The Jaguar XJ41/42 – How A Jaguar Managed to Change Its Spots

The Jaguar XJ41 /42 project was intended to be the replacement for the E-Type. The production car would be named F-Type and would be a more focused sports car than the comfy “grand tourer” XJS.

Taking cues from the 1978 Pininfarina XJSpider concept car, Keith Helfet would design the F-Type. The range would contain a Coupe/Targa (XJ41) and a convertible (XJ42). Sir William Lyons had retired from Jaguar, but the team took the XJ41 for his approval. Apparently Lyons was fond of Helfet’s work and deemed it worthy of the badge.

Keith Helfet and Sir William Lyons discuss the XJ41

Almost a decade later, the XJ41/42 project was bloated with safety legislation and unnecessary complications. A separate dashboard for right and left hand drive cars was decided on, rather than a modular one that could be adapted for both. The design team opted for a big hatched boot rather than the simpler, smaller boot. As the car got bigger and heavier, the engine was changed to a twin turbo straight six with four wheel drive.

While it was apparently very fast with the new engine (easily past 170mph at Nardo) the 1800kg the XJ41 wasn’t the sports car Jaguar intended to be.

Jaguar XJ41 outside Wappenbury Hall –
Note: C pillar, Door handle and swage line echoes the XJ220

When Ford took over Jaguar in 1999 projects were reviewed. The expensive and delayed XJ 41/42 project came under close scrutiny. The XJ41 had turned from a small lightweight sports car into another XJS.

Employees booked a lot of overtime against the project so Ford put it on hold. Jaguar was in a precarious financial situation, so had no choice but to go along with Ford’s recommendation.

The Jaguar XJ42 at British Heritage Museum
Jaguar XJ42 – The car is left hand drive so those prominent bumpers are probably US spec

Another Chance?

Tom Walkinshaw at Jaguarsport (part TWR part Jaguar owned sub company) saw an opportunity with the XJ41 and attempted to get Peter Stevens to re-design it. While this didn’t come to fruition due to Steven’s workload, Walkinshaw contacted Ian Callum instead. The XJ41 was redesigned and presented to Jaguar. The XJ41 was turned down again, due to the company’s precarious financial position.

The Jaguar Changes Its Spots

When Ford started looking at building a new Aston Martin, the XJ41 project seemed to be the obvious contender. Ian Callum’s redesigned XJ41 became Aston Martin’s new DB7.

Revealed at the Geneva show in 1993, the Aston Martin DB7 received a rapturous reception. The complicated bloodline of the DB7 could be traced right back to a car intended to replace the legendary E-Type. The DB7 was launched in 1994 and its strong sales enabled Aston Martin to grow as a brand under Ford.

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