America’s Bob Blake – An Artist in Metal

Bob Blake - Jaguar XJ13

As part of my research into Jaguar’s XJ13, I came across the story of the man largely responsible for making the original body – Bob Blake. What follows is the story of a man able to translate the designs of people, such as the legendary Malcolm Sayer, into metal. Contemporaries of Bob Blake described him as “An Artist in Metal”.

Blake was born in 1916 at the Fort Totten Sioux/Dakota Indian Reservation, Elbow Woods, North Dakota, USA. The original Reservation at Fort Totten was located near Devils Lake. After 1905 almost half the land was sold to the Government and opened up for white settlement.

Fort Totten Indian Reservation.

The young Bob Blake took up panel beating as a hobby and was entirely self-taught. He taught himself to weld at the age of 19 and a lifelong interest in racing cars and their construction began.

After entering the services he visited the UK in 1942 with the US Third Army where he met his future wife, Jean. At the end of the war he returned to the US and set up a workshop building sprint and race cars – including midget racers. He didn’t only make bodies, he also lent his hand to making parts such as chassis, fuel tanks, radiators, steering and almost everything else. As his skill and reputation grew, he progressed to work on Indianapolis cars for racers such as Ted Horn and Tommy Hinershitz. One of his early commissions was to manufacture parts for Alec Ullman’s Alfa Romeo – Ullman, a Russian-born MIT graduate went on to found the Sebring 12-hour race in 1950 in an attempt to rejuvenate sports car racing in the US.

Bob Blake remained in touch with Ullman and received a phone call from him in 1950 during a visit to the UK. Ullman told him that Briggs Cunningham had entered two Series 61 Cadillac Coupe deVilles at Le Mans – one with a standard body and the second with a streamlined body. Howard Weinman, an aeronautical engineer, was tasked with streamlining the Cadillac. Weinman began by testing designs in wind tunnels. The resulting design was wide, had a low center of gravity, aerodynamic, and lightweight due to an aluminum body. Many people agreed that the appearance was not favorable and it received the name ‘Le Monstre’ by the French press. During preparations for the event, the standard car had been driven into the back of ‘Le Monstre’ and both needed urgent repair.

1950 Cadillac ‘Le Monstre’.

Bob Blake immediately flew out to Le Mans and worked non-stop without sleep for 48 hours to repair the cars. He succeeded with only minutes to spare before scrutineering.

In the race, Cunningham and Phil Walters were the drivers of the ‘Le Monstre’. The coupe was driven by Miles and Sam Collier. The traditional sprint start, where the drivers sprinted to their vehicles, revealed the doors were locked. The problem was able to be solved by reaching in through the window and unlocking the door – not a good way to start a race! On the second lap, ‘Le Monstre’ lost control and ended up in a sandbank where it sat for twenty minutes before Cunningham could dig it out. ‘Le Monstre’ was now four laps behind. The Coupe had a bit of misfortune as well. Part way through the race, it had to come to a complete stop while a stray dog made its way across the track. Later on in the race, it barely made it back to the pits due to low fuel. When the checkered flag fell, both cars were in impressive standing. ‘Le Monstre’ had battled its way back from 35th place to finish in 11th. The coupe was in 10th after averaging 81.5 mph per lap. To finish the race was a major accomplishment, a testament to both driver and car. Their accomplishment was even more significant since the Coupe had lost its first and second gears during the race.

Cunningham’s ambition was to win at Le Mans with an American car and, to this end, set up a company in 1950 with Alfred Momo. Bob Blake’s efforts at Le Mans had clearly impressed Cunningham and he employed Blake in his new company – giving Blake overall responsibility for building his Le Mans contenders. Bob Blake built every Cunningham car until the closure of the company in 1955. Although Briggs Cunningham never realised his ambition, he did come a creditable fourth in his Blake-built C-4R in 1952 and finished a respectable third in 1953 behind the winning Hamilton/Rolt Jaguar C-Type.

Briggs Cunningham held Bob Blake in high regard and, when he closed his company in 1955, he wrote a glowing reference for the jobless Blake:

XJ13 - Building the Legend
The Bob Blake-built C-4R on its way to fourth place at Le Mans in 1952.

” … He designed and built all our competition cars that raced at Le Mans from 1951 thru 1955, doing most of the work himself. He is one of the best aluminium welders and formers in the USA, and we found him invaluable in our racing department. Bob is a most efficient worker, and a real artist in sheet metal work of all kinds.”

“His character is excellent, and his interest in his job profound. He loves racing cars of any kind, and is a wonderful man to have in the team at races, as he can make all manner of alterations and repairs very quickly, when the need arises. Bob was one of our most valuable team members, and I would highly recommend him to any firm or individual looking for one of the best body men in the world today. His loyalty is outstanding, and I frankly hate to lose him.”

XJ13 - Building the Legend
Bob Blake (far right) at Cunningham’s company.

Bob Blake had come into contact with people such as Lofty England and other racing team members whilst racing with Cunningham and so was already known to them. In November of 1955 Blake joined Jaguar and began an association that continued for more than twenty years.

One of Blake’s first responsibilities was to convert the stock of obsolete D-Type racers into road cars – the XKSS cars. He altered the D-Type body and added parts such as bumpers and hood frame. In his own words, Bob Blake said,

” … I made all the frames and bits and pieces, including all the wooden tools to make everything from. I made the first set of bumpers by cutting down the big old bumper, using the top radius and the bottom radius, cutting the flute out and welding the two pieces together.”

XJ13 - Building the Legend
Jaguar XKSS – note the diminuitive bumpers that were to make a return in the E-Type.

Bob Blake was a likeable character who forged relationships with William Lyons and Malcolm Sayer amongst others. Bob worked very closely with Sayer and was able to decipher his mathematical representations of compound curves and produce panels from the data. Malcolm Sayer’s way of working was a longhand precursor of the digital CAD techniques used today and he was very much a pioneer in this field. It is pleasing for me to realise that I am using today’s equivalent of Malcolm Sayer’s calculations in the construction of my XJ13 recreation. Sadly, neither of these two gifted individuals are still around to lend the benefit of their expertise.

