} ;

Concept Car of the Week: Jaguar Ascot (1977)

29 May 2015 | by Tom Phillips

Although Bertone is arguably best-known for its work with Italian carmakers, the carrozzeria created a number of concepts and production-car proposals for Jaguar. The first was the FT 420 Coupé, commissioned by Jaguar's North Italian importer for the 1966 Geneva Motor Show. The car was built in tribute to the importer's founder, Ferruccio Tarchini, hence the FT in its name, and was one of Marcello Gandini's first works for Bertone, after Giugiaro departed for Ghia.

The following year, Bertone showed the Pirana at the Earl's Court Motor Show in the UK. Bertone was commissioned by the British Daily Telegraph newspaper to create the car, based on a Series 1 E-Type. Jaguar passed on the opportunity to build a production version of the model, but the car would be reborn as the Lamborghini Espada.

Jaguar Ascot Bertone 09

Fast-forward to 1976, and Bertone joined Pininfarina and Italdesign in creating proposals for a new Jaguar saloon. Its Project XJ40 was ultimately spurned, but elements of this car were used on the production model.

Following a number of rejections, where its designs stayed close to Jaguar's design DNA of the time, Bertone changed its approach. By 1977, Gandini was in his full wedge-era prime, having designed the Alfa Romeo Carabo, Lancia Stratos Zero, and Lamborghini Countach, and applied his signature style to a four-seater Jaguar coupé, the Ascot.

Jaguar Ascot Bertone 10

The Ascot was based on the XJS' platform, albeit shortened in the wheelbase by around 200mm. The right-hand drive concept also used the Jaguar's 5.3-liter V12 and automatic transmission, and was unveiled at the Turin Motor Show in 1977.

Taking a step on from the Ferrari 308 GT4 Rainbow, shown in 1976, the Ascot featured a full-width grille with the Jaguar leaper at its center. A lower lip spoiler formed a surface that ran around the front of the car and over each angular front wheelarch. The hood featured a pronounced H-shaped form, echoing the shape of the V12 underneath, and hiding a set of pop-up lamps at its leading edge.

Jaguar Ascot Bertone 21

The rear arches were cut off in signature Gandini style, while the contrast-colored A-, B- and C-pillars featured forms that appeared like angular, inverted references to the XJS's signature flying buttresses. The car was painted white for its show debut, but was resprayed gold at a later point.

Unlike the XJS, the Ascot featured hand-made aluminum body panels, rather than steel, making it lighter. The concept also used a hatchback, like an E-Type, rather than the sedan-like trunk lid of its donor car.

The interior was a contemporary mix of tan leather and brown suede, including neat satchel-inspired storage in each door card. The gauge pack, some auxiliary dials and the T-shaped gear selector are all borrowed from the XJS. However, the rectangular shape of the IP was concept-specific, and included that ultimate of 1970s luxuries, a built-in carphone.

Jaguar Ascot Bertone 26

As with all of its previous Jaguar proposals, and its 2011 B99 sedan concept, Bertone's Ascot didn't quite resonate with the British firm's management. However, this late-70s era of Gandini design, where he applied the wedge to sedans, didn't get lost – ideas from the Ascot, his Reliant TW11 of the same year, and 1979 Volvo Tundra concept would eventually see production as the Citroën BX in 1982.

What else happened in 1977?

Apple Computer was incorporated and the first Apple II computers went on sale, and the world's first commercial supersonic transport aircraft, the Tupolev Tu-144, or Concordski as it was affectionately known, entered service. Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini's Centre Georges Pompidou opened in Paris, and Hotel California by The Eagles became the biggest hit single of the year. In the year that the first Star Wars movie was released, it's fitting that the Voyager 1 space probe was also launched – now the farthest spacecraft from Earth.