The Jaguar XJ13 was a mid-engined prototype first mooted in 1960 with a view to competing at Le Mans.
Construction began in 1965, with the first car running in 1966, however the founder of Jaguar, Sir William Lyons, was concerned that buyers of the then new E-Type might be put off their purchases by the prospect of a new mid engined 5.0 litre V12, so he instructed his team not to test the car.
However, the temptation to test the gorgeous Malcolm Sayer designed aluminium bodied rocket was too much for chief engineer Bill Heynes. He arranged for test driver Norman Dewis to give it a run at the MIRA proving ground. Dewis kept his right foot planted and the Jag powered to an impressive 175mph (280kph) top speed and set a new lap record of 161 mph (259kmh). Lyons, however, was unimpressed with Heyes defying him and he was summoned to explain his actions.
Heyes was passionate about the project and managed to convince his boss to test the car on weekends to see how far it could be developed. Sadly by this time Ford had the GT40 working well, management had other priorities and the car had too many shortcomings, so it was put back into storage.
However on January 20 1971 the car was taken back to MIRA for a film shoot again with Norman Dewis at the wheel. Dewis was up to 140mph on the high banking when a wheel collapsed sending the car end over end in a heavy crash. The car was wrecked but Norman walked away.
Two years later, instead of the car being scrapped like so many unraced prototypes, the car was rebuilt and included in the Jaguar Heritage Trust collection.
The car now appears at some of the world’s best historic racing festivals. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful cars ever conceived and you have to wonder, had all the stars been aligned, what impact it may have had.
Check out this interview with Norman Dewis