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This Jaguar D-Type Bonnet will Help Future Generations

As the Piston Foundation auctions this 1956 Jaguar D-Type long-nose bonnet to raise funds for skilled-trade education scholarships, we realize its significance as the ultimate representation of craftsmanship and adventure.

By Jeff Mason

November 19, 2021

The highest bidder will not be a winner so much as the next steward of an amazing story in which a handmade piece of history will fund the futures of young men and women who want to practice this art for everyone to enjoy, both on and off the track.

Every Curve on this Jaguar D-Type Bonnet is Remarkable

The current owner of the bonnet, Ann Smith Finn, pulled it from what she describes as the bowels of an 18th century barn at her former home in Connecticut. She also describes the man responsible for crating and storing the bonnet, her husband Joel Finn, as an extraordinary researcher and writer who produced award-winning books on racing. “He was a collector of cars and the memorabilia that illustrate why the races were exciting and important as well as how the races, and cars, changed the world.”

A public auction is more than an opportunity to raise funds to support skilled trade education; this is a chance to highlight the diverse and amazing contributions Joel made to the automotive world and Ann is happy to share the story of a man who did many things, including race 55 consecutive years at Watkins Glen.

What he accomplished was really impressive. While people may be aware of Joel’s writing, they may be surprised to learn that he drove a Jag and a pretty amazing car at that.

He raced his 1956 Jaguar D-Type XKD528 in 1976 at the third annual Monterey Historic Race. The Joel Finn Collection, pursued with passion for over 50 years, is preserved at Revs Institute® in Naples, Florida. A digital exhibit titled Automotive Treasures: Selections from the Joel E. Finn Collection can be viewed here.

Of her donation to the Piston Foundation, Ann said, “I’m happy to support the educational mission of the Piston Foundation through the donation of the bonnet, and particularly because of my friendship with Kent Bain.” Well-known in the collector car world for his more than 40 years of restoration experience and as founder of Automotive Restorations, Inc. and Vintage Racing Services, Kent’s inspiration and experience are behind the Piston Academy, the program supporting apprentices and complementing the foundation’s scholarship program for students.

The Piston Foundation supporting skilled-trade education is very important. There is quite an industry out there and we need skilled people to keep these cars running.

The bonnet itself has impressed Ann. “The workmanship is phenomenal. I don’t think there is a flat surface anywhere. There is one continuous curve and I’m impressed by the metalworking skill needed to create that amazing sculpture in three dimensions.”

Every Latch on this D-Type Bonnet Was Needed, At Speed

Joel Finn owned and raced two Jaguar D-Types: Chassis XKD528 and Chassis XKD558. Both cars were fitted with long-nose bonnets at one time or another.

In 1956, Chassis XKD558 was shipped to the Pacific Northwest and raced extensively until a wreck in 1973. Dr. Philippe Renault of Paris commissioned Jaguar specialist Lynx Engineering, run by Guy Black and Chris Keith-Lucas in the UK, to perform a restoration, changing the car from a short to long-nose D-Type and including the distinctive tail fin. Chris, who is now founder of CKL Developments, told the Piston Foundation that well known coach builders, Williams & Pritchard (suppliers to Lister and Lotus in the 1950s) formed the bonnet in aluminum over an ex-Works/Briggs Cunningham D-Type long-nose bonnet.  According to Chris, this piece is extremely accurate in shape to the original.

A lot of the skills of hand-built cars have disappeared. If you do crash your D-Type, there are only a handful of people in the world who you can turn to now.

Chassis XKD558 returned to the United States approximately 10 years after the restoration, to race again with Joel Finn at the wheel until he sold the car in the early 1990s. Finn retained the long-nose bonnet when he sent the rest of Chassis XKD558 back to the UK where the car was reunited with it’s short-nose, which had been retained by Lynx for all those years.

Miles Morris of MM Garage remembers his father, Martin, racing at Laguna Seca in 1976. “Joel was there, racing his D-Type XKD528. He was a great historian and a really good collector. The D was an outstanding car. They were so far ahead of their time with aerodynamic design and disc brakes. Ferrari cycled through 10 different models trying to keep up.”

The cars would win the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1955, 1956, and 1957. Extending the nose made the car more slippery but this modification only happened with the Works cars.

Jaguar XKD528, with a long-nose bonnet, racing at Sebring.

Miles remembers seeing the Jag bonnet years ago, confirming with Chris that Lynx had indeed fabricated the bonnet by hand. “Lynx was probably going up to 10 years ago but their heyday was 70s and 80s. Modern car construction has done away with a majority of skills; you don’t fix or mend. A lot of the skills of hand-built cars have disappeared. If you do crash your D-Type, there are only a handful of people in the world who you can turn to now.” Miles said. “The Piston Foundation to support skilled trade education is very important. There is quite an industry out there and we need skilled people to keep these cars running.”

Everything Handmade – Making a Future for New Restoration Specialists

At the Piston Foundation, we say, “No one makes it to the finish line alone.”

Ann saw the truth in that when Joel raced, “It’s exciting to be at the track and see the connection between driver and mechanic and the magic they can work, the training needed to set up an engine and all other skills that go into making a vintage race happen.”

The Piston Team collaborated with amazing people in compiling the bonnet’s history: Terry Larson, Jaguar historian, author, collector, and restorer, as well as Chris Keith-Lucas. Joe Euskolitz really captured a special moment when he photographed the Lucas Le Mans 24 headlamps burning bright again after a long nap in that New England barn, thanks to technicians at Black Horse Garage powering up the original (yes, original) bulbs. And, of course, Miles Morris of MM Garage is to be appreciated for bringing a bit of the UK literally back into the picture as he voiced our video.

The underside of the bonnet has a lot to contribute to the tale: Untouched since it was last on track, dirt, scrapes and imperfections can be seen. Tape was used under the fenders to prevent stones from marring the soft aluminum and chipping the exterior paint. Someone with years of practice formed the air intake tunnel by hand so that the engine could take in fresh air and created a pair of riveted aluminum louvers to flank the center bulge accommodating the D-Type’s 3.8-litre engine. Maybe that person or a colleague was responsible for installing the metal latches to secure the nose on each side, with leather straps for good measure.

Thanks to those craftsmen, Ann, and everyone who is helping to put words around the curves of this bonnet—including the Bring a Trailer team of auction specialists—the BaT community is now part of the Piston Foundation’s mission to fund skilled trade education.

Everyone who has enjoyed the story can appreciate the history of this bonnet; if only it could talk about the hours of labor that went into its creation or the harrowing turns and flat-out straights during races—even the long hours spent in a barn, waiting for its next chapter to begin. Every bid connects the past and a future of even greater automotive exploits. Imagine students realizing a rewarding career where their hands create something that brings smiles to faces at the track or in a concours.

View the auction »

Support skilled trade education for future auto restoration technicians.


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