Hoping to crash this weekend’s Villa d’Este party not by turning up but instead by making a lot of noise elsewhere is Jaguar’s latest limited-edition, the Project 8. To be honest, with its 600bhp engine - yes, that’s 600bhp, the most powerful engine ever in a road-going Jaguar - and an equally over-the-top rear wing, the Project 8 is’t really a Villa d’Este kind of car. The event there is called the Concorso d’Eleganza after all. There’s nothing overly elegant about this one, not on the surface anyhow.
Project 8 follows on from, yes Project 7. That was a red hot Jaguar F-Type roadster gussied up somewhat lamely to mimic some elements of the classic D-Type of the 1950s. It was given the name Project 7 because it celebrated Jag’s seven wins at Le Mans. Project 8 celebrates nothing other than Jaguar Land Rover’s ability to produce some very intriguing off-menu cars.
This one is an XE, Jaguar’s most humdrum car given the full hot-rod treatment with huge air scoops in its newly remodelled fast face; wheel arch and sill extensions that suggest the car rides on some seriously engorged rubber; and a professional-looking wing on the boot lid. It might all be a tad embarrassing if it wasn’t for the fact the XE is fundamentally a very pretty car - long nosed with a swooping cabin - rendered ordinary only by its sheer ubiquity. Morphing a nine-to-five kind of car into something for the weekend is not a subtle business, but Jaguar have done this with atypical subtlety.
All that extra grip from those fat tyres and rear wing is because Jaguar have extracted another 50bhp form the supercharged V8 if fits to the hottest F-Types and Rover Sports. 600bhp is an awful lot in any car, so one can only assume some extensive modification has been undertaken to the XE’s already appealing chassis. And assumption it has to be.
The Jaguar XE SV Project 8 (its full name) looks the way it does in these pictures because the car has yet to be officially launched. That won’t happen until the Goodwood Festival of Speed this June. The car is covered in a specially designed wrap meant to hide its exact appearance. It’s photographed at the Nurburgring test track in Germany the unofficial Assay Office for fast cars. Jaguar is keeping schtum on details like whether the car is four-wheel drive or rear drive and just how extensively modified is the interior. Does it still have back seats, for instance?
We do know that only 300 will be built at Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicles (SV) operations as part of a portfolio that includes selling as-new E-Types and Mark I Range Rovers alongside phoenix projects like the recreation XKSS. The SS is the race-car-tuned-road car made famous by Steve McQueen who in the 1950s loved his so much he bought it a second time having sold it. Special Vehicles is recreating nine XKSS destroyed in a fire at Jaguar’s old premises in Coventry using the original construction techniques. All nine “continuation cars” sold at close to £2m as soon as the project was launched, but given the last time one of the original 16 cars came up at auction it was valued at $13million seems like a snip.
Project 8 is likely to sell out way before it goes in to its limited and strictly hand-built production run, as did the Project 7. Possibly, that will happen with the release of these photos and details, which will make Jaguar Land Rover happy, even if it is missing the party on Lake Como.