After the XKSS, Bob Blake worked closely with Malcolm Sayer in the production of the first E-Type prototype – E1A. Indeed, Bob Blake went on to play a major part in producing the E-Type coupe. Working with an E-Type roadster, he tried different roof treatments within the Competition Department. He said, ” … I had a body in the Comp. Shop … I took a whole mess of 1/16 steel rods and did a profile, a side elevation of the screen and the roof, flowing into the tail. I’d got all this tacked up and Sir William walked in the door.”

“The Old Man looked at it and boy, he liked it. He fell in love with it the minute he walked in the shop. Lyons studied the mock-up for some time in silence, walking around it. He said to me, ‘Did you do this, Blake?’ I said ‘yep’. He responded ‘Its good. We’ll make it!’ “

XJ13 - Building the Legend
Jaguar E-Type Coupe.

In 1962 Bob Blake became involved in the car that represented Jaguar’s hope to return to racing – the Lightweight E-Type. Peter Wilson, in his book “Cat Out of the Bag” (available from Paul Skilleter Books at / reports,” .. It was early October (1962) when Bob Blake and Geoff Joyce started work on the first bodyshell. Malcolm Sayer, our aerodynamicist and designer of the D-Type monocoque, had meantime designed an aerodynamic package, consisting mainly of a special coupe top, with the combined objective of reducing both the aerodynamic drag and the frontal area. Malcolm’s drawings contained no lines per se, but consisted of a matrix of dimensional points defined in three planes from a common base reference point, which defined the outer surface of the skin panel. His method was unique in the motor industry, but more commonplace in the aircraft design world.”

“Malcolm claimed he had been taught this mathematical method of complex surface definition by a German, when they spent a few days together in a tent in the desert, during his time working in Iraq at Baghdad University, soon after the war. It was a system that was relatively easy to use; just a case of marking out the points defined by the co-ordinates on a sheet of plywood, cutting it out, then assembling each piece relative to its datum on to a wooden base and, ‘hey presto’, you had a complete skin former…”

Malcolm kept his method of mathematically calculating complex surfaces close to his chest … from Malcolm’s drawings, Bob and Geoff, together with Sam Bacon, built a wooden ‘egg-box’ former for the coupe skin.”

Similar documents have survived – defining things such as the windscreen profile, suspension and steering points etc. Data from these are being incorporated into the digital model which will be used to manufacture a similar “egg-box” former for my XJ13 recreation.

In 1965 Bob Blake worked on the XJ13 project. His method of working is best described by Peter Wilson, ” … As our surface table was not large enough, or indeed remotely suitable, Bob Blake, Geoff and Roger built a rigid wooden platform on which to build the XJ13 monocoque … First they constructed a perimeter wooden frame from a 6×4-inch timber, cross-braced at intervals along its length. This was topped with 3/4 inch thick plywood sheet, which they then marked out with ’10’ lines to enable accurate positioning of each of the myriad of construction reference points defined by Malcolm Sayer’s ‘drawings’ “

” … the monocoque was constructed almost entirely from NS4 2 percent magnesium and 2 percent manganese, half-hard alloy sheet, mostly of 18 swg thickness (0.048 inches), together with some sheet steel pressings in areas of high and concentrated stress, such as the main engine mountings and front suspension attachment areas.”

” … The floor section and outer sills were formed in two halves and were joined along the centre line of the car with an overlapping, joggled joint and a double row of rivets. The inner sill panels were made up and these, together with the internal half-rounded section inner sill stiffeners, four per side, were assembled to the floor section. At this point the whole job was shipped over to Abbey Panels at Exhall on the outskirts of Coventry for the inner and outer sill joints to be roller welded using their specialised equipment. … This was then the sole contribution Abbey Panels made to the construction of the original monocoque. With this operation completed and the basic foundation of the monocoque firmly in place, construction proceeded apace with Bob, Geoff and Roger fabricating the majority of the panels and rivetting these in place, while the rest of us helped out with the simpler body items.”

Peter Wilson talks of Bob Blake in his book, “Cat Out of the Bag” and Bob’s personable character shines though. “… Bob Blake was a totally unique talent. He was a hands-on man, who also had a superb eye for style. Not only could he create a vision of shape and style, but he could then actually make it. He was the ‘complete’ body man and Jaguar were lucky to have his talents … Bob was a super bloke, modest, self assured and always helpful. He did not suffer fools lightly and many is the time whilst I attempted some sheet metal work he would appear at my shoulder and say, ‘Not like that you silly shit! Here, let me teach you how to do it properly.’ And with great patience he would do just that.”

XJ13 - Building the Legend
Bob Blake in later life.

Rather amusingly, Peter Wilson talks of Bob Blakes “Secret Project”. It seems that Bob Blake became rather more industrious than usual and was seen to be squirrelling various car components into the Competition Shop. The secret was eventually revealed to be his personal Ferrari project – a rather mangled 250 GT. The car was soon transformed by Bob into a beautiful blue car – complete with engine rebuilt at home by George Buck! Bob continued his interest in buying and repairing crash-damaged Ferraris and in the 1970s could be seen driving one of his three Ferraris – a 365 Daytona and two GTB 330s.

Described by his other contemporaries as a “delightful gentleman”, Bob Blake retired to Northampton in 1978 with his wife and kept his hand in by fabricating small projects such as motorcycle fuel tanks for friends.

This talented key player in the story of Jaguar and the XJ13 passed away on 26th August 2003 at the ripe old age of 87.

XJ13 - Building the Legend
Bob Blake’s Ferrari Daytona.

The words Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, XJ13 are used in a historical/descriptive context and in no way suggest our recreations/replicas are approved by Jaguar. It is widely known that there was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 and any others can only ever be replicas, facsimilies, tributes, recreations, toolroom copies or similar.

