The Jaguar XJ-S came from outer space – or did it?
Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in November 2017.
A shape which to this day repels as much as it fascinates, the Jaguar XJ-S remains a car which divides opinion. While the reasons for repulsion are easy enough to discern, its fascination lies not only as a function of its striking shape, but also from a sense that its styling came about without precedent. But surely no car is developed entirely in a vacuum?
Driven to Write has covered the XJ-S’ stylistic development in some detail already, so you might consider it a little self-indulgent to retrace this ground, but what has not been addressed is the matter of influence; what external designs could conceivably have been pinned to Malcolm Sayer’s moodboard, had Jaguar’s aerodynamicist and self-confessed non-stylist have been in possession of such a device in 1968?
Firstly, it’s worth reminding ourselves that XJ-S (or to call it by its experimental code, XJ27) was initially believed to have had a low penetrating nose for aerodynamic reasons. The very earliest Sayer XJ27 sketches illustrate this, as indeed do photos of a scale model used for preliminary wind tunnel tests. It was stated at the car’s 1975 launch that it was the threat of proposed (but not enacted) US lighting regulations that prompted Sayer to abandon this arrangement.
However, we should consider the facts as we recognise them. None of the established written histories of the XJ-S definitively confirm what Sayer’s initial intention for the frontal aspect of XJ-S was to have been, the only mention being a slightly ambiguous quote from Sir William Lyons, which was included in the press pack for the car’s 1975 launch.
This is worth unpicking: In his submission, Sir William refers to “international regulations on crush control and lighting”, which caused both he and Sayer to “start afresh”. However, other carmakers selling across international markets at this time designed cars with low, penetrating nose treatments without incurring legislative wrath, so without knowing precisely to what he was referring, we are little wiser. A more telling section makes reference to Lyons “discussing” aspects of the design where both he and Sayer failed to find accord.
The adopted headlamp/ grille treatment was intended to be ‘read’ by the observer as a single integrated whole, rather than three separate entities: lights and grille. This design theme was not uncommon during the latter part of the ‘Sixties, possibly influenced by designs emanating from Detroit but most notably Pininfarina’s Cadillac-based Jacqueline study from 1961, in which headlamps and grille became a single unified entity – a treatment reprised on Peugeot’s 204 of 1966, from the same Italian studio.
An earlier variation on this conceit saw headlamps and grille separated; the laps sitting in recesses or pods mounted above and flanking the grille intake. Such treatments would include the 1962 Jensen C/V8, Bertone’s 1964 Gordon Keeble and Touring’s Lamborghini 350 GT of the same year. Mention should also be made of Pininfarina’s 1963 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, which displayed a number of visual similarities: for instance, in the flattened wing crown line and dihedral beltline body crease.
But it is closer to home that the most compelling influence lies. Back in Browns Lane, Sir William oversaw a series of styling studies from 1962 to 1964, in conjunction with Fred Gardiner’s ‘studio’, as the Jaguar Chairman was trying to establish a definitive XJ4 style. As we know, this car, which ultimately became the acclaimed XJ6 saloon, began life as a four-seater personal luxury coupe with E-Type inspired styling. One of these proposals in particular (see below) not only reflects some of the external designs referenced above, but appears to have been an uncanny stylistic dry-run for the XJ-S.
Coincidence? Clearly the timelines preclude Lyons being influenced by anything apart from Jensen or Pininfarina-Cadillac but is it possible that Sir William in fact favoured this earlier in-house-inspired nose treatment; one after all he himself had developed, over the one which Sayer had proposed? It remains an intriguing possibility.
Returning to Sayer’s original styling sketches above, it is abundantly clear that XJ27’s eventual style was already there or thereabouts in the lineal wing line, the dihedral bodyside crease, the cut-off tail and truncated canopy. We have mentioned the (vague) resemblance of the Ferrari 330, however, another design from this period also exhibits some (equally vague) similarities, Pininfarina’s Lausanne study from 1963, combining (somewhat) uncluttered surfaces, a similar(ish) canopy treatment and an elongated tail.
However, what muddies the water here is the fact that Sayer had to some extent been working towards the XJ-S style with the car which preceded it. The stillborn XJ21 programme had been a proposed reskin of the E-Type which fell prey to regulatory complications, a lack of funding and impetus. However, a good deal of the thinking which went into XJ21 was employed for XJ27 in its stead. Certainly, the styling theme developed for this transitional Sayer proposal can best be described as a missing link.
