Cool For Cats

There are some injustices one can never quite get over. 

2003 Jaguar R-D6 concept. (c) motorsportscenter

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.

Driven to Write has written at some length on the subject of R-D6 in the past, both in 2015 here and in 2017 here, which I urge you to revisit.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

9 thoughts on “Cool For Cats”

    1. Further deficient aspects of this design:

      It has enormously tall door sills to step over (similar to a Corvette C4), perhaps to make up for the structural deficiencies of having no B pillar.

      Except, the door windows have huge surrounds, so when you lower the windows you don’t get the open cabin aspect of no b pillar, even though there is no B pillar !

      Good call by Ford on this one

    1. I will first say that matters of styling are subjective. But of course, that perhaps doesn’t really get me anywhere here, since my central point related to this concept’s design, which I believe is superb. That of course is my opinion, but for what it is worth it comes from someone who has studied and appraised the Jaguar marque for around 40 years now. Does that give my opinion any additional weight? Perhaps not, but it’s worth throwing in there.

      The R-D6 dispenses with a central Jaguar visual theme, that of the sweeping, elongated tail, which could have been jarring, but in this case was so well handled that instead, to these eyes at least, it was thrilling. Viewed in three dimensions, the surfacing is delightful, the proportions are exquisite. The grille / headlamp treatment lets it down to some extent, but would be easily remedied. All of this of course, is irrelevant here.

      What is of far more relevance is this, I would contend. Cars are nowadays cliniced to within an inch of their lives. The current XE / XF models undoubtedly did well in this arena, undoubtedly backing up the over-cautious management who pushed for them. However, in the market, they are at best, everybody’s fourth or fifth choice, if even that.

      A Jaguar, above all else, ought to be a delight to behold. Some might say this concept isn’t. I disagree, as would a significant subset of potential customers who would absolutely love it. Successful products are not created by working through a checklist, and that goes for Jaguars, perhaps even more than other marques.

      But as ever, other opinions are available.

  1. I absolutely love the R-D6. It’s full, curvaceous form makes you immediately realise what was most wrong with the S-Type: not the controversial swage line, but it’s flat sides that, from some angles, look hollow and almost concave. If you’re going to do voluptuous curves, commit to them properly!

    The R-D6’s form lives on, to some extent at least:

  2. I very much liked the RD6 at the time, but it has not aged well. Jaguar would have been better set putting this into production at the time, presaging the new A-Class as it did by several years.

  3. The reaction to R-D6 here, after all these years, reminds me of the results the first-generation Twingo received during customer clinic sessions. A large part of those questioned explained they wouldn’t want to be seen dead in one. A minority remained indifferent. And a quarter of respondents absolutely loved it.

  4. Well, I take it nobody here but Mr Doyle has actually see this car in the flesh or tarried in deep contemplation over its design. Thus I can safely join the majority of internet keyboard warrior opinionators, who on the basis of sitting around with a cup of coffee or tea and a packet of nice new biccies while rarely venturing out into sunshine which makes the eyes blink convulsively, have managed in a few sentences or paragraphs to solve the world’s most pressing problems with ease, or decided from the perspective of not much actual experience in a given field that their opinions are far superior to those of the dutiful professionals that inhabit it. A supermarket shelf-restocker can thus live an online life rich in ways that their stultifying day job cannot possibly provide.

    I can therefore say with considerable unchallengeable authority from glancing at mere photos, that this R-D6’s wheels are far too large and out of proportion and that the high sides and curves make it look rather cherubically plump in an inartistically clumsy way. It needs a good burping as my dear old Mum was wont to say about her fourth offspring. The front grille, which unforunately echoes that of the S-type in concept, has a rather porcine snout or mini-Veyron vibe. Tragically, I abhor that particular styling fillip, and must therefore consign this exercise to the bin considering that flaw together with the overall rather bloated look.

    And I facilely say this on the basis of having never seen the car and being unable to take into account its actual size and placing it in context. As an internet expert such piffling deficiencies on my part hardly matter, of course. It looks like an unfortunate modern amalgam of an XK140 and E-type coupe with added width and tractor wheels in these photos. It’s also untidy. There’s your in-depth internet basement dweller summary.

    No wonder car companies and others conduct focus groups offered by so-called independent polling/research firms to avoid introducing stinkers on an unprepared marketplace. Usually comprising mainly a gaggle of opinionated middle-aged ladies with time on their hands who are looking forward to spending their honorarium, these groups tend to be scientifically randomly chosen in idealized thought bubble decision trees only. Who else has weekdays free of appointments but such persons and retirees? Ask me how I know that locally, at least, this is how focus groups are generally constituted. Harassed receptionists are given the task of phoning around during their non-existent spare time and coffee-making duties to gather a forum from a list of the pre-qualified, while the influential number crunchers and artful question designers cannot be bothered to assist as they sit in their offices phoning all and sundry firms to gather new business, texting, messaging, emailing and looking extremely busily important. One of them (you’re up, Ted!) will usually take five minutes from their hectic schedules to gushily greet a new group and flatter their sensibilities, following which a disinterested staff group leader trying to be upbeat takes over to conduct the actual clinic. The resulting influence of the middle-aged distaff side on modern design that actually makes it to market is a closely guarded secret. Witness the rise of hatchbacks on stilts to the position of dominant vehicle style these days as just one result.

    I rest my internet expert case as one de facto reductio ad absurdum result of modern society, itself rushing about paying scant attention to in-depth contemplation on the resultant road to nowhere. Now, I have several dozen messages emails and missed phone calls to attend to in the time it took to dash off this comment. So, please excuse me, won’t you? Thanks.

  5. For what it´s worth, the RD6 looks ready for production now. I think I liked it at the time and I like it even more now. The front end was the right mix of retro and modern for Jaguar. If the S-type had been detailed in the same way it would have been a delight. The car also avoids very heavy wheel arches: they are small, flat rims around the cut-out and that´s it. Simple and nice.

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