Ready for paint ….

Perhaps a good time to reflect back 50 years ago to early 1965 when Bob Blake had already made a start on the original’s monocoque.

At the time, it was believed that it was still possible to have the car up and running in time for Le Mans – time was very, very tight but the skilled team working behind closed doors were used to working to such tight deadlines.

From the perspective of the Competition Department Engineers, as described by Peter Wilson in his definitive book on the XJ13 (“XJ13 – The definitive story of the Jaguar Le Mans car and the V12 engine that powered it” – available from the publisher Paul Skilleter and the JCNA website )

… “That the Competition Department had the capability to build XJ13 to a similar schedule was in no doubt, especially as by 1965 there were three more people working in the department. One thing was missing, however – the final directive, which could only come from the top. To build E2A had required the entire CompetitionDepartment workforce, working seven days a week, together with similar levels of effort from the Experimental Engine Department to build and develop the 3.0 litre all aluminium racing engine. This total commitment from top management in respect of the XJ13 was not forthcoming probably due to other top level priorities which we couldn’t have been aware of …

… But it was becoming obvious that there was no way the car would be ready for Le Mans in 1965.”

The Competition in 1965

In January of 1965 the annual Racing Car Show was held at Olympia in London where the latest designs were being showcased by designers such as Lotus, McLaren, Lola & Brabham. Derrick White (Jaguar’s pre-eminent chassis designer) and Malcolm Sayer attended the show. They produced a report on their return in which Derrick made the following significant points:

  • None of the racing cars at the show adopted the practice of using the rear driveshaft to locate the rear wheels. Those of you familiar with Jaguar will know this had become standard practice at Jaguar. Companies such as Lotus and Lola had tried solid driveshafts as upper locating links but had quickly moved to upper/lower links and plunging driveshafts. This fell on deaf ears as far as Jaguar’s William Heynes was concerned and he insisted the XJ13 should retain Jaguar’s “production” setup. Jaguar’s bad experiences with the De Dion independent systems tried on the D-Types in the 1950s may have also influenced his decision. This difference of opinion festered between White and Heynes over the next two years eventually culminating in White leaving Jaguar and pursuing a very successful career designing race-winning chassis for Cooper and the Honda/Lola/Surtees consortium. There is no doubt the XJ13 would have ended up an even more competent car had Derrick been allowed to apply his solutions.
  • Derrick also made a request for more design resource – needed to keep pace with the competition. This request was refused by William Heynes who insisted a pair of hands should be recruited from within Jaguar’s existing complement.

Fast-forward …..

Fast-forward 50 years and to my efforts to reproduce the XJ13 rear suspension geometry.

I was already in possession of all critical suspension points in 3D space so I was well on my way to being able to reproduce the precise handling characteristics of the original car in my recreation. I had already sourced an original ZF 5DS 25-1 transaxle as used in the XJ13 – complete with identical ratios. As predicted by Derrick White, Jaguar did initially have problems with their use of the driveshaft as upper link and the transaxle output shafts had to be modified very early in development. I made the same modifications to the transaxle output shafts to cope with the lateral stresses applied by the use of the solid drive shafts.

Essentially, this consisted of replacing the ZF driveshaft circlips with nuts. The drive shafts were threaded and were held in place by nuts.

Driving the Rear Wheels

Incidentally, I have acquired a pair of drive shafts which had been originally installed in the XJ13. Indeed, it is possible they were in place during XJ13 Test & Development driver David Hobbs’ XJ13 record-breaking run – more than 161 mph on the closed track at MIRA in 1967 – a record which was to stand for 32 years and only beaten in 1992 by the McLaren F1 road car. This record did show the potential of the XJ13 “straight out of the box” and before serious race-development.

nsaxle output shafts before modification – showing circlip attachment
© Neville Swales
Original XJ13 modified transaxle output shafts installed in Neville’s recreation. These items are believed to have been in place in the original XJ13 during its record-breaking run.
© Neville Swales
Original XJ13 rear suspension. “Solid” drive shafts used as upper-links. Note custom cast alloy hub carrier and use of Dunlop brake piston.  
© Reproduced with permission

These output shafts are used to connect the cast rear hub-carriers to the transaxle via a pair of “solid” drive shafts. Again, those of you familiar with your Jaguars will recognise the basic architecture of this setup. The following picture shows the arrangement in the original XJ13:

I recreated the original setup – even going to the extent of recreating custom rear hub carriers, vented discs and custom Dunlop calipers. Although Jaguar later adopted Girling brakes, the car started its life with Dunlop brakes. A handbrake caliper was added but never used.

Sitting on all four feet

Original XJ13 front suspension (left). Based on 1964 Lightweight E-Type with peg-drive hub, vented discs, coil-over shocks in place of torsion bars, Dunlop caliper & removable pistons. Original XJ13 rear suspension (right). Custom hub carrier, peg-drive hub, Dunlop caliper, fabricated lower wishbone, vented disc and handbrake caliper (not used).
© Reproduced with permission
CAD drawing of XJ13 rear hub carrier. Jaguar used a similar process in 1965 but substituted pen & paper for the design and a wooden pattern for the 3D-Printed items! I chose to design his hub carrier so that larger bearings could be used. I also designed it such that wider wheels could be installed without the necessity to add rear wheel-arch flares. A hidden “drum-type” handbrake is incorporated into the design.
© Neville Swales

The following pictures show steps in recreating these custom items:

Heat-treated hubs arrive from the foundry in Coventry for my recreation.
© Neville Swales
Machining the hubs.
© Neville Swales

Batch of machined front hub carriers (left). These are cast using modern materials/treatment giving a strength approaching that of forgings. They are exact replicas of Lightweight E-Type items albeit modified to accept later sealed-for-life bottom bearings.

Front hub assembly (right). Lightweight E-Type hubs and custom vented disc.
© Neville Swales

With the rear hubs installed in the car, the front suspension could be completed.

