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The XJ41 and how it never happened

XJ41: THE AGONY and the ecstacy   
[Part 1] 

Paul Skilleter tells the official story of this beautiful 1980s 170mph Jaguar sports car, the so called 'F' Type. It never made it to production but helped teach Jaguar the lessons it needed to produce the highly successful XK8

The start of it all: this mural, dated June 1980 and presented to the BL board, shows Keith Helfet's first concepts of the intended 'E' type successor. Even this early is the theme of targa (XJ41) and convertible (XJ42) body styles; top illustration shows the targa's roof panel in place
August 1980 but probably completed around June. Earlier Jaguars in the background show that the new car should directly continue the traditional Jaguar sports car heritage. Many 'E' type-inspired features are evident, while the oval door handles always remained - and made their debut, with other details, on XJ220 eight years later! This was one of the illustrations shown to Michael Edwardes in 1980, helping to secure his go-ahead for the project

Part 1: Putting on the style; or, the 'E' type reborn

It all seemed so logical in 1980. A sports car offshoot of Jaguar's next mainstream saloon, a svelte two-seater which would become the new 'E' type. It would spring from the all-new XJ40 then being finalised at Browns Lane.

The idea appeared economically and strategically sound; after all, nearly every previous Jaguar sports car had evolved from a saloon - the pre-war 100 from the 2.5 litre, the XK series from the Mk VII. Even the 'E' type had borrowed powertrain and rear suspension from the big four-door Jaguar of its era, the Mk X, while the XJ6 had directly given birth to the XJ-S.

Yet ten whole years later, after a major engineering re-think, the first production car was still many months, even years, away and the whole project had become riddled with doubt and division. How did this eminently sensible idea - a true Jaguar sports car, a worthy successor to the 'E' type - fall apart so badly that in March 1990, after many millions of pounds had been spent, Jaguar decided to cancel it?

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