Photos courtesy Building the Legend, except where noted.
Generally the rarer a car was to begin with, the greater likelihood that somebody will eventually replicate it. Indeed, two reproductions set to debut in England early next year take inspiration from two of Jaguar’s rarest vehicles: the XK180 concept car and the one-off XJ13 Le Mans car.
Malcolm Sayer‘s design work for the latter started in the late 1950s and the car itself ran in 1964, but it took until the early part of 1966 for Jaguar to complete the mid-engine racer and then another year for the company to begin testing it. By that time, the XJ13 had become outdated for racing, but Coventry kept testing it, interested in developing its experimental V-12 – essentially a pair of the company’s double overhead-camshaft inline-sixes paired together on a common crankcase – for its road cars.
The testing came to an end in January 1971, in part because the Series 3 E-Type debuted with the production V-12 not long after, but moreso due to the infamous crash of the XJ13 at the MIRA test track in Warwickshire. Blamed on a separated tire or wheel, the crash at triple-digit speeds sent test driver Norman Dewis tumbling, and while Dewis emerged from it unhurt, the car appeared totaled. After a couple years in storage, Jaguar then had it rebuilt, though not exactly as it was before the crash.
That’s what Neville Swales intends to rectify with his reproduction of the XJ13. While the original remains with Jaguar, as a part of the Jaguar Heritage Trust Display in the British Motor Museum, Swales – prodded on by his discovery of a 5.0L double overhead-camshaft V-12 from the XJ13 program – has spent the last few years researching and piece-by-piece re-creating the XJ13 in its original pre-crash form, enlisting the help of North Devon Metalcraft in bodying the car in aluminum.
“The project has been supported by surviving members of the original XJ13 Project Team and we have enjoyed the co-operation of Jaguar Heritage which has allowed us unfettered access to its archive,” Swales said in a press release. According to Swales’s buildlog for the reproduction, surviving members of the team who contributed to the project include Gerry Beddoes, Mike McElligott, Peter Jones, Peter Wilson, Frank Philpott and Jim Eastick.
Swales also intends to build a series of customer cars using what he’s learned and the parts he’s replicated for his reproduction. While the reproduction will use the prototype 5.0L V-12 that Swales uncovered, the customer cars will use production-line single overhead-camshaft Jaguar V-12s, though Swales has plans to recreate the XJ13 V-12 as well.
Photo courtesy JePe Specials.
Though not as storied as the XJ13, the XK180 concept car that Jaguar exhibited in 1999 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the XK120 still caught the attention of Eric Fintelman who, disappointed with existing replicas of the XK180 on the market, decided to build his own. As with Swales, Jaguar gave Fintelman access to the two show cars, and Fintelman went about recreating the XK180 in aluminum with series production in mind, designing it specifically to mount on an XKR or XK8 chassis.
Both reproductions will debut at next year’s London Classic Car Show, which will take place February 18-21 at ExCeL London. For more information, visit theLondonClassicCarShow.co.uk.