Jaguar is best known for its slinky design – a line-up distinguished by sleek saloons and sports cars. So what happens when Bertone has a go at redefining the big cat?
Keith Adams runs though the Italian styling house’s concepts and prototypes between 1966 and 2011.
Bertone and Jaguar: When Coventry collides with Italy
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 wedge-like 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 to note how Bertone started out wanting to make Jaguar more forward-looking before settling on trying to take it back to retro.
Here, then, is the low-down on Bertone’s Jaguar concept cars…
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 in addition to the original prototype. The FT (for Ferruccio Tarchini) pretty much sunk without a trace – until Albion Motorcars in Belgium put the customer car up for sale in 2012.
The original Geneva show car remained in the hands of the Tarchini family until 2014, when it was sold as a non-runner by Bonhams for €59,800 on behalf of Georgio Tarchini’s son.
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 it was based upon, which was no surprise, but it had some innovative features – Triplex supplied special Sundym glass which reduced interior heat.
The car was originally registered TGF 1F and, after being shown in London, it made further appearances in New York and Montreal. The car was later converted to a 2+2 and the transmission changed from manual to automatic.
It was originally sold by Sotheby’s in May 1968 for an undisclosed sum while being insured for £20,000, and remained in the same hands until 2011. In 2019, it was then sold by RM Sotheby’s in Monterey for $324,000.
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 Jaguar 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 was a hybrid, powered by a 1.4-litre petrol engine, plus a pair of 201bhp electric motors driving each of the rear wheels. The combined power output was 570bhp, with an estimated CO2 emissions output of 30g/km and a claimed 60-mile battery-only range.
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.