I was delighted to see my D-type Jaguar featured in your interesting series on Number Plates, and thought you might like a few more details of this car’s active career in recent years.
John Melville-Smith had the car overhauled at the Jaguar factory after its return from Southern Rhodesia, and he later acquired a 3.8-litre engine as a spare. This engine was a factory unit prepared for the 1958 Monza Lister-Jaguar that the Ecune Ecosse ran, and was said to have been the 1957 Le Mans winning engine. After my Snetterton prang I rebuilt this 3.8-litre engine and when we went to Le Mans for the historic event in 1978 it was pulling 6,200 r.p.m. in top gear on a 3.01 axle ratio, which the French timed at 184 m.p.h. That was a busy season of historic racing for OKV 3 and when it was over I found that the cylinder head had developed a small crack, so while it was away for repair I re-installed the original 3.4-litre engine, which I am still using.
Regarding the Snetterton shunt, I never knew the reason for this. It was either severe “finger-trouble” or failed brakes. I gave myself concussion and still remember nothing after starting in the race, waking up in hospital next day to be greeted by Colin Crabbe with three large bottles of champagne which we consumed whilst I was still on a starvation diet in case of internal injury! You can imagine the effect. The chap in the next bed then had some visitors who started telling hint about this fantastic prang they had watched at Snetterton the previous day — “This pale green car came into the corner at an impossible speed, hit the bank on the outside, spun round, turned over and sat there propped up on its tail fin. The marshals ran out and lifted it up, whereupon the driver, who we all thought was dead, fell out on his head, got up, took his crash-hat off and walked over to the bank where he sat down as cool as a cucumber and watched the rest of the race” — !!!
An RAC Observer told me some weeks afterwards that the D-type braked at the normal point for about 50-100 yards, then seemed to stop braking and entered the corner (at the rod of the long straight) at about twice the speed he judged to be possible for the corner. He concluded that either the driver had a black-out (never ‘ad one).* the car had brake failure. I never found anything wrong with the brakes but Gordon Lee said be thought I had suffered from “rabbitine, which was the term used by the works 0-type drivers when the rear wheels locked. The transmission stops revolving, the Plessey pump stops pumping (for the power assistance), the brakes come uff, the wheels start turning again, the pump starts pumping and the whole thing repeats itself. Like a Mama system working against you instead of with you; very nasty if you don’t know what happening, especially with a small fuel load in the tank.
Not unaturally I had lost confidence in the 0-type braking system, on during the rebuild I decided I would fit a modern system, as I wanted to go on racing OKV 3. John Moore of AP-Lockheed designed a new system for me and supplied the calipers and so on, while the original braking system was put up on the shelf, so it could all go back on the car, but preferably not while it is in my ownership. The new system quite good but not as powerful as the old because I had to reduce the disc diameter front 12.75 inches to 12 inches and the little 4-pot caliNrs have much less total pad area than the old Dunlop 6-pot system. Also there is no servo. Further. the new system suffers from overheating and I have had to modify the bonnet from 1954 works configuration with spotlight, to the later short-nose with air-ducts for the front brakes, and we have added air-scoops and ducts under the car for the rear brakes.
I have played about with the suspension, wheel spacing, camber angles, limited-slip differential, etc., quite a bit to get the car more competitive and on some circuits it is a match for the later Lister-Jaguars, but one is working very hard to offset the weight penalty and the live rear axle. Nevertheless, OKV 3 must be about the fastest D-type in action today, still going strong twenty-seven years after it won the first race by a fl-typo, at Reims in 1954. Indeed a worthy subject for your series.
Finally, I would mention that OKV 3 never goes on a trailer and is driven to all the meetings, including the two Le Mans historic races of 1973 and 1978. When we went to America for the historic meeting at Monterey OKV 3 was shipped to San Francisco and I then drove her down the coast road to Monterey and, after the meeting, back over the mountains to the airport.
Higher Ashton,-Devon MARTIN MORRIS