Ecurie Ecosse Revives The Glorious Jaguar XJ13 With Sexy Tribute
A Le Mans winner that never was is back better than everby Michael Fira, on
Back in 1997, a Japanese collector offered $15.7 million (in today’s money) to buy the unique Jaguar XJ13. His offer, three times the asking price of a Ferrari 250 GTO at the time, was denied. Now, there’s something that looks almost like the XJ13 but performs better in every area. Welcome the Ecurie Ecosse LM69, the ultimate tribute to Jaguar’s first mid-engined car, the stillborn monster that should’ve intervened in the Ford vs. Ferrari war.
Under the baton of Frank Raymond ’Lofty’ England, Jaguar had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans an incredible five times throughout the ’50s with the Malcolm Sayer-penned C-Type and its successor, the D-Type but, then, Jaguar’s star in sports car endurance racing faded away as Ferrari took over as the dominant force. By the early ’60s, the Leaping Cat was still racing in long-distance events but on the nose of the elegant E-Type that was a production-based Grand Tourer, nowhere near a prototype that became a thing at Le Mans and elsewhere in endurance racing as Ferrari debuted the 250 P in 1963, the same year when Lola unleashed the Mk. 6 GT, the forefather (in some ways) of Ford’s original GT.
William Haynes, Jaguar’s Head of Engineering, had been toying around with the idea of building a mid-engined prototype since the dawn of the ’60s when he realized how effective a midship layout is in other forms of motorsport such as Formula 1. This idea was coupled with another one that’d been cooking in Jaguar’s ovens for quite a while - that of building a V-12 that would be used as a stressed member of the chassis. The end result was the Jaguar XJ13, a car that was outgunned almost right from the moment it was born and, as FISA banned big-engined prototypes at the end of ’67, it also had no place to race on the world stage. Now, Ecurie Ecosse, the historic Jaguar team that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Jaguar machinery in the ’50s, brought the XJ13 back to life or, rather, an XJ13 built to 1969 rules. Mark us intrigued!
The Ecurie Ecosse LM69 Is A Modern Race Car Built To 1969 Rules
Jaguar, like a fair few other luxury manufacturers, established its name and strengthened its credibility away from the busy streets of downtown London where you’d expect to see one of the brand’s exquisite sedans. While a feast for the eyes of onlookers and paradise on Earth for those lucky enough to ride in them, these production cars were a product of something else entirely. It’s a fact that they were never as praised in the early days nor was as much ink used to elaborately detail the engineering that saw them go and stop the way they did as was the case with their race-going counterparts that pioneered technologies that would, later on, trickle down to these sedans.
The C-Type, Jaguar's first purpose-built race car, was light, nimble, and, in its last competitive season, featured disc brakes by Dunlop - a first in racing at a time when F1 single-seaters still relied on drums for their stopping power.
With discs behind all four wheels, Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton famously won the 1953 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, beating in the process Ferrari’s finest: twice F1 World Champion Alberto Ascari and his team-mate Luigi Villoresi.
I’ll leave that story for another piece but suffice to say Rolt and Hamilton won aboard the No. 18 car, that’d previously been thrown out of the race by the ACO during practice, while nursing an almighty hangover which they brought upon themselves out of sheer desperation since they thought they weren’t going to race at all after what’d happened in practice.
The three other wins achieved with the finned D-Type are also worthy of their own writeups, even though the first one took place in sorrowful conditions as it came after Mercedes-Benz called it quits due to what's become known as the 1955 Le Mans Disaster.
The two other wins (back-to-back) were bagged not by Jaguar’s factory team but by Scotland’s very own Ecurie Ecosse (which translates to ’Scottish Team’ in French) with their Flag Blue Metallic-colored D’s. But, after that, there was a draught. As it happened, the draught would last all the way through to 1988 but the very team that brought Jaguar its last overall 24 Hours of Le Mans win in the ’Fabulous ’50s’ imagined a parallel timeline where Jaguar would return to Circuit de la Sarthe and compete again on equal footing with Ferrari, Porsche, Matra, and the rest of the juggernauts in 1969.
