Life is fleeting. The spectre of mortality hangs over each of us, our own personal sword of Damocles. This anxiety is a subliminal one for the most part, for to confront the inevitability of our ultimate destination is too troubling an image for us to comfortably dwell upon. And yet we still find ourselves morbidly drawn to art and imagery which depict death in all of its forms. L’appel du vide, the French call it. All roads inevitably lead to the grave.
Within the automotive realm, there too is a similar attraction, in this case to abandoned hulks of decaying automobiles. There is a poignant allure to such images; the often stark contrast between these one-time objects of desire and the entropic state which neglect and the passage of time has wrought upon them. All cars contain a narrative. Who owned these vehicles? What were their lives, their passions, their stories? Are there still some spectral remnants of these lived experiences held somewhere within these rusting carcasses? Continue reading “Exquisite Corpses”
I like walking at night. There is a meditative quality to the endeavour —the mind drifts into neutral, you navigate by instinct and by curiosity — ‘where does that street lead, and what might I discover down here’? There’s a frisson to the streetscapes at this hour of night that appeals to the dramatist in me, but also the chance to Continue reading “Nightcrawling”
Given the unprecedented levels of investment, and the expectations of both maker and benefactor, the X-Type had a good deal of heavy lifting to do. Its eventual failure not only cost Jaguar dearly, it set the carmaker back to such an extent that it never truly recovered. X-type was commissioned with one overarching mission, to more than double Jaguar’s sales volumes, transforming the carmaker as a serious player in the luxury car market, especially in the US, where these cars had historically sold in large quantities. But the X400 misfired, falling well short of projections, and as it would transpire, fiscal break-even. How so?
Jaguar’s compact post-Millennial contender misfired badly. We look back on the X-Type and reconsider its legacy.
New Jag Generation.
In car manufacture, there can be no success without failure, each new model an educated shot in the dark, each failure a reproach, all the more so should the product in question represent a new market sector for its maker. Moving downmarket carries greater risk, for the virtues to which customers have become familiar and value most must be offered in diminished form. Nor does development cost fall, any gains being rooted in volume and economies of scale. Furthermore, once a business has taken such a step, there really is no going back.
To some extent therefore, the X-Type irreparably damaged brand-Jaguar, the carmaker never quite recovering from the financial losses incurred by the X400 programme. The figures involved are sobering. According to a study carried out by corporate analysts, Sanford C Bernstein a number of years ago, Jaguar allegedly lost €4600 on every X-Type sold – an overall loss amounting to over €1.7 billion.
Widely viewed as Jaguar’s deadliest sin and the butt of derision amongst the more sensationalist automotive press, the story behind the X-Type’s less than charmed career is not only more complex than is often told, but deserves a less emotive, more nuanced telling. But beforehand we must first Continue reading “The Last of England”
When Sir William Lyons made his hectic dash to Browns Lane to begin stylistic work for the S-Type facelift in October 1965, it was not only the act of a true autocrat, but one who was coming face to face with some home truths.
During the early 1960s, Jaguar had expanded, diversifying into commercial vehicles, encompassing trucks, buses and forklifts. These were, on the face of things, sound, viable businesses, providing the potential for additional revenue and an astute opportunity to Continue reading “State Of Contraction”
How the ultimate 1960’s bit of rough evolved into the best loved classic Jaguar saloon of all.
It has been said that by the mid-Sixties, it was common operational procedure for UK police patrols to stop and search any Mark 2 Jaguar with two or more male occupants aboard, such by then was the car’s association with criminality. After all, Mark 2’s were easy to purloin and were the fastest reasonably inobtrusive getaway car that could be obtained by means fair or foul in Blighty at this time.
It was perhaps this aura of the underworld, coupled with its exploits on the racetracks (at least until the US Cavalry arrived) which sealed its iconography. So, it is perhaps ironic that despite the forces of law and order also adopting the 3.8 Mark 2 as a high-speed pursuit car, that it latterly would become synonymous with that most cerebral of fictional police detectives.
The Mark 2 Jaguar was a paradox in that while it was undoubtedly handsome – a finely honed conclusion of styling themes which had begun in earnest with the 1948 XK120 – it was not only a bit of an overweight brute, but a car which never quite managed to Continue reading “State of Grace”
When the S-Type went under Ian Callum’s knife in 2004, the result was a visual success, although only a qualified one.
