In an extraordinary move, Jaguar has announced it will produce an all-new sports car to go on sale in mid-2013, named the F-Type. Announced but not exhibited at the New York International Auto Show, Jaguar has released images of the vehicle with camouflage paint.
Given the iconic status of its previously letter-designated sports cars (the C-type, D-type and E-type), and Jaguar's already stated intention that the F-type will have the soul of the legendary E-Type, it can be reasonably expected to be spectacularly good.
Jaguar's Global Brand Director, (the appropriately named) Adrian Hallmark, said in New York, "we showed the C-X16 concept in September 2011, and the reaction to it has been so positive that we've accelerated our development of an all-new Jaguar sports car."
"That car will be called the F-type, and it will be unveiled in production form later this year (2012). The core appeal of Jaguar's cars is their sporting heart, and that heart will beat stronger than ever before in the F-type."
"Its development is a vivid representation of the confidence and ambition of the Jaguar brand, and the desire amongst our engineers and design team to produce a world-leader in a market segment that we have been absent from for too long."
"But no longer – the F-type is coming."
The all-aluminum F-type will be a two-seater convertible with the focus "uncompromisingly on delivering driver reward" according to Jaguar.
The F-type will be available in a range of petrol engines, including some from a new Jaguar power-plant family, and all will "deliver stunning sports car performance".
Hallmark also noted that the F-type's development schedule had just begun final on-road testing, "with engineering prototypes now leaving Jaguar's Castle Bromwich plant – the same plant at which the production cars will be built."
Ian Callum, Director of Design, said: "A true sports car needs to be pure in both its purpose and its form; to have the opportunity to produce such a car for Jaguar has been a privilege both for myself and for my team. The C-type, D-type and E-type Jaguars were all sports cars that held true to this principle in their era, and the F-TYPE will hold true to that same principle in its time, a time that is soon to arrive."
Technical details and specifications of the F-Type have not yet been announced, but given the iconic status of its letter-designated sports cars predecessors, the C-type, D-type and E-type, the Jaguar F-type can be reasonably expected to be spectacularly good.
The C-Type Jaguar
The Jaguar C-Type was a racing version of the XK120 sports car (it is also known as the XK120-C) produced by Jaguar from 1951 to 1953, with the C standing for competition, hence there were no A-Type or B-Type Jaguars.
Its stylish, aerodynamic, aluminum body was designed by Malcolm Sayer to enclose the lightweight triangulated, tubular steel chassis and mainly XK120 mechanicals, shaving more than 1000 pounds (400 kg) from the weight, but doubling the price of the regular XK120.
Now the XK120 was an extremely fast car to begin with. When it was launched in 1948 it was the fastest production car in the world, and the 120 signified its 120 mph (193 km/h) top speed.
In 1950, Stirling Moss and Leslie Johnson averaged 107.46 mph at the banked French Autodrome de Montlhéry circuit, then in 1951 it averaged 131.83 mph at the same circuit and in 1952, it averaged 100.31 mph for a WEEK.
For the C-Type, the XK120's DOHC six was tweaked to produce 205 bhp and the combination of power, aerodynamics and superb handling saw the car win on debut at the Le Mans 24 hours race in 1951.
Modifications to the cars for the 1952 race resulted in inadequate cooling and all three Jaguar entries failed to finish the race due to the resultant overheating, with Mercedes taking a 1-2 with the gullwing-doored 300SL.
With the cooling sorted, the cars won again in 1953, the first time that the race had been won at an average of over 100 mph. The D-Type Jaguar
The D-Type Jaguar was the car that indelibly burned the name Jaguar into the psyche of the global automotive public beyond Great Britain, though it did not do so initially.
The car made extensive use of aeronautical engineering and was the first racing car to use a monocoque chassis to win a major race.
Like the C-Type, the D-Type used the same DOHC six cylinder engine enlarged from 3.4 liters to 3.8 liters but there was little else that was common.
The D-Type emulated the C-Type in winning the Le Mans 24 hour race more than once, being unlucky in finishing second at its first try, then inheriting a win when Mercedes Benz pulled out of the 1955 event whilst leading - the reason for Mercedes' withdrawal was the infamous crash which saw 80 spectators killed and catalyzed a major rethink of motorsport safety standards.
The D-Type won again in 1956 (in the complete absence of the Mercedes team and its very fast SL300 Gullwings), but Jaguar's finest hour came courtesy of the D-Type in 1957 when the five D-Types fronted the starter in the world's most important race, finishing first, second, third, fourth and sixth - there has never been a perfect race for any marque at Le Mans, but the D-Type went awfully close.
The E-Type Jaguar
The E-Type was first seen by the general public in the above press photograph issued by the factory prior to its first public showing at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show.
Not surprisingly, the launch of the exquisitely beautiful E-Type in 1961 was met with extraordinary acclaim. Enzo Ferrari called it "the most beautiful car ever made", which is high praise indeed from someone who was responsible for several cars which could arguably contest such a title.
The E-Type attracted a horde of celebrity owners, from sixties heart-throbs Steve McQueen, Tony Curtis and Brigitte Bardot, through to soccer superstar and playboy Georgie Best.
Jaguar's Design Director Ian Callum, said it best: “It is impossible to overstate the impact the E-Type had when it was unveiled in 1961. Here was a car that encapsulated the spirit of the revolutionary era it came to symbolise."
The E-Type became one of the key symbols of the swinging sixties.
The first F-Type
Jaguar is making it quite clear that it considers the F-Type embodies the soul of the E-Type, if not the form. Back in 2000 the company showed an F-Type concept (above) which was clearly far closer to the original E-Type but for unknown reasons the project was shelved.
Now the F-Type is to be based on the C-X16 and Jaguar is again on the move with the financial backing and stability of the giant Indian Tata behind it.
It's almost inconceivable that the F-Type will not be very, very good.