The most beautiful car ever built

I usually don’t write about books I read, or even reviews. So, this is a rare occasion, but it’s also a type of book that I only rarely read. Usually I just give ratings on goodreads. This book is about the Jaguar XJ13.  Now, beauty is a matter of taste, so you’re free to disagree, but I for myself have never seen a more beautiful car than the Jaguar XJ13. It was designed by Malcolm Sayer who also designed the iconic E-Type, the successful racing C- and D-Types as well as (my) XJS.

The XJ13 was designed to win the 24 hours race in Le Mans, to carry on with the victories Jaguar had in the fifties. As Jaguar were too hesitant at the time of development and as a consequence of a change in the rules for the Le Mans race, the car never took part in an actual race. Nevertheless it held a lap record for the MIRA test track for 30 years. Only ever one was built and it had a horrible crash while filming for an advertisement. The car was later rebuilt to it’s full beauty. It now belongs to the Jaguar heritage trust, and not even an arab sheikh bidding seven million british pounds could buy it.

As I was never involved in the design or engineering process of neither a car nor an engine, it was totally exciting and interesting to learn how all these processes work. Or should I say worked fifty years ago? No point in listing all the details here, but the book has full coverage of the engine design and testing as well of the body design as well as the testing of the car itself on the test track as well as the race track.

The stuff is especially interesting, as the engine that was developed for XJ13 was Jaguar’s first V12, and a predecessor of the engine that powers my XJS.

At the end of the book there is a short discussion of the die cast models available. By chance I found out that the same model, I own is now on ebay for four times of what I payed ten years ago. Now, I’m still looking for a 1:18 model of the C-X75.

The most memorable quote from the book is when Malcolm Sayer describes how he designed the car to not being negatively influenced by the airflow. No lift, no pushing down and no effects from wind from the side. The wings at the tail of some other cars were unacceptable for him. He described them as a kludge to fix design mistakes. Noone at Jaguar understood how he calculated the shapes. Instead or or in addition to drawings he also calculated books full of numbers. From the descriptions given, it’s hard to tell if his proceedings would today be described as parametric surfaces. So, in a way he performed CAD without a computer.

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