But of course, it was at the rear that XJ27’s styling really went off-piste. Eschewing the classic Lyons line or indeed the previous soft-surfaced Sayer treatment, the result was dictated by aerodynamic concerns. What is interesting however, is that while Sir William was no radical in design terms, and generally eschewed anything which he would have deemed ephemeral or gimmicky, he seems to have approved of the tail-fin treatment, despite considerable objections.
The first exponent of the fin-shaped rear sail fairings (or buttresses) remains debatable, but Pininfarina certainly were amongst its earliest exponents, the one-off 1954 Ferrari 375 MM for film director Roberto Rossellini being perhaps the prime example, a feature which would later become something of a Pininfarina trademark. We could also look to the rear three quarter treatment of Ercole Spada’s 1963 Lancia Flavia Zagato, where a suggestion of the Jaguar’s sail panels can be seen. Also worth noting are the Lancia’s tail-lamp and bootlid treatments.
Now at this point it is worth restating that although Lyons was something of a creative magpie, Malcolm Sayer marched to a drumbeat almost entirely his own. Therefore, there is a question to be asked about how much account he might have taken of external stylistic influences. In fact, Sayer did take notice of what was happening, especially if something particularly caught his eye, but the purity of his calculations would remain at the forefront of his thinking.
No car design is created entirely in a vacuum, but is it possible the XJ-S was? Certainly, during the time of its conception both Lyons and Sayer were working quite intensely on what was to be an entirely new stylistic direction and were unlikely to have been distracted from this task by outside influences. From the study I have made, there is little hard evidence to suggest that the XJ-S was overtly influenced by any pre-existing non-Jaguar design.
What can therefore be said of Malcolm Sayer’s moodboard? Only this. Should such a thing have existed in 1968 (it didn’t), it is likely to have contained a series of numerical co-ordinates and little else. For that is what Sayer worked from and it is from where the design emerged. Did the XJ-S come from outer space? Not quite, but certainly from a brilliant and quite unique mind.
 A number of years ago a 330 GT 2+2 came up for auction, and its first recorded owner was alleged to have been Jaguar Cars Ltd. Interesting. Perhaps they were attempting to establish the GT state of the art?
 “We decided from the very first that aerodynamics were the prime concern, and I exerted my influence in a consultative capacity with Malcolm Sayer. Occasionally, I saw a feature I did not agree with, and we would discuss it. I took my influence as far as I could without interfering with his basic aerodynamic requirements and he and I worked on the first styling models together. We originally considered a lower bonnet line, but the international regulations on crush control and lighting made us change and we started afresh.” Sir William Lyons – XJ-S press release.
 Sir William certainly drew influences from far and wide, but he copied nobody. His designs were entirely original, and uniquely Jaguar.
42 thoughts on “Sayer’s Moodboard”
The first twin fins I remember were on the Bristol 450 of 1953. This helped stability in high-speed cornering — and for 2-litre cars they were very fast.
They were entirely Bristol’s own invention, and no long “boot” area was needed on an out-and-out sports-racing car.
As for the XJ-S, I can’t see the 330GT influence, I’m afraid.
What I know is that from any angle you just knew immediately it was a Jaguar. How they achieved that I can’t fathom.
Yes the Bristol is an interesting one, with something of a tenuous Sayer connection in that he worked as an aerodynamicist for Bristol (on the aero-engine side) prior to his appointment at Jaguar. One comment I would make regarding the 450 is that given the number of changes made to the bodywork over the car’s short racing career, one can glean that Bristol’s aerodynamicists may not have got their calculations entirely right first time. Sayer’s D-Type, which debuted a year later seemed to have worked straight out of the box, which does seem to suggest that his did.
“What I know is that from any angle you just knew immediately it was a Jaguar. How they achieved that I can’t fathom.” One thing we can say is that the combination of Lyons and Sayer (who it is believed worked quietly behind the scenes finessing most Jaguar road car designs) was unparalleled. They just seemed to instinctively know what made a Jaguar a Jaguar. It was a very subtle combination of flamboyance and strict rectitude. Once both men were gone, Jaguar’s styling was left floundering. To some extent, it still is.
For the lineage of intrinsic Jaguar qualities there’s a direct line between the SS-1 and the XJ-S. I can’t post pictures, but compare the two in profile and you will see similarities in stance, proportion, sense of elegance, and so on. You can clearly see they are both the result of the same line of thought. Look particulately to the window treatment, and I’m talking the four light SS-1 and not the one with a blacked out b/c-post.
