The one-and-only Jaguar XJ13 is a race car that never raced and now sits in the Jaguar Heritage Motor Center in Gaydon, England. Thanks to technology and a handful of dedicated craftsmen on multiple continents, several replicas have been created so it is possible on rare occasions to see one in person and get a feel for the original car.
A little history. Jaguar won the 24 Hours of Le Mans five times between 1951 and 1957 with its C-Type and D-Type racers. The XJ13 was intended to be the car with which Jaguar would return to Le Mans. The project began in 1964, the first year a 5.0-liter, 60-degree V-12 engine burst to life at Jaguar. Malcolm Sayer, an aerodynamicist, designed the aluminum body using techniques from the aircraft industry where he had worked for the Bristol Aeroplane Company.
Construction on the car began in 1965, and the first prototype was running by March of 1966 but getting the car on track was not a priority, especially after Jaguar merged with BMC, the British Motor Corporation. Ironically, 1966 was the year that Ford scored its first win at Le Mans with the GT40 and its huge 7.0-liter V-8. Ford went on to win in 1967, 1968 and 1969, and the Jaguar XJ13 seemed out of date.
On Jan. 21, 1971, the XJ13 was taken to a track for filming. Legendary Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis flipped the car in a heavy crash because of a damaged tire. Dewis was not hurt but the car was a near write-off. After several years, Jaguar repaired the original but it lives in the museum.
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One not-quite-completed replica was in Kansas City last year so Dick Kitzmiller of Scarab Motorsports, Prairie Village, and Nate Boyer at Kultured Custom Restorations in Gardner, could finish its construction. It was one of two cars built by Digby Cooke and Dennis Bedford, founder of DRB Sportscars in Australia. Cooke’s car was completed but the second car was not. Ash Marshall, the first Australian drag racer to break 200 miles per hour but now living in California, bought the incomplete car along with Marc Shaw, also of California. Shaw sent the car to Kitzmiller.
This slinky, slippery mid-engined gem, naturally painted British Racing Green, is powered by a V-12 engine whose exhaust and intake systems glitter like jewelry under the huge rear window. The exhaust sounds like ripping canvas.
When the car arrived from California “It was basically an unfinished roller,” Kitzmiller said. Roller means a rolling chassis. The body was fiberglass. Kitzmiller oversaw the creation of a custom interior, custom exhaust (with pipes that are as beautiful as an organ), new seats, updated gauges, custom door latches, new side curtains and a gorgeous paint job.
“When we were done, I think it represented the car well for what it was,” Kitzmiller said. “It was built to the standard of the time when it was created.” The car was displayed at last year’s Art of the Car Concours at the Kansas City Art Institute. It is now in the hands of a new owner somewhere out east.