The plot is quite simple, as imagined by the Scots: in this alternate timeline, members of the team discover the unraced XJ13 prototype hidden under a tarp, unloved and, as-of-yet, unraced.
Somehow, they relieve Jaguar of the car and take it upon themselves to make it race-worthy again. The makeover process takes over two years and, by the time the car is done and able to hit the track again, it has received a new name and looks quite rather different. Cue the Ecurie Ecosse LM69.
The team, now owned by Alasdair McCaig, son of Hugh McCaig, who revived the legendary name back in the ’80s and went prototype racing right after, built one example of the Ecurie Ecosse LM69 to showcase its vision in full scale. This first prototype will not be for sale and, instead, it will hit the auction block sometime in the future. However, 25 other examples will be at a price ranging between $1 million and $1.25 million. Why 25? Well, it’s got to do with a conundrum in the FIA’s 1969 rulebook - Ecurie Ecosse followed this rulebook almost religiously in the building process of the LM69.
As you know, Ford and Ferrari battled at the sharp end of the field in the mid-to-late’ ’60s in long-distance racing, and both of these giants employed prototypes that were powered by large-capacity engines such as Ford’s 7.0-liter (427 cubic inch) V-8 that powered the Mk. 2 GT and the Mk. IV. Seeing how these prototypes were becoming exceedingly fast down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans (the Mk. IV could reach some 220 mph in 1967), the FISA and the ACO decided to stop the lunacy. Low-volume prototypes with big engines were banned for 1968 and, instead, if you wanted to build a prototype, you couldn’t cram an engine bigger than 3.0-liers in it. Ferrari cried foul and left altogether, and Ford followed suit.
But, in that rulebook, there was a bit of leeway for such prototypes to continue to race. Basically, the FISA argued that a prototype could be equipped with an engine bigger than 3.0-liters if 25 units of the said car were built. This trimmed the field of what would become the Sports 5.0-liter class down to just two contenders: Lola’s T70 Mk. 3 GT and Ford’s Mk. I GT40. Both of these cars had already been around since 1964/5 and, in the meantime, enough were built to meet these new requirements.
The XJ13 was fitted originally with a 5.3-liter, DOHC, naturally aspirated V-12 and, likewise, the Ecurie Ecosse LM69 features a 5.0-liter behemoth behind the (now closed) cockpit.
That’s why 25 will be built because, as per ’69 rules, the LM69 would only be able to compete in the Sports 5.0-liter class. Ecurie Ecosse says that the car has been built using only technology that was available in 1969, but this is a bit of a stretch as the body itself is made out of composite materials while the original XJ13 sported riveted aluminum panels. Beyond this "small" detail, everything is as period-correct as possible. The engine is fitted with vintage distributors and mechanical injection (programmable injection will be an option). The gearbox is a five-speed manual and, if the owner wants to, it could be mated to a 7.0-liter V-12, a bored and stroked version of the 5.0-liter unit. The original XJ13 put out 502 horsepower and 381 pound-feet of torque allowing for a top speed of 177 mph.
|Horsepower||502 HP @ 7,600 RPM|
|Torque||381 lb-ft @ 6,300 RPM|
|Top Speed||177 mph|
The LM69, though, should be quicker thanks to "experimental aerodynamic devices," as Ecurie Ecosse puts it - namely that wing between the curvaceous rear fenders. We’ll only be allowed to take a look at the full spec sheet in September when the car is officially unveiled at the Hampton Court Palace International Concours of Elegance in London from between September 6-8.
The Genesis Of The 1966 Jaguar XJ13
Jaguar started racing the E-Type straight out of the box, bringing it to Le Mans as early as 1962.
However, soon enough, there emerged the desire for more as the British company sought to reclaim its spot at the top of the sports car racing pile. Bill Heynes, Jaguar’s Technical Director since Day 1 and also the man behind the XK series of engines, toyed with the prospect of a new ’GT prototype’ as early as 1963 but it wasn’t until 1965 that building started on the first example of this new car.
