Jaguar’s great lost racer is reborn after 53 years

| 23 Jul 2019
Classic & Sports Car – Jaguar’s great lost racer is reborn after 53 years

The Jaguar XJ13 holds a special place in Big Cat history: a mid-engined prototype designed to return the marque to Le Mans glory in the 1960s, it fell victim to bad timing and bad luck and never had its day in the sun.

But now, more than 50 years later, it’s back – sort of – in the form of the Ecurie Ecosse LM69.

The limited-edition racer will be produced to the tune of just 25 examples, handbuilt by craftsmen in the West Midlands, and it’s available to order now. 

And while the LM69 isn’t an exact replica of the original, it’s certainly the closest most of us will ever get to driving one of Jaguar’s lost classics…

Classic & Sports Car – Jaguar’s great lost racer is reborn after 53 years
The XJ13 was never raced competitively

The XJ13’s story began in 1960, when the idea for a new mid-engined endurance-racing Jaguar was first mooted, but work on the project didn’t officially start until 1965.

Still, with a shapely aerodynamic body designed by the great Malcolm Sayer – the man behind the C-type, D-type and E-type – and a 5-litre V12 engine under the bonnet, it looked well placed to challenge the dominant Ferraris at La Sarthe. 

Or at least it might have done so had it ever competed.

Unfortunately, Jaguar’s priorities lay elsewhere in the mid-’60s and the development of a new saloon car that would eventually become the XJ6 was deemed more important. As a result, the prototype wasn’t finally finished until March 1966.

By that time, the racing world had moved on, and extensive testing by ace drivers David Hobbs and Richard Attwood at MIRA established that it was well off the pace set by the likes of the new Ford GT40. The project first stalled and was then shelved.  

Classic & Sports Car – Jaguar’s great lost racer is reborn after 53 years
Classic & Sports Car – Jaguar’s great lost racer is reborn after 53 years
Classic & Sports Car – Jaguar’s great lost racer is reborn after 53 years
Clockwise from top: Norman Dewis crashed in the XJ13 in 1971; rebuilt and back on track in more recent years

A few years later, in 1971, the XJ13 came out for the launch of the Series 3 E-type. Norman Dewis was tasked with driving it for a fast cornering shot for a promotional film. He lost control when a rear wheel broke, with the resulting crash almost destroying the car, although thankfully leaving Dewis uninjured.

Later rebuilt to an identical specification, it has been on display at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon ever since.

The LM69 is more of a tribute to the XJ13 than a recreation

So what of the new car? Well, it’s based on the XJ13 but with some significant differences.

When Ecurie Ecosse decided to remake it, they did so with the brief of ‘what would the XJ13 have been like had it been recovered from storage and prepared to race at the 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours?’

As a result, it adheres to the regulation of 1969, not those that the original was actually built to. It’s lighter than the prototype, and uses composite materials and “experimental aerodynamic devices”. The wheels and tyres are also wider, and there’s an improved 4-cam 5.3-litre V12 engine inside it.

We don’t have performance details for the new car, but the XJ13’s 5-litre engine produced 502bhp and was good for 161mph. And if that’s not enough for you, the LM69 can also be specced with an upgraded 7.3-litre version of the same engine.

Only 25 will be produced, in keeping with the 1969 FIA homologation requirements and “to maintain its exclusivity” – and as you might expect, that exclusivity will come with a hefty price tag, thought to be in the region of £750,000.

Interested in seeing it in person? The LM69 will be officially launched at the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace, London on 6-8 September 2019. 

Images: LAT/Motorsport Images, Jaguar Heritage, Ecurie Ecosse


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