Stretching a Metaphor

Ford’s post-acquisition strategy for Jaguar was one of aggressive growth, but it came at some cost – particularly to their core model line.

Jaguar flagship. 1997 long-wheelbase Daimler Super V8. Image: motorstown

Having taken a multi-billion dollar hit on the acquisition of Jaguar in 1989, Ford executives saw only one way out of the mess they have got themselves into. In order to gain the return on investment they craved, Jaguar would need to be transformed from a specialist 35-40,000 car a year business to one pushing out at least five times that number. To achieve this, they would need to Continue reading “Stretching a Metaphor”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview Part Four

In the last of this series, Jim Randle describes a Jag with a jinx, XJ40’s presentation to the press and his principles for rear suspension design.

Jim Randle. Image: Auto Didakt
Jim Randle. Image: ©Auto Didakt

During the Egan-era of independence, senior management were tasked to spend time at Jaguar dealers, selling cars, meeting customers and seeing the issues first hand. Randle was a keen adherent to this policy, holding the record for the most cars sold in one evening. I wondered if he identified himself or chose to remain incognito. Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview Part Four”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jonathan Partridge Interview – Part Two

In this second part of our interview with Jonathan Partridge, XJ40’s foibles come under the spotlight.

Image: Jonathan Partridge/Jaguar Heritage
Image: ©Jonathan Partridge/Jaguar Heritage

If Partridge views XJ40 with a degree of ambivalence today, it’s partly that his team dealt with the bulk of negative customer feedback firsthand, and on early cars, it didn’t always make for very edifying reading.  “A lot of features were good, you know: corrosion protection, anti-lock braking yaw control, the rear suspension, [but] then the whole electrical thing with low current earth line switching and all the micro-computers was ambitious and at the end of the day I guess they over-stretched themselves. Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jonathan Partridge Interview – Part Two”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview Part Three

In part three, Jim Randle speaks candidly about what was possibly the XJ40’s most controversial aspect – its advanced electronics system.

Image: Auto-didakt.com
Image: ©Auto-didakt.com

It’s been suggested in the past that Jaguar were over-ambitious in attempting to introduce electronic controls into XJ40 when this technology was still in its infancy, but Jim Randle points out a key precedent. Preparing XJ-S prototypes in the early 1970’s, he produced a carburettor and an electronically controlled version for comparison purposes, making the following discovery. Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview Part Three”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jonathan Partridge Interview – Part One

As we continue our XJ40 commemorations, we examine the car through the prism of sales and marketing with Jaguar Heritage’s Jonathan Partridge.

Image: Jaguar Heritage
Image: ©Jonathan Partridge/Jaguar Heritage

There’s more than one dimension to the back story of any car. Up to now, we’ve concentrated primarily on the ’40 from an engineering perspective, but today, we examine the car’s legacy with Jonathan Partridge, former Product Strategy Manager who over a lengthy career at Jaguar, oversaw the marketing strategy for a host of saloon programmes, culminating with the 2007 XF. He is currently Vehicle Collection & Communication Manager with Jaguar Heritage at its Gaydon nervecentre. Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jonathan Partridge Interview – Part One”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview Part Two

In part two, Jim Randle talks about the challenges facing Jaguar’s styling team, and skewers a few more holy orders along the way.

Image: automotorundsport.de
Image: automotorundsport.de

Possibly the toughest hurdle Jim Randle and his engineering team faced with XJ40 was finding an acceptable style for the car. The twin imperatives of reducing complexity and drag inducing features while retaining a recognisable Jaguar silhouette led to years of indecision and delay, but who was actually responsible for the eventual car’s style? Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview Part Two”

Exquisite Corpses

Ever wondered why so few XJ40s remain on the roads? One word: scrappage.

Image: The author
Image: The author

I stumbled across this place on the outskirts of Romney Marsh in 2014; the largest and most depressing collection of Jaguars I’ve ever witnessed. And while hundreds of decrepit Jags of every stripe were littered about the place, there were entire compounds full of condemned XJ40’s – part (it appears) of the 2009 government stimulus package aimed at propping up the motor trade. Continue reading “