1975 XJ-S : The Birth of a legend

2y ago


(Translated from our french blog retromotiv.com to english. Sorry if there are translations mistakes...)

At the end of the Sixties, while the E-type is begining to be out of age, a change is needed. Bill Lyons, who slowly retire from the head of Jaguar after its joint venture with British Leyland, asks his designer, Malcolm Sayer, to create a new Coupe. After some researches related to a prototype named X21 closed to the E type, a new project from scratch is started, called "Project X27". The idea is to satisfy the American market, looking for powerful GT. The first drawing of X27 is a mixture between X21 and the lines of the new XJ saloon.

Malcolm Sayer, genius of aerodynamic and designer of the C-type, D-type, E-type and XJ-S.

Assisted by a strong team of young designers, Sayer and his aerodynamic skills begin to work on a design really different than the usual Jaguar style. He draws straight lines, looking for good air penetration. He fits buttresses to use the power of the air vortex at the back of the car. Working as wings, these pieces of metal help the car to keep its course at high speed, like the wing of the D-type.

Flying buttresses... Some like, other hate.

The car interior, similar to the XJ S2 saloon, is made of plastic and aluminium in a total 70's style. But Lyons, close to be fully retired, looses his interest in Jaguar future and Sayer dies in a heart attack in 1970. A young design team from British Leyland Motor Corporation, led by Doug Thorpe, goes on the projet X27, now called XJ27. Even if Thorpe is not fully agree with the choices from Sayer on that car, he tries to keep most of them, by respect to the great aerodynamic Sayer was. In order to have the car complying with the tough american safety laws, a front spoiler and heavy plastic bumpers are added. The front gril is thinned and the double headlamp is replaced by a single oval one. Rear lamps are added to lighten the reg numbers and the main rear lamp are widened.

Final XJ27 project

1972, the car is finished, but the release is delayed by two years, du to issues encountered by BLMC Pressed Steel company. In 1974, BLMC is nationalised, and becomes British Leyland Ltd. This, again, delays the release of the XJ-S. So it's not before 1975 that the Jaguar XJ-S is released to a cruel world, in full oil crisis. The car, announced as the E-type successor, is not a sport car. The customers are really disappointed and it will take years for the XJ-S to become a great and beloved GT.

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