Jan' 2014

  • Driving a D-Type

    Posted 27/04/2014 By in Jan' 2014 With | No Comments

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    dtype02                 dtypehdg

    This article may veer in the direction of “abuse of editorial privilege”. Having sampled an XF 2.2 Diesel on your behalf for the last issue, I was standing in the milk bar at the Vintage and Veteran Club wondering what I could do to entertain you for the upcoming issue, when in walked Clive Woolley. Clive, as you know, is partly responsible – together with his son, Bruce – for the creation of Lucy – the 27 litre fire breathing

    dtype3Liberty engined, Rolls-Royce chassied monster that visited the clubhouse previously. Amongst Clive’s other cars is an LR RAM D-Type replica, which he kindly brought along to the F-TYPE launch in June of last year. During the subsequent conversation he allowed that he would be happy for me to write up an article on the car for Jaguar Magazine.

    Son Caelin and I duly showed up at the Woolley’s workshop where we found Bruce putting the finishing touches to a clean-up on the D-Type. Clive’s car was built from an LR RAM kit in 1988 – £ 5 800 at the time. In fact he, together with co-conspirator Jolyon Simpson, put together three of the cars over an 18 month period. Each of the kits was married with a donor S-Type, which could be sourced in those days for a few thousand Rand. The S-Types supplied the 3.8 litre twin ohc XK motors, the Jaguar fourspeed / overdrive gearboxes, the front suspension, the rear suspension and the instruments.

    A recent sales pitch on an LR RAM on sale says: “Constructed around a tubular-steel backbone space frame chassis, the LR Roadsters D-Type features steel-braced glass fibre bodywork in the long nose, long fin, passenger-carrying style with full-width windscreen first seen on the works Le Mans cars in 1955. Based almost exclusively on Jaguar running gear, unlike some of its rivals, the RAM D-Type was described by Kit Cars & Specials magazine as having ‘undisputed mechanical integrity,’ and was reckoned ‘one of the most desirable replicas we have yet laid our hands on.’ The factory claimed a performance, depending on engine tune, of 0-60mph in approximately 5.9 seconds and a maximum speed in overdrive top approaching 150mph, stunning figures even by today’s standards.”

    The factory D-Types featured, in their middle part, where the driver and theoretical passenger sat, a “tub,” a monocoque structure made of folded, riveted and arc-welded light alloy. Jaguar’s monocoque was not quite the first-ever application of this aircraft construction technique to auto racing, but it was the-first of significance. Adding strength to the central spine of the monocoque and completing the chassis forward of the firewall was a space-frame mainly made up from square-section tubes. These were made of aluminium and welded directly to the tub to support the engine and front suspension. The LR version has the chassis tubes running through the centre of the car to support the composite bodywork.

    The factory D-Types featured front suspension similar to the S-Type together with disc brakes. Their rear suspension was a live axle, whereas Clive’s has the S-Type independent Jaguar “cage” to put the power on the road. The 3.8 XK engine has been uprated to a similar state of tune to the factory Le Mans D-Types with triple 45DCOE Webers and modified cams. This version is the long-nose style with a rear fin behind the driver, as driven by Mike Hawthorn in 1955. The body is painted the iconic shade of flag blue metallic paint, as were the Ecurie Ecosse entries for Le Mans in the mid-1950s.

    Clive started the car – instantly on the button – and moved it into position for some editorial pictures. I was talked through the details as above and admired the quality of the fit and finish. Although it has not been used a lot during its 25 years my impression was one of understated quality, detailed workmanship and a solid vehicle. It did not twinkle in the sunlight – but did look ready to perform. “Would you like to go for a drive?’ enquired Bruce. Mentally noting “I thought you’d never ask!” I thank him and climbed in. A degree of agility is needed but the passenger seat is comfortable although a little cosy. Once out of the driveway and onto the four lane blacktop, Bruce shows me that the D is indeed capable of performing. I can well believe the sub-six second claim and the crackle from the exhaust is a delight to hear. Bruce double de-clutches skilfully – I suspect as much for the joy of it as for strict necessity. The car swoops past family sedans given a few metres to do it and accelerates strongly up a long incline. He taps off at around 85 – mph – probably just as well, it being a 60 kph zone.

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    The icing on the cake is the opportunity to drive the D-Type back to its home. The first impression was of a small cockpit with limited leg room – and the seat is not adjustable. The pedals are small. Being used to the Mark II, the feel of the clutch and throttle are familiar and we get underway without stalling. There and then the resemblance to any Jaguar saloon ends. The D-Type feel light, flexible and responsive. The acceleration is brisk – right up to the back of a crawling Toyota – and the handling, from a brief acquaintance – seemed to be more Lotus than Jaguar.

    A full appraisal was necessarily limited by traffic, but the visceral entertainment was amazing. The combination of a firm shove in the back, a clear steady and raucous exhaust and the wind in one’s hair (what there is of it, anyway) made this a brilliant way to start a Sunday.

    dtype5While Bruce took son Caelin for a run, I chatted to Clive. In 1963 he qualified as a Rolls Royce mechanical engineer specialising in diesel motors. He returned to South Africa in 1967 where he joined his father in their bulk transport company, Rio Rita. After some thirty years in the business, Rio Rita was sold. Since then many projects have occupied him, including a large amount of travelling – much of it to do with motor cars of one make or another. He has owned Bugattis and Bentleys and, of course, Lucy. He has raced vintage Bentleys in England and France, as well as competing in the Mille Migila retro.

    The current Woolley project is a 1917 American La France vehicle. It is being converted from a 14-litre fire engine chassis, which they acquired shortly after it had attacked a large tree stump in Natal. The planned vehicle will match Ludtype7cy in style – “silencer, officer, what silencer?” and demeanour. Caelin was duly returned with an exceeding large grin on his face and, with very many thanks to Clive and Bruce, we departed for home.
    Brian Askew


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