The 1999 (X200) S-Type was a car which was initially received with an element of enthusiasm from the buying public, but what appeal it had, quickly faded. There were a number of reasons for this – one being the early cars’ frightful cabin ambience and issues with driveline refinement. The other unsurprisingly was its external appearance, which rather screamed its ‘committee design’ gestation.
Certainly, during the post-millennium era, it had become obvious both to Jaguar and to their Ford masters that the creative execution was the wrong one, but with the carmaker committed to additional and expensive model programmes, there wasn’t the money available for a change in course. 2002 did see a series of revisions, most of which were aimed at improving the chassis and interior, but a more comprehensive revision was scheduled for 2004.
Retrofuturism didn’t necessarily arrive at Ford with J. Mays. It’s more likely to have started with a man named Callum. No, the other one…
As the Ford Motor Company grew its upmarket brand portfolio during the late 1980s, it became a matter of increasing importance to ensure each marque could carve out a coherent stylistic identity, one which not only honoured tradition, but that ensured no genetic traces were misplaced or appropriated.
Complicating matters during this period was the fact that Aston Martin had been gifted an Ian Callum-penned version of Jaguar’s cancelled XJ41 two-seater, which would eventually Continue reading “Antique Roadshow”
The Jaguar S-Type was part of the pre-millennial retro wave in car design. Its appeal would prove short-lived.
Now is the winter of our discontent. In November 2004, Ford Motor Company representative Joe Greenwell faced a stony-faced panel of UK parliamentarians at the Trade and Industry select committee in Whitehall, seeking explanations for his parent company’s decision to Continue reading “Morse Code”
Driven to Write (with little thought for his own safety) addresses the big one.
In every Jaguar aficionado’s lifetime he must approach X200 and try, really try to view it with something remotely akin to an objective gaze. Because, let us not mince words, it’s the Sargasso Sea of Jaguars. The mad aunt in the attic, the great un-namable. But has sufficient time elapsed to Continue reading “What We Talk About When We Talk About the S-Type”
Second guessing Sir William on styling matters rarely succeeded. This Bertone concept was no exception.
For decades, innumerable coachbuilders tried their hand at re-imagining Jaguars with varying degrees of success. Frankly, even the best of them failed to match, never mind exceed an on-form William Lyons. After all, Jaguar’s founder and stylistic torchbearer possessed a personal vision coupled with an uncanny eye for line which not even the finest Italian carrozzeria could rival. Only Lyons really knew how to shape Jaguars – a matter which became embarrassingly clear in the aftermath of his passing. Continue reading “Coventry via Turin – 1966 Jaguar 3.8 FT by Bertone”
Often portrayed as a decade of unbroken success, Jaguar’s 1960s fortunes were decidedly mixed. The commercial and critical halo provided by the E-Type masked fault lines elsewhere, especially when it came to Jaguar’s saloon offerings, which represented the carmaker’s bottom line. By mid-decade it was apparent that the Mark Ten saloon, Jaguar’s most ambitious and expensive model programme to date, was a commercial failure. Worse still, its compact saloon stablemate, the 1963 S-Type was also flatlining in Jaguar’s most crucial export market. Continue reading “State of Emergency”
The LS racked up a few awards, namely Motor Trend’s car of the year 2000 and it was nominated as American Car of the Year, although it was pipped by Ford’s Focus and Audi’s TT. The LS was also Lincoln’s first attempt to fight off its reputation as a car for the nearly dead. That battle is reminiscent of Cadillac’s fight for a younger image, a fight Lincoln is still losing 15 years later.
The LS shared its main elements with the Jaguar S-type and Ford Thunderbird and had a similarly contentious styling. Of the two saloons (while we’re comparing) the Jaguar managed a better job than the Lincoln. The 2000 Car Buyer’s Guide called the design ‘ho-hum’. I’d call it a derivative mash-up of VW Passat, Mitsubishi Diamante, Opel Astra, Ford Edge Design details and Lincoln motifs.
The 2004 facelifted S-Type had it all to do. Unfortunately for Jaguar, it came too late.
While the 2004 facelift to the Jaguar S-Type could never fully excise the visual scars left by its predecessor, it did re-present them in a more broadly palatable form. Given that the original 1998 X200 remains something of a stylistic horror show; the result of an amalgam of three individual styling prototypes unhappily stitched together by Jaguar stylists under a reactionary Ford management, just about anything would have served to Continue reading “Facelifts – Winning the Battle, Losing the War”