Even back in ’75 Jaguar seemed to have a customer based that wanted things to stay the same for ever and ever, and hated anything different. I think the XJ was a marvellous looking thing, it stood out when it was current and looks very exotic when you see one on the roads now.
I personally think that the utterly absurd engine with unfathomably complicated ancillaries and control systems, economic conditions, and latterly dreadful reputation for quality hampered sales more than the styling. Sales improved dramatically with the addition of some quality and sane engine choices, but the styling never got any less unique.
Obviously meant XJ-S was marvellous, although the XJ was too. Particularly in Series II form for me.
I feel obliged to state that a late 5.3 HE engine is a very reliable unit. I obviously cannot judge the earlier versions, particularly the carburettored ones, but with a bit of effort to not rev it hard when cold (which is easy, given all that torque), the V12 won’t let you down in my experience. Not even in traffic jams on the Milanese Serenissima.
While I’d agree that the engine itself is very robust indeed, the ignition system and cooling system are tiresome in the extreme!
Jaguars traditionally employed very long production runs, so customers developed strong bonds which proved difficult to break once a new model did eventually arrive. No doubt loyal XK owners had apoplexy when the E-Type landed. Ditto the shift from Mark IX to Mark X. Night and day.
It’s unarguable that Jaguar’s attitude to the North American market didn’t really become sufficiently serious until the mid-’80s when they set up dedicated proving bases in Arizona. Siting the V12’s ignition module in the centre of the vee wasn’t one of their better ideas either. The V12 was complex, parts supply was patchy, as indeed were the repair shops who would even look under the bonnet. But aside from the problematic injection / ignition systems and some issues around cooling, the V12 was pretty robust.
That V12 is such an intrinsic part of the XJ-S. It was the only Jaguar expressly designed to house it. The six cylinder version was still a nice car, but you’re not getting the full experience (for better or worse) without that Hassan / Mundy twelve. The closest thing they ever made to an electric motor…
An interesting subject to be sure. I have always felt that the XJ-S styling reminded me of certain styling aspects seen in two American sport(y) cars that appeared some years before the XJ-S: the 1970 Chevrolet Camaro and the 1968 Chevrolet Corvette.
The Corvette Coupe’s rear window and flying buttresses, while themselves also not new or original at the time, may have influenced the styling of the XJ-S.
With the 1970 Camaro, it’s the 3/4 front view that shows a similar dropped hoodline between two headlights. I would never argue it’s a total match by any stretch of the imagination but to my eyes it radiates the same “feel” as the XJ-S.
I don’t know if it is possible to include images with posts here, so I will give it a try:
Thanks for this Bruno. The ’68 Corvette is undoubtedly a strong contender. However, Sayer’s ‘sail panels’ were not simply a styling feature, more an aerodynamic device, akin to the tailfin attached to the D-Type racing cars; their purpose being to smooth the airflow as it broke away from the roof over the rear of the car, reducing the drag-inducing wave vortices that would occur.
The Camaro on the other hand is somewhat tenuous to my eyes when it comes to the XJ-S, although I think I can see what you’re getting at. But when we consider that by 1970, the Jaguar had to all intents and purposes been formalised – (detailing apart), I think we can discount it. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t influential in other applications within the wider GM empire.
Hi Bruno: Those are plausible; the 1970 Camaro is a closer fit. Both cars are homogenous in their styling in the way the XJ-S isn’t. In proportions they do have the same character as the XJ-S. Thanks for those references.
Definitely agree with you Bruno on the similarity of the 1970 Camaro, that has always been a thought of mine. As Eóin has pointed out, it’s more by chance than design, but the wing line, front arches, and general proportions and angles of the front end seem very similar to my eyes.
Thank you Eóin, Richard and Ty for the comments. The exchanges of viewpoints and information to enhance what is already great in-depth content is what makes this website so good.
That is very kind of you to say.
Intrigued, I took another look at the 1970 Camaro and yes, I admit the wingline is quite similar, as is the beltline body crease. Interestingly, this connection carries additional weight in that Jaguar’s Bob Knight latterly told chroniclers that Sayer had created something more akin to a Camaro, which he wasn’t all that enamoured with.
The Zagato 2600 Alfa is an interesting one, and I car I have a good deal of admiration for. I do feel there might be a similar feeling to the forms, but I’m damned if I can rationally explain why. I still think there’s more XJ-S in the Flavia Zagato…
Most 2600 Zagatos were like the red one.
Buttresses seem to be a rare type.
Has nobody mentioned the Alfa Romeo 2600SZ Zagato yet?
I can’t see much Jaguar in that. It’s a lovely car though.
If Jaguar released a real sports car instead of a GT at 1975， what style would it be? Does anyone have an idea
I’ve never liked the XJ-S Coupe styling; not when it was introduced, and it hasn’t improved with hindsight or age.
However, I’ve alway thought the soft-top (either with hood up or down) is a superb looking car; which for me demonstrates where the problem is.
The one-off Daimler version might interest you. A fixed head XJS with removable steel roof panels and no buttresses. Initially proposed as a super luxury hand trimmed ultra expensive top of the range version. It was not put into production, the sole prototype is owned by the Jaguar trust.
I will return to the Daimler XJ-S in a later piece in the series.
“Sir William certainly drew influences from far and wide, but he copied nobody. His designs were entirely original, and uniquely Jaguar.”
Good morning Eóin. Your last footnote sums up the XJ-S perfectly, which makes it difficult to identify any cars that were obviously and strongly influential on its design. Amongst the examples you have cited, there are certainly grounds to infer an influence on Lyons, either conscious or subliminal, but the XJ-S was unique, and shocking on first sight.
The potential buttressed influencers cited here thus far lack the twist, which would seem to point directly toward the B.A.T. 5 (and 7).
And here I am again, Gooddog, against dtw’s general consensus:
I abosolutely love the xj-s since day one, specially those butresses 😄
No time to explain why, though…
…and all the better for that 🤣
Hi Gustavo, I think the consensus is that the design is deservedly controversial and enigmatic, so always worthy of further discussion and analysis. Eóin’s first sentence is very apt:
“A shape which to this day repels as much as it fascinates, the Jaguar XJ-S remains a car which divides opinion.”
Thank you for providing pictures of the prototypes, especially the ones taken from angles I’d not seen before. They are explanatory.
Regarding the original intention for the XJS front end, my understanding was Lyons and Sayer intended something a lot lower. They were prohibited from doing this by arbitrary headlight height legislation and regulatory restriction forced into several important markets by motley collections of authoritarians, lobbyists, special interests and morons. The restrictions even hurt Ferrari, changing its styling for up-coming mid-engined cars and moving it in a different direction than that which had been intended. Also neither Lyons or Sayer would have overlooked the fact that the final E-type had the earlier finely styled headlight treatment butchered by regulatory fiat. Hence they were forced to start off once again from scratch- just as quoted. Even then the revised design got butchered by the regs.*
Putting all that aside, in the end, the best looking of any actually built XJS were ones with the really big paws. Here is a VDO clip well worthy of 2 and a half minutes of your time.
Watch carefully at around the 1 minute 12 seconds mark.
“This is the most underrated video EVER.
A magnificent driver complementing a magnificent piece of engineering perfection.”
“no aero aids and 270+ kmh over the humps on the old Conrod Straight, the cars without any aero aids would get airborne over the last hump, balls of steel”
“Never seen this. What a remarkable conversion from fast GT to track mauler. They didn’t look like that on the M4 at rush hour. Never a pretty car, but in this guise and with this driver, a purposeful car. Thorough, brave, fast. On what they say is a tricky circuit.”
“Wonderful, wonderful moments, this is what motorsport should be about”.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
The XJS styling could be tidied up some of course, but of those that were built this one is the most beautiful of them all. It is also ONE of several reasons the car was an embodiment of courage.
*analogous with more recent arbitrary fiat regarding the use of diesel engines.
To me the XJ-S was the last in a line of Jaguars that were never overtly backward looking, always fresh and different from the predesessor, and yet carrying the essence of Jaguarness beautifully. Alas, once Ford took control of the reins the imperative became how to extract the maximum nostalgia from the back catalogue and resulted in the dumpy X100 XK8 (an e-type for the legislative constrained ’90s) and the awful X400 and X200 S-Type (I deliberately exclude the X300 XJ6 here on grounds of genuine affection and experience of the supercharged manuals). By the time Callum was allowed to work his magic the link to a consistent, relevant brand timeline had been lost and his neat contempory designs had become orphans.
Hello again Gooddog
I understood the original xj-s’s design is viewed as deservedly controversial and enigmatic…
…but never saw any enigma or controversy on it…
…so I am just saying that, in my view (it’s just a curiosity, of course), it is as balanced, elegant and natural as the ‘great’ jaguars – MkII, E, XJ-S.
The only purpose of saying it is to illustrate how different persons (sometimes even peoples?) may react aesthetically in different ways…
It’s for me a truly fascinating mistery, one I guess as no answer.
Phenomenology of perception tries it… (that’s for Richard 😉)
I addressed you regarding the jag following our e34 exchange of opinions 😉
Good Afternoon Daniel
Looking at the photograph above of the XJS head-on reminded me of something. A little while back I encountered an XJ4 parked beside an XJS (not such a common sight these days, alas). This provided an opportunity to view them both from dead ahead. The XJ4 (a Series 2 example) front end is divided into thirds. From left to right there is a head light pair in the first third, grille in the second, head light pair in the third. The three portions are appear of approximately equal width. The XJS is different. It’s grille is wider. That does not work quite as well as it could have.
In XJS there are the three portions but they are not of the same width. The LHS headlight pair and the RHS headlight pair are of equal width but both are narrower than the grille stretched between them. This alters the “face” of the car significantly. It’s interesting, this alteration, and Jaguar is not the only outfit which did it. Mercedes W140 S-class sedan and C140 coupe are similar in that the relative proportions of the lights and centre grille were not the same for sedan and coupe.
For Mercedes the C140 did not work out quite as well as it could have. Contrast its “face” with the front of the 1996 Honda Civic. The Honda looks better proportioned. It’s more balanced. Imagine how the Mercedes C140 coupe would look if the proportions of the front were slightly altered. The Honda provides an example of the direction that could have been taken.
This brings a question of how the XJS would look were the relative proportions of the lights to grille amended to get closer to the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 of XJ4. In the XJS’s case matters are a little more difficult than for the Mercedes since the vertical height of the XJS grille is so modest with the bonnet distinctly lower than the headlight “pods” (hence they can’t simply be enlarged). So, the solution would seem to be to narrow the “face” of XJS by moving the headlights inwards a little, bringing them closer together. This could be accomplished without disturbing the vertical height of the bonnet or wings. It would be analogous to how the tail of XJ4 narrows (in plan) as you move aft from the rear wheels. In this case the XJS body would be narrowed as you move forward from the front wheels. There isn’t as much distance to achieve this change as there is at the back of XJ4, but there is enough!
I have a favour to ask. Daniel, please would you do a rendering of the XJS, in head-on view, where the front has been slightly narrowed? Could the B&W photo in the article above be amended?
Thanks, in anticipation!
Hi J T and apologies for my delay in replying. My computer has already been packed away by the removals men, so this is a ‘quick and dirty’ adjustment made by simply widening the headlights. The US version of the XJS with its twin 5 3/4″ circular headlamps would be trickier, but the European version with its oval headlamps easily lends itself to adjustment. I haven’t gone all the way to 1/3 – 1/3 – 1/3 as that would make the grille tiny, but see what you think of this, original first for comparison:
I’m sorry if the manter as already been addressed here, I may be repeating what others wrote:
But regarding the famous butresses, are they not clearly Ferrari-esque, starting on the 1966 Guida Centrale, following with 206/246, 308/328 and further?
Not to mention other italian exótica?
Aren’t they the obvious influences?
Or am I missing something here?
Gustavo: The article does mention Pininfarina’s aerodynamic work and their use of so-called ‘buttresses’, which as I stated, became a house style. But I don’t believe that Malcolm Sayer was paying a great deal of attention to the likes of the Ferrari 206 in 1967 or so.
However, it’s coincidental that you mention this factor, as only yesterday I was considering adding an addendum to the piece. The reason for this being as follows. While road cars were slightly (if not wholly) peripheral to Malcolm Sayer’s purview at Jaguar, a car he would have been very familiar with was the second series Ferrari 250 GTO from 1964, which was competing directly against the low-drag E-Type in sports car races across Europe. This car, whose design was clearly inspired by the mid-engined 250 LM would have been of immense interest to Jaguar’s aerodynamicist. Indeed, Jaguar is known to have borrowed John Coombs’ first series GTO in 1962, which Sayer subjected to his usual woof tuft tests to check airflow and drag. His findings were quite interesting although whether he drew anything from it into the Low-drag E is unclear. Certainly, there is little visual sign of that. It is also notable that despite the fact that almost all sports racing cars had by the mid-60s adopted ‘Kamm-tails’ and rear spoilers, Sayer’s 1966 XJ13 racing prototype retained a low curvaceous tail treatment and no hint of sail fairings. I get the sense that he viewed spoilers and suchlike as a failure of mathematics, but that’s just my own (uneducated) hypothesis.
Perhaps something stayed in his mind from this era when the XJ-S was formulating in his mind – or, as I once put to a Jaguar insider (and he concurred that it was likely) Malcolm was thinking in terms of the D-Type’s sail fairing. We’ll probably never know for sure.
Another issue is that a gt is not a sportscar…
…but does anybody complains about Rover’s SD1 being a cross between the Berlina Aerodinamica and a Ferrari Daytona?
With all due respect, I’m clearly not on the same page where the majority is … 🤔
Another issue is that a gt is not a sportscar…
…but does anybody complains about Rover’s SD1 being a cross between the Berlina Aerodinamica and a Ferrari Daytona?
With all due respect, I’m clearly not on the same page where the majority is… 🤔
Thank you Eóin for your compreensive answer
Thanks for doing that. It’s so very nearly there!
Can you move the out-board edges of the head-lights inwards some? (make the face narrower) This would keep the head lights at their original width.
What do you think?
BTW. You mentioned that you are moving. Where are you going? Is there a story behind the decision to make the change?
Moving is hard work and stressful and can surely be terribly disruptive. Make sure to look after yourself as a priority. It is so easy to forget about you. Get the friends, family and the professional movers over to help with all the heavy lifting, shifting and stuff. Best of luck with it. In the end it will be rewarding, as adventures like this so often are!
Good morning J T. Here you go, front corners pulled in and headlamps restored to (more or less) original size. Original first for comparison:
Thank you for your kind wishes. My partner and I are moving to Ireland. It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a few years and decided to do it after we saw a delightful house overlooking the sea on the south coast, in a town called Cobh (pronounced ‘Cove’) to the east of Cork city. Our removals guys are great, packing everything to perfection. The only heavy lifting I have had to do concerns the documentary requirements in moving to an EU country which, post-Brexit, are pretty onerous, but manageable.
Gentlemen: While I welcome (both) your efforts, I suspect you will dash yourself against the same unforgiving rocks of the XJ-S style that caught out Jaguar’s designers at various times during the car’s long career. (Also to be covered in due course.) After all, to once more quote Doug Thorpe’s immortal words, the design ‘was an entity in itself’.
Curiously, I met a circa-1989 (pre-facelift) XJ-S on the road today in North West London and was yet again struck by how utterly itself it looked. What do you mean by that, Eóin? Well, it was just totally unmistakable and anno-2022 looks even more otherworldly. I literally wouldn’t change a thing on that car – even the parts that don’t quite work, visually.
Interesting day, car spotting-wise. Prior to the Jaguar, I met a tidy-looking W116 S-Class being driven in a spirited fashion and a mid-80s Ferrari Tesarossa on the A1. London innit?
As a car-mad teenager when the XJS came out, I remember being massively disappointed. Okay, teenagers from St. Kilda (Vic, Australia) sure don’t buy Jaguars, but… I remember having arguments with a car-mad schoolfriend at the time. To him, Jaguar, like Rolls-Royce, could do no wrong; this from a bloke whose family didn’t even own a car. I likened the rear window treatment to the then-current Valiant Charger, and said I preferred the Charger – he was massively not amused!
The things we say as teens…
Three areas don’t look right for me. Daniel has kindly addressed one of them, the front end; wider lights seem to be the key. Jaguar themselves addressed the other two, those being the taillight/boot lid treatment, and the rear side window. Why couldn’t it have looked like that in the first place?
The underlying problem with the front end is the figure-ground relationship of the lamps to the grille. Are we supposed to read the lamps-grille as one area set in the body work or is the grille suppose to be seen as separate from the lamps? The rounded shape of the lamp glass conflicts with the sharp corners of the grille, especially the upper one. The whole car is characterised by instabilities like this: is it one thing or another? I see at least three other potentially distinct designs in the XJ-S. It makes it interesting to look at but not necessarily really good. I am glad it was made but standing in 1975 I would have thought something more homogenous would have been better.