The Jaguar XK180

Another Concept Car You Can’t Buy (Part 1)

The Jaguar XK180 concept (1999) is the first in our series about Jaguar’s habit of creating some really desirable concept cars they never put into production. Designed by Keith Helfet, the designer of the XJ220 and XK41/42. Project XKD was a sports car based on a shortened XK8 platform. The XK180 was built to celebrate 50 years of the XK sports cars.

Jaguar XK180 alongside the XJ220
The XJ220 and XK180 (Right)

Jaguar XK180 Never To Be Sold

Nick Scheele the chairman and Managing Director of Jaguar unveiled the XK180 at the Paris Salon in 1998. Scheele explained that while the XK180 was built to celebrate 50 years of the XK cars, it would not be sold. The technology on the car, like the large brakes, supercharged engine, alloy wheels and suspension components would be used on future Jaguars.

“We really built it to showcase the (capabilities of) new special vehicle operations department”

Nick Scheele – Jaguar Managing Director

While a sensational looking car, Jaguar already had the more mainstream XK8 sports car range. The prospect of an expensive limited edition sports car might have worried Ford, after the issues around the XJ220. There were still a few XJ220’s on delivery mileage in 1998, so I’m sure Ford didn’t want to add to this exotic but costly collection.

The XK180

A Working Concept Car

It’s interesting that Scheele said the car would never be built, because the concept car itself was fully functioning (see video below). Usually a concept car it just that, no real substance beneath what you can see. Jaguar’s Special Vehicles Operations (SVO) department had built two XK180s that both worked. I wonder if the XK180 was intended for production after all?

The XK180 used the floor pan from the XK8 sports car, with 20cm trimmed from the front and rear overhangs and about 13cm from the wheelbase. The engine and gearbox was from the XK8, the engine was the supercharged 4 litre. The gearbox was modified with up and down gearshift buttons. The aluminium bodywork was done by Abbey Panels, a company which did the coachwork on the 1950s C and D type racers, and later the XJ13.

The XK180 design clearly takes some of the cues from the old XJ13 and D-Type. The curved windscreen and bonnet louvres in particular mirror that of the XJ13.

The taut lines look timeless and elegant, a fitting 50th anniversary for the XK cars. The Jaguar XK180 would later be developed into the first F-Type project. More can be found on the XK180 on the Jaguar Heritage site.

Jaguar XK180
Engine:4000cc V8 Supercharged
Top Speed:180+ mph
Price when new:N/A

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