The main hurdle was the engine as Jaguar, famous for its ferocious inline-sixes, wanted to move up the ladder and come forth with a V-12, something that Ferrari was already intimately acquainted with but Jaguar far less so. But Heynes tasked Claude Baily to make something work, and he did just that by basically joining a pair of XK6 engines on a common crankshaft with an aluminum cylinder block. The first of eight such engines (codenamed ’XJ6’ at the time as XJ stood for eXperimental Jaguar) featured chain-driven camshafts while later units were fitted with gear drive.
The 60-degree, quad-cam, 24-valve unit had a capacity of just under five liters and came with Lucas fuel injection (initially, the engine was supposed to be carbureted, but fuel injection was favored during development). On the bank, the engine was said to crank out 500 horsepower at 7,600 rpm with 378 pound-feet of torque at 6,250 rpm at a compression ratio of 10.4:1. The engine was mounted behind the cockpit with the transaxle behind it, both used as stressed members of the monocoque chassis.
To put things into perspective, Ferrari’s own 4.0-liter V-12 (also fuel-injected) was only good for about 450 horsepower in 1965, but things moved on quickly in top-flight sports car racing in the mid-’60s as Ford deployed the first version of the Mk. II GT that same year and its 7.0-liter V-8 churned out well over 550 horsepower straight out of the box.
In spite of this, Jaguar engineers pressed on.
The chassis was covered by an elegant and very effective aluminum body conceived by Malcolm Sayer, the XJ13 being the last car he designed for Jaguar.
Norman Dewis, Jaguar’s legendary test driver that also carried out testing at MIRA with the XJ13, says the XJ13’s aerodynamics were good right out of Sayer’s pencil, but its handling was not. In a 2003 Motorsport Magazine article, he underlined that "[the] XJ13 was pretty much spot-on straight from the box — it had a very low drag coefficient. But then his shapes were always so good, every time," before adding "the XJ13 had very rapid oversteer originally—the rear end broke away extremely quickly. But we’d sorted that by the end of our year’s development and had a nice-handling car."
The gearbox came from ZF who provided the Britons with a sturdy five-speed transaxle with synchromesh and sequential interlock that doesn’t allow you to skip gears while shifting. The suspension is by double wishbone in the front (unequal in length and connected to a sub-frame) and twin lateral links in the rear (with the driveshafts used as the upper links). Coil springs and adjustable anti-roll bars were fitted all around behind Girling brakes. The finished car weighed 2,724 pounds with 41 gallons of fuel onboard making it painfully overweight despite the all-aluminum construction. To put it into perspective, the GT Mk. II’s curb weight was around 2,200 pounds, almost 300 pounds lighter than the XJ13 without any liquids (or driver) in it.
But the fact that it was overweight isn’t what stopped the XJ13 from competing.
It was Sir Willaim Lyons himself that wanted the project to be shelved even before British Leyland bought Jaguar in 1967.
In fact, he put out an edict in 1966 calling for the end of the XJ13 project, but Dewis and some plucky engineers ignored it and cracked on working, angering Lyons who only allowed for progress to be made after hours or on the weekends.
When everything was sorted, in 1967, David Hobbs drove the XJ13 around MIRA’s closed track at an average speed of 161.6 mph making the V-12-powered beast the holder of the record for the fastest lap on a closed course in the U.K. Sadly, a race start was never on the cards as Leyland taking ownership of Jaguar saw all efforts and money get diverted towards the development of the XJ6 that debuted in 1968.
By the time the new sedan appeared, the XJ13 was not only outdated, but it was also illegal. Jaguar didn’t even consider building a three-liter version of the 5.0-liter unit in the XJ13 due to obvious cost-related reasons, so the XJ13 laid dormant until a V-12 was finally fitted to a production Jaguar - 1971’s E-Type Series III V-12. For that occasion, the XJ13 was revived, fitted with new magnesium wheels, and taken to MIRA to take part in the filming of a promotional clip. Sadly, those wheels and tires failed, and the XJ13 crashed heavily, somersaulting and barrel-rolling a couple of times. Norman Dewis, who was behind the wheel that day, survived unharmed but the car was seriously damaged. It was later repaired, but the current bodywork isn’t an exact reproduction of Sayer’s original lines.
