by Clive Beecham
2022 review by James Loveridge
There have now been several books about a particular car, notably Porter Press’s Great Car series, and “XKD 603 – Through the Lens of Time” by Clive Beecham, though not from Porter Press, is a very worthwhile addition to the list. This large – 12 by 10 inch (30.5 by 25.5cms) – copiously illustrated book is quite possibly the most comprehensive of the lot.
It is said in the book that the main purpose of Sir William Lyons and Jaguar in designing and building the D-Type was to continue their success with the C-Types and go on winning at Le Mans. This book tells the story of one of the few remaining Long Nose versions of the Jaguar D-Types from its creation in 1956 through to its current custodianship with Clive.
The car’s history is fully documented from its time as part of the hugely successful Jaguar factory team of the mid 1950s through its even more successful time as part of the Ecurie Ecosse team when it secured a second place at Le Mans in 1957. It continues in considerable detail with its later ownership once it was no longer competitive in top-level motor sport. The events in which it competed when it was competitive are detailed. The leading drivers of the time who raced it in those years are given coverage, as are brief descriptions of its main competitors Ferrari, Maserati, Aston Martin and Porsche.
As the title suggests, a major and very valuable part of the story is the wonderful selection of photographs which are all outstandingly well reproduced – no irritating spreads over two pages with consequent loss of detail. Mr Beecham is a very successful businessman so, I suspect, not given to romantic fantasies, but this is very clearly a labour of love.
The amount of research done is considerable and the author has used memories and impressions from books by some of the drivers and magazine articles. Among those many are descriptions of the two rather ambitious ”The Race of Two Worlds” events at Monza in 1957 and 1958 when teams of US Indy cars were pitted against European racing teams – well not actually. The only British entry was Ecurie Ecosse with its three D-Types – the factory having disowned them and the events – and the only other participants were Italian entries from Ferrari and Maserati which were, at best, pretty half-hearted.
Other interesting pieces are one on the demands and requirements of lap scoring before electronic devices became available, by Hugh Langrishe who did the job in 1957, and a fascinating two-part piece by Ian Callum: “The Designer’s View.”
The book has been compiled by Clive Beecham. That is not meant in any derogatory sense as essentially his well written and knowledgeable inputs concerning the car’s top-level competition history are very much to fill the gaps between the authoritative and very nearly contemporaneous stories from those who knew the car well. He also does this with the stories from subsequent owners such as pieces from Lord Bamford and from the under-mentioned Mr Munro. Mr Beecham’s authorship comes fully into play when talking entertainingly about the car in his ownership. Of particular interest to this reviewer are several pieces from those involved concerning the issue of whether 603 was an original Le Mans winning car – it seems it was “misdescribed” when it was sold by David Murray, the owner of Ecurie Ecosse, to the unsuspecting Mr James Munro of Akron, Ohio. It has been satisfactorily proved that it wasn’t. These pieces echo, or pre-echo, what is a major, and rather too prevalent, concern in the classic car field now as some readers will be aware.
It is not just the car’s performance on the track which is recorded but also its off-track times with several examples of notebooks and records showing what was done to it. As an example, all engines fitted in its competition life are listed by number.
This highly recommended book, almost irrespective of price, is also published by Mr Beecham and has been done to the highest standards. However, it is a bit puzzling and, in comparison with the rest of the book, a bit irritating to see the same large-scale photograph has been used on pages 164 and 166 for no apparent reason.
Price: £95.00 – available from Chaters: www.chaters.co.uk
Description: hardback with dust jacket (29 x 25.5 cms), 339 pages with colour and black & white photos.
ISBN: 978-1-5272-9389 – 2
Just a note to James to say thank you very much for the review on XKD 603 Through the Lens of Time, that I have only just discovered. Fair point on the reproduction of the photo on pages 163/4/5 for the Spa race. As mentioned elsewhere in the book, the Spa races curiously had virtually no decent photos that I could use (for all 3 of them) so in order to maintain ‘the look’ that was applied to the various race intros and chapters, I decided to blow this photo up a little (admittedly, very little) as I had nowhere else to go with the problem. That aside, I’m glad you seemed to like the ‘tome’. For my part, that will be that, as far as writing a book on cars is concerned. I enjoyed the experience very much, but once is quite enough. Thank you again, James.