There’s a certain something about big cars with big engines that make a fantastic noise, wouldn’t you say? Like a Ford Galaxie, the Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12 is one of those cars you look at and think ‘did they really race these?!’
Debuted in 1976, the Broadspeed XJ12Cs were developed by Ralph Broad’s Warwickshire-based racing team to take on the Ford Capris and BMW CSLs in the European Touring Car Championship. Despite ultimately failing on the grounds of reliability, the cars nevertheless proved to be very fast indeed and as for the blood-curdling noise they made, give this a listen :
Broad had originally wanted to develop an XJS for the competition, but apparently Jaguar was more keen to sell XJs and so the rather svelte coupe was chosen instead. It was heavier than its rivals, despite having the bodyshells acid-dipped to strip off some of the weight, but where the car scored big was in the horsepower stakes – where it boasted a claimed (and quite believable) 550bhp. Bodywork was heavily re-worked, suspension less-so, and on the inside the cars fittingly retained their wood-capped fascias.
On its debut in the hands of Derek Bell, panic must have swept through the pit garages of their rivals when the car set a pole position time almost two seconds faster than the fastest BMW of Pierre Dieudonne. Soon however the big cat revealed its appetite for tyres and eventually retired due to driveshaft failure. It also wasn’t long before a major oil surge problem within the mighty V12 came to the fore. Later cars were dry-sumped to try to combat this, but it did little good.
The rest of the XJ12C story continues in the same vein: blistering pace, often on pole, then retirement. Unsurprisingly the decision was taken after two seasons that enough was enough and the car was going to have to be consigned to the ‘noble failures’ file. Might they have fared better with more development? There’s no denying that it was the fastest car out there, but perhaps the hefty XJ12C would have required a crazy amount of financial backing to make it a winner.
So ultimately it was a failure. But as failures go, it must surely rank as one of the all-time-greats?