A PREDATOR ON FOUR WHEELS

Among the most interesting and innovative super car concepts every created. The Jaguar Pirana 1967 is the perfect union between English class and Italian style. And it all started from a newspaper…

The car debuted at London’s Earl’s Court Motor Show in 1967. At the Bertone stand. And it left everyone breathless. Because the Jaguar Pirana was something more than a prototype, it was an entirely new concept of a car, from every angle. The visual representation of the mark of time. Of optimism and the desire for a future where everything is possible, of a truly incredible moment. Stimulating, under every aspect, political, social and cultural. Then again, it was the height of Swinging London, the Beatles had published their psychedelic masterpiece Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the new James Bond film with Sean Connery, You Only Live Twice, had been released, the first space probe had reached Venus and the South African surgeon, Christian Barnard, had performed his first human heart transplant. Formidable years. That looked to the future with different eyes. The idea of the Pirana was born under the best omens and on the initiative of John Anstey, editor of the automobile section for the Daily Telegraph, a famous British newspaper of the time.

The idea was to show “the ideal car”. Not a model or a mock-up, but a real, full-scale car. In working order. Complete to the last detail. With the best of the best. In short, “the top of the top”, with one single condition, the components were to already be in production and available to the public, and it had to have all the latest safety features. Without forgetting comfort and performance. The car was to be announced on the cover of the Daily Telegraph Magazine with the title: “We have built the star of the Motor Show.” The project, and the challenge, thrilled the Coventry company and Bob Berry, head of the PR department, made all Jaguar’s partners available. The chassis and engine of the Jaguar E was used as the base – it was no coincidence that the Pirana should have replaced the iconic Jaguar E Type – a powerful 4.2 litre, 12-valve, 6-cylinder, 4.235cc engine with 265cv, which powered the car to over 250km/h. For the bodywork, shortened by about half a metre, the choice fell on Bertone and was entrusted to Marcello Gandini – the mind behind some of the most famous Italian cars, including the Lamborghini Countach and Miura and the Lancia Stratos. Gandini, who was working on the Montreal, an Alfa Romeo prototype which was to debut shortly, decided to exploit some of its solutions for the British one-off car too, such as the lifting rear window.

The design around the headlights used for the Jaguar was later used on the Lamborghini Espada. The Bertone designers came up with a new, integrated central console for the interior and re-designed the red leather seats as well as the door panels, electric windows and radio aerial that extended automatically from a button on the dashboard. The commands were reminiscent of the numerous buttons and levers on an airplane. Smiths Industries supplied an innovative air conditioning system that de-humified the air, controlled by only two knobs, one for temperature selection and the other for air speed. It was based on the simple principle that hot air rises and cools and therefore, heated air, created by a generator behind the seats in the luggage compartment, was forced into the door vents while cold air was sent throughout the car by a kind of perforated distributor on the roof. For the lights, the Lucas company designed a new type of headlight while Triplex supplied a special glass called Sundym with a thick middle layer of vinyl that increased flexibility and resistance to penetration. The Pirana never got beyond the one-off phase and therefore never went into production. It appears in some shows only now and then. Or at collector auctions where the bidding and selling price are always kept private. (Fabio Schiavo)

PIRANA

TECHNICAL OVERVIEW

  • One-off model
  • Designer Marcello Gandini
  • Bertone bodywork
  • Length 4.572m
  • Cubic capacity 4.235cc
  • 6 in-line cylinder engine with 2 valves per cylinder
  • Distribution DOHC
  • Seats 2
  • Power 265cv at 5.400 revs per minute
  • 4 gears
  • Maximum speed (estimated) over 250km/h