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Looking back ...


Summer was approaching and Building The Legend's recreation of Jaguar’s legendary 1966 XJ13 Le Mans Prototype was well underway. In 2010, UK-based Jaguar enthusiast Neville Swales unearthed the ONLY surviving complete engine built to a similar specification to the original quad-cam V12 prototype engine as first installed in the car in 1966.

XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, Peter Wilson, quadcam, V12, tera

XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, Peter Wilson, quadcam, V12, tera

© XJ13 - Building the Legend
Peter Wilson (ex-Jaguar Competitions Department) with Neville’s “Prize”

The aim?

To fulfil a long-held ambition of building and racing a unique, absolutely authentic and accurate “toolroom” copy of the original Jaguar XJ13 prototype Le Mans race-car – true to Malcolm Sayer’s original “pure” 1966 vision and different in many respects to Jaguar’s rebuilt current car.

The dream?

To continue where Jaguar left off and compete in historic racing against the cars it was designed to contest – the mighty Ford GT40 and sublime Ferrari P330 amongst others of that era.

The car carried Jaguar’s aspirations of a return to racing in 1965. Will the glorious bark of Jaguar’s quad-cam V12 finally be heard in anger on a race-track 50 years later – clothed in the late genius Malcolm Sayer’s ultimate creation?

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let us take you back to 1963 Coventry and trace the history of the inspiration for this project ……..

Coventry - 1963

It is late Spring 1963. Khrushchev’s claims of a 100-megaton nuclear bomb and the US’ atomic tests in Nevada cast a shadow over the world. Life carries on as normal in the city of Coventry in the UK’s West Midlands and the sounds of hammering and banging can be heard from the vicinity of Browns Lane. The muffled sound of Cliff Richard’s hit “Summer Holiday” can be heard above the sounds of activity behind the tightly closed doors of the Competition Department. The song title is a bit ironic as the UK is only just emerging from one of the coldest winters on record and snow still adorns Coventry roof-tops.

Chief Engineer, William Heynes leaves footprints in the snow as he purposefully crosses the yard to the Competition Department to check on progress of the latest all-aluminium Lightweight E-Type customer’s car.  As he ventures inside the noisy building, Cliff Richard is replaced by a newscaster reporting on the latest scandal brewing  around John Profumo and Christine Keeler. The newsflash is swapped for the latest hit from a new Merseyside group called The Beatles. “From Me To You” is rapidly climbing the charts to become the group’s first UK Number One hit.

A fresh-faced Peter Wilson briefly looks up as Heynes nears before resuming  his work and his hummed rendition of the Beatles hit. The Competition Department is stretched to the limit as they complete one of that year’s twelve Lightweight E-Types – no time for pleasantries! Since Graham Hill’s victory a month earlier in the Lombard Trophy at Snetterton, the competitiveness and potential of the new car was becoming evident and private entrants such as Briggs Cunningham were keeping the Competition Department extremely busy. Cunningham’s three cars were entered in the 1963 Le Mans race and timescales were tight. Whilst these customer cars enjoyed varying levels of Works support, none of them were true factory entries.

However, in 1963, plans were being drawn up for Jaguar’s return to racing in their own right …

Their target?

The 1965 Le Mans 24-hour Endurance Race - scene of their famous victories in the 1950s with their legendary C and D-Types. The plan was to enter a team of XJ13 cars to contest this ultimate test of endurance and performance.

A Return to Le Mans

XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, Peter Wilson, quadcam, V12, tera

In the summer of 1958 William Heynes met with Sir William Lyons over lunch. These tended to be rather lavish affairs by today’s standards with cigars and alcohol in abundance. Jaguar had already retired from racing as a factory team two years earlier and their lunch-time meeting came less than a year after a devastating factory fire.

We know the gist of their lunch-time conversation as Heynes later confirmed the main points of their discussion in a private memo. Sir William replied to him giving fascinating insight into Lyons’ pronouncements on conditions for a return to racing. Lyons also copied his memo to Lofty England.

In his memo to Sir William, Heynes outlined his proposed strategy saying Jaguar should complete “ten or twelve ‘E-Type’ cars for general competition work in 1959”. Heynes’ memo also referred to development of a “G-Type” with a centrally-mounted engine. He stated that “work is still proceeding on this … I would still make sure that we had three cars, if required, ready and fully-tested in time for Le Mans”. His thinking was that this “G-Type” would follow on from a programme of racing E-Types. At the time of the memo, E1A, the first of the “E-Types” was about to undergo its first track tests – piloted by Mike Hawthorn. When the E-Types eventually became uncompetitive, this “G-Type” could take up the challenge.

XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, Peter Wilson, quadcam, V12, tera

Racing engine development was in Heynes’ blood and he was a consistent champion for the racing cause as a means of testing his theories and designs. Lyons, on the other hand, prioritised Jaguar’s core business of luxurious and sporting saloons although he did recognise the value of reflected racing success on his business.

As an interesting aside, Heynes’ memo also made reference to a mid-engined Grand Prix single-seater racing car which would share the same engineering units as the “G-Type”.

Sir William’s reply was straightforward. He said,


… it would be a most foolish policy for us to recommence racing until we have cars which:

  • Have outstandingly superior performance to that of any known competitors.
  • Have undergone tests to prove their reliability”

He went on to say, “During the years we raced, in spite of various set-backs, we were successful in establishing a high reputation, and this is reflecting favourably on our prestige. It could be entirely nullified if we were to return to racing without being completely successful. Mercedes returned to racing successfully, and I see no reason why we should not do the same thing.

Lyons went on to give an unequivocal “green light” to Heynes’ plans for a return to racing subject to the proviso that the cars were competitive and thoroughly-tested.

As far as the “G-Type” was concerned, Lyons said, “ … With regard to the G-Type, this, of course, should be pursued with all energy, including the possibility of a Grand Prix model …”. He then prompted Heynes with the statement, “ … I have not yet received the development programme for the G-Type …”.

William Heynes had been given a clear “go-ahead” for a return to racing and the ball was firmly in Heynes’ court.

“E-Types” - E1A, E2A and the Lightweights

The first E-Type racecar, E1A, was duly tested at Silverstone by Mike Hawthorn on the 10th July 1959. Sadly, the car, for some unfathomable reason, hadn’t been prepared to full competition specification and its times were disappointing. A full competition version wasn’t available until a year later. This competition version, E2A, was seen by Briggs Cunningham during a factory visit who immediately said, “I would like it for Le Mans”. 

Herculean efforts by Jaguar’s Competition Department saw E2A ready for the 1960 Le Mans. Unfortunately, fuel injection pipe failures led to the car being withdrawn after 89 laps early on the Sunday morning of the race.

Works-supported Jaguars continued to be seen until 1964 when Malcolm Sayer’s beautiful lowdrag Lightweight E-Type crashed at the Montlhery 1000km, killing its owner and driver – Peter Lindner.

Meanwhile, plans for a car which should have returned Jaguar to racing were in hand. Sadly, the project began to suffer from a lack of urgency as resources were diverted towards Jaguar’s production saloons. It wasn’t until 1965 when a young Mike Kimberley was given control of the project that real progress was made. Unfortunately, other factors such as BMC’s merger with Jaguar (British Motoring Corporation – later to combine with others to become part of the British Leyland empire), the growing dominance of Ford’s GT40 after 1965 and an increased emphasis on saloons such as the forthcoming XJ6 meant that Jaguar’s planned mid-1960s return to racing never finally materialised. 

Work on the XJ13 by Jaguar’s Competition Department continued during 1965 at a relatively slow pace. As Peter Wilson reports in his book on the XJ13 – “The definitive story of the Jaguar Le Mans car and the V12 engine that powered it” (Book available from Paul Skilleter Publishing):

“By now Le Mans 1965 had come and gone. We were well past the post as far as the original aspirations for the car was concerned and we in the Competition Department were left wondering just what the purpose of the XJ13 was. Whatever the thoughts of the senior Jaguar management, even at our lowly level it seemed to us pretty obvious that any official Jaguar return to racing was by now just a distant dream – it was never going to happen.”

The car was finally completed by May of 1966. It was pushed into a corner of the Competition Department and covered with a cloth. The car didn’t turn a wheel until February of the following year. Rumours abound of “unofficial tests” in the intervening period but these were certainly fabrications and the car remained sitting forlornly in the corner of the workshop for the best part of a year. 

On the 5th March 1967 the XJ13 finally emerged from hibernation and the bark of the quad-cam racing engine was heard again to begin the first of a series of eight official tests at MIRA, culminating with a final high-speed run at Silverstone. A summary of these tests will appear in a future article along with an assessment of how the car may have fared in open combat. 

