One-of-a-Kind Jaguar XJ13 Racer Has Been Given New Life
Jaguar was once one the top manufacturers throughout the racing world. At Le Mans, Jaguar dominated, winning outright a full seven times, besting the streaks of Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ford. Recently, Jaguar announced that it would once again throw its hat back into the racing realm with the launch of a new team in the Formula E Championship. The company, after nearly a decade absence in the open-wheel arena, will rejoin the field next season. While many will herald this as a worthy endeavor, we’re not sure if this specific racing series will give Jaguar the platform to return to the company’s glory days. This becomes especially true when you consider the history of the XJ13 prototype, a car that was set to bulldoze its competitors at Le Mans. RELATED: Shouldn’t Jaguar Build the C-X75?
In 1965, Jaguar was looking to develop its Le Mans racing program. Earlier racecars were built as road cars with road engines first, then later, chopped and beefed up for racing use. Jaguar really hadn’t developed a purpose-built racecar yet. All the company knew, was that it wanted to have a V12-powered car, but at the time, it didn’t make any V12s. What it did have were a ton of 6-cylinder engines from the company’s XK racecar.
By essentially welding two XK 6-cylinder engines together, the now 5.0-liter V12 was born. But Jaguar still had no racecar. For that, the company tasked Malcolm Sayer, who was responsible for designing the C-Type, D-Type, E-Type and XJS, to shape this new beast. Jaguar then enlisted Bob Blake to actually build the car. With that, the Jaguar XJ13 was born. It was a car designed to challenge the Ferraris and Fords of Le Mans, but would sadly never get that chance.
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By the time the car was completed, the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari had heated to such a level that the XJ13 prototype was considered obsolete, and essentially forced Jaguar to leave the iconic race until the mid-80s. However, that wasn’t the end of the XJ13 story.
In 1971, after the design and engineering of the V12 was completed and homologated, Jaguar decided to fit the engine in the upcoming Series 3 E-Type, which would become the company’s first production V12 engine. For the advertising campaign, Jaguar rented out U.K.'s MIRA testing grounds and the production team behind the ad decided that the XJ13 would be perfect to have driving in the background.
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The day of, the Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis, was said to be driving at much higher speeds than deemed safe. And earlier in the day, the car suffered a damaged tire. All of which culminated in a spectacular crash. The one-ofone car was destroyed, but luckily Dewis came out of the wreck unscathed. For years, the Jaguar XJ13 sat demolished in the corner of Jaguar’s storage lot until one employee found the hulking piece of metal.
When the car was rediscovered, Jaguar sent it to be rebuilt and was reproduced as well as the technicians could, but it never truly matched the original, and that’s where our story comes into the modern day. Helped along by the Jaguar Heritage Trust Display and the British Motor Museum, a local classic builder by the name of Neville Swales is currently in the process of bringing the ill-fated racecar back to what it originally looked like. Although his will be a replica.
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According to Hemmings who spoke with Swales, “The project has been supported by surviving members of the original XJ13 project team and we have enjoyed the cooperation of Jaguar Heritage which has allowed us unfettered access to its archive.” The plan, as we understand it, is to not only bring the true designs of the original XJ13 back to life by using some of the same molds and specifications, but also build a very small series of cars for customers who want to have a piece of Jaguar history in their garage.
All of which will be powered by a 5.0-liter V12 engine. The reproduction will debut next year at the London Classic Car Show, which goes from Feb. 18-21.