There are some injustices one can never quite get over.
The rationale behind this series of articles on the former Jaguar design director’s creative legacy has been to evaluate what was achieved, while not shying away from justifiable criticism. Because we can probably agree that Ian Callum’s Jaguar-related back-catalogue is a somewhat uneven one. Part of this can be ascribed to factors outside of his control, but not all.
However, the reason I have gathered you here today is to reappraise the one design which took place under his watch which by far eclipsed anything Whitley’s advanced styling studios has subsequently seen fit to show the wider public. The great lost opportunity to redefine the brand, not to mention, the most swinging indictment of successive management torpidity and cowardice: R-D6.
Created under advanced studio head (now Callum’s successor), Julian Thomson and directly attributed to the highly talented senior exterior designer, Matthew Beaven, R-D6 masterfully combined the rounded forms of the much-loved Mark 2 saloon with the voluptuousness of the E-Type, marrying them into a dramatic, and for Jaguar, highly unusual bob-tailed coupé-hatch.
Photos cannot do this car justice. In three dimensions, (and I have been fortunate to view it on about four separate occasions) it speaks to the deep yearning all Jaguaristes feel for a return to the stylistic values the marque was founded upon. A deeply romantic, yet entirely pragmatic design, even now it simply screams – ‘build me’.
Yes, one can nitpick the detailing, which appears not only somewhat dated but a little crass now – after all, impeccable taste was never one of Mr. Callum’s most notable attributes – and it’s also unavoidable to note that the softness of its surfacing is probably out of step with contemporary norms.
But the R-D6 stands, not only for missed opportunities, but above all as an expressive reproach; a profound reminder that neither the Ford Motor Company, nor later JLR management understood nor could frame a cogent vision for this unique marque in the modern era.
That the concept, which remains part of Jaguar’s Heritage line-up at the Gaydon-based Collections Centre is to this day a visual and much-referenced creative touchstone speaks volumes for not only the burning sense of injustice felt by its creative team – some of whom remain in place at Whitley, but the belief that its thematic relevance remains intact.
Did Mr. Callum fight hard enough for his designers, or were his entreaties simply dismissed by the senior accountants and product strategists? We’ll probably never know for sure. What we do know is that they had the creative salvation of the brand in their grasp and they blew it.