The XJ-S is a car which tends to crop up with some frequency on Driven to Write. Why this is so is perhaps debatable, (okay, it’s often my fault) but I suspect that its fascination is not only a function of its controversial shape, but also stems from a belief that its styling came about without precedent. But no car is developed entirely in a vacuum, or is it?
The story behind the Jaguar 420 may be more interesting than the car itself, but this may belie its significance.
Often portrayed as a decade of unbroken success, the 1960’s were troubled years at Browns Lane. The halo provided by the E-Type masked faultlines elsewhere – especially in the area of new product development. Jaguar’s 1961 Mark Ten saloon, their most ambitious and expensive model programme yet had proven a commercial failure. But by mid decade, matters were equally worrying for its compact saloon stablemate in their most crucial export market. Continue reading “Saving Grace – 1966 Jaguar 420”
The 2003 X350-series marked the point where Jaguar’s retro styling path met its maker. We examine its failure.
Had Sir William Lyons been working in the current era, it’s likely he’d have continued to plough his own stylistic furrow. Many have speculated on how Jaguar’s founder might have evolved the ‘Lyons line’, but in his wake, all we have is a subsequent body of work that amounts to studied guesswork on the part of the old master’s successors.
The quality of Jaguar’s stylistic output in recent decades can best be described as patchy; certainly few could reasonably argue that anything produced in recent decades matches that of Lyons at his apex.
In the second of our postscripts to the XJ40 story, we profile its architect.
“To meet Jim Randle and to talk to him is to go into a quiet and refined world. Randle is a precise, immaculately tailored executive, whose voice is pitched so low you immediately know why an XJ12 is so refined.”(Motor historian, Graham Robson)
When auto journalists profiled Jim Randle, the same adjective just kept cropping up. Following the dapper and avuncular William Heynes and the professorial Bob Knight, Randle was an engineering chief from Jaguar central casting. Quiet spoken, brilliantly clever and refreshingly free of ego, Randle was the engineer’s engineer. Continue reading “The Men Who Made the ’40 – Jim Randle”
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”
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.
We examine XJ40’s turbulent conception and ask, was this the last Jaguar?
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.
With each passing year the Jaguar XJ becomes less relevant. Why has the world fallen out of love with Jaguar’s big saloon? Driven To Write investigates.
In 2009, the world’s least influential Jaguar commentator drew comparison between the newly announced (X351-series) XJ and its distant forebear, the 1961 Mark Ten saloon. The nub of my argument was that the new model should not be judged against any prior XJ series, but instead through the prism of its unloved sixties progenitor.
XJ40 history Phase Four: 1986-1994 – The dream unravels. Once the launch hysteria abated, the press began to appraise Jaguar’s new star more critically.
Because the press had given (Sir) John Egan the benefit of the doubt, there was bound to be a backlash at some point. Sure enough, words like dated started to appear with increasing frequency in relation to XJ40’s styling, particularly criticism over the headlight and tail lamp treatments. Moreover, the press were of one mind regarding the instrument display and minor controls: they hated them. Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 15”
Reflections on Jaguar’s XJ: DTW’s resident Jaguariste remembers a time when life and advertising met, sniffed one another before hurriedly going their separate ways.
In 2009, I became somewhat overexcited about a new car launch. Following over 40-years of stylistic diminishing returns, to be presented with a twenty first century interpretation of the Jaguar XJ was exciting beyond rational explanation. Lacking a decent opportunity to Continue reading “Tinseltown in the Rain”
Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.
During the 1930s, rapid advancements in aviation were in no small way fuelled by a growing understanding of the science of aerodynamics. Following the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, with scientific interest supplanted by urgent necessity, the pioneering research into airflow management would now come with an added dimension. The increased application of wind tunnel testing allowed engineers to properly assess the behaviour of aircraft in simulated flight and more accurately determine the most efficient shapes. Continue reading “Theme : Aerodynamics – The Great Curve – Costin and Sayer Part One”
As the third phase draws to a close we review what Jaguar was offering the public in 1986 and reflect upon some of the wider changes that took place over the intervening 14-year period.
