The unique 1966 Jaguar XJ13, conceived to continue Jaguar’s winning ways at the Le Mans 24 Hours, will finally make its debut at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe, 50 years later. A victim of timing and changing regulations, the XJ13 never raced in period despite its incredible pace, so the car’s entry at Le Mans Classic this weekend marks the fitting conclusion to one of Jaguar’s greatest historic cars, on its 50th anniversary.
With a beautiful and now iconic lightweight aerodynamic body penned by Malcolm Sayer – the man behind Le Mans legends like the C-Type and D-Type – and a mid-mounted 5.0-litre V12 engine, the XJ13 had all the ingredients for Le Mans success. Indeed, it set an unofficial closed lap record at Silverstone in 1967 with David Hobbs at the wheel, which stood until the McLaren F1 beat it by just 6mph in 1999.
But in late 1967, with new Le Mans regulations on the way, which limited engine capacity to 3.0 litres, and a profitable XJ6 saloon to develop, Jaguar shelved the XJ13 project and moved the prototype into storage before it ever had the chance to race.
The next time it would turn a wheel would be in 1971 for a publicity shoot at MIRA. With legendary Jaguar test driver, Norman Dewis, at the wheel, the XJ13 was seriously damaged in a crash in which Dewis was thankfully unharmed. It was rebuilt, and made its public debut in 1973 during the British Grand Prix.
Now heading back to the circuit it was created for, the XJ13’s appearance at Le Mans Classic is just one part of a huge Jaguar presence this year, which also includes TV presenter Chris Harris racing the Jaguar Lightweight E-type continuation model (chassis number 15 and owned by Stratstone), a 100-car parade and a world record grid of 65 models competing across five classes in the Jaguar Classic Challenge. The XJ13 will be taking part in the parade, as some of the most legendary Jaguars ever roar around the iconic French circuit.
Tim Hannig, Jaguar Land Rover Classic Director, said: “Seeing the Jaguar XJ13 finally on track at Le Mans is going to be a real privilege for me and for everyone in the Jaguar Classic team. We have such an incredible history at this circuit, and it’s just a shame that the XJ13 never had the opportunity to write its own chapter there in period. No celebration of Jaguar’s heritage would be complete without the XJ13 and we’re incredibly excited about hearing that incredible mid-mounted V12 flat-out on the Mulsanne straight. Added to that, the record grid of pre-1966 Jaguars participating in the Jaguar Classic Challenge means it’s going to be a truly memorable part of a very special Jaguar presence at Le Mans Classic.”