1966 Jaguar FT by Bertone

1966 Jaguar FT by Bertone

Bertone Jaguar FT — Marcello Gandini’s vision of a mid-1960s Jaguar.

Story by Chris Rees

OBSCURATI Gandini’s Bertone Jaguar FT


Italian coachbuilders creating bodywork on Jaguar chassis was very popular in the 1950s, with all sorts of carrozzerie getting involved, including Pinin Farina, Ghia, Allemano, Boano and Zagato, which all did exceptional work on the chassis of the XK120, XK140 and XK150. Bertone also got in on the act with its fabulous XKE coupe of 1958 (the very first time the ‘XKE’ badge was ever used).

1966 Jaguar FT by Bertone

But with the demise of separate-chassis models in Jaguar’s line-up at the start of the 1960s, it was much harder for Italian coachbuilders to create new bodywork at economical prices. The era of handbuilt one-offs for wealthy clients was coming to an end and Italian carrozzerie were busy reinventing themselves as ‘design houses’ for major manufacturers (Jaguar included, which hired Pininfarina in the 1970s to reshape it XJ saloon). There was one last fling for the custom coachbuilt Jaguar by Bertone. In 1966, the Jaguar importer for northern Italy, Giorgio Tarchini, commissioned a new two-door, five-seat coupe body on the basis of Jaguar’s S-Type saloon. This was known as the ‘FT’ after the initials of the importer’s founder, Ferruccio Tarchini.

1966 Jaguar FT by Bertone - interior

The man who designed the FT was none other than Marcello Gandini, then 27 years old and a fresh face at Bertone. He had just finished styling the era-defining Lamborghini Miura – but sadly you couldn’t say that his FT shared much of the magical design drama of the world’s first supercar.

Perhaps its main problem was that it looked neither British nor Italian. Yes, it had a Jaguar MkX-style radiator grille and used MkX side lights and indicators, but the whole front end felt more like an Alfa Romeo than a Jaguar; and at the rear, Alfa Romeo Giulia Berlina lights were used unchanged. There was some heaviness to the shape of the rear flanks, partly because Gandini designed semi-enclosed rear wheelarches (later to be a trademark of his) but the shape of the glasshouse was more successful, particularly the charismatic kink in the C-pillars. The Jaguar FT was unveiled on Bertone’s stand at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show. Jaguar’s senior management and engineering divisions evaluated the car and Sir William Lyons was said to have thought highly of it. Jaguar’s chief engineer, Norman Dewis, who tested it in May 1966, described its styling as “eye-catching”.

Bertone hoped to produce the car in series, with distribution taken care of by Tarchini’s dealerships in Italy. It’s thought that Jaguar delivered seven S-Type chassis to Bertone but ultimately only two FTs were ever completed. The 1966 Geneva prototype was painted metallic gold with a tan leather interior, which stayed in Italy with the Tarchini family. The second car was built in 1967 for a customer in Spain, painted pale green. Both cars survive today.

Gandini himself was proud of his creation, stating in an interview that the FT was his favourite of the three Jaguar concepts he designed for Bertone – the others being the E-Type-based Pirana of 1967 and the XJS-based Ascot of 1977.

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