Jaguar XJ13

After a massive domination in the 1950s with 5 victories, Jaguar decided to return to Le Mans and compete against Ferrari and the rising Fords with a new car called XJ13. Once again body exterior was designed by Malcolm Sayer, the aerodynamicist responsible for aerodynamic air flow work on the successful racing cars C-type, D-type and road E-Type. Sayer used his Bristol Aeroplane Company background to build it using techniques borrowed from the aircraft industry. Construction began in 1965 with first (and only prototype) running by March 1966.

The development of the V12 XJ13, although treated seriously by the designers, was never a priority for company management and became less so following the 1966 merger with British Motor Corporation. By that time Ford also developed the 7 liter GT40, and so the XJ13 was already considered obsolete when prototype was completed. Suspicious was confirmed when it was tested at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) track and at Silverstone circuit. Additionally, up and coming regulations would soon restrict engine size to 3-liters. To run cars with larger engines, manufacturers had to build fifty examples as production cars (later reduced to twenty-five). The conclusion was that the project would have required considerable development and resources to make it competitive. The prototype was put into storage and no further examples were made.


In 1971 the Series 3 Jaguar E-type was about to be launched with Jaguar’s first production V12 engine. The publicity team wanted a shot of the beautifull XJ13 at speed for the opening sequence of the film launching the V12 E-Type. The XJ13 was back to MIRA for the filming with Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis at the wheel. Sadly a damaged tyre caused a severe crash nearly destroying the car. Dewis left unharmed but the wreck was put back to storage.

Some years later, Abbey Panels company offered Jaguar to rebuild the car to a specification similar to the original, using some of the body jigs made for its original construction. The XJ13 made its public debut in July 1973 when drove it around Silverstone at the British Grand Prix meeting. Many of the lessons learned in the development of the racing engine were used in Jaguar’s production V12 engine which would be produced for twenty-five years from 1971 to 1996.

The one and only Jaguar is now displayed at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon, UK and it is owned by The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust. Its beauty and exclusivity makes it perhaps one of the most valuable cars in existence and certainly the most valuable Jaguar.

Alex Iervolino,
Designer, ROUE Watch.