Jaguar XK 180-2
pictures of original press release 1998

Jaguar XK180 Concept

PARIS, October 1998. Fifty years after Jaguar launched the famous XK120, the British car manufacturer revealed the astonishing Jaguar XK180 concept car at the Paris Motor Show. And it stole that show in a way only this magnificent machine could do. The event happily coincided with the 50th anniversary of the XK120. The open two-seater or ‘roadster’ was not only the first of the classic generation of XK sports cars, but it also served as inspiration for the 1998 concept car. Jaguar managed to develop the XK180 in an incredibly short period of only 10 months. The car was created in Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations workshop, based in Coventry. And special it was…

Fully operational show model

press xk180
original brochure 1998

Unlike many other motor show concept cars, the XK180 was a fully operational vehicle. The car was based on a shortened XKR platform (by 5 inches), and featured a modified version of the supercharged and intercooled 4-liter V8 engine. Therefore, the AJ-V8 power unit produced an impressive 450 BHP.

XK180 Team 1998
all members of the team around the finished XK180, before they left for Paris

Meanwhile, the brakes, wheels and suspension were also upgraded to complement the engine's high performance. The XK180 concept car featured a 5-speed automatic gearbox, featuring unique steering wheel mounted push buttons for sequential gear changes. An all-new system which was specially developed by Jaguar for this project. Mechanical details like these emphasize Jaguar’s philosophy that concept cars should not be just static show pieces, but fully engineered vehicles. Many of the technical features of the XK180 had been road and track tested, before the unveiling in Paris.

Technology for the new millennium

The all-aluminum body was made by Abbey Panels, a long-standing Jaguar supplier which had made the C- and D-type bodies in the 1950s, as well as the XJ13 and the phenomenal XJ220. The body styling was developed under the direction of Keith Helfet, the senior Jaguar designer whose previous work also included the XJ220. Helfet designed the XK180 to be a modern interpretation of the classic Jaguar themes seen in the Le Mans winning D-type of the 1950s, and the E-Type of the 1960s. However, the XK180 was a completely modern design, intended as a showcase of Jaguar technology for the new millennium, showing the direction for the future of Jaguar sports cars.

In fact, two XK180 cars were built. Number two is a left-hand drive car, which is currently based in California, USA. Jaguar North America unveiled the second edition of the XK180 Concept at the 1999 North American International Auto Show. The new prototype was a further-developed version of the original XK180 concept car from 1998, and was better adapted for American driving conditions, with left hand drive and a number of detail changes. Including a new wheel design, a revised shade for the exterior colour, a switch in the hue of the interior leather and subtle modifications to feature lines on the lower body section. The 20-inch diameter wheels were fitted with ultra low profile Pirelli P Zero tires, just like the original.

us xk180

the original US car in California ©Ted7

Wanted: a production version

The XK180 was given an enthusiastic reception, as it was seen as an indication that Jaguar might at a future date bring back a compact sports car, as a latter-day successor to the classic XK and E-Type models. But unfortunately, to the major disappointment of a rare group of potential purchasers and die-hard fans, the concept car itself never made it into production. Until today…