Nowadays, the XJ13 resides in Jaguar’s museum as one of its crown jewels despite its unenviable race record that reminds everyone it never raced.
Notwithstanding its long gestation period that, ultimately, led to nothing, the XJ13 can't be considered an out-and-out failure because, had it raced, Dewis reckoned it could've held its own against a GT40, surpassing a Mk.
I model in acceleration and top speed. Also, there’s the way the XJ13 looks which is otherworldly. The only contemporary that’s somewhat comparable in terms of looks is not, as you may think, Ferrari’s 330 P4 but, in fact, the Ford P68 (also referred to as the F3L) - Alan Mann’s answer to the three-liter prototype formula.
While we will most likely never even see the XJ13 in the flesh - let alone drive it - others have and speak of a rather friendly car that doesn’t quite lack torque (as reported in period). The interior is cramped although there is theoretical seating for two and all of the gauges are offset to the left, none is behind the 14-inch steering wheel. Legroom is also limited at best, and a taller folk may call himself lucky that there’s no roof as, if it were, he couldn’t even climb aboard since the XJ13 sits lower than a GT40.
With Jaguar probably never relinquishing ownership of the XJ13, your only gateway to XJ13-infused driving pleasure is acquiring a replica. There are only a few out there worthy of a mention, and RM/Sotheby’s will sell one of them at its upcoming Monterey auction (August 15-17). It’s one of the six examples built by Rod Tempero, and it could fetch anywhere between $350,000 and $400,000 - that’s almost double the price of a brand-new Ferrari Portofino.
The Ecurie Ecosse, Scotland’s Top Team Of The ’50s And ’60s
You may look at the Ecurie Ecosse LM69 and think it has no place in today’s world. For starters, who’d build a car in 2019 using as a reference point the FIA’s 1969 rulebook for sports cars. On top of that, trying to improve what many consider to be one of the prettiest racing cars of all time can be considered heresy, but Ecurie Ecosse has earned the right to do it.
Founded in November of 1951 by then-F1 racer David Murray, Ecurie Ecosse, based at the time out of a workshop in Merchiston Mews, in suburban Edinburgh, quickly rose to the ranks and debuted in the British Grand Prix the following year, taking part in the event in '53 and '54 without raising any eyebrows.
However, the Scottish outfit managed to get on winning ways once it switched its focus to sports car racing. By 1956, its D-Type was covered in laurels after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright, ahead of the works Jaguars, Maseratis, and Ferraris. The team repeated the feat in 1957 with an impressive 1-2 and kept racing throughout the ’60s before disbanding in 1972. In 10 seasons, the team amassed 68 race wins, and some of the world’s best drove the blue cars adorned with the classy white stripes: Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark, Sir Jack Brabham or Ivor Bueb are just a few of the drivers that drove for David Murray in Ecurie Ecosse’s ’first life’.
The team was rejuvenated in 1982 by Hugh McCaig, a racing enthusiast who’d been a fan of Ecurie Ecosse since his school days. McCaig built his own C2-spec cars under the Ecosse banner, and they proved good enough to beat the established Spice and Tiga cars to the 1986 C2 World Championship title. Seven years later, Ecurie Ecosse was at the top of the pile in Britain’s top touring car series, the BTCC, with David Leslie driving the Cavaliers prepared by Ray Mallock to championship glory.
McCaig's Ecurie Ecosse followed in the footsteps of 'the original' and groomed some other now-famous Scottish driving aces such as Dario Franchitti or Allan McNish.
The team returned to international competition for a third time in 2011 when it appeared on the entry list of the Spa 24 Hours with backing from Barwell Motorsport. Thereafter, the blue-and-white combo appeared on a few other GT3 cars over the years and, most recently, Ecurie Ecosse competed in the Michelin Le Mans Cup with a Ligier JS P3.
Read our full review on the 1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type.
Read our full review on the 1954 - 1957 Jaguar D-Type.