Finding A Place For A Modern Homage, In A Jaguar F-Type Project 7
Photography by Will Broadhead
At the time of its release, the F-Type Project 7 was the fastest Jaguar production car ever built. It was inspired, Jaguar said, by the company’s proud racing past, with the “7” part of the name being a nod to the number of wins the marque has taken at Le Mans. The brief was to produce a modern-day version of the car that took three of those wins, the iconic D-Type. But five years down the line, and with the Project 8 sedan superseding the Project 7 roadster in terms of outright speed, what will come of this car? Did it live up to its purpose? Will it be regarded as a collectible in due time, a piece of Jaguar’s road car history worth preserving? Or is it simply a marketing move cashing in on a motorsport icon?
Comparing the Project 7 to the D-Type is to note the differences between mud and soap. With 60 years between them, the cars are of course vastly different in regards to their engineering, but then again nobody would expect otherwise. The real question is whether the F-Type can capture any of the excitement of the D-Type. Though I have my predictions, sadly the D-Type would have to wait for another day to test drive. You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you the two cars will be vastly different feeling, but there are still some subjective sides to consider in determining just how genuine the Type 7 really is in its mission.
Aesthetically, both cars have a purposeful look about them, hunkered toward the ground with arched noses that stretch backwards into muscular haunches but in vastly different proportions. But then there is the hump to really tie the two together. The aerodynamic aid that smooths out the turbulence caused by the driver’s head is a defining characteristic of the D-Type, and a tasteful homage in the case of the Project 7. The Project 7 has no airs of replicating the D-Type’s look entirely (how could it?), but it still manages to incorporate these visually linking details without having them come off as contrivances.
For any car that claims to be a celebration of a rich racing heritage however, the evidence can only really be tested once the wheels are turning, so as much as I could stare at these two cars together all day long, I was curious to discover the athleticism of the Project 7.
With just 250 of these cars produced, I feel a sense of privilege to be on the comparatively small list of people that will ever get to play with this big cat, so I’m already inclined to enjoy whatever it has to offer. That said, there are very real limits on how close I can get to reaching the limits of a modern performance car on a narrow tree-lined road, especially if said car does not have my name on the registration. Still, I had my fun.
The first thing I confirmed is that yes, this car is indeed fast. The 0-60 is quoted at just 3.8 seconds, and despite the lack of stopwatch on hand, I’m more than inclined to believe it. The eight-speed quick-shifting transmission makes short work of the gear changes as the V8 at the front of proceedings unleashes 567 horses, while the pipes at the rear of the beast play out a wonderful version of the four stroke concerto in F-major. Acceleration is a sensory event at nearly every speed you start from, and though it would be nice to have a third pedal, the only real disappointment I can muster is due to the lack of canyon roads in the Cotswolds. For all the car’s straight-line talents, it compels you to look for corners, too.
Perhaps the only thing better than the noise of the engine under load (helped tremendously when the exhaust butterflies are open), is the crack and spit of the exhaust on the overrun. Not because I like to make a lot of noise for the sake of it—and I imagine I would like a quieter setting for city driving—but because it plays to your imagination. Maybe I’m simply getting swept up in the marketing, but if I can feel like I’m stomping hard on the brakes as the engine pops and bangs at the end of the Mulsanne Straight, then what’s the issue? I can be cynical and say this car has very little at all do with a D-Type, but it’s more enjoyable to find the similarities where I can, even if it’s all in my head. And besides, does a “tribute” like the Project 7 take anything away from the D-Type’s achievements?
It’s also not like the Project 7 isn’t a true performer either. It did the Nordschleife in seven minutes and 35 seconds, which goes a long in way in proving that it’s not just a stoplight to stoplight party trick. It won’t win any 24-hour races, but it was never supposed to. Invocation of the past does not mean carbon copy (the trend of so-called “continuation” cars has that side covered already).
In building the Project 7 on the basis of the mass-produced F-Type sports car, Jaguar’s real trick wasn’t so much the increase in horsepower and decrease in weight—both of which were relatively nominal compared to the standard go-fast F-Type models—but rather the way in which they rebalanced the suspension and aero for higher-speed use cases.
More negative camber at the front end and the employment of rear-axle torque vectoring were all part of Jaguar’s playbook to make the car more competent in the corners, and the company also tweaked the aerodynamics to shift the downforce profile to one that begs for track time. There is nothing obnoxiously “track-only” about the protuberances of carbon fiber added to achieve this, though—keeping a distinct shape was an important piece of this project it seems—and in non-track parts of the world there is more than enough grip. So much so that it’s just not terribly exciting to drive as if you hadn’t stolen it (and I must offer my thanks to the Classic Motor Hub for letting me borrow it). To really push this car to its edges in the Cotswolds, I would have likely wound up either in jail or in a ditch by the end of the afternoon.
Having said all of that, this car was inspired by and is a celebration of Jaguar’s track success, and that is where the differences between this car and typical F-Type really shine. Paul Newsome, Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations boss, was quoted at the time as saying the modifications and upgrades largely made the most sense on the track, and I’m more than inclined to believe him. Will the Project 7 be able to deliver the same (I can only imagine) euphoria of taking a D-Type for a few laps? Surely not. The point was not to match the car, nor were there any airs of building a successor. What the Project 7 does is infuse a tiny bit of that DNA into a modern car. And even a tiny bit of a D-Type does a lot of good.