Left (near-side) front suspension. Adjustable custom anti-roll bar is ¾” EN27 spring steel as original.
© Neville Swales
Left (near-side) front suspension. Note removable Dunlop brake piston fitted to custom cast replica caliper.
© Neville Swales


My car can now sit on all four feet. Dunlop racing tyres were fitted as original and attention could turn to final details as the recreated car was made ready for the paintshop. One of these details was the addition of a dry-sump oil tank as original. Wheras practically all modern tanks use round tanks where the oil is returned tangentially to remove entrapped air, Jaguar chose a different solution where returned oil passed over a series of baffle-plates in a rectangular tank. The following picture shows the original car’s dry-sump tank:

Original XJ13 dry-sump oil tank. Oil is returned to the top of the tank and passes through a number of perforated baffles for de-aeration before being stored in a lower rubber bag-tank in the sill.
© Neville Swales

The following pictures show the recreated tank. My tank does differ slightly from the original in that the de-aerated oil is stored within the sill in a solid aluminium tank rather than a rubber bag-tank. Much head-scratching was called for during the car’s build at Jaguar for a suitable rubber capable of withstanding hot oil at up to 150 C. I decided to take a more secure option! The tank is capable of holding more than 6 gallons of oil.

Recreated dry-sump oil tank. This picture shows the tank location on the rear left-hand sill. The tank base extends into the sill where de-aerated oil is stored.
© Neville Swales
Recreated dry-sump oil tank. This shot shows one of the sill stiffeners inside the sill. This helps give the structure immense strength as evidenced by Norman Dewis’ unintentional “crash-test” in 1971. The car’s underlying structure survived almost intact.
© Neville Swales
Beginning assembly of the replica oil tank components. The original tank was fabricated by Bob Blake himself. Whilst beautifully-executed, he did seem to favour the use of 3/16” screws which were used extensively. © Neville Swales 
This shot shows the first of the internal downward-sloping baffles being installed. 
© Neville Swales
Lots of 3/16” screws!
© Neville Swales
Final tank.
© Neville Swales

Just in case Malcolm is looking …

I have previously extolled the virtues of the craftsmen working at my chosen bodyshop – North Devon Metalcraft in Devon, UK. One more detail added a few days ago exemplifies the skill of these artisans. I reckon Jaguar’s Bob Blake would have approved had he still been around today.

I needed to install the front indicators. Knowing how particular Jaguar’s Malcom Sayer was about any detail disrupting his airflow, it was very important to ensure these items fitted particularly well and recessed into the aluminium body. Peter Wilson talks of an occasion in 1965 when Bob Blake took it upon himself to install a cast Jaguar emblem on the nose of the car. He carefully traced around it and hammered out a recess so the badge would sit flush. When Malcolm saw what he had done he immediately insisted the badge was removed, the recess removed and the nose hammered flat once more. Bob Blake reluctantly did so.

Wheras Jaguar’s rebuilt car has rows of raised rivets across its nose, the 1966 original made use of flat countersunk rivets in this area to maintain a smooth profile. I am sure the late Malcolm Sayer would not have been amused had he seen what was done to “his” car during its post-crash rebuild. The following pictures show the sequence followed by the chaps at North Devon Metalcraft to properly install the side indicators. I never tire of watching these skilled metalworkers at work:

First job was to fabricate a steel tool which could be mounted in a vice and used to form the recessed aluminium panel.
© Neville Swales
The panel was then held in position using a couple of self-tappers so that a line could be scribed around its perimeter.
© Neville Swales
A hole was cut by hand so the new panel sat absolutely flush with the surrounding metal. I had to look away while John of ND Metalcraft snipped the shape out of my pristine front wing by hand.
© Neville Swales
The confidence, speed and accuracy of the hand cut was quite remarkable.
© Neville Swales
The next step was to attach the panel using a series of tacks applied using TIG.
© Neville Swales
Panel tacked in position.
© Neville Swales
The next step was gas welding. The process of obtaining a continuous weld on such thin-gauge aluminium represents the height of the body-makers art. It has been described as “being constantly a split-second away from disaster”!
© Neville Swales
The finished weld. Now to make it disappear …
© Neville Swales
John begins his painstaking work to disguise the weld. He made it look easy which is the sign of a true craftsman.
© Neville Swales
The weld begins to disappear …
© Neville Swales
The finished item. No filler used and almost impossible to see or feel any kind of join. The final result is a recessed indicator which should have satisfied Malcolm Sayer himself.
© Neville Swales


NACA duct positioned on XJ13 bonnet.
© Reproduced with permission

The bonnet of the XJ13 has a NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) duct. It is placed on the driver’s side and close to the leading edge of the bonnet.

If you look underneath the bonnet you will see the following:

Recreated bonnet with duct as on original.
© Neville Swales

Can any of you guess what this was meant for?

Here’s a few clues … The duct points straight down. It points towards the steering rack and is in the vicinity of the brake and clutch reservoirs. It is positioned on the driver’s side rather than centrally on the car ……….

My car is now in the paintshop. The plan is to reunite it with its engine when it returns then give it a first shakedown run.

The words Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, XJ13 are used in a historical/descriptive context and in no way suggest our recreations/replicas are approved by Jaguar. It is widely known that there was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 and any others can only ever be replicas, facsimilies, tributes, recreations, toolroom copies or similar.

Jaguar XJ13 – Malcolm Sayer’s Crowning Glory

Building The Legend Limited

“Sayer uniquely blended science and art to produce timeless shapes of exceptional and enduring beauty. He brought science to the art of car design; and scientifically produced works of art.”

21st May 2016 marked the Centenary of the birth of one of this country’s greatest design geniuses. Malcolm Sayer was taken away from us at a relatively young age when he suffered a fatal heart attack, outside Parkside Garage, next to the Regent Hotel in Royal Leamington Spa, 1 month before his 54th birthday.

His legacy is a collection of iconic Jaguar Sports Cars – C-Type, D-Type, E-Type and the sublime XJ13 – the latter being his crowning achievement.

