Concepts and prototypes : Jaguar XJ-S

Replacing the legendary E-type was never going to be easy for Jaguar – and radical thinking was going to be needed. Ian Nicholls charts the development of the prototypes which helped shape Jaguar’s brilliant 1970s GT, Projects XJ-21 and XJ-27.


Initial thoughts: the XJ21 project

This car has a different nose, but which came first?
This car has a different nose, but which came first?

Above are Malcolm Sayer's designs for an XJ21 roadster and coupe.
Above are Malcolm Sayer’s designs for an XJ21 roadster and coupe

The above images are models of what appears to be XJ21 proposals.
The above images are models of what appears to be XJ21 proposals

Moving on: XJ27

With his impending retirement at the age of 70, Sir William Lyons was left to set up a Jaguar styling department. Here is an early effort at an XJ saloon based GT for the XJ27 project penned by Lyons' men, Or this could be the XJ 3-litre mentioned earlier?
With his impending retirement at the age of 70, Sir William Lyons was left to set up a Jaguar styling department. Here is an early effort at an XJ saloon based GT for the XJ27 project penned by Lyons’ men, or this could be the XJ 3-litre mentioned earlier?
An XJ27 styling model.
An XJ27 styling model
XJ27 clay model showing two different front-end treatments. The left hand one is quite close to that of the production XJ-S.
XJ27 clay model showing two different front-end treatments. The left-hand one is quite close to that of the production XJ-S
Clay model or running prototype ? The number plate is deceiving! According to one source the first prototype was produced in 1969.
Clay model or running prototype? The number plate is deceiving! According to one source the first prototype was produced in 1969
A rear view, but is it the same car? Note the E-type badging and reference to the 4.2-litre XK engine, a powerplant the production XJ-S never used, although it was at one stage proposed and running prototypes were built. However the XK engine's extra height required a different bonnet shape and the project was abandoned.
A rear view, but is it the same car? Note the E-type badging and reference to the 4.2-litre XK engine, a powerplant the production XJ-S never used, although it was at one stage proposed and running prototypes were built. However, the XK engine’s extra height required a different bonnet shape and the project was abandoned
Apart from minor details, this prototype is close to the production XJ-S announced in September 1975. The styling of the XJ-S was frozen in 1972.
Apart from minor details, this prototype is close to the production XJ-S announced in September 1975. The styling of the XJ-S was frozen in 1972
Keith Adams

6 Comments

  1. In the picture of “DKV915C”; what is lurking in the background, buried under tarps and other detritus? Would there still be an XJ21 clay around? Or just another nasal treatment of XJ27?

  2. The XJS was never intended as a replacement for the E Type, Jaguar intended a more “sports” focussed car to replace it and what became the XJS as a premium GT car.

    Following the Leyland takeover Jaguar plans were pulled in, both to save money but also realistically the resources did not exist to develop all these vehicles even if the money had. The XJS survived because it was based on the XJ so was relatively cheap to put into production.

    • The E Type was selling in penny numbers by the time it was cancelled, the energy crisis and the car’s age had hit sales badly, and Jaguar were struggling to sell the final year’s production. While the XJS never really took off until the HE engine and more stringent quality control after 1981, it was a much more modern design and more practical, as well as being a car that could genuinely reach over 150 mph.

  3. Missing from this article are designer Oliver Winterbottom’s concept designs for XJ21 (rebodied 2+2 E type) and XJ27. These can be found in his book ‘A Life in Car Design’ (pages 19-26) which gives an account of his career at Jaguar, Lotus and TVR amongst others.

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