Bertone Jaguar Concepts: Coventry’s Italian restyle
British Leyland only ever produced one Bertone-designed model, the Italian-built Innocenti Mini of 1974. However, Bertone had previously produced a couple of Jaguar-based proposals which were not taken up by the company.
It then followed up with the supremely wedgy Ascot in 1977 before turning its attention to more mainstream cars – but Bertone and Jaguar made a welcome return to the motor show scene in 2011 at Geneva. It’s interesting how Bertone started out wanting to make Jaguar more forward-looking before settling on trying to take it back to retro.
1966 Bertone Jaguar FT
In 1966, the Italian Jaguar importer Ferruccio Tarchini commissioned Bertone to build a four-seater coupé for its 1966 Geneva Motor Show stand. Initially, it was planned to distribute this car as a limited production model, but the plan soon fell through after a single car was made. The FT (for Ferruccio Tarchini) pretty much sunk without a trace – until Albion Motorcars in Belgium put one up for sale.
The original Geneva show car is still in the hands of the Tarchini family, and the car on offer was the only ‘series’ car – having been built on a Jaguar 420 chassis and sold to a customer in Spain in 1967. The car remained there until recently, when the car was rediscovered in the corner of a garage.
1966 Jaguar FT Gallery
1967 Jaguar Pirana
It was never intended for production, being manufactured exclusively as a concept for display at the 1967 Earls Court Motor Show. The car was conceived by the Daily Telegraph, which approached Bertone and Jaguar with the idea of building a new concept car – the miracle is that it happened at all.
The result was the Bertone Pirana, a fastback two-seater with striking styling that would find its way into the Lamborghini Espada. It was heavier than the Jaguar E-type, which was no surprise, but it had some innovative features – Triplex supplied special Sundym glass which featured a thick vinyl interlayer which increased flexibility and resistance to penetration, with both the windscreen and rear window (which was hinged at the top to give access to the luggage space) being heated by wires laid in the interlayer.
1967 Bertone Pirana gallery
1977 Jaguar Ascot
The Ascot was based on the Jaguar XJ-S, and was unveiled at the Turin Motor Show in 1977. The Ascot featured a full-width grille with the Jaguar leaper at its centre. A lower lip spoiler formed a surface that ran around the front of the car and over each angular front wheelarch.
The rear arches were cut off in signature Gandini style but, unlike the XJ-S it was based upon, the Ascot featured hand-made aluminum body panels, rather than steel, making it lighter. The concept also used a hatchback, like an E-type.
The interior was a contemporary mix of tan leather and brown suede, including neat satchel-inspired storage in each door card. The gauge pack, some auxiliary dials and the T-shaped gear selector are all borrowed from the XJ-S.
1977 Bertone Ascot concept gallery
2011 Bertone Jaguar B99
Bertone hoped to catapult the leaping cat back to the head of the 2011 Geneva Motor Show news agenda with its B99 concept. At first glance, the new car looks to have thrown out the post-retro styling scheme of the XF and XJ, harking back to the late 20th century, and the X350.
It had heavy XJC styling overtones, the B99 is 4.5m long, hinting at a replacement for the X-Type, from the Italian perspective. Another surprising aspect is that the B99 – so-called because it celebrated the 99th Anniversary of the creation of the Italian styling house – was styled with direction from Ian Callum and input from ex-Rover Designer, Adrian Griffiths.