Not satisfied with a year-long treatise on Jaguar’s mid-80s saloon, DTW’s kitty chronicler-at-large goes looking for connections further afield.
In 1988 thoughts at Rover Group finally began to coalesce around a replacement for the original Range Rover. P38A was the result, a car mostly dismissed now as a half-hearted reworking of a true original. Sound familiar? Well, history isn’t just confined to repeating itself at Jaguar, because as you’ll see, similarities between P38A and Jaguar’s XJ40 run surprisingly deep. Allow us to count the ways.
One: P38A was intended to replace a long-lived antecedent which over time had attained iconic status. The original Range Rover was introduced in 1970 and for most of its 24-year career had come to define the market. P38A then, needed to honour its predecessor’s heritage, retain existing customers, yet increase Range Rover’s reach beyond that of the dated if much-loved original – a remit that matched that of XJ40 almost to the letter.
Two: Overseeing the design at Land Rover for P38A was George Thomson, formerly a senior member of the Jaguar styling team, where he had made a significant contribution to the appearance of XJ40 during its epic 1970’s odyssey from concept to approval. At Land Rover, Thomson was once again faced with the task of replacing a much-loved original without losing its quintessence in the process.
Three: Like XJ40, Thomson’s in-house styling theme faced a number of rival proposals from external styling consultancies including Bertone, Ital Design, Pininfarina and UK-based favourites, Heffernan-Greenley. And similarly, the final decision ultimately came down in favour of the in-house design; Thomson later telling chroniclers; “The other designs provided a lot of inspiration, but our familiarity with the product and its customers gave us the advantage.”
Four: Both XJ40 and P38A departed from traditional marque-specific styling features in one notable area; both cars moving to large rectangular shaped headlamp units, which would polarise opinion. In each case, the consensus was that the overall style failed to sufficiently advance the aesthetic – ironic given the huge shadow cast by both cars’ antecedents. Interestingly, despite the difference in height and frontal area, both cars achieved similar Cd figures – the Range Rover’s being (appropriately) 0.38 and the Jaguar’s o.37.
Five: In 1999 Land Rover was in BMW ownership when a prototype P38A was created, powered by the Bavarian’s 5-litre V12 engine. This model was briefly evaluated for production as a more upmarket variant before being abandoned. XJ40 also received a V12 transplant – a good seven years after its début.
Six: Following the launch of the more upmarket P38A, the original Range Rover was retained in production as the ‘Range Rover Classic’ before finally bowing out two years later. XJ40’s Series III predecessor was also sold alongside the newer car – (for a further 6-years), owing to the lack of a V12 option.
Seven: Land rover launched P38A in September 1994 – coinciding with the introduction of XJ40’s successor, the Ford funded and executed X300. So just at the point BMW-owned Land Rover were breaking with their past, Jaguar appeared to be reverting to a rose-tinted version of theirs.
Eight: P38A developed an early reputation for unreliability and poor quality, website Honestjohn describing the model as having “an appalling catalogue of build problems.” XJ40 too suffered build and component failings during the early years of production, although in both cases it can be said that neither car was conceptually flawed. However, both have retained the stigma of unreliability and poor build – fairly or otherwise.
Nine: Latterly, P38A has been overshadowed by its more resolved and considerably more expensively developed L322 successor. This car, whose development was overseen by BMW’s Wolfgang Ritzle remains for many the definitive latter-day Rangie; one which married traditional styling with modernity to great success. Similarly, XJ40 has been eclipsed by its better-loved, more traditional looking X300/308 successors and is only latterly being appreciated for its virtues.
And you thought I was kidding, didn’t you?
[George Thomson quote via ARonline]