After last week’s rather epic Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, we imagine that fans of our Goodwood Greats series were wondering how we’d follow-up such a class act. As hard as it is for any car to hold a candle to the car Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson drove to victory on the Mille Miglia, we reckon that the one-and-only original Jaguar XJ13 is a decent candidate.
Further to that, we walked past the car on many occasions during this year’s Festival of Speed to chat to the fine gentlemen from Jaguar Heritage and many FoS-goers were heard opining that this is the best looking car ever made.
Legendary designer Malcolm Sayer, who’d penned Jaguar’s C and D and E-Types (and later the XJ-S), designed the sleek and aggressive XJ13. The Coventry firm had apparently had it in mind for some time to develop a V12 engine, essentially by mating two of its existing straight six motors to a common crankcase. The first V12 ran in 1964 although the XJ13 didn’t roll under its own power until 1966.
Le Mans was the intended purpose for the XJ13, but alas the car never took the green light. By the time it had been completed the seven-litre Ford GT40 was ready for battle, so XJ13 production was canned, leaving just the car you see here as the sole example. Having said that, the car you see here isn’t quite how it was when built. We’ll explain…
David Hobbs lapped the MIRA testing circuit at over 161mph in 1966, after which the car was parked up. By 1971 though, Jaguar was ready to launch the V12 E-Type and fancied some footage of the XJ13 at full chat to accompany the new road going cat. Fabled test driver Norman Dewis was employed to pedal the XJ13, but apparently on the final lap of filming something caused a wheel to break up and the car flipped end-over-end and rolled a couple of times. Dewis thankfully emerged unhurt but the car was all-but written off.
The car was returned to the factory where what was left of it rested under a cover, mothballed, until Abbey Panels was entrusted with rebuilding the heavily-crashed XJ13. Jaguar itself said of the rebuilt car that it ‘…is not an exact reproduction of the original’, but still, it’s an incredible thing to see in person. And as or the sound produced by that V12 …
Today the car still lives in Jaguar’s Heritage Motor Centre Museum at Gaydon, Warwickshire and over the years Jaguar has been very generous, bringing it to FoS on many occasions as well as a host of other public events.
So, is it the best looking car ever made? Of course there’s no way of measuring that, but surely it would be a very sturdy candidate?
Photography by Antony Fraser