1966 to 2016 – 50 Years

Coinciding with his birthday, the first public “reveal” of my recreation of Sayer’s 1966 XJ13 took place at the London Classic Car Show at the Excel in London. The car is my personal tribute to this great, and perhaps under-appreciated, man whose final resting-place is unknown – even today.

The car replicates Jaguar’s XJ13 as it first left Jaguar’s Competition Department – as Malcolm Sayer envisaged it and before it was crashed and re-skinned in 1972/73.

At the end of 2014, the bark of Jaguar’s legendary No.2 quad-cam V12 engine was heard for the first time in 50 years. The starter was pressed by the same Jim Eastick who started the No.1 engine for the first time in 1964 in the presence of Jaguar’s Bill Heynes – this time, in the presence of Jonathan Heynes, son of the late Bill Heynes.

1916 to 2016 -100 Years

Just over 100 years ago, Gilbert and Annie Sayer became parents to a son they named Malcolm. Malcolm Sayer – a name which was to become synonymous with Jaguar’s classic and most beautiful iconic designs. Malcolm’s birth in 1916 no doubt represented a bright spot in the otherwise dark times during the middle of the First World War in that eastern corner of the UK – Cromer, Norfolk. Malcolm’s father, Gilbert, was a teacher at Great Yarmouth Grammar School where he taught the unusual combination of Maths and Art – certainly a man whose interests would have influenced the direction his son’s career was eventually to take.

Malcolm’s birth, preceded by a German Zeppelin attack on the Eastern Coast of the England, coincided with the introduction of UK Daylight Saving on the 21st May 1916. Cars were relatively few and far between on Norfolk roads with most being made by the Ford, Rover, Wolseley, Morris and Humber car companies. Smaller-volume manufacturers such as Crossley also had offerings. The kind of cars on Britain’s roads around the time the infant took his first steps were similar to those pictured below – a far cry from the designs later to emerge from his pen!


Malcolm’s Grandson, Sam (Founder of The Malcolm Sayer Foundation) takes up the story:

“From the start he was interested in maths art and science, and despite many childhood illnesses, he was a high academic achiever and gained the prestigious Empire Scholarship* at the early age of 17. This enabled him to attend the then Loughborough College, where he gained a first class honours diploma in Automotive Engineering. He was also Secretary of the College motor Club and for two years Editor of the College Magazine.

After graduation, Malcolm joined the Bristol Aeroplane Company, studying aeronautics and looking at ways of improving the efficiency and design of significant WW2 aircraft, particularly the Blenheim and the Beaufighter; and developing his expertise in aerodynamics as applied to mechanical design. Following the war he married Pat Morgan in 1947 and after his daughter Kate was born in 1948 he went to Iraq to work at Baghdad University. This turned out to only exist on paper, so he worked instead maintaining the fleet of government vehicles.”

*The “Empire Scholarship” referred to above were open to all British subjects living in any part of the Empire. These scholarships awarded the sum of £75 per annum which helped Malcolm complete his studies at the Faculty of Engineering at Loughborough College.

The pictures below show students working using Loughborough College’s wind tunnel during Malcolm Sayer’s years (pictures reproduced with permission from Loughborough University): 

Wind Tunnel – c1936 © Loughborough University
Wind Tunnel – c1936 © Loughborough University
Wind Tunnel – c1936 © Loughborough University

Malcolm Sayer – Aerodynamic Wizard

A few years ago the BBC recorded a tribute to Malcolm Sayer. The program was aired on Radio 4 and presented by Jonathan Glancey. Contributors included Sir Stirling Moss, Lord March of Goodwood, Philip Porter, Peter Wilson, Kate Sayer (Malcolm’s daughter), Jools Holland, Norman Dewis, Mike Kimberley, Mick Walsh and Yours Truly. The following video adds pictures to the radio broadcast:


Malcolm Sayer graduated from Loughborough College and joined the Bristol Aeroplane Company on the 22nd September 1938.

According to our friends at Wikipedia …

“The Bristol Aeroplane Company, originally the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, was both one of the first and one of the most important British aviation companies, designing and manufacturing both airframes and aero engines. Notable aircraft produced by the company include the ‘Boxkite’, the Bristol Fighter, the Bulldog, the Blenheim, the Beaufighter, and the Britannia, and much of the preliminary work which led to the Concorde was carried out by the company.”

A few years later there was to be a tenuous link between Malcolm and Jaguar as Norman Dewis OBE was to fly as gunner in Bristol Blenheims. I wonder if Norman and Malcolm ever discussed this when they met up at Jaguar years later?

The Mysterious German

Sayer, by virtue of having a “reserved occupation” at the Bristol Aeroplane Company, was spared National Service during WW2. Instead, he put his skills to good use helping design warplanes and their engines for the Allied war effort. He married Patricia at the end of hostilities. Patricia gave birth to their first daughter, Kate, in 1948. I am sure Kate won’t thank me for mentioning the date … 😉 Malcolm and Patricia later extended their family with another daughter (Mary – 1956) and a son (John – 1953).

Kate Sayer
Malcolm’s First Daughter

In the same year as Kate was born, Malcolm was asked to establish a Faculty of Engineering at Baghdad University. He duly arrived in Iraq only to find the opportunity to create the Faculty didn’t exist! His time wasn’t wasted however and he instead spent a few days alone in the desert by a German Mathematician. he was later joined in Iraq by his wife and new daughter.

Malcolm learnt from the mysterious German and used his teachings to develop his own unique way of defining complex shapes in a purely mathematical way – much as we do nowadays using CAD and computers. He always kept the details of exactly how he did this very close to his chest.

Ex-Jaguar Competition Department and Author Peter Wilson described Sayer’s way of working as follows in his book, “Cat Out of the Bag” (no longer in print):

“Malcolm’s drawings contained no lines per se, but consisted of a matrix of dimensional points defined in three planes from a common base reference point, which defined the outer surface of the skin panel. His method was unique in the motor industry, but more commonplace in the aircraft design world. Malcolm claimed he had been taught this mathematical method of complex curved surface definition by a German, when they spent a few days together in a tent in the desert ….

