Phase Four – 1986-1994: The Rhymes of Goodbye. As Henry’s new broom sweeps both baby and bathwater, XJ40 gets a final makeover before it bows out.
Bent on beating General Motors to the punch, it appears the Blue Oval not only overpaid but failed to carry out a sufficiently thorough pre-purchase inspection. As the scale of Jaguar’s issues became clear, budgets and new car programmes were slashed. It didn’t take long for the briefings to start, the US giant unashamedly publicising their findings, seemingly oblivious to the negative PR this would engender – to say nothing about morale.
With Egan gone, hardnut manufacturing expert, Bill Hayden was brought out of retirement. He made no bones about what he thought of the Browns Lane facility, telling the press the only worse facility he’d toured was in Soviet Russia. Hayden’s abrasive style put the fear of God into the workforce, allowing him to push through reforms Egan could never have envisaged. Deputy Chairman, John Grant was more emollient however, telling journalists; “Jaguar’s efficiency is not good. The working practices are not modern and this will have to change”. He also pointed out that few of Jaguar’s suppliers met Ford’s Q1 quality standards, but that ‘Ford is helping’.
Manufacturing received the bulk of investment, while engineering bore the brunt of the cuts. Not only did Jim Randle lose much of his team, Hayden decreed that most of Geoff Lawson’s stylists would be outsourced across Ford’s studios. Desperate rearguard action saw William Clay Ford intervene, allowing a shrunken styling team to remain in place.
In 1991 Hayden acted against Jim Randle, shunting him into an advanced engineering backwater, a development the veteran Jaguar engineering chief saw for what it was. The architect of XJ40 walked out in despair, later forging an esteemed career in academia and engineering consultancy.
Curiously, Randle’s career arc matched that of his predecessor and mentor, Bob Knight. At the peak of their careers, both men’s positions became untenable. Both chose to walk away rather than accept a diminished role. History repeats. Randle’s contribution to protecting the integrity of the marque, both politically and creatively was of immense importance, but his departure also marked the end of an entire engineering ethos. Because whatever one’s view of the Jaguars which followed, with Jim Randle’s departure something intangible went with him. Some might call it soul.
Replacement, Clive Ennos began a root and branch reorganisation, adopting Ford practices and procedures. The V12 engine installation for XJ40 was restarted with the aim of improving quality and to future-proof the platform for its impending replacement. Dubbed XJ81, it appeared in 1993, straight into the teeth of a global recession. With an upgraded 6.0-litre version of the 12-cylinder unit, it was a fine motor car but refinement was said to have fallen below the stellar levels achieved by its predecessor and fuel consumption remained eye-watering. The same year saw a final round of improvements to the six-cylinder models, the most evident being a redesigned interior. At the very apogee of its lifespan, XJ40 was thoroughly debugged.
But time was running out. Car tested a Daimler Double Six model against formidable German opposition in July 1994. Holding true to the now ageing model, Car opined; “The first tendrils of old age may have stolen upon it, but this car still represents a magnificent achievement.” They went on to laud it for; “the fabulous tranquillity of its cabin, its sensuous good looks, the effortless force of its engine and its sheer strength of character.” But in their summary, they were unequivocal about its shortcomings. Criticising the level of road and wind noise, the refinement of the V12 installation, the oddly placed interior controls and damningly, its build, they stated; “As a high-quality product, it is way off-target… its imminent facelift can’t come soon enough.”
That replacement was in hand, work starting on a successor dubbed XJ90 some time prior to Ford’s arrival. Randle told this author, “[XJ90] was four inches longer in wheelbase than XJ40. It was taller, it had the styling that you see on X300, more or less. That styling had been around for quite a long time, by the way. It was one of the things that Ford found in our goodies bag. [It] was very well received by Bill Hayden, who notably said he was going to have an orgasm! All they did after that really was to take the front and rear of XJ90 and put it on XJ40.”
With Jaguar haemorrhaging millions, it was a case of make do and mend. With a more ambitious reskin ruled out, work progressed on a compromise solution dubbed X300 which would prove to be a notably better finished and refined product. Stylistically speaking, X300 harked unashamedly back to the much loved Series III, yet there was a slightly unhappy transatlantic element to it – a Jaguar with an American accent, if you like.
Either way, with its autumn 1994 launch, XJ40 was (outwardly at least) consigned to the history books. But its essence lived on, forming the basis not only for X300, but also the revised X308 model which continued until 2002.
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