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”
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 being the new model could not be judged against any prior XJ model, but rather it should be viewed through the prism of its unloved sixties progenitor. Some five years on, it pains me to conclude the current XJ is cleaving to the Mark Ten template more faithfully than anticipated, easily as disheartening a commercial failure as Jaguar’s former flagship. Continue reading “Twilight of A Champion – The Decline of the Jaguar XJ”
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”
In this second part, Driven To Write continues its examination of Britain’s twin aerodynamic pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer
By 1953, Frank Costin too had gravitated to the racetracks, becoming involved with the fledgling Lotus company and with Sayer’s services already secured by Jaguar, Costin rapidly became the freelance aerodynamicist to work with, if race victory was your aim. His work with fellow ex-De Havilland engineer, Colin Chapman produced the body skin shapes for Mark’s Eight though to Eleven, including some detail aerodynamic changes to Peter Kirwin-Taylor’s Type 49 Elite. His designs combined low drag, stability and clever use of airflow – his understanding of air pressures, ducting and how they could be used for cooling and extraction meant that Costin’s designs may not have always been easy on the eye, but they worked.
Britain’s Aerodynamic Pioneers – Frank Costin and Malcolm Sayer profiled.
In the years prior to World War Two, developments in aeronautics led to rapid growth in the science of aerodynamics. Through the war years, aerodynamicists continued the pioneering research begun during the 1930’s into streamlining, but now with an added dimension – applied science. The use of wind tunnels 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”
For the Ford Motor Company, not only X-Type but Jaguar itself had become an unsustainable liability. Having invested $billions chasing rainbows, they’d seen only deepening pools of red ink and the prospect of never-ending financial dependency. It was time to cut their losses. Nevertheless, something clearly needed to be done with X-Type, clearly any volume being preferable to no volume at all. Continue reading “Trompe Le Mondeo – Jaguar X-Type – part 3”
With X400 a priority Ford Motor Company project, resources were flung at Jaguar’s Whitley engineering centre to expedite development. Extensive use of computer aided design slashed gestation time and prototypes were sent to far-flung outposts from Timmins in the Canadian wilderness to the high speed Nardo circuit in Southern Italy. Continue reading “Trompe Le Mondeo – Jaguar X-Type – part 2”
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, we examine the car’s turbulent backstory and ask, was this the last Jaguar?
Taken as a single model line, the Jaguar XJ40 appears likely to remain the best-selling XJ series ever. Billed 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 fresh beginning for an embattled marque. Launched in the aftermath of Jaguar’s escape from the restrictive influence of its British Leyland parent, XJ40’s 22-year journey encapsulates the most tumultuous period in its history and vividly symbolises the poisonous relationship between Jaguar management and their paymasters at BL. Yet for years now the car has been widely regarded with derision.
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)”