… It was a system which was relatively easy to use: just a case of marking out the points defined by the coordinates on a sheet of plywood, cutting it out, then assembling each piece relative to its datum on a wooden base and ‘hey presto’, you had a complete skin former …

… Malcolm kept his method of mathematically calculating complex curved surfaces very close to his chest …”

A Legacy

Malcolm Sayer has left us with some of the most beautiful examples of sporting automotive design the world has seen.

Even today, at Jaguar, the essential elements of his designs can be seen in cars such as the C-X75. Jaguar’s concept (which may see production) unashamedly draws on its styling cues from Sayer’s XJ13. Check out the following pictures and video:

© Building The Legend 2016
© Building The Legend 2016
© Building The Legend 2016
© Building The Legend 2016
© Building The Legend 2016
© Building The Legend 2016

The words Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, XJ13 are used in a historical/descriptive context and in no way suggest our recreations/replicas are approved by Jaguar. It is widely known that there was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 and any others can only ever be replicas, facsimilies, tributes, recreations, toolroom copies or similar.

Monticello Motor Club, NY

Building The Legend, XJ13, Neville Swales, Jaguar, LM69, Ecurie Cars

First outing in anger for our full-race 6.8-litre SOHC V12 re-creation. Stretches its legs in the capable hands of Robillard Racing team owner and driver – Joe Robillard.

The words Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, XJ13 are used in a historical/descriptive context and in no way suggest our recreations/replicas are approved by Jaguar. It is widely known that there was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 and any others can only ever be replicas, facsimilies, tributes, recreations, toolroom copies or similar.

1966 Le Mans – Ford vs Ferrari …. vs Jaguar?

XJ13, Building The Legend, Neville Swales, 1966 Le Mans - Ford vs Ferrari .... vs Jaguar?

Original XJ13 – Would it have been competitive?

In my opinion?

Yes. Let me explain …

How did the competition look?

When I scan through reports, analyses and tests, Jaguar clearly had two cars in its sights – Ferrari’s 330 P3 and Ford’s GT40.

Ferrari P4

In 1964 their eyes will have been on a 1966 Le Mans debut for a team of XJ13s. These cars would have raced as Le Mans Prototypes. In the spring of 1963, Ford heard that Enzo Ferrari was interested in selling his company to Ford. Ford committed millions of dollars researching and auditing Ferrari’s company only to have Ferrari unilaterally withdraw from talks at a late stage. This angered Henry Ford II who directed his racing division to find a company that could help them build a Ferrari-beater on the world endurance-racing circuit. The Ferrari-beater turned out to be the GT40


which, although American-built, was based on a collaboration between Ford and England’s Lola. Ford did not, at this time, have the racing prowess to take on the likes of Ferrari so had earlier engaged in discussions with England’s Lotus, Cooper and Lola – eventually choosing the latter as a partner. The first GT40s raced in 1964 and 1965 with no great success. In 1966 however the 7-litre Mk II absolutely dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans race with a 1-2-3 result – shades of the Jaguar victories in the 1950s. This dominance continued in 1967 with a win by the Mk IV version of the car.The Lucas Mechanical Fuel-injected 1966 Ferrari 330 P3 used a rather fragile transmission that was later replaced by a ZF. Jaguar’s design included Lucas Mechanical Fuel Injection and the more robust ZF DS25-1 transmission from the outset. In 1967 the P3 became the P4. The latter car finished 2nd and 3rd at Le Mans in 1967 behind the winning Ford GT40 Mark IV.

How would the XJ13 have fared against the mighty GT40?

Project delays and lack of commitment by Jaguar meant things got off to a slow start and the car wasn’t completed until 1966. Sadly, the car’s main opportunity to shine at Le Mans may have been missed.Although Jaguar’s rebuilt “original” will probably never race, my car perhaps could. However, even though I can recreate a car with similar power and identical handling characteristics to the 1966 original, it would probably be humbled by a GT40 if it lined up against it on a track today. The reason being that, since 1967, original GT40s have undergone continuing race development and are probably now achieving levels of handling and performance far in excess of those achieved in 1967. The Jaguar XJ13 hasn’t enjoyed the best part of 50 years continuous development and would likely be embarrassed if placed on a track alongside an original GT40 today.This would definitely be true of Jaguar’s one-and-only rebuilt “original” which has led a sheltered life punctuated only by the odd low-speed excursion and short run over the last 50 years since it was rebuilt as a “demo queen”. In performance terms, the engine powering the “original” is only a shadow of its former self and would likely struggle to maintain any sort of pace.

As a lasting homage to the genius of its late designer Malcolm Sayer, Jaguar’s rebuilt “original” does continue to inspire with its superb lines but is likely to remain as no more than an inspiration.

However ….

We can at least examine the many contemporary records and reports that have recently come to light. We are fortunate in being able to re-live events through things such as the detailed development and testing reports recorded at the time. The XJ13 Project Manager, Mike Kimberley fortunately recorded events in detail through his meticulous test reports and worklists that were prompted by post-test analysis. A then-current GT40 was acquired by Jaguar’s Competition Department in 1966 and the results of their findings were also recorded.

In addition ….

Readers of this blog will know of my intention to not only recreate the XJ13 exactly as it was in 1966 but also to eventually see it on a racetrack. I am taking great (some would say “obsessive” ) care to remain true to original suspension design/location so that my recreation should perform similarly to the 1966 original. The finished product may give us additional insight into how the original may have fared in competition. Watch this space!

