A Photo for Sunday: Jensen and Jaguar

Not long did these two cars directly compete in the showrooms. Only in 1976 could one choose between a new, cramped 5.3 litre V12 2+2 or a new, cramped 2+2 with a 7.2 litre V8.

Cool and warm – 1966 Jensen Interceptor and a 1976 (onwards) Jaguar XJ-S.

The two cars show how differently the same basic concept can be executed (Bristol and Ferrari are another two): the GT. The West Bromwich bolide benefitted from Touring’s neatly considered styling while Brown’s Lane’s leaper resulted from a tortuous process involving a number of hands (almost a Burkean contract between designers dead, designers living and designers yet to be). While the Jensen attained a homogenous look, the Jaguar resembles three very different ideas uneasily blended together.

What if we look inside the cars? The Jaguar and Jensen both have comically poor packaging underneath the leather and wood. Both

cars offer a lot to those in the front (the Jensen has width). Behind the drivers’ seats we find almost no legroom at all which makes one ask what point a 2+2 GT has? Neither saloon nor roadster, the 2+2 is like 10 m of rope when you need 12 m; it’s one half of a pair of scissors or bacon and eggs with no toast and tea.

Notice the subtle forward lean of the Jensen’s wheel arch and the echo in the vent aft of the cut-out.

To business: can we imagine fixing these designs? Of the two, the Jensen could be adjusted with the least trouble. The long, long bonnet could easily lose 25 cm without anyone noticing and another 5 cm could be added between the wheels without affecting the overall length. No height would be required as the car’s roof and its windshield already resemble a saloon’s. The modified version (below) has a longer side glass and shorter bonnet. That said, I could have lowered the glasshouse by 1% or 2% to compensate. In reality one would not notice the difference.

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[Slide show photo credit: here]

The Jaguar lies furthest away from a reasonable two-door coupe package. The low glasshouse can be considered a key element of the car’s style and can’t be raised. However, the XJ-S also possesses an absurdly long bonnet so the scuttle could have been brought forward and also another few centimetres of wheel base added – the resultant shape would still be recognisably XJ-S and not merely an XJ coupe.

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[Slide show photo credit: here]

I seldom see the Jaguar from this view; the original car shows the disconcerting blend of elements: no wonder the 1991 version dealt with the negative curve on the C-pillar, eliminating also the pointy corners by using gentle radii. Purists, no doubt, hate it. I am not among them.

Here is the original and a version with only the C-pillar modified:

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The rather hastily altered images don’t do justice to the engineering changes needed to move lumps of hardware, nor the business of re-modelling the exterior transitions. However, they do show in principle that, like the Tagora, the measurable difference between not very good and acceptable is usually small. Did Jensen and Jaguar really face immovable mountains when considering the packaging? Would either car have been in other ways worse with another 30cm behind the front seats?

And finally, the two revised cars, for comparison – would you know they were modified if you weren’t told?

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I felt it might be illuminating to canvass the opinion of fellow DTW author and specialist on the XJ-S, Eóin Doyle, who had this to say:- “Regarding packaging, the XJ-S was proposed as a more upmarket replacement for the 2+2 E-Type. Jaguar’s importers believed that US customers only wanted ‘occasional’ rear seats. 

1975 also saw Jaguar introduce the 2-door XJ-C, which did offer four seats, so a similarly packaged XJ-S would have made little commercial sense. XJ-S was based on the same 108″ XJ-C floorpan, but with the seatpan and rear subframe pulled forward 6 inches.

The c-pillar vent area does serve to highlight the fact that nobody managed to solve the issue of how to successfully treat this, either in 1970-72 or fifteen years later when it was remodelled. Perhaps the original Sayer treatment, which made no attempt to mask the width of the C-pillar was the least compromised, even if it was the most uncompromising.

An external coachbuilder did once make a longer wheelbase XJ-S (as indeed I think Jaguar did themselves at one point). Proportionally, it didn’t work and although subtle, the alterations here also very slightly interfere with the car’s stance to my eyes.

A final point regarding the Interceptor, a car incidentally Jaguar benchmarked for the XJ-S programme. The primary reason for the Jensen’s elongated scuttle / axle ratio, was the fact that it was designed to accommodate a front mounted differential for the four-wheel-drive FF version.”

