Since not all old cars have arrived on our streets, we invite you to discover them regularly. Appointment for this on the 3rd Sunday of the month (the others are there). Once is not custom, we approach prototypes linked to the same manufacturer twice in a row. Indeed, it’s difficult to hide a certain affinity between the XJ Spider and the cars that interest us today: the Jaguar XJ41 and XJ42.
A true replacement for the Type E
As we mentioned in the previous installment, the XJ-S does not have the expected success, being in every way, or almost, different from its predecessor. The project proposed by Pininfarina inspires the Jaguar teams to produce a model that is closer in spirit to the E-Type while being a modern Jaguar.
In 1980, the design and engineering teams finally got the green light. Don’t forget Jaguar was an integral part of British Leyland at the time which explains this insane indolence, the XJ-S has been a flop for 5 years but we are just starting to work on a model that customers will love will rather seduce … geniuses!
The reasons are primarily political, the change of directors at le félin has given the brand a certain independence and restarted all the projects that had been put on hold, starting with the XJ40, which has been on hold since 1973! Most importantly, the new helmsman wants to relaunch the brand in the US, so we need something a little sexier in the catalog and we know where to look.
The XJ41 and XJ42 expand the range
The idea is simple. The new car will come in two versions. On one side the coupé (XJ41) and on the other side a convertible (XJ42) joins the Jaguar range and is inserted between the XJ40 and the XJ-S. In addition, the new duo will draw on the technical elements of the sedan to limit costs. The car will also welcome Coventry’s new straight-six, the AJ6 (which will nevertheless find its way under the bonnet of the XJ-S in 1983), further reinforcing its Type E allegiance.
Development is going well. In July 1982, the XJ41/XJ42 duo entered the brand’s product plan. From 1983 the first models were presented to customer panels to refine the design of the new product which would be called the Jaguar Type F when it was launched.
The wind turns
Of course, things don’t go as planned. The XJ40 falls behind, with the domino effect delaying the launch of the XJ41 and XJ42. The market launch date ranges from 1986 to the end of 1988. To top it off, the competition begins to multiply with powerful models.
The XJ41 and XJ42 are therefore slipping towards the 4.0-litre version, and a twin-turbo version is also being considered, as is all-wheel drive. The whole thing results in a nice overweight grip that calls for a serious suspension overhaul. Suddenly the car slipping under the XJ-S is wider while proving less roomy.
Worse, the XJ-S finally found a clientele with the arrival of the 6-cylinder and the new open and convertible bodies. The urgency for a new model is fading and with the consequent increase in weight over the course of development, the high performance versions are indeed becoming…the base model. We’re a long way from the direct replacement of the type, aren’t we?
The project continues to make good progress. Jaguar even commissioned Karmann to design three prototypes (a coupe, a targa coupe and the convertible) in 1988 to enable the final testing and design of the machine tools needed to get the XJ41 into production (the one hatchback received and gave up the simple trunk). and XJ42.
Ford enters the scene
Development is now literally and figuratively in full swing. A bi-turbo XJ41 Targa would even have exceeded 270 km / h in the test on the Nardo circuit, if we are to believe CAR Magazine back then. Today we know that the future Type F cannot be expected before the mid-1990s, but the press is unanimously enthusiastic about the new model.
But now a small grain of sand slips into the gears again. In late 1989, Ford acquired Jaguar. As usual, the Dearborn brand begins by examining the entire organization. So she pokes her nose into the XJ4/XJ42 project, and there… it’s the drama.
With the 400kg taken in 7 years of development, the beast is approaching 1900kg on the scales, ruining any opportunity to position yourself as an athlete. Ultimately, it could just replace the XJ-S in a couple of years. However, the projections announce further delays, the car would be ready at the same time as the replacement of the XJ40, otherwise more priority for the brand.
Not even 6 months after the acquisition, Ford’s auditors threw the project overboard. THE car is too big, too heavy, not Jaguar enough in design. It even seems that the new director of Jaguar, installed by Ford, would have interrupted the presentation of the project by saying: “We will not make this car as it is, go back to the drawing board.”
A surprising pedigree
At the same time, TWR was one of Jaguar’s privileged technical partners. After hearing the project had been abandoned, Tom Walkinshaw, not wanting to lose his cow to… sorry, his favorite customer, commissioned his chief designer, Ian Callum, to design a convincing replacement for the XJ-S. The latter knew the XJ41 and brought it up to date in record time.
Once the model, named XJR XX, was produced, Walkinshaw invited Jaguar’s management to its Bloxham factory. The car was enthusiastically received, but Tom Walkinshaw was forcing his customers’ hands a little too much. He not only tells them that he will bill them for the design of the prototype, but also states that the car cannot be made compliant for the American market.
If Jaguar agrees to pay the bill, the project is rejected. Walkinshaw will shove it into a corner before being hauled out and billed again a couple of weeks later, this time to… Ford to strengthen the brand.
With a few expertly placed knife strokes, the XJR XX has become…DB7. This means that for the first time in this column, a concept knows this, but since it’s not the same brand, it counts!
The Jaguar XJ41 nowadays
The XJ41 had two clay models and two prototypes. For its part, the XJ42 had a model and a prototype. The models were abandoned for a few years in the early 2000s before being destroyed.
Of the three prototypes, the XJ41 with black targa top and the XJ42 are part of the Jaguar Heritage Trust collection, the third, the development of the XJ41 coupe, appears to have been destroyed.
Photo credits: AROnline, Evo, Drive-My, Jag-Lovers