This is the Jaguar Project 7, a design study based on the F-type convertible that will run at this weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
As well as evoking the spirit of the Jaguar D-type and Jaguar’s Le Mans history, the Project 7 gives a further indication that Jaguar is preparing to launch an extreme version of the F-type. The latest reports suggest that the new hardcore F-type will get at least 650bhp and, potentially, four-wheel drive.
The Project 7, named in homage to Jaguar’s seven Le Mans wins, is billed as a one-off design study created at the behest of design director Ian Callum. He said: “Project 7 has the kind of racing-inspired form that designers dream about. It has one purpose: to be driven fast and enjoyed. Jaguar sports cars are known for exceptional performance and clean design. Project 7 captures that spirit in its purest form.”
His vision has been backed by Jaguar’s engineering team, which has given the car a 542bhp version of Jaguar’s 5.0-litre supercharged engine, with similar torque numbers, as found in the Jaguar XJR and XKR-S. That’s 54bhp more than the range-topping F-type V8 S.
It also sits 10mm lower than a standard F-type, has retuned springs and dampers and features a free-flow exhaust system with a ceramic finish. Jaguar claims a 0-100kph time of 4.1sec and a top speed of 186 mph.
The Project 7 will be driven exclusively by Jaguar’s lead development driver, Mike Cross, throughout the Festival of Speed. He said: “Project 7 has given us the opportunity to go a little bit further. It is visceral in every sense — in its response, its sound and its sheer performance.”
Key exterior changes include a D-type-inspired fairing behind the driver’s head, a carbonfibre front splitter, side skirts, rear diffuser, fixed rear wing, a lowered windscreen and a restyled front bumper.
The roof structure has been completely removed and a roll hoop installed. Inside, it has a single racing seat and harness, a helmet holder and a bespoke trim design. The blue paint scheme evokes the colour of the Jaguar D-types that won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1956 and 1957.
The Project 7 was created to win headlines for Jaguar at the Festival of Speed, which it regards as its home motor show and which attracts international interest on a par with other major motor shows. Although a Jaguar spokesman denied it, rumours have also persisted that Jaguar wanted to ensure that its F-type remained in the limelight at the festival, despite the headline event being the 50th anniversary of Porsche’s 911.
The creation of the Project 7 also signals Jaguar’s intention to create an F-type R-S GT to sit as the flagship model in its range. The project, which would most likely be based on the forthcoming F-type coupé, is said to have found favour in the wake of the cancellation of the Jaguar C-X75 hypercar programme, particularly as it feeds directly back into the promotion of a mainstream model in the company’s range.
The hot F-type is likely to reach production in 2015. It is expected to be powered by the same supercharged V8 as used in the Project 7 car, albeit in a higher state of tune.
Brand boss Adrian Hallmark has previously admitted that engineers have already experimented with higher-output versions of the engine, but they have struggled to get the additional power down on the road. As a result, Jaguar is said to be weighing up the use of a four-wheel drive system on the hardcore new F-type variant.
In the build-up to the launch of the F-type GT, Jaguar is also expected to develop more hard-edged versions of both the coupé and convertible. Insiders have confirmed that the company plans to market the R, R-S and GT brands more aggressively in future.
R models will be billed as sporting versions of mainstream models, R-S cars will be extreme performance vehicles and GT variants will be limited-edition, track-focused specials.
The Jaguar D-Type was produced between 1954 and 1957 in extremely limited numbers and won Le Mans in 1955, 1956 and 1957. It is famed for being designed under the stewardship of ex-Bristol Aeroplane Company luminary Malcolm Sayer, using aeronautical technology, a rarity at the time.
Sayer insisted on a minimal frontal area, reworked the flow of air under the body and produced the iconic elliptical cockpit shape to reduce drag. Such was the car’s top speed that a rear-mounted fin had to be added behind the driver’s head to provide extra stability, most notably on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. For the 1955 race, the headrest fairing and aerodynamic fin were combined for the first time, creating a single unit that both smoothed the aerodynamics further and saved weight.
The timing of the Project 7’s launch also harks back to the lightweight Jaguar E-type’s unveiling in 1963, meaning that it shares its 50th anniversary with the Porsche 911. The E-type was also famous for being constructed of riveted aluminium, drawing another neat parallel with the new F-type.