Driven to Write will return again to the XJ-S very shortly.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

24 thoughts on “A Photo for Sunday: Jensen and Jaguar”

  1. I only accept XJ-Ss with that negative curve in presence. I’m sorry, Richard. Also for being so bloody predictable.

  2. How about No? Nope, nope, nope, none of your changes makes it better, more beautiful, or more desirable. If you want a bigger interior, buy another car. Like the sticker they gave out in the Aston Martin Owners Club: “My other car is a Range Rover” as they found the RR was the most common other car amongst AM owners. Changing the objective of either the Jensen or the Jaguar is shooting far above the goal post…

  3. I like the XJ-S crve too. And why spend all that money if you don’t get a conversation piece included?
    Will deal with Jensen (talking of oddles of the folding) separately.

  4. Unintended consequences.
    I don’t mind you shortening the Jensen’s bonnet, as the FWD didn’t show up. But that stretched door would be heavy enough for its hinges to wreck the A post, never mind how hard it would be for weaker passengers to pull it shut.
    But I don’t really think there was anything wrong with the original. A car like that needed presence, which a long bonnet gave it.
    As for 2+2s in general, the original B20 managed rear legroom by having a two-box design. The E-type 2+2 failed aesthetically by trying to make one kind of car into a quite different one. Was that entirely in the hunt for more US sales?

    1. From the moment the car was introduced into the US market, customers were asking for an E-Type with a larger cabin. The original car was decidedly ‘snug’ even for moderately sized frames, so it wasn’t an altogether unreasonable request. However, while Bill Lyons appreciated the need for a larger cabin, he was unwilling to spend large sums on tooling, resulting in the stylistic fudge that was the 2+2 ‘E’, which was done on the usual Jaguar shoestring and only after a good deal of trial, error and procrastination.

      I think what Richard’s attempts at reimagining both cars above illustrates is the difficulty of managing the knock-on effects of changes in architecture. A bigger XJ-S doesn’t really work. What about a smaller one though? The illustration below was mocked up by a contributor to a Jaguar forum site. As thought experiments go, it’s not hateful. But what it would have been is an altogether different type of car.

    2. I like that short XJ-S. But the diff would just leave you with a two-seater with a little parcel shelf for a bunch of flowers or atake-away meal.
      But the wheels are nearer the corners, which could have improved handling.

    3. It would have been closer in concept to an E-Type and would therefore have required an entirely different stylistic approach. It would also not have been what the market wanted, because say what you will about the XJ-S’ aesthetics, Jaguar judged its market well.

      I refer back to Jaguar’s Doug Thorpe, the man who was given the responsibility of taking Sayer’s unfinished design and finessing it for production. “[The XJ-S] didn’t lend itself to facelifting exercises – it was an entity in itself.” Despite innumerable attempts, (by Jaguar and others) nobody successfully reimagined the car without changing it beyond recognition.

    4. Yes, the door. I didn’t find a way to keep the door the right length: you’ll have to imagine it with shorter doors and it’s technically feasible.

  5. If I saw the modified versions on their own, I don’t think I’d notice. I initially thought that the Jaguar’s door on the modified version looked too far forward / too short, but when I look at it in isolation, I’m not so sure.

  6. My thoughts turned to vulgar money, as if it tells us anything.

    In July 1976 an Interceptor III cost £10,764. The FF and SP were gone, and the convertible and the horrible coupe were no substitutes.
    The XJS cost £9956. For the same money you could buy and XJ5.3C. Jaguar weren’t selling themselves cheap at the time.

    A Lamborghini Espada was yours for £15,945 (a modest £353 more if you wanted one that did its own gears)
    An Aston Martin V8 was priced at £14,836, a Bristol 411 S5 at £14,584.

    Regrettably, Monteverdi seems to have fallen off the UK market by this time. In August 1972 we could choose between a 375 S or 375L each at £9251. An Interceptor cost £6774.

    The Monteverdi’s by far the most flawed of the lot, but I’d still be tempted to “go full Hadleigh” as Alan Clark put it.

    1. I saw a s/h Monteverdi in Holloway Road, N London, around 1984. Only c £4k, which I could at a pinch have afforded. Looked lovely, but just too vulnerable a barge around London, and probably a pig to insure and get serviced.

  7. it is interesting you bring up Jensen with regards to Jaguar, apparently the Jaguar XJ Junior or Jaguar Small Car 4-seater project* featured a similar back-end to the Jensen Interceptor from the C-pillar and a similar front-end to the Trident Venturer.