With Jaguar gearing up for their most important launch in generations, the company faced a vastly different landscape to the one that existed when XJ40 was initiated over a decade earlier. In 1972, Britain languished outside the Common Market, although Ted Heath’s government would take the UK into the EEC the following year. 1972 saw Sir William Lyons’ retirement and Jaguar’s complete immersion into BLMC. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 13”
Phase three – 1981-1986: The Legend Grows Old Waiting. As the AJ6 engine breaks cover, the press lose patience.
The autumn of 1983 saw Jaguar offer an AJ6-engined car to the public. The 3.6 litre XJ-S was launched in the familiar coupé bodyshell with the added novelty of a drophead two-seater version. Both were powered by the new AJ6 unit in 225 bhp 24-valve form. The British motoring press devoted pages of copy to the introduction, this being the first all-new Jaguar engine since the V12 of 1971. Expectations were high, given the peerless refinement of the larger-displacement unit. The fact that this engine would become the mainstay power unit for XJ40 only added to its significance. Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 12”
A new Jerusalem, or nothing but the same old story? In this series of articles, we examine XJ40’s turbulent conception and ask, was this the last Jaguar?
Billed at launch as the Jag without tears; a high-tech culmination of an unprecedented level of proving in some of the world’s most hostile environments, XJ40 represented a new beginning for an embattled marque. As much the story of Jaguar’s dogged resistance as it is of the car itself, XJ40’s 22-year career encapsulates the most tumultuous period in the company’s history.
The tragedy of XJ40 is twin-pronged. Throughout this torrid decade, XJ40 became Jaguar’s talisman, the one hope a demoralised corps could cling to when there appeared to be no future. Central to this were efforts of successive engineering chiefs to maintain the marque’s identity, but success would come at bitter personal cost.
XJ40’s lengthy gestation meant the end result was viewed in some quarters as a disappointment, yet this belies the enormous efforts made to ensure XJ40 modernised, yet maintained marque traditions. The first truly modern Jaguar, the model was critically acclaimed upon release, but the car’s reputation was damaged by early build issues it never quite overcame.
Despite being the best-selling XJ series of all, XJ40 today remains something of an outlier within the official Jaguar narrative, only latterly being appreciated for its finer qualities and for its status as arguably the most ambitious and technically pure Jaguar ever.
It could also be said to mark the point when Jaguar’s stylists ceased to look forward, resulting in a nostalgic philosophy Ford’s interventionist management subsequently wrung dry with the XJ40 series’ ultimate successor – 2003’s X350 series.
In fact, parallels between XJ40 and its Ford-funded successor run deep. Both were intended to be technological flagships for both Jaguar and their parent. Both attempted to marry technical innovation with traditional styling. Both failed to stabilise the business and indirectly precipitated further changes of ownership.
“…It’s all just a little bit of history repeating…”, Shirley Bassey once purred over a Jaguar TV advert, and this lyric contains a truism, because for Jaguar the past refuses to stay buried for long.
Sources / Credits / Further reading:
Project XJ40 – Philip Porter
XJ40- Evolution of the Species – Andrew Whyte
John Egan & The Will to Win – John Underwood
Norman Dewis – Developing the Legend – Paul Skilleter
Sir William Lyons The Authorised Biography – Philip Porter/Paul Skilleter
Motor (11 Oct 1986)
Autocar (8 Oct/Oct 15 1986)
Car (November 1986/March 1986/Nov 1987)
Performance Car (November 1986)
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.
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”
We take a more in-depth look at the Jaguar XJ-S’ styling.
The world fell in love with the E-Type, but what many fail to realise is that by the early ’70s, Jaguar’s sports car icon was virtually unmarketable, the curves everyone loved in 1961 now hopelessly out of fashion. Yet when Jaguar announced the XJ-S as lineal successor, traditionalists had apoplexy on the spot. But was it really that much of a departure?
The XJ-S marked a entirely fresh direction for Jaguar style. We examine its birthpangs.
Early in 1969, work on XJ27 began in earnest. Due to BLMC’s straitened finances, funding was limited to utilising a modified version of the existing XJ saloon substructure and hardware component set. Structurally and mechanically then, there would be few surprises. Stylistically however, Sayer had something far more radical in mind. Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee (Part 3)”