The subject of today’s feature is an extremely rare and equally as gorgeous 1966 Jaguar XJ13, the only of it’s kind to ever have been built. It’s story can only begin by mentioning a tragic event that occurred 11 years prior to it’s creation in 1955 when a horrific accident occurred at Le Mans, killing 83 spectators and prompting Jaguar to pull their factory efforts out of motor racing for over a decade after. It wasn’t until the manufacturer decided that they wanted to compete in international competition at Le Mans once again right in the middle of the Enzo Ferrari vs. Ford and Carroll Shelby wars that they had Malcolm Sayer design them an all new aerodynamic new body to cover it’s mid engine 503 hp 5 liter V12, the same man responsible for creating the beautiful yet fiercely effective C Types and D Types previously…
Unfortunately for Jaguar, but not so much the Italians, Germans and Americans, by the time the race car was finished and ready for competition, race regulations had changed and required engines be a maximum of 3 liters in capacity, therefore leaving the English manufacturer to shelve their efforts before being able to jump back into the game.
Although Jaguar didn’t use the vehicle for international racing, they continued to develop it throughout 1967 at the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) track, where they were able to clinch a track record high speed of 161 mph (or 175, depending on source) that stood uncontested for the next 32 years.
It is interesting to note that further development of the V12 race engine, created by Claude Bailey, saw it’s design used in future road sedan use from 1971 all of the way until 1996, so all was not lost in vein, after all.
The car then sat unused at the factory for the next 4 years until 1971 when it was brought back out of it’s shelter to be filmed for a Jaguar promotional video, surely to bring notice to the race car responsible for breeding their production car’s new top of the line engine offering. During the shoot, factory test driver Norman Dewis was asked to make a few high speed runs past the camera, which was nothing that he was not already familiar with doing comfortably at ease at MIRA.
He brought the race car up to about 140 mph on the high speed banking before a rear wheel snapped off and caused him to careen it into the safety fence, then cartwheel end over end until finally landing in it’s final resting spot, mangled.
Thankfully, Jaguar decided to rebuild it using it’s original coachbuilder, Abbey Panels, to recreate another body for it exactly the same as the original utilizing the very same wooden bucks that they had formed the first with, the only exception being the addition of fender flares this time around.
They completed the build in June of 1973 and the only two surviving original engines were combined together to create one functional unit, using a “burnt/welded piston” because that is all that was available.
The XJ13 is still owned by Jaguar Heritage Classics and has made it’s way around the show circuit since, but more recently it has been completely restored by XK Engineering in Coventry and had it’s engine fully rebuilt too so that it could scream once again as it originally had before it’s tragic wreck.
The one and only XJ13 was reintroduced at the 2007 Goodwood Festival of Speed, where it was able to be heard at full bore for the first time in over 30 years, finally enabling it to be driven at full capacity after surviving as a wounded and half mended soldier through all of these years.