The Jaguar XJ41: The project that didn’t survive when Ford took over re-emerges as the new F-Type

Having just driven the 2014 Jaguar F-Type, we were blown away with its driving characteristics, the powerful, crackly noise it made and its smooth yet muscular bodylines.

Believe it or not, the concept for the F-Type originated some 23 years ago. It was called the XJ41 and though the car that some call the original F-Type never saw the light of day, its concept would inspire cars from Jaguar and Aston Martin for over two decades.

In 1980, the minds at Jaguar conceived of a lightweight drop-top sports car that would continue the lineage of the E-Type but sell better than the XJS, according to a report from Autocar.

Although the XJ41 you see above began on paper as a light and simple car, powered by a simple inline six-cylinder engine, it soon became something else. During the 1980s, ad cars began to become more safety conscious and heavier, so did the XJ41. Markets changed and so did the XJ41, which eventually weighted in at a massive 4,200 pounds and sported all-wheel drive along with twin turbochargers.

Around the time the XJ41 was set to unveil, Ford bought Jaguar and scrapped the planned F-Type. Though it was devastating for the brand at the time, in retrospect, it was the right move. The XJ41 was too big and too heavy.

But Tom Walkinshaw of Jaguar saw potential in what the XJ41 could have been. So he commissioned a young designer, Ian Callum, to turn the XJ41 into a new car on the smaller, lighter weight XJS platform.

They called it the XX program. It was no simple task, however, as Callum had to massively size down the XJ41 body to fit the XJS underpinnings. As he went along, he changed design elements here and there, including the grille.

When project XX was finished, however, Jaguar didn’t want it. Cleverly, Walkinshaw asked Callum if he could modify the car once again for Aston Martin – and the DB7 was born.

After Ford saw the DB7, it wanted one for Jag, too, and so the XK8 was born. The successful XK8 would later spawn the modern XK, which has kept Jag afloat to this day – until the 2014 Jaguar F-Type.

Although the F-Type might be pretty heavy in its own right, it has enough clever engineering, modern technology and sonic goodness to overcome the weight penalty. A true lightweight Jag may be a thing of the past, but as long as we get more cars like the new F-Type, we’re OK with that.


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