From the outset, Jaguar realised that a car such as the XJ13 called for experienced racing drivers to assist with testing and development. There is evidence that William Heynes (Jaguar's Chief Engineer) approached Sir Jack Brabham early in 1965 as evidenced by the following letter:

XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, Peter Wilson, quadcam, V12, tera

In the end, Jaguar called on the services of former Jaguar apprentices David "Hobbo" Hobbs and Richard "Dickie" Attwood. The lion’s share of testing was carried out by Hobbs although Jaguar’s Norman Dewis also contributed to a handful of tests. Drivers during final high-speed testing at Silverstone, in the summer of 1967, were Hobbs and Attwood.

Known to many enthusiasts in the US as the current voice of Formula One, Hobbs was amongst an elite of drivers at the time and a successful, accomplished racer. A later article will explore his varied racing career. In one of his earlier outings with the XJ13, the fearless Hobbs achieved an unofficial UK closed-circuit lap record at an average speed of 161.6 mph – a record which was to stand for 32 years until beaten by a McLaren F1 as late as 1999 (topping Hobbs’ average by only 6.4 mph). The latent potential of the XJ13 was there for all to see in 1967 …

Will a recreated XJ13 be competitive in historic racing in the 21st Century?

Wait and see ….

1966 Jaguar XJ13 – Building The Legend

XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, Peter Wilson, quadcam, V12, teraAs stated earlier, the intention was to create a facsimile of Jaguar's unique XJ13 - as it was in 1966/67 and before it was rebuilt in 1972/73. It had to be rebuilt after it was badly damaged on the eve of its first public appearance in 1971.

It was crashed?? What happened? What caused it? What changes were made during its rebuild? How does the current car differ from the 1966 original?

The aim was to recreate the car as faithfully as we were able and as a tribute to the genius of its designer, Malcolm Sayer. A faithful recreation of the car as it was in 1966 when Jaguar’s ambitions of re-living the 1950s glory days at Le Mans were still alive.

During the rebuild by Abbey Panels in 1972/73, certain aspects of the car were altered and it lost its "pure" form as originally envisaged by Sayer. One of the more obvious "enhancements" was the addition of flared/widened wheelarches. The XJ13 log records this was done primarily for "cosmetic reasons".

Undoubtedly, Jaguar’s current car is unique and has continuous history linking it back to the one and only original. It may have been unkindly described as a, "Jaguar-built replica" by authors Viart & Cognet in their 1985 book, "Jaguar - A Tradition of Sports Cars" (page 318), with forward by William Lyons himself, but this may be a little unfair as most of the underlying structure was salvaged and re-used. The engine installed in the car today is a different engine to the one originally installed in the XJ13 in the Spring of 1966 but it remains one of the very few prototype quad-cam engines that have survived and was installed in the car in period. OK, the body may be completely new, and different in some respects to the original body, but there can be no doubt that the car gracing the Jaguar Heritage collection can describe itself as the unique Jaguar XJ13. In Jaguar's own words, "Our car is not a faithful re-creation of the original"

What we created can only ever be a facsimile and homage to the original XJ13 and its designer Malcolm Sayer. There is, and always has been, one Jaguar XJ13. The Building The Legend car shows the car as it first saw the light of day in the summer of 1966 - as Sayer intended it to look.

So - how to set about recreating a car which doesn't exist anymore?

Contrary to what you may read from certain replica manufacturers over the years, there are no "blueprints" for the car. Jaguar, in the past, have never allowed sufficient access to the car to enable detailed measurements to be made. Indeed, even if this was allowed, the resulting car would remain different to the shape of the original 1966 car.

Certain replica builders have boasted about privileged access to the car – the incorrect lines of their resultant cars give the lie to these claims. Indeed, a replica made by the very talented Rod Jolley which passed into the hands of the late Jaguar Specialist Tim Waddingham, bears a brass plaque claiming the replica was produced "with the co-operation of Jaguar". The inaccuracy of the replica compared to the original bears testament to Jaguar's unwillingness to allow intimate access to the car. The closest anyone got to the car may have been Bryan Wingfield whose GT40-based car eventually ended up in the Walter Hill Collection. However, this car was notoriously "wrong" in many details - including a rather "snub-nosed" appearance. This car has since been rebodied but bears little resemblance to the XJ13 under the skin - rather more akin to the GT40. The latter does indicate how difficult it is to replicate the complex curves of the car simply by reference to photographs - even with privileged access to the car itself and for a man with undoubted car-making skills. Wingfield's car has since been rebodied but bears little resemblance to the XJ13 under the skin - rather more akin to the GT40 which was Bryan's speciality.