“Jaguar’s GT40”

By the middle of February 1966, the XJ13 was nearing completion. With all eyes on the likely competition at Le Mans in 1967, “Lofty” England (Jaguar’s racing team manager) succeeded in borrowing a Ford GT40 from Ford Advance Vehicles. It was duly delivered to the Competition Department where it was subjected to a detailed analysis. Mike Kimberley, Derrick White and Malcolm Sayer were very much involved in this analysis of the “competition” and participated in its stripdown, measurement and analysis. Someone else also involved in this analysis was Peter Wilson – author of the definitive work on the XJ13, “XJ13 – The Definitive Story of the Jaguar Le Mans Car and the V12 Engine that Powered it”.

The car Lofty borrowed wasn’t a racer but a road-going version powered by a 4.7 litre wet-sump engine.According to Peter Wilson:“Touring equipment in the form of ‘luggage boxes’ were fitted either side of the engine compartment, adjacent to the exhaust manifolds. We felt these were good for very little else other than keeping one’s fish and chips warm on the way home from the chip shop! This car, road registered OVX 355D, sat on wire wheels and was painted silver, while the cockpit was fully-trimmed and featured a driver’s door mounted, push-button Motorola radio, together with a twin speaker system – sheer luxury on wheels!”Has this car survived? Perhaps any GT40 enthusiasts could please let me know?The car was taken to MIRA on 4th March 1966 by Mike Kimberley & Norman Dewis and the car was put through its paces. Testing wasn’t particularly extensive as the car wasn’t a full race version – in any case, time was running short!In his book, Peter Wilson gives an account of the MIRA test. Bearing in mind Norman Dewis had comparison with the XJ13 in mind, in summary:

  • Despite being a “road car”, the general handling characteristics were very good and the car was responsive with sensitive and positive steering.
  • There was low-speed understeer which only changed to oversteer at maximum power.
  • The car was very susceptible to being blown off course in conditions of changing wind direction – requiring correction to maintain course.
  • Maximum cornering force was just less than 1G.
  • Whilst smooth, even braking could be achieved, it was not possible to lock the wheels. The pads hadn’t been fully warmed for these tests however.
  • The maximum lap speed was found to be 133mph which compared poorly with the D-Type’s 155mph – highlighting the “road-car” spec of this GT40.
  • Even though the car was et up for the road, ride refinement was lacking with a hard ride and “kicks” from the steering.
  • Static geometry checks showed the car had been quite badly set up with a 1″ difference in track front-to-rear (both should have been 54″).
  • The gearchange for the DS25-1 transaxle was found to be light and easy to use (as was the case with the XJ13). I’ll let you know in due course!
  • Pedal spacing was ideal and made “heeling-and-toeing” very easy. The accelerator pedal was a pendant type wheras the XJ13’s was organ type.

After the driving tests, the car was taken into the MIRA wind-tunnel and Malcolm Sayer was able to examine the car’s airflow characteristics in some detail.Sayer noted differences between the car and its racing version including blanking-off of brake ducts and side-cooling ducts. He also noted the rear spoiler was a good 4″ shorter than the 1965 car and the car didn’t have the lift-reduction deflector plates which would have increased drag.Although drag for the road-car was lower than the 1962 E-Type and 1962 Ferrari Berlinetta, it was significantly worse than the 1955 racing D-Type. Aerodynamic lift did seem to be an issue and it was interesting to note that “reliable sources” stated Ford were suffering with excessive lift on their racing versions. These “reliable sources” may have been from MIRA who were carrying out secret air-studies for Ford at the time.It was interesting to see that the XJ13 (which was almost complete at the time these comparisons with the GT40 were carried out) had many similarities to the GT40. Two completely disparate teams of individuals working towards a common goal – success at Le Mans – ended up with very similar solutions. For example:

  • The Ford famously was just over 40″ high wheras the XJ13 was lower at just under 39″
  • Wheelbases were within an inch of each other (Ford 95″; Jaguar 96″)
  • Tracks were similar (Ford 54″; Jaguar 56″)
  • Width (Ford 70″; Jaguar 71″)
  • XJ13 had similar but smaller frontal area (Ford 16.91 sq ft; Jaguar 15.97 sq ft)
  • XJ13 had similar but superior drag (Ford 0.35; Jaguar 0.29)
  • XJ13 was lighter (Ford 2,707 lbs; Jaguar 2,600 lbs)
  • Lower centre of gravity for the XJ13 (Ford 15.02″; Jaguar (14.5″)

XJ13 – Tested at Silverstone

The XJ13’s main test driver was David Hobbs. Although Jaguar already had a competent driver in the shape of Norman Dewis, William Heynes recognised as early as 1964 that a car such as the XJ13 really needed a top-flight race driver to help develop it. There is some evidence to suggest that Jack Brabham had been approached in this respect but, in the end a former Jaguar apprentice – David Hobbs – was recruited for testing. In 1969 Hobbs was included in a FIA list of graded drivers which was an élite group of 27 who were rated the best in the world. It was Hobbs who achieved the unofficial UK closed lap record with the XJ13 which stood for the next 32 years. The XJ13’s main test and development driver, Hobbs, was joined at Silverstone for the XJ13’s final test at full racing speed by another top-flight racing driver (and ex-Jaguar apprentice) Richard (“Dickie”) Attwood.On the morning of Tuesday, 15th August, the XJ13 was taken to Silverstone amidst great secrecy. Mike Kimberley planned for David Hobbs to drive all that day for comprehensive testing under full racing conditions. They wanted to see what the XJ13 could do! Unfortunately, rain began to fall (this was an English Summer after all) and testing was curtailed early on. Conditions looked better the next morning and David Hobbs was joined by Richard Attwood. Although drying, the track was still wet in places and the XJ13 gingerly took to the track. Conditions continued to improve although a shower did interrupt proceedings for two hours and some dampness did remain at the end of testing. Hobbs and Attwood managed a full five hours of testing – although they had to seek shelter for two hours during the shower.Hobbs did outperform Attwood. Mike Kimberley later described Hobbs as “a fearless driver” who clearly drove with maximum commitment. Hobbs had also carried out the lions’ share of testing and so was very familiar with the car already. His best time was a respectable 1 minute 35.7 seconds – this on a drying track with a lingering damp patch at Beckets. A time comparable to Attwood’s previous best time in a Ferrari LM of 1 minute 35 seconds – the same time as the best time for a GT40 in the hands of P. Hawkins (1 minute 35 seconds).The test at Silverstone was to be the final outing for the XJ13. It was never to race and only emerged when required to play a supporting role in a promotional film in 1971 for the soon-to-be-launched Series 3 V12 E-Type. It crashed and was rebuilt in 1972/73 in a specification more suited to its role as “demo” vehicle. It has now been established that the crash was caused by the failure of a rear tyre that had been plugged to cure a slow leak – Norman Dewis having ignored instructions not to drive at racing speeds for the camera.