    Then there is the Jaguar XJ 3-litre 2+2 project that loosely resembled a large Mini-Marcos was even shorter then the Jaguar XJ Junior yet featuring the same wheelbase as the latter as well as roughly the same length as the Talbot Sunbeam.

    *- Curiously it seems the approximate dimensions were similar to the Morris Marina, which makes one wonder whether this was the same Marina-based Jaguar projects that Roy Haynes investigated as part of his grand platform sharing proposal. Heard the project was derived from MGC mechanicals though guess it would not be too much of leap to suggest there would be slightly more appeal for those involved saying in retrospect the small Jaguar was derived from the MGC as opposed to the Marina (some elsewhere even note how much the MGB and the Marina have in common with each other).

    It is also claimed the Jaguar XJ Junior was to be powered by a Jaguar V12-derived V8 or Daimler V8 (in the case of the Jaguar 3-litre GT) when other sources say it was to be powered by Coventry Climax CFF/CFA V8 engines.

    1. That is a very unappetising prospect, a Marina-based Jaguar. No doubt the Marina owners club will respond that it wasn´t that bad but still.
      I had a look at the Jaguar XJ-C with its 5.3 litre engine. What did the XJ-S do that the XJ-C didn´t? The coupe is a vastly better car, being as it was, based on one of the most beautiful cars ever made.

    2. It was part of Roy Haynes proposal to develop a common platform and modular running gear to cut costs (something other carmakers practice to this day), which could cover most of the BL range (Morris, Triumph, Jaguar, Riley, etc) apart possibly the FWD cars (where it is said he envisioned the Mini and 1100/1300 replacements sharing the same platform).

      Even recall reading of a Marina-based Triumph proposal powered by the Stag V8, this from a car that was originally intended to be a rival to the Ford Escort rather than the Ford Cortina. The overall idea could have probably worked in much better circumstances yet BL decided to not adopt the Roy Haynes proposal.

      Agree regarding the Jaguar XJ-C, they should have continued producing it in place of the XJ-S however the latter was not too bad once the flying buttress was ditched. The XJ-S was never intended to be a direct E-Type replacement but more of a GT, the canned Jaguar XJ21 project was to be the true E-Type replacement.

    3. There was a myriad of proposals mapped out for the expansion of Jaguar’s range towards the latter part of the 1960’s, but what unites them is that they existed primarily (notwithstanding the odd quarter scale model) on paper. Jaguar had neither the capital, nor the engineering resource to build these cars and furthermore, once Stokes took over, the smaller car Jaguar was investigating was axed. That, according to Donald, was Triumph’s patch.

      I very much doubt that a Marina-based anything would have been treated with anything but outright derision at Browns Lane. They successfully fought off less insane ideas than that. There was also the ill-fated ADO 30 programme, which Jaguar was roped into during the BMH era. Lyons it seems, vetoed that one.

      XJ-C was what the original XJ was intended to be – a four seater personal luxury coupe. However, owing to the fact that the XJ4 programme was set back about 18 months, Jaguar lost its slot for the 2-door bodyshell at Pressed Steel Fisher. Initial projections from the US suggested they didn’t want the four-door car at all, but they got it all the same.

      Perhaps owing to its rather on again, off again gestation, the coupe was never fully resolved, suffering from chronic rigidity issues (owing to the lack of a B-pillar) and sealing problems with the side glass – neither of which was ever satisfactorily resolved. So while it looked lovely, it fell a good way short of the refinement of the saloon. Add to that the fact that it arrived too late for the personal luxury car heyday in the US, so sales fell short of projections as well. Additionally, it was a complex car from an assembly perspective and with Jaguar’s quality issues at the time, it became something of a liability.

      The XJ-S had no such issues – its shell was considerably stiffer than that of the XJ saloon – (those buttresses helped) – and despite its polarising appearance, it was (conceptually) more to the market’s taste. Regarding the (non-flying) buttresses, by the way, Jaguar stylists made repeated attempts at replacing or deleting the sail panels, but never arrived at a visually convincing result and found to their surprise that customers wanted them retained.

    4. Eoin: the customers wanted the buttreses. This point underlines the fact that a designer must verify ideas with the user. But did non-customers like them less?

    5. Eóin Doyle

      It is difficult to say for certain whether the MK2 replacing Jaguar XJ Junior project was actually the Marina-based Jaguar proposal by Roy Haynes (beyond its similar dimensions) or the BMC/MGC-based Jaguar proposal (though the latter had roughly similar length to the Jaguar 3-litre GT project). Seems that Lyons was keen on the latter based on his autobiography.