Perhaps one of the most successful replicas in recent years was one produced by Jim Marland of the Proteus car company. Marland’s talents resulted in a car which captured the lines of the post-crash car beautifully, albeit with less-accurate underpinnings – although very different Sayer’s original 1966 pre-crash car.

OK - there are no "blueprints" and no chance Jaguar will allow sufficient access to the car so where do you go from here?

Fortunately, Jaguar Heritage granted us access to XJ13-related documents in their archive. However, although the archive is now professionally managed, this has not always been the case and many documents had gone missing in the intervening years. Although Jaguar Heritage's archived documents give valuable clues to the car's build and history, we had to dig deeper and extend our search further afield. A breakthrough came the best part of a year ago when a collection of original documents came to light containing actual data describing the original car's construction. This has since been supplemented by previously-unpublished photographs taken during the car's build in 1965/66. It is our wish to eventually deposit these documents in the Jaguar Heritage Archive for the benefit of future historians.

What are these documents exactly?

Some of these documents contain critical measurements used by Jaguar to build the car. They are likely to have originated from Malcolm Sayer himself. Just to explain ...

Malcolm Sayer was very much a man “ahead of his time”. There is much talk nowadays of Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) but it seems that as early as the 1950s Sayer had developed his own longhand version of similar techniques. He kept his calculations and means of representing complex shapes mathematically very close to his chest and there is little information on his methodology available today. Paul Skilleter reported that Cyril Crouch, who worked in the Body Drawing Office in Sayer’s time, recalls him “using Chambers seven-figure log tables to calculate all the shapes, as one would do on a computer now.”

In essence, these documents consist of a mass of numbers defining fixed points in 3D space. For example, a particular single point on a body surface can be defined as:

"X inches from an origin on the floor at the front of the car; Y inches up from the floor; Z inches from the centreline of the car"

As an example of data for one part of the car, the following original document indicates how the curvature of the windscreen was defined.


XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, Peter Wilson, quadcam, V12, tera

At the start of his project Neville discovered that Pilkingtons claimed to have located the original metal jig used to manufacture the original 1966 XJ13's windscreen. He commissioned a windscreen from them and this gave him a unique opportunity to objectively validate their claims against the original data. The finished windscreen was digitally scanned and its precise shape was captured.


XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, quadcam, V12, tera

He then superimposed the 3D points defined in the original Jaguar document and was able to carry out a statistical comparison of the two sets of data. More detailed analysis showed a close agreement between the windscreen Pilkingtons had produced and the original Jaguar data. The following picture shows the variance between points on the two defined surfaces - the closer to red, the bigger the difference:

XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, quadcam, V12, tera

The data is shown below:

MAXIMUM DISTANCE: +1.79mm -2.18mm



In short, there is an average of 0.06mm difference between the new screen and the original data - pretty good don't you agree? 

This was very good news for Neville as it meant he could precisely locate a key section of the outer body. But more was to follow .... similar data describing original car's body shape, as well as data precisely identifying key location points for things such as steering rack, front and rear suspension, suspension arms, shock absorbers etc etc was uncovered. The latter data has proved especially invaluable in the design and ongoing build of the complete chassis/monocoque unit.

Here is an example of the type of data that shows where key components are located. It shows the precise location of the XJ13's upper front wishbone (wishbone as used in the 1964 Lightweight E-Type Jaguar). 3D data points have been obscured.

XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, quadcam, V12, tera


The above data doesn't only describe exactly where the wishbone should attach to the chassis, it also gives valuable information on the dimensions of the chassis itself. Combining data such as this with original photographs including the previously-unknown one shown below allowed him to precisely model the original monocoque/chassis.

XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, Peter Wilson, quadcam, V12, tera

XJ13, Prototype, Jaguar, Jaguar XJ13, E-Type, Building The Legend, Peter Wilson, quadcam, V12, tera

Putting all this data together, along with other measurement data and contemporary photos taken during the car's build enabled Neville to arrive at a digital CAD representation of the 1966 original. This data has been further enhanced by discussions with those who were present and participated in the original build.

So - where to from there?

All the above data was used to enhance a digital model of the 1966 car. Gradually seeing the 1966 car emerge from the data was a rather exciting process. The first physical manifestation of the digital data was the manufacture of a full-size buck used to manufacture the car's monocoque. Neville decided to build the monocoque in steel first, just to "get it right". This all-steel monocoque has since been destroyed and one has been made using original-spec aluminium and steel as original.

To be continued ….

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