"There is definitely a friendly rivalry between the various British automakers," says Julian Thompson, Head of Advanced Design at Jaguar. Last month, when Jag unveiled the Project 7 - a concept car based on the F-Type while paying homage to the brand's seven Le Mans victories between 1951 and 1990 - prior to its public debut at Goodwood, the success of this one-off design study was evident. With the car now on U.S soil, taking a trip to the lawns at Pebble Beach, Jaguar gave us a rare opportunity to take this stunning concept for a spin.
"Many of the British automakers are based in the same location in England," says Thompson, "so when you go to a local pub, there's usually design guys from other companies there. We're always give each other a hard time." I ask Thomson, one of Jag's top design gurus, what he thinks of British rival Aston Martin's CC100 concept, and whether there was any friendly banter between the two design teams? Thompson replies: "Well, I think the Aston's pretty ugly, to be honest."
I'd give the nod to Jaguar in this round too.
Project 7 remains based on the acclaimed new F-Type, while offering design cues from the D-Types of old; adding a hump behind the driver's head and painting it blue like the victorious D-Types of the '50s. It doesn't look like a car designed for aging golfers - a stereotype earned over the years - rather it appears modern, with a vintage flair. Jag's move to more visceral, contemporary styling is certainly paying off.
The engine remains from the F-Type V-8, but it's been coaxed from 495 hp up to 550 hp--requiring an uprated 8-speed ZF transmission to cope. The car is also around 40 lbs. lighter, and sits 10mm lower to the ground while sporting a lowered windscreen. Keeping with the lower theme, the driver sits 30mm lower, too.
While the suspension has been tweaked, it's merely to reengineer the chassis back to its original form, compensating for the aforementioned modifications. What this means is it drives like a normal sports car; it's supple over bumps and remains a comfortable place to be--unusual amongst concept cars. For my height, the driver's seat was too low, however, making venturing over crests an eerie experience.
The sound emitted from the upgraded exhaust system is borderline insanity. In fact, residents of the gated community where the car was located reportedly complained about the noise of the booming V-8; it probably didn't help that they roared by during the neighborhood's weekly homeowner's meeting. One of the benefits when creating a concept car is a lack of restrictions--exhaust noise being one of them; like the F-Type, it pops and bangs on the overrun, like being shot at by an AK47. Only the Project 7 deafens, turning the volume up to eleven, but it does so without being ostentatious.
The power, as far as I could tell without landing myself in jail, remains intoxicating. Delivery of said thump remains smooth and linear, unsurprising given Jag's use of the 550 hp V-8 in many of its other models, such as the XFR-S.
The Project 7 will never be sold; it's merely a design study--one that started via a simple sketch on a piece of scrap paper. The rough design looked so intriguing, head of Jaguar design, Ian Callum, immediately sought the green light to make it a reality. And I for one am ecstatic they did. But I'm even more ecstatic they actually let me drive it.
Learn more about how Jaguar turned the Project 7 from sketch into reality in the video below.