Mr Lyons and the XJ13

09 February 2023

There’s only one Jaguar XJ13 in the world, built as a potential Le Mans contender, although it never competed in any race. Its development, which started in 1964, had to take second place to that of the much more crucial new saloon car, which became the XJ6 and launched in 1968.

The XJ13 was the first mid-engined car Jaguar had ever built. There was a revolution with mid-engined race cars initiated by Cooper F1 racing cars of the late 50s and early 60s, although Jaguar’s designer Malcolm Sayer claims he examined the possibility in 1953.

The car was ready for testing in 1966, but by this time, Ford had introduced their 7.0 litre GT40, Ferrari had come out fighting, and Porsche was having success with their Porsche 917.

And in any event, in 1966, the Le Mans racing regulations were changed; Prototypes had a limit of 3 litres; if you wanted to race a car above 3 litres, a manufacturer had to sell fifty production cars (later reduced to 25). Nonetheless, the XJ13 failed on both counts.

Initially, Jaguar felt the XJ13 would be ready in time for the 1965 Le Mans race; in practice, the project got underway in June 1965, leaving little more than two weeks before the race.

Jaguar eventually completed the car in March 1966. Then it was stopped dead by William Lyons, aka ‘Mr Jagua’, who wouldn’t even allow the car to be driven within the curtilage of Jaguar’s factory site.

There was a feeling that Mr Jaguar had forbidden any development or mention of the XJ13 as it may negatively impact the subsequently announced merger with the British Motor Corporation.