Bonhams will hold its its annual Monte Carlo sale on May 13, and the roster is about what you’d expect. There’s a few multi-million dollar Ferraris, including a mega-rare 250 GT Lusso. An Aston Martin One-77 will cross the block, too, as will a legit Bugatti Type 35 prewar Grand Prix car. But the auction headliner is this 1953 Jaguar XK120C, one of eight C-types to race at Le Mans. (Of those eight, only five are left in existence.) Early estimates say it’ll bring in between $4.6 and $5.7 million, which is one hell of a profit margin. The current owner paid $900.
That was in January, 1963. But even considering inflation, it’s still one hell of a return on investment. The buyer was British motorsports photographer Guy Griffiths, who’d decided to try his hand at vintage racing. After he brought the car home, his daughter, Penny, noticed something interesting: Under the C-type’s chipped and flaking green paint, there were other colors. Belgian Yellow, Salmon-Sturgess Blue, Dunlop Grey…old racing liveries. The Griffiths’ new-old Jag was the real deal, a factory-prepped endurance racecar that finished ninth at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1953. It’d run the Nurburgring ADAC 1,000km, too, driven by none other than sportscar legend Olivier Gendebien.
And, for the last five decades, it’s stayed in the Griffiths family, passed down to Penny and her late husband, noted Jaguar competition cars engineer Roger Woodley. It’s been kept at their home, in rural Cotswolds, England, and exercised periodically. The C-type runs and drives, and hasn’t been hacked up or modified; this is a legit survivor, arguably the most original of its kind in the world. A fantastic ride with a wonderful story, and a reminder that great old racecars are well worth saving.