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						Tempero Xj13
Tempero-Built Jaguar XJ13

Jaguar XK13 re-creation built by Rod Tempero

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, Hemmings

The Le Mans 24-hour events of the late 1960s are some of the most dramatic and celebrated races to ever take place, but it’s plain to see that something was missing, or someone rather. Amongst the brutish V8-powered Ford GTs, exotic Ferrari 330s and feisty Porsches in the prototype class, the presence of a strong British entry was sorely missed. Jaguar had after all won Le Mans five times between 1951 and 1957, and so by the mid 1960s, a triumphant return was in order. That return was to come by way of a sleek Malcolm Sayer-designed racer with a mid-mounted V12 engine, dubbed the XJ13. Honoring one of the most seamless British designs ever penned, this Rod Tempero-built Jaguar XJ13 re-creation salutes the one and only example Jaguar ever built, and a Le Mans legend that could have been.

The design of the XJ13 represented everything that was spectacular about Jaguar during this time period. The chassis was an alloy monocoque that had been in development since 1960, and designed to take a 5.0-liter Jag V12 engine as a stressed member. The bodywork was another drop-dead gorgeous design penned by Malcolm Sayer. Its curvaceous shape was a wonderful mixture of what “looked right,” but it’s now common knowledge that the XJ13 would have needed considerably more aerodynamic development before it would be ready for high-speed circuits like Le Mans. Rivets adorned every part of the body and a unique open-top cockpit echoed aviation designs of the day. The sensuous Jaguar V12 engine was displayed under a curved rear windshield with Lucas mechanical fuel injection mounted atop heavily modified cylinder heads. A work of mechanical excellence, the all-new V12 allegedly ran like a sewing machine, and produced some 470 horsepower at 7,250 rpm.

With that kind of power on tap, the XJ13 would have been more than a serious contender in the early 1960s. Unfortunately a merger with BMC and internal prioritizing stifled the car’s development, and it may not have entered formal testing until as late as 1967. Still, test driver David Hobbs noted that the car was seriously powerful, and even though it still needed brake work and had a tendency to oversteer, he was able to hit 161.6 mph on the MIRA test circuit, a record that stood for 31 years.

But as the story goes, the Jag’s extended development timeline relegated it both illegal and less than competitive by this time. The 3.0-liter limit for Le Mans in 1968 meant that the car was no longer able to compete with its 5.0-liter V12, and next generation cars like Porsche’s 917 would have been tough competition. So the sole XJ13 prototype sat covered at the Jag factory until 1971, when marketing folks decided the prototype racer would add some much-needed excitement to a press event announcing the V12-powered Series 3 E-Type. It was that fateful day that the car suffered a dramatic rollover on the MIRA circuit with driver Norman Dewis behind the wheel. A tire failure at speed allegedly caused the car to strike a guardrail and roll into the infield. Dewis, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, some how had the foresight to crouch down into the cockpit and turn off the ignition, likely saving the car and his own life. The XJ13 survived, and was later rebuilt at Abbey Panels.

For its cosmetic and mechanical excellence, and all it could have been for Jaguar, the original XJ13 is a priceless piece, and is occasionally re-created by replica companies using Jaguar’s production V12 engine. This alloy-bodied replica by Rod Tempero’s shop in New Zealand is a particularly well-done example in excellent running and driving condition. It’s based on an alloy monocoque chassis that’s allegedly very close to Jaguar’s original design. It’s powered by a 318 hp Jaguar V12 with individual throttle bodies sitting proud under the rear glass. The cockpit has all the flavor of an old-world fighter plane, and is configured in the correct right-hand drive, right-hand shift orientation. Executed in stunning British racing green, this XJ13 leaves nothing to be desired for the senses.

With the price listed as "inquire," we can only surmise the cost, but a very similar car sold at RM Sotheby's Monterey 2019 auction for $478,000. See the listing for the Tempero Jag here on Hemmings classifieds.

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British Cars Jaguar XJ13