types.”

Subsequent owners have been Joel Laub in the U.S., a U.K. enthusiast and a European collector. It has been maintained in recent years by David Brazell, but was serviced by Chris Keith-Lucas for its most recent sale to an Australian collector and enthusiast.
It returned to Australia only months ago, and was publically seen for the first time at the Phillip Island Historic meeting. It is something of a miracle to have it back where it forged its racing history.