Concepts and Prototypes : Bertone’s Jaguar proposals

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.

The BMW-like Jaguar FT (Ferruccio Tarchini) was penned by Marcello Gandini and built on a Jaguar 3.8 S-Type chassis. Dating from 1966, it revived the spirit – if not the style – of the previous decade's XK150-based Bertone Jaguar coupé.
The BMW-like Jaguar FT (Ferruccio Tarchini) was penned by Marcello Gandini and built on a Jaguar 3.8 S-Type chassis. Dating from 1966, it revived the spirit – if not the style – of the previous decade’s XK150-based Bertone Jaguar coupé

1966 Jaguar FT Gallery


1967 Jaguar Pirana

This extravagant E-Type-based proposal was sponsored by the Daily Telegraph, and appeared at the Earl's Court Motor Show in 1967, but was not taken up by Jaguar. It emergered a few years later, in mildly modified form, as the Lamborghini Espada.
This extravagant E-type-based proposal was sponsored by the Daily Telegraph, and appeared at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1967, but the design was not taken up by Jaguar as a production model. It emerged a few years later, in mildly modified form, as the Lamborghini Espada

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


Project XJ40

Bertone's submission for the new Jaguar saloon was probably the best of the three proposals put forward by the Italian designers (Pininfarina and Ital Design being the others). Certain elements of the final car can be seen in this mid-1974 study.
Bertone’s submission for the new Jaguar saloon was probably the best of the three proposals put forward by the Italian designers (Pininfarina and Ital Design being the others). Certain elements of the final car can be seen in this mid-1974 study
This is Bertone's second submission for the Project XJ40, dating from 1976. Again, although it was rejected, it appears to have had an undeniable influence on the style of the final car.
This is Bertone’s second submission for the Project XJ40, dating from 1976. Again, although it was rejected, it appears to have had an undeniable influence on the style of the final car

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.

Not deterred the previous rebuffs, Bertone presented a further Jaguar proposal in 1977. The Ascot was based on the Jaguar XJ-S, and borrowed heavily fromthe style of Bertone's Ferrari-based 308GT Rainbow from the previous year.
Not deterred the previous rebuffs, Bertone presented a further Jaguar proposal in 1977. The Ascot was based on the Jaguar XJ-S, and borrowed heavily from the style of Bertone’s Ferrari-based 308GT Rainbow from the previous year

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.

2011 Bertone B99 gallery

Keith Adams

15 Comments

  1. I remember driving this car in 73/74 when it was modified to include two rear seats (very much a plus 2) and from manual to automatic. It was also repainted in Polaris silver (I think a BMW colour). From the recent photographs and Ebay description last year, it looks like it has been converted back to manual.

    At 18 years old at the time, it was quite something to drive a totally unique car down the local high street!

  2. And, now we know from where came the idea for the wood “door cards”, used in the current XJ saloon!!

    . . . the BEAUTIFUL . . . “2011 Bertone Jaguar B99” !!

  3. Not taken by the rest of it, but I like the front of the B99, as it manages to look modern, but still Jaguarish

    A shame that these independent Italian styling houses barely exist now

  4. The B99 would be an excellent modern Jaguar – distinctive, up to date and with enough of the brand heritage to make it faithful. Very desirable luxury saloon.

    Unlike the pile of tat they actually released – the XE.

  5. The B99, should have been given the Daimler Grill, and launched as it was. Let Callum ruin Jaguar, with his boring XJ (Volvo 850 front, Citroen C6 rear).

  6. The 1977 Bertone Ascot looks like something out of Thunderbirds. It would’ve dated very quickly – probably by 1978.

    • @ KC, the Ascot looks like something Lamborghini would make in the early seventies and would be as relevant as glam rock by the late seventies and looks too Italian for a Jaguar. My favourite would be the B99 that looks very much a Jaguar saloon and nicer than the XE,

      • The Ascot could have been a concept for the Lotus Esprit, but then again there were a few sharp edged sports car designs in the mid 1970s.

        The wheelbase looks a little small for my liking, messing up the looks of the rear end, but the front half looks fine.

        The XJ40 looks like a 1970s Maserati in style, & the Pirana could be a Mk3 Ford Capri based Espada kit car!

  7. The Jaguar Pirana looks very like one of the cars from the TV series UFO. (was based on Ford Zephyr MKIV floorpan). The B99 concept looks better than the actual XE does. In fact the XE is very rare and easily mistaken for the XF.

    • It doesn’t really you know. Next time they’re showing UFO on tv check it out. It’s pretty much identical to the Espada though.

  8. The 2011 B99 suggests what Jaguars may have evolved to look like had they not gone down the Aston (Ford?) fastback route. Question is if it would have found better traction than the XE,XF and XJ found in a global market that likes its premium cars to come from Germany?

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