'Stillwell' D-Type Jaguar Returns to Phillip Island
SYDNEY – Feb 19, 2013: The most famous Jaguar ever to race in Australia, the 1955 D-Type sports car originally purchased and raced by four times Australian Driving Champion Bib Stillwell, will return to an Australian circuit for the first time in 50 years at the 2013 Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport from March 8-10.
It will take part in Regularity events at the 24th annual ‘Classic’, driven by its new owner, Brisbane-based collector and racing driver Peter Harburg.
The D-Type, originally registered ‘XKD 520’ in the UK, is one of four very special cars that Harburg is bringing to Phillip Island.
He will race the ‘Blaupunkt’ liveried Porsche 962 that finished third in the 1988 Le Mans 24-Hour sports car race in the meeting’s International Sportscar Challenge feature events against his Lola T610, which will be driven by its preparer, fellow Queenslander and former V8 Supercar racer Wayne Park.
Meanwhile Australia’s first Le Mans winner, Vern Schuppan will drive the ex-Briggs Cunningham 1950 Aston Martin DB2 Sebring team car that he and Harburg own jointly in Regularity events at the meeting.
‘XKD 520’ was the seventh production D-type built when it was ordered in June 1955 by up-and-coming Melbourne driver Bib Stillwell through Jaguar agents, Bryson Distributors.
Stillwell campaigned the exotic sports car over the next two seasons, setting a new sports car speed record on Conrod Straight at Bathurst, establishing a new sports car record at Rob Roy Hillclimb in Melbourne and winning the South Australia Trophy sports car race at South Australia’s Port Wakefield.
A second place at Lowood in the Queensland TT and fifth in the Australian TT at Albert Park during the Australian ‘Olympic’ Grand Prix meeting followed in 1956 before ‘XKD 520’ was bought by Ampol for extravert radio personality Jack Davey, whose motoring program the oil company sponsored.
Davey’s now-outrageous idea was to run the D-Type in the 1957 Ampol Trial, whose 11,200km car-breaking Outback course included the infamous Birdsville Track!
Preparation of the D-type was left in the care of Surfers Paradise Trials specialist Bill Murray and included a repaint from its British Racing Green to bright red and the addition of a passenger windscreen.
However as luck probably had it, Murray lost control of the Jaguar at high speed while driving to the start and smashed into a semi-trailer, grievously damaging both himself and the D-type.
In mid-1957 ‘XKD 520’ was sold to up and coming driver Frank Gardner who undertook its painstaking repair and the car returned to racing painted white in 1958.
Gardner then proceeded to add further laurels to ‘XKD 520’s history, including a second at Bathurst, first at Mt. Druitt, third in both heats at the Orange Racing Car Scratch Races – results bettered only by single-seater Grand Prix cars.
The car’s next owner, David Finch acquired ‘XKD 520’ in late 1958 and continued to race it for the next three years before hitting a fence at Warwick Farm, leading to a further rebuild.
Eventually ‘XKD 520’ found its way to the UK where it was acquired by 1970 Le Mans winner to be, Richard Attwood –the first of a series of noted British, American and European custodians – with the Jaguar finally restored in the UK in 2004 to the 1955 form in which it was originally delivered to Stillwell.
Now, as one of the survivors of the 53 customer D-Type Jaguars built, ‘XKD 520’ is likely to moisten a few eyes at Phillip Island over the March 8-10 weekend amongst those old or wise enough to remember what a spectacle a racing Le Mans D-Type was nearly 60 years ago.
The 24th annual Phillip Island Classic is being staged by the Victorian Historic Racing Register and is supported by Shannons, CoolDrive, Penrite and Bosch, with race officials supplied by the Victorian Mini Club.