(1966 Jaguar XJ 13 shown).
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Built as a potential Le Mans contender, it never competed in any race. Its development inevitably had to take second place to that of the much more important new saloon car which became the XJ6, launched in 1968. By the time XJ13 was completed, its design had become obsolete against new cars from Ferrari and Ford, never mind the Porsche 917.
Anyway, the Le Mans regulations were changing, and prototype cars were limited to engines of 3 litres. To run cars with larger engines, manufacturers had to build fifty examples as production cars (later reduced to twenty-five).
This did not stop XJ13 from being one of the most beautiful racing cars of all time, thanks to the extraordinary work of aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer who had also been responsible for the C-type and D-Type shapes. Nor should anyone doubt the potential of its unique 502bhp, 5-litre V12 engine. During early testing in 1966, it lapped the MIRA test track at over 161mph (259 km/h), establishing a lap record in the hands of Norman Dewis, Jaguar's legendary test driver, despite the car still being in the development stages. 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.
There is, however, a twist in the tale of the XJ13. In 1971, having spent four years sitting under a cover in the factory, it was taken out of mothballs and returned to MIRA for some filming. With Dewis back behind the wheel and driving past the camera at well over 140mph, a wheel gave way on the banking, flipping the car end over end twice, before rolling two more times and coming to rest on what remained of its wheels. Dewis, who had the presence of mind to turn off the ignition during the accident, took refuge under the scuttle and escaped unhurt. Though the car was comprehensively wrecked, it was rebuilt and is still run today, albeit at less frantic speeds!
(source and owner: The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust).
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