    6. Bob: It was a very muddled period and a lot of ideas were bouncing around at the time – some from within Browns Lane, some from within BMH. Jaguar’s own proposal was allegedly benchmarked against the 105-series Alfa GTV and was to have a live rear axle. It’s unclear whether this was to be a leaf-sprung job supplied by BMC or something more sophisticated from the hand of Bob Knight. I’m not sure progress even got that far – the model was never assigned an XJ-code number as far as I can tell.

      ADO 30 was a BMC project, one which preceded Jaguar’s takeover by BMC. Lyons seems to have got roped into this, but it does seem he had no real enthusiasm for it and merely went through the motions. Only Harriman seemed interested in this car. Latter day historians / chroniclers have conflated some of these, largely as far as I can tell, because they didn’t really understand what they were looking at.

      The Marina-based proposal is a new one on me and must have been a post-’68 merger plan. There is of course nothing wrong with platform sharing in principle, assuming the platform in question is a credible one. But given that Jaguar’s engineers (who ruled the roost in Browns Lane) rejected using ADO 61 out of hand as a basis for the XJ’s replacement, the idea of using a platform as cynically conceived as that of the Marina smacks of commercial naiveté at best by BLMC’s lords and masters. I choose to call it ineptitude. It was because of ludicrous proposals such as this that Browns Lane adopted such a bunker mentality throughout the 1970s. During this period, Jaguar were handing £millions in profits to BLMC every year and getting absolutely nothing in return.

    7. Eóin Doyle

      Indeed. One thing that perplexes me is why the Jaguar XJ Junior project was conceived as a replacement for the MK2 with the intention of rivalling the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000/2500, when it was in fact smaller than all 3, with similar dimensions to the Alfa Romeo Giulia Type 105 yet featuring a Jensen Interceptor-like 2-door 4-seater (or 2+2) hatchback bodystyle as opposed to a more practical 4-door variant (unless that was under consideration prior to the project being canned)?

      The BMC ADO30 was of course a blind alley though was under the impression it was to be a much bigger car compared to the small Jaguar proposals.

      Perhaps the Marina-based common platform and running gear proposal would have been better if made use of mechanicals from other parts of the BL empire, some for example say more Triumph parts should have been carried over to the Marina.

    8. As to why Jaguar was looking at a compact 2-door fastback to replace a four-door saloon is a question that has never been adequately answered and with nobody above ground who was senior enough to reliably throw light upon it now, we can only assume that Jaguar’s US distributors were asking for something along these lines. Certainly, Jaguar saloons were not appealing to US customers during the 1960s, with both Mark X and S-Type stalled in the marketplace there. (History repeats) We do know that the XJ4 programme was originally proposed to have included a more compact (shorter/narrower) spin-off version, as a suggested Mark 2 replacement, but it never went beyond the discussion phase.

      Regarding the Marina, aronline.co.uk have covered that car’s sorry tale in their usual thorough fashion. I wouldn’t profess to know much about it apart from what I have read there.

    9. I see so the reasoning for the coupe bodystyle as opposed to a regular saloon to rival the P6 and 2000/2500 is likely based on a suggestion for the US market.

  8. A closer look at the Jensen today allowed me to see that the rear axle resulted in the cramped rear seats, partly. The seats are pretty much between the rear wheels. To add another 30 cm between the leading edge of the rear seat and the driver/f. passenger seat would mean moving the axle back a bit. Guess what: the Jensen has huge leaf springs so if they moved back the car might need to be longer. Another thing would be to raise the seats a bit and shave off 10 cm of the seat; it’s pretty deep from front to back. There’s plenty of headroom. Finally, move everything from between the A and B-pillar forward 20 cm. I suppose the engine (a huge lump) would move correspondingly.
    It’s a fine car yet the packaging is dire. Did they not make a packaging buck at some point?

  9. For those who appreciate trivia, laced with irony:
    Both of these fine luxury GT’s share another historical footnote. Both were the mounts of “the infamous Simon Templar” on the telly. Jaguar’s XJ-S appeared for a whole season in 1978’s RETURN OF THE SAINT, starring Ian Ogilvy. Eleven years later, Simon Dutton punted a Series III Jensen Interceptor in the Saint TV-movies produced by D.L.Taffner. The Jaguar wore the vanity plates ST 1, while the Jensen bore the registration number 1 ST.

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