Jaguar XJ13 – AUTOart

1966 Jaguar XJ13
AUTOart - 53541 (diecast) 

Published 10/30/22

Like many other legendary cars, the XJ13 came to be because of Le Mans. The “Jaguar Era” at La Sarthe was the 50s. Their cars won in 1951, 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1957. In 1956 Jaguar officially abandoned race tracks, yet in 1957 the four first places were privateer Jags. The XJ13 would be the car to put the brand back at the top. The project began in the early 60s, and counted on using Jaguar’s new XK6 engine. However, upper management was not exactly anxious to get back to racing per se. With that, the project took too long, to the point that when it was ready, it was too late. When the XJ13 began road tests in 1966, Ford already had the 7 liters GT40, rendering the XJ13 obsolete.

In 1968 FIA limited prototype engines to 5 liters, therefore the XJ13 could have been competitive.

Despite the missed opportunity, the car had potential. Just as the D-Type, the XJ13 had a tubular aluminum chassis, covered by a gorgeous aluminum body. It also had an interesting cockpit; the pilot sat on the right and the instrument panel was on the left. The engine was, in essence, two XK6 inline-6 engines connected to a common crankshaft. The resulting aluminum  V12 displaced 4994 cm³, and with Lucas mechanical fuel injection delivered 503 hp. Mounted behind the driver, it was a stressed chassis member. Shifting was the job of a 5-speed ZF 5DS/25 manual gearbox, also a stressed chassis member. Not exactly a light car (1124 kg), nonetheless Norman Dewis reached 258 km/h at the MIRA test track. 

Alain de Cadenet made a nice short film on the XJ13.

During the initial tests in 1966, it was obvious that the car needed further development. Yet, since there was no way it could withstand the late 60s competition, the car went into storage. By 1971, Jaguar was ready to launch the Series III E-Type, with their first production V12 engine. Somebody had the idea to clean up the XJ13 and use it in a propaganda film for the new E-Type. So on January 21, 1971, the XJ13 ran again, again with Norman Dewis on the wheel and at the MIRA test track. Unfortunately though, during a high speed pass the car lost a wheel and flipped end over end. Dewis was unhurt, yet the XJ13 was a total wreck. After the accident it went into storage once more.

The XJ13 almost looks too beautiful to be a serious race car.

However, in 1973 Jaguar decided to revive and restore the XJ13. According to Jaguar, it came out “almost original”, though the engine had one cylinder welded. Many years later, around 2002, the XJ12 fell off a curb and cracked the engine block. Right after that Jaguar totally refurbished the engine to 100% working order. Nowadays it resides in the British Motor Museum, at Gaydon, in the UK. 

Compared to its predecessor, the XJ13 looks absurdly better than the Type-D. Yet, looks alone doesn’t mean much.

In general terms, I don’t actively collect prototypes. Especially if the car in question was not an actual race car. However, in my eyes the XJ13 is the “most beautiful car that never raced at La Sarthe”. Besides, I had one in 1:18 in my old collection, and it was one of my favorites. In 1:43 AUTOart did a fantastic job, and the car looks gorgeous. The brand doesn’t make models in 1:43 anymore, so this XJ13 is really hard to find. I got (really) lucky and found both the Sunoco Lola T70 and this XJ13 from the same seller. The model is a-w-e-s-o-m-e, and looks fantastic. Such a shame that AUTOart is out of the 1:43 business 😭.

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