This latest, production-spec Project 7 looks very similar to last year’s concept but differs in almost every detail and surface because of its need to comply with production car legislation and to maintain aerodynamic stability up to its governed 186mph top speed.
Production models will be hand-built during 2015 by the new JLR sub-division called Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) and headed by Paul Newsome, the ex-Lotus, ex-Williams engineer who was chief of the recent C-X75 hybrid supercar project.
The Project 7 idea was born about 18 months ago, from the pen of a young JLR designer, Cesar Pieri, in the group’s Whitley design studio. The sketches caught the eye of design boss Ian Callum, who gave them the go-ahead because he already knew that the company was looking for a car to wow the crowds at Goodwood 2013 – which the original Project 7 subsequently did in the hands of Jaguar engineer and master wheelman Mike Cross.
The enthusiastic reaction to the car, not least from potential buyers, convinced Edwards and Co that Project 7 would make an ideal flagship for its new division.
Essentially, the car is an F-type roadster relieved of its heavy hood mechanism and fitted with lightweight seats that carve a cool 80kg off the kerb weight and leave it at a respectable 1585kg.
Compared with the regular roadster, Project 7 has a new front bumper and splitter, a cut-down windscreen, a prominent fairing (incorporating a rollover bar) behind the driver’s head, new side skirts and diffuser and a deck-mounted wing.
The interior is obviously F-type, but there are all-new carbonfibre-backed quilted seats, the steering wheel is Alcantara-covered and some clever colour highlights give the car a character of its own. Each example gets a uniquely numbered plaque located between the seats and signed by Ian Callum.
The engine is an improved version of Jaguar’s familiar supercharged 5.0-litre V8. Peak power is 567bhp, available at 6500rpm, and peak torque is 502lb ft from 2500-5500rpm.
Power flows to the driven 20-inch rear wheels (and their optional fat Continental ContiForceContact tyres) first through a specially modified version of ZF’s eight-speed automatic gearbox (controlled, as in all Jaguars, by shift paddles) and then to a rear-mounted electronic limited-slip differential.
Project 7’s switchable exhaust (silenced or straight-through) has four matt-painted tailpipes, ceramic-coated so that they don’t set fire to the nearby diffuser.
The chassis gets special, SVO-manufactured front suspension uprights to increase negative camber, plus modifications to the front top mounts and fatter anti-roll bars front and rear. The whole system is height adjustable at both ends, and Project 7 now has spring and damper rates tailored to its special duties. The usual adaptive dynamics control the body very well, engineers say.
The brakes consist of carbon-ceramic rotors – 398mm in diameter at the front and 380mm behind – with six-piston and four-piston calipers respectively. These are usually offered as an option on regular V8s, but Project 7 gets them as standard.
Electronic co-operation between these, the electronic diff and the car’s built-in stability control provides helpful brake-controlled torque vectoring (to optimise traction and turn-in) and increases steering feel, engineers say. Compared with a standard F-type V8, drivers should expect firmer damping, more steering weight, faster gearchanges and quicker throttle response.
As a result of its extensive aero modifications, the production Project 7 develops 177 per cent more downforce at top speed than a standard F-type convertible. In production, the car is now a proper two-seater (it was originally proposed as transport for one) and there is even a temporary fabric roof that clips to the convertible’s header rail and can be stowed in the car’s notably shallow luggage compartment of about 200 litres’ capacity.
Head of Special Operations John Edwards expects lively demand for the production Project 7, although he has no orders yet because the idea is only being announced this week. He expects to sell cars in South Africa, Australia, Russia, Brazil and Asia-Pacific as well as the US and Europe. US specifications will differ a little from the rest and will be revealed in late summer. Deliveries will start in mid-2015 and should be complete within the year.
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