Myles Kornblat - Octane Magazine


1967 Jaguar Pirana

Coachwork by Bertone

Chassis no. 1E 50950

Engine no. 7E 53230-8


The only example ever built

Highlight of the 1967 Earl’s Court Motor Show

Designed by Marcello Gandini; precursor to the Lamborghini Espada

Recently—and beautifully—restored

Complete with Jaguar Heritage certificate


This one-of-a-kind Jaguar Pirana is a genuine rarity: a remarkable automobile with an extraordinary and unusual history.


The Pirana began its life as a publicity stunt, the brainchild of John Anstey, editor of London’s Daily Telegraph Magazine. The publication was a newcomer on London’s weekend scene and Anstey wanted to boost circulation. It was the mid-1960s and England was car crazy. Anstey decided to promote the magazine by creating a unique car. Gathering a group of automotive journalists, he invited them to describe their ideal 2+2 grand touring coupe. The journalists did just that, bringing in styling and performance ideas from supercars of the day—Jaguar, Ferrari, Aston-Martin, Lamborghini, and others to create, on paper, a dream car.


Anstey took it a step further and convinced the magazine’s management to allocate funds—£20,000 GBP (about $370,000 today)—to build the car. But his intent was not simply to create a prototype or concept car. Anstey’s goal was to produce a drivable, head-turning automobile and to have it finished within six months. Anstey believed that the ideal 2+2 coupe should provide all the technical features and creature comforts to combine robust performance with an enjoyable road experience. It made for a challenging task.


Once given the green light, Anstey turned to an array of suppliers to produce the Pirana. Jaguar was tapped for the engine and chassis. Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons heartily agreed to sell Anstey an 2+2 E-Type chassis as well as a 4.2-liter straight six, 265-horsepower, triple-carbureted engine and powertrain. Anstey stressed that the car had to be built from existing parts to eliminate the need for fabricating custom components. In addition, the coupe had to meet applicable safety requirements and be equipped with all the E-Type Jaguar amenities.


Anstey contacted Nuccio Bertone of Carrozzeria Bertone in Turin, Italy, for the coachwork. Bertone signed on to the project in a quick exchange of letters and assigned the venture to Marcello Gandini, a young and talented stylist known for his work on the Lamborghini Miura. Gandini gave the Pirana a distinctive futuristic look with sexy fluid lines that some say inspired his subsequent work on the Lamborghini Espada, introduced a year later. Bertone himself named the car “Piranha,” but AMT had a Piranha of its own, so Jaguar dropped the “h” and rechristened the car “Pirana.”

The Pirana’s interior space was a commitment to driver and passenger ergonomics and ease. With the E-Type 2+2 chassis accepted as is, the Bertone designers could focus on riders’ comfort. Britain’s Smith Industries was brought in to collaborate. The company developed the car’s heating and air-conditioning, which featured an early climate-control system. It also contributed an in-dash AM/FM radio with a cassette player/recorder in the center console between the seats—state-of-the-art for its day. Bertone added power door and rear windows and a power radio antenna. Lucas provided headlamps with quartz-iodine lights, and other electrical components. The seats were upholstered in first-rate tan Connolly Anela hide and came with special matching Britax seatbelts with reminder lamps and audible warnings. A speed-limit warning system was also installed. Triplex supplied special Sundym glass with a thick vinyl interlayer in the laminated glass that increased flexibility penetration for the windscreen and rear glass. The result was a passenger well-appointed cabin that, with its Bertone oversight, ensured bespoke Italian flair.


The Jaguar Bertone Pirana made its auspicious debut at the 1967 London Motor Show at Earl’s Court. The sleek right-hand-drive sportster with its exceptional silver-painted steel semi-monocoque body (highly unusual for a concept car), trusted Jaguar mechanicals, and luxurious interior was an instant hit with the public and enthusiast motoring publications. After its unveiling at Earl’s Court, the Pirana was transported to auto shows in Turin that same year and in New York and Montreal in 1968. When the show circuit ended, the Daily Telegraph sold the Pirana for $16,000. The Pirana then seemed to disappear from view.


In 2010, the Jaguar resurfaced, ensconced in Arizona. It apparently was well maintained in the interim, but the car had been repainted in British Racing Green, a color that seemed almost like a visual non-sequitur for an aerodynamic Italian sports tourer. It also had its four-speed manual gearbox replaced by a Borg-Warner automatic transmission. Two years later, the current owner purchased the Pirana and began a restoration to bring the car back to its original state.


In honor of the car’s origin, the new owner removed the racing green paint and gave the car a gleaming coat of silver metallic, similar to its original color. The interior received new tan leather seating and carpets. Lights, wipers, air conditioning/heating control and systems were refurbished. Mechanicals were brought to working order and Dunlop alloy wheels were fitted. In 2012, the entire car meticulously restored, the Pirana made its first public appearance in nearly 45 years when it was displayed at the 2012 Concorso Italiano in Monterey, California.


Today, the Jaguar Pirana stands as a tribute—a manifestation of the ideal car. The Pirana has been described as a “British cat in an Italian suit,” blending legendary Jaguar performance—a reported top speed of 146 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 7.1 seconds, and the capability to cruise at 100 mph—and elegant Italian styling. It is an eminently collectible car, and . . . it is the only one in the world. This is a rare opportunity to acquire a rare automobile. A savvy collector will seize it.

Copyright © 2012, Ed Superfon. All Rights Reserved.