Would the XJ13 have been competitive at Le Mans?

After the Silverstone test, the data was examined and a package of improvements was proposed which may have delivered the following:

  • Improved brakes – an improvement of 2 to 3 seconds
  • Lower axle ratio – a further 1/2 to 1 second
  • Improved tyres/wider wheels – 2 seconds

The above, conservative, estimates would have resulted in a Silverstone lap time in the region of 1 minute 30 seconds. A full five seconds faster than the best lap time achieved by P Hawkins before 1967 and coincidentally, similar to Hobbs’ best lap time in a BRM V8 F1 car at the British Grand Prix in 1967 at Silverstone.The XJ13 was designed in 1964 by a small team of people under Bill Heynes – Malcolm Sayer, Derrick White and Alex Frick. At the same time, they were working on a number of actively-campaigned E-Types. This team was incredibly small considering their workload (even Connaught had a design staff of 8 in 1955!).In 1964 they settled on a monocoque design using Baily’s quad-cam V12 as a fully-stressed member – like the D- and E-Types before it, a more sophisticated and advanced design than its contemporaries. By the end of 1964 they had settled on the basic layout of the rear suspension. In essence, similar to the E-Type with a lower wishbones and a fixed-length driveshaft acting as upper link. White, argued for a transverse upper suspension link coupled with a sliding driveshaft. This would have ensured greater accuracy in controlling rear wheel geometry when faced by the demands of tyres rapidly growing in width at the time. His wishes were constantly rejected by William Heynes.Derrick White also designed a series of completely novel state-of-the-art front suspension setups. Heynes, it seems, from the outset wanted to adopt an E-Type based setup. Each of White’s designs were rejected by Heynes in turn. He also became increasingly frustrated at Heynes’ lack of progress and stubborn attitude. In the end White became royally pi**ed off with all this and left Jaguar to join Cooper.Shortly after joining Cooper (and having been given free reign to design a car in the way he felt it should be designed) his Cooper-Maserati became a front-runner in the 1966 F1 season then won the first race of the 1967 season. He later joined the Honda/Lola/Surtees consortium and helped design the “Hondola” wich won first time out in 1967.It is a shame he was prevented from exercising his talents on the XJ13 as well as the lack of urgency throughout 1965 as Ford may really have been humbled by the XJ13!

What do you think?

The words Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, XJ13 are used in a historical/descriptive context and in no way suggest our recreations/replicas are approved by Jaguar. It is widely known that there was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 and any others can only ever be replicas, facsimilies, tributes, recreations, toolroom copies or similar.

Today in the Workshop …..

Today in the workshop …

Original 1966 Jaguar V12 Prototype Quad-Cam Engine …. Street-Legal re-created XJ13 …. polished XJ13 in progress … “Building The Legend” Quad-Cam 7.7-litre V12 …. Lightweight E-Type front suspension ….

The words Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, XJ13 are used in a historical/descriptive context and in no way suggest our recreations/replicas are approved by Jaguar. It is widely known that there was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 and any others can only ever be replicas, facsimilies, tributes, recreations, toolroom copies or similar.

“The Gathering”

Looking back on a very special gathering a few years ago.

A big part of the project for me is the opportunity it gives me to spend time with the skilled engineers who worked on these cars in the 1960s and earlier. “Backroom Boys” without whom Jaguar would not have enjoyed the success it achieved.

Thank you gentlemen 👍

Looking back on a very special gathering a few years ago. A big part of the project for me is the opportunity it gives me to spend time with the skilled engineers who worked on these cars in the 1960s and earlier. "Backroom Boys" without whom Jaguar would not have enjoyed the success it achieved.Thank you gentlemen 👍

Gepostet von Neville Swales am Dienstag, 26. November 2019

The words Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, XJ13 are used in a historical/descriptive context and in no way suggest our recreations/replicas are approved by Jaguar. It is widely known that there was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 and any others can only ever be replicas, facsimilies, tributes, recreations, toolroom copies or similar.


Jaguar XJ13, Building The Legend, Street-Legal, XJ13, Jaguar

A valuable piece of paper!

A fully road-legal, IVA-tested, 2019-plate car that be driven on the road in the UK (can be registered in other EC and International countries subject to minor formalities).

Imagine it …. a quad-cam V12-powered car that could have squared up to cars on the 1966 Le Mans grid …. and one that can be driven on the road …..

The words Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, XJ13 are used in a historical/descriptive context and in no way suggest our recreations/replicas are approved by Jaguar. It is widely known that there was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 and any others can only ever be replicas, facsimilies, tributes, recreations, toolroom copies or similar.

“In the metal”

  • XJ13, Building The Legend, Neville Swales, Jaguar, Ecurie Cars. LM69, tera-, quad-cam, V12

The words Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, XJ13 are used in a historical/descriptive context and in no way suggest our recreations/replicas are approved by Jaguar. It is widely known that there was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 and any others can only ever be replicas, facsimilies, tributes, recreations, toolroom copies or similar.


Coming soon …..

Building The Legend, Quad-Cam, V12, tera-, To the Power of 12

The words Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, XJ13 are used in a historical/descriptive context and in no way suggest our recreations/replicas are approved by Jaguar. It is widely known that there was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 and any others can only ever be replicas, facsimilies, tributes, recreations, toolroom copies or similar.