Some wheels come to define an era.
For any marque enthusiast, wheel design can be as evocative and redolent of its era as any design flourish or styling theme. To me at least, these wheels just scream Jaguar, in the same way wires did during the 1960s. I’ve habitually known them as the GKN Kent alloy, standard equipment on the original launch-spec Jaguar XJ-S and optional on XJ saloons over the ensuing decade and a half. The final XJ saloon that left the Browns Lane production line in 1992 was a Series 3 Daimler Double Six on ‘Kents‘. No other wheel design served Jaguar as long or suited the car as well.
But having carried out a little due diligence prior to penning this piece, I’ve discovered GKN Kent was in fact the name of a subsidiary of the giant Guest Keen and Nettlefold group of companies – one that produced original equipment wheels for a number of (mostly) UK manufacturers and a variety of aftermarket rims for the go-faster brigade.
Actually, GKN was one of the UK’s few automotive success stories during the volatile 1970s, producing profits of over £107m in 1976 alone. Subsidiary companies at the time encompassed axles and transmissions, including such names as Laycock De Normanville, Salisbury Axles, Powr Lok and Vandevell bearings. Today, GKN remain in the wheel business, providing specialist rims for farming, earth moving and heavy equipment, aside from the company’s other business interests.
GKN Kent alloy wheels were fitted to a number of BL umbrella company models over the years, so the actual nomenclature of the Jaguar-specific wheel is perhaps known only to GKN themselves. To be honest, I was disappointed to learn this; I liked the idea they had a name. So while contemporary Jags also wore Pepperpots, Starfish or Lattice alloys – (all probably made by GKN), it will always be the Kent – (or whatever they’re actually called) – that remain the quintessential Jaguar alloy wheel.
Depressingly, the range of wheels on offer across the Jaguar range today, despite being bewildering in scope, all look broadly the same as everyone else’s; lacking any semblance of personality. Who will bother to write a piece in praise of them forty years from now?
You might like to read about the GKN ‘Kent‘ here at Hemmings: