The Quintessence : Part Two

In this second instalment, we examine the XJ6’s technical package.

Proving engineers, Don Currie and Richard Cresswell with a disguised XJ4 prototype, sporting Lyons’ ‘Studebaker’ grille. (c) Classic Cars

Sanctioned in 1964, XJ4 was intended to launch in 1967, which seems in hindsight to have been a rather optimistic timescale. The project team would be led by Bob Knight, Jaguar’s senior development engineer and one of the finest conceptual minds of his era. The Browns Lane engineering department at the time was something of a collection of minor fiefdoms, most of whom Continue reading “The Quintessence : Part Two”

Christmas Competition

‘Talent borrows, genius steals’, the saying goes. It’s still bad manners though.

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As Editor, it is with grim satisfaction that I note, with a New Year approaching, the enormous PR machine that lies dormant beneath the DTW offices might need to be put into action to reconsider our ‘World’s Least Influential Motoring site’ strapline. Continue reading “Christmas Competition”

Cutting Corners: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury

Over the past couple of months I’ve skirted the peripheries of the XF, but now it’s time to address the core of the XF – its road behaviour.

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Lets begin with a positive. For what can be described as a fairly mundane executive saloon, the Jaguar’s steering response is from the top drawer. In my experience I’ve only driven one other car fitted with a power-assisted rack (which wasn’t a Citroen) that had nicer steering than the XF. That was a Lotus Evora.  Continue reading “Cutting Corners: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury”

The Men Who Made the ’40 – Bob Knight

We profile a man who did more to define not only the XJ40 concept, but also Jaguar’s overall engineering direction than perhaps any other single individual – Bob Knight CBE.

Portrait of Robert J Knight, Commissioned by Jaguar Jaguar Heritage. Image via BBC
Portrait of Robert J Knight, Commissioned by Jaguar Heritage. Image: BBC

“The idea that development towards the ultimate should ever stop is anathema to Bob Knight. [He] never failed to use every last available moment to perfect some detail. So it was hardly surprising that without any curb on modifications, any car in Knight’s sphere of control was ever signed off unconditionally.” Andrew Whyte (Auto historian) Continue reading “The Men Who Made the ’40 – Bob Knight”

History Repeating – (XJ40 : 1980-1994)

Phase Three – 1981-1986: Picking Up the Pieces.

John Egan with this senior management team. Browns Lane 1980. Image credit: (c) warwickbooks

The early phases of XJ40 development centred around the battles played out to retain Jaguar’s identity. The third phase would be dominated by efforts to remove themselves from BL’s influence entirely. For John Egan, the first eighteen months at Browns Lane proved something of a high wire act. With morale in tatters, and unfinished cars piling up, Egan initially believed that Jaguar’s problems were marketing rather than production based, a notion he was swiftly disabused of.

Realising that quality had to be tackled in order to Continue reading “History Repeating – (XJ40 : 1980-1994)”

History Repeating – (XJ40 : 1972-1980)

We examine XJ40’s turbulent conception and ask, was this the last Jaguar?

Image credit (c) Auto-Didakt

A New Jerusalem

They said it couldn’t be done, but he’d heard that before. Nobody had presented a new car at the prestigious London Institution of Mechanical Engineers and furthermore no complete car had ever entered the hallowed lecture hall at number One, Birdcage Walk, Westminster. This learned society, founded by Railway pioneer, George Stephenson in 1847, had already hosted some of the finest engineering minds over its 140-year history, but August 28, 1986 would prove something of a first.

As Jim Randle surveyed the lecture theatre, with the still-secret new Jaguar, now back on four wheels and safely under wraps, Jaguar’s Director of Vehicle Engineering cast his mind back for a moment to Continue reading “History Repeating – (XJ40 : 1972-1980)”

History Repeating – XJ40: 1972-1994 – Postscript

Tragedy, Loss, Redemption? Driven to Write brings its XJ40 epic to a close and asks, can Jaguar ever truly escape its past?

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XJ40 perfected? The 1994 Jaguar’s – last of the line. Image: thecaptainschair

Apparently, Sir John Egan considered cancelling XJ40 in 1984 and starting the programme afresh, claiming he was talked out of it, not only by his management board, but by Sir William Lyons. This remains one of the great unknowns regarding the car, as it remains unclear what such a decision could have realistically achieved.

Looking at it objectively, the biggest enemy Jaguar faced, especially in the early stages of the car’s development was resource and quite obviously time. Decisions made to Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40: 1972-1994 – Postscript”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 7

Phase Two – 1976-1980: Egan Takes Knight. As XJ40’s vaults its final hurdles, John Egan arrives at Browns Lane. 

SIII production
Image: Birmingham Evening News

Throughout 1979, Sir Michael Edwardes began talking to the man he believed could pull Jaguar out of the abyss. Having previously revived the ailing Unipart business before quitting in the post-Ryder schisms, John Egan had all the right credentials. The only problem was convincing him to take the job. Central to Edwardes’ desire to recruit Egan was a mounting belief that he had made a misjudgement in Bob Knight’s appointment. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 7”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 6

Phase Two – 1975-1980: Knight Falls. The disastrous 1979 launch of Series III almost sinks Jaguar entirely, indirectly precipitating Bob Knight’s downfall.

On the home stretch - Series III styling elements feature strongly on this 1978 proposal
The home stretch – Series III styling elements feature strongly on this 1978 proposal – image: AROnline

1978 saw a brief reprieve in Jaguar’s fortunes. Under Sir Michael Edwardes, interference eased sufficiently to finally allow a consensus to emerge on XJ40’s style. Customer research backed the assertion that a strong family resemblance was required. The revitalised styling of the Series III XJ also cast a mighty shadow, because despite its age, Pininfarina’s revisions combined to create a sleeker, more modern car. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 6”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 5

Phase Two – 1976-1980: Speed of Darkness. As Bob Knight continues his search for an acceptable style, a new sheriff enters town. 

Bob Knight & Doug Thorpe examine an XJ40 styling proposal during the summer of 1976.
Bob Knight, George Thomson & Doug Thorpe examine one of two XJ40 styling proposals during the summer of 1976. Image: AROnline

Throughout 1976, the paltry resources available for XJ40 concentrated mostly upon the ongoing struggle to establish an acceptable style. During the spring, Bertone and Ital Design submitted revised proposals, which ended up mouldering under dust sheets. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 5”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 4

Phase Two – 1976-1980: Fortress Jaguar. With engineering the last beacon of resistance, XJ40 becomes its talisman.

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Production lines at Browns Lane – image: Birmingham Mail

1975 saw the broken remains of Jaguar in lockdown. Bob Knight’s policy of civil disobedience stemmed the tide of assimilation to some extent, but BL’s operating committees were undeterred. Like most of the industry, they believed the collapse of luxury car sales in the post-oil shock era would be permanent. The prevailing view being that Jaguar were producing dinosaurs. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 4”

Reconvening the Committee

Arguably the most misunderstood Jaguar of all time, Driven to Write seeks once and for all to put the ‘committee design’ assertion to rest as we examine the defamation of the XJ-S.

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Image: The Telegraph

In September 1975 the newly nationalised British Leyland conglomerate celebrated the Jaguar XJ-S’ launch at Longbridge, the traditional home of its volume car division. A worse time to launch a 150-mph grand turismo is difficult to imagine, to say nothing of the chosen setting. The venue was a calculated statement of power, British Leyland ensuring Jaguar’s beleaguered management and workforce knew exactly who was in charge. Continue reading “Reconvening the Committee”