Precious scrap metal

The 1956 Silverstone May Meeting saw an on-track tussle end in a costly Jaguar/Aston Martin pile-up

So what’s it worth then? This must be the most asked question whenever Joe Public sees a classic car that the scrappage scheme forgot. If you consider a D-type Jaguar today being worth £X-million, and an Aston Martin DB3S about the same, then one of the most costly scrappage schemes ever seen in British sports car racing occurred at the Silverstone May Meeting of 1956.

Never mind the mythical Ferrari/Cobra war, this was the height of the Jaguar/Aston Martin conflict, in which the top-line drivers pulled very few punches. The 3.4-litre Jaguars would power away down the straights, while the lighter 3-litre Astons could compensate under braking and through the corners. The works Jaguars were being driven by Mike Hawthorn, Desmond Titterington and Jack Fairman; the works Astons by Stirling Moss, Roy Salvadori, Peter Collins and Reg Parnell, while Ecurie Ecosse D-types were entrusted to Ninian Sanderson, Ron Flockhart and Alan Brown – the well-known Scotsman from Guildford…

Salvadori followed his team-mate Moss down towards Stowe on the opening lap. Stirling waved him by early on the Hangar Straight but Roy didn’t have the impetus until they braked for Stowe, where he nipped by, putting Stirling momentarily off-line. Des Titterington saw his chance and barged through, right under the tail of Salvadori’s Aston. Entering Club Corner, Roy “…had a D-type right up my chuff”. He assumed it must be Hawthorn who was aiming to pass so he moved to the right – offering him only the outside line, to pass on the left. “We went deeper into the corner and I could see he was still going to attempt to pass me on the right. I thought ‘Never – no way now!’ as we were in the braking area, and then all I could see in my mirror was a cloud of smoke. I presumed he had realised he was not going to make it, braked too hard, locked his wheels and spun.”

Indeed he did spin, but ‘he’ was Titterington, not Hawthorn. ‘Old Tit’s’ works D-type – brand-new chassis ‘XKD 604’ with de Dion rear suspension, racing for its only time – was avoided by Hawthorn’s D-type and Moss’s DB3S but collected – hard – by Collins and Parnell. Even Roy – British aerodrome racing’s celebrated hard man of the era – admitted: “There was a fair amount of drama after the race as Stirling was both unhappy and annoyed and told John

Wyer (Aston team manager) he thought responsibility for the accident rested with me. However, John fortunately saw the situation rather differently…”

Roy maintained that if his challenger had been Hawthorn then Mike would have read his mind and known the Aston would move right to leave him space only on the left, “and he would also have realised I would do everything possible to avoid having a Jaguar inside me entering the corner”. Since Roy had been quicker than Mike in practice he regarded defence of his place as totally legitimate – but he had discounted Titterington, who had also outqualified Hawthorn.

When Titterington spun he was rammed amidships by Collins’s works Aston, Sanderson spun his Ecosse Jaguar in avoidance and crashed backwards up the safety bank, while Parnell’s Aston bounced off the D-type into the adjacent ditch. Salvadori ran out the winner for Aston – from team-mate Moss (highly disgruntled) – another handy earner to offset the factory’s bill for two cars damaged. But, as an articled accountant, David Murray of Ecurie Ecosse could only ponder on the race, and fume… and Jaguar’s debutant ‘XKD 604’ was taken back to the factory on a trailer and on May 7-8 effectively broken up. It had been a very expensive Saturday, even by the standards of 1956.