The Making of the Jaguar Project 7

Maxim sits down with Ian Callum, Jag’s design chief, and explains turning a concept car into reality.

The Jaguar F-Type Project 7 is a concept car come to roaring life. It was originally created as a one-off—the first exercise from Jag’s new Special Vehicles Operations department. The idea was to transform the already stunning, nimble, and luxurious F-Type convertible into something a bit more…racy. “Project 7 was inspired by the D-Type,” Jaguar design chief Ian Callum says, referring to the brand’s serial LeMans-winning racer—and forebear to the iconic E-Type—of the mid-1950s. “It was a bit of fun with a nod to our heritage.” 

“A bit” may be a bit of an understatement. Now the Project 7 is going to be a limited production run of 250. It’ll cost $165,925 and will pack the brand’s most potent production engine ever. This supercharged 5.0 liter V8 whips out 575 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque—numbers up significantly from the convertible’s current high output version—in a package that shaves off nearly 200 lbs. Figure on 60 m.p.h. arriving in a 3.5 seconds en route to a (limited) top speed of 186. Callum picked up the phone in his laboratory and talked about how this project came to life.

The F-Type is such a lovely car. Were you worried about interfering with its design when you drew the Project 7?

It didn’t matter about the original. It will always be there with its own attributes and character. This was about a much more aggressive beast. 

There was no concern about going too far toward the sporting side? Is there even such a thing as too far?

As long as the final collective outcome is right, you can’tgo too far. Now, there exists such a thing as bad taste and excess for the sake of excess. But we don’t do that at Jaguar. If the overall balance is right, the more the better.

What were some of the crazy ideas that got left on the cutting room floor? 

This car was imagined on a quick sketch, a spontaneous moment. The sort of exercise that designers do all the time. For me it’s usually when I’m doodling during a board meeting. We captured the sketch as it was, nothing more, nothing less—with the exception of the front windscreen. That wasn’t as low I would have liked, and that was for legal reasons.

How do you transform a concept car into a roadworthy production car? It seems pretty tough to do.

I enjoy the whole process. After all, it’s the production car that matters, not the concept. We enjoy problem solving. The challenge of getting it through the system, through all the legislation and through manufacturing to reality. The biggest challenges are usually legal requirements, which can vary around the world. But we are so familiar with these laws—complicated as they can be—that we can resolve most of the issues pretty easily.

There’s a decline in interest in pure sports cars among younger buyers. Why do you think this is? Is Jaguar trying capture the hearts of these young people? Do you think about that?

I am aware there’s not the romance and fascination in cars that used to be there. The car was the ticket to freedom for most of us years ago, and they were dynamic—especially sports cars. The computer is now the door to the outside world for many young people. It replicates all the thrills. The fact is that as much as cars are hugely capable and reliable, most are hardly exciting—in fact, many are downright boring. For kids, they are simply commodities, means of transport. The destination is now more important than the journey. Maybe because the destinations now are so much more exciting than they used to be. 

However I take huge encouragement and delight that so many stop, stare and smile at my F-Type Coupe. Including kids and teenagers, girls and boys. Maybe they just need something exciting to look at to be interested in cars again.