Ambivalence towards Jaguar’s Sixties Supermodel is as old as the E-Type itself.
The problem when approaching time-honoured and much-loved cultural touchstones is that as their mythology develops, layers of symbolism and exaggerated lore build up like barnacles upon the hull of a sunken craft until the object itself becomes obscure, indistinct; the legend eventually overtaking fact.
Certainly, the cult status of the Jaguar E-Type has morphed to that of venerable sainthood – its position as all-time investment-grade classic seemingly inviolate for the rest of time. So much so, that to Continue reading “Enigma Variations”
We return to Utah, examining its third significant iteration.
Right up to the late 1960s, Jaguar product planning operated very much on the whim of what its founder considered necessary. Constantly seeking a competitive advantage, Lyons would latch onto an engineering or stylistic innovation and would not be satisfied until it was brought to fruition. Needless to say, this caused no end of headaches for the engineers and technicians tasked with making them a reality.
Legend has it that in 1957, Sir William, making his daily rounds of the factory, arrived at Bob Knight’s small office in experimental. In passing, he shares his view that Jaguar ought to develop an independent rear suspension and asks Mr Knight how long it would take to Continue reading “State of Independence”
The compact Jaguar saloons were landmark cars for the company and did much to raise the carmaker’s profile and profitability, but in its first generation form it was not a model which Browns Lane engineering staff viewed with terrific pride, owing to a number of significant compromises buried beneath its shapely envelope.
As development progressed upon the more powerful 3.4 litre version, the handling deficiencies consequent to its narrow rear track (acceptable in the lighter, lower powered car, but less so here), forced engineers to Continue reading “Taming the Cat”
The 1955 Jaguar 2.4 was overshadowed by its successor, but in many regards, was a more significant car in Jaguar’s evolution as a serious carmaker.
In 1955, Jaguar committed their most ambitious act up to that point with the introduction of the 2.4, an all-new, compact saloon of a sporting mien – every inch a Jaguar, but no hand-down version of its larger sibling. Far from it, because despite the announcement the same year of the revolutionary Citroen DS19, the compact Jaguar was probably as advanced a product as could reasonably be envisaged from what was then a low-volume, specialist carmaker.
Initiated around 1953/4, the Utah (in Jaguar parlance) compact saloon programme would mark their first departure from traditional body-on-frame construction to a stressed unitary bodyshell. Owing to uncertainty over its strength, two stout chassis legs ran the length of the floorpan, rearmost of which (beneath the rear seatpan) would house the mountings for the unusual inverted cantilever semi-elliptic springs, so devised to Continue reading “Pioneer State”
Today we remember former Jaguar technical director, Jim Randle in the words of the man who perhaps knew him best.
My Dad, Engineer Jim Randle, died at home on the 6th July after a prolonged battle with cancer.
Jim served his apprenticeship at Rover, where the P6 2000TC was his first major project. He then moved to Jaguar, where he was swiftly promoted to Head of Vehicle Development. As a boy I often accompanied him to his office in the corner of the development shop at Browns Lane on a Saturday morning. Continue reading “Jim Randle 1938-2019”
The Series III XJ saved Jaguar. We tell its story.
The culmination of a lifetime’s study by a master auteur, the original XJ saloon of 1968 was not only a defining motor car, but the definitive Jaguar. Proving by comparison to be something of a fortuitous accident, its third iteration, the Series III of 1979 would become more significant still – all the more so for the fact that despite it being an almost perfectly pitched update of a well-loved design, its botched introduction almost killed the business entirely.
Frequently exercises in diminishing returns, facelifts tend to either manifest as change for changes sake, or alternatively a last ditch effort to Continue reading “Saving Grace”
It can be stated without a trace of hyperbole that the Series III XJ remains the most commercially significant Jaguar of all time. Not the most successful, mark you; other XJ generations have sold in greater numbers, others still to come may yet again transform its fortunes, but the Series III remains to this day the car that single-handedly saved the company.
Understanding the background to Jaguar’s 1979 annus horriblis.
The Castle Bromwich paint debacle crystallised the manner in which the relationship between Jaguar and its adoptive parent broke down in the years following its absorption into British Leyland; one characterised by unwarranted interference and lack of meaningful communication on one hand and distrust, insubordination and outright defiance on the other.
The roots of this go back to the creation of the car giant in 1968 – a piece of well-meaning, government-led commercial engineering. Much like a certain latterday piece of political engineering currently paralysing Britain’s political establishment, the BLMC experiment was undeliverable, but more fundamentally still, should probably never have been attempted in the first place. Continue reading “Saving Grace – Part Four”
Series III’s advent coincided with a number of technical innovations, but one in particular would come with a side-order of calamity.
Despite the outwardly positive manner in which the Series III was presented to the motor press, there was no getting away from the political environment under which the car was developed. Jaguar was reeling under the dictates of the infamous Ryder Report, a series of post-nationalisation recommendations which as implemented, stripped Browns Lane of its leadership, its identity and ultimately its ability to Continue reading “Saving Grace – Part Two”
“Without any doubt at all, the XJ6 is my personal favourite. It comes closer to than any other to what I always had in mind as my ideal car.” Sir William Lyons.
One bright spring morning in 1967, two men strode towards a lock-up garage in the grounds of an imposing Edwardian stately home, amid the rolling Warwickshire countryside. As the dew shimmered on the immaculately tended lawns and borders of Wappenbury Hall, Sir William Lyons, Jaguar Chairman, Chief Executive and spiritus rector regarding all matters aesthetic, led his European Sales Director, John Morgan to where Jaguar’s vitally important new car lay sequestered, in seemingly definitive prototype form.
An autocrat to the tips of his highly polished brogues he may have been, but Lyons nevertheless regularly canvassed the opinions of those he trusted, although having done so, he would Continue reading “Quintessence”
In this second instalment, we examine the XJ6’s technical package.
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)”
‘Talent borrows, genius steals’, the saying goes. It’s still bad manners though.
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”
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.
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”
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.
“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”
They said it couldn’t be done, but he’d heard that before. Nobody had presented a car at London’s prestigious Institution of Mechanical Engineers and certainly no complete vehicle had ever broached the main entrance of number One, Birdcage Walk, Westminster. This hallowed society of engineers, founded by Railway pioneer, George Stephenson in 1847, had already hosted some of the finest technical minds over its 140-year history, but August 28, 1986 would prove to be something of a first.
As Jim Randle surveyed the lecture theatre, with the still-secret new Jaguar, now back on four wheels inside and safely under wraps, Jaguar’s Director of Vehicle Engineering cast his mind back for a brief moment to the voices of doubt, the intense debates, to his insistence that a way would be found; the hours of calculations and re-calibrations, the ingenuity, improvisation and intellectual rigour which saw the construction of a purpose-built, detachable rotating metal cage which enveloped the car as it was painstakingly inched on its side through the ImechE’s narrow portal only a few hours previously.
Tragedy, Loss, Redemption? Driven to Write brings its XJ40 epic to a close and asks, can Jaguar ever truly escape its past?
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.
Phase Two – 1976-1980: Egan Takes Knight. As XJ40 vaults its final hurdles, John Egan arrives at Browns Lane.
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”
Phase Two – 1975-1980: Knight Falls. The disastrous 1979 launch of Series III almost sinks Jaguar entirely, precipitating Bob Knight’s downfall.
1978 saw a brief reprieve in Jaguar’s woes. 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”
Phase Two – 1976-1980: As Bob Knight continues his search for an acceptable style, a new sheriff enters town.
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”
Phase Two – 1976-1980: Fortress Jaguar. With engineering the last beacon of resistance, XJ40 becomes its talisman.
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”
This article was originally published exclusively on Driven to Write in serialised form in the Spring of 2014.
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 chosen venue appeared to be a calculated statement of power, British Leyland ensuring Jaguar’s management and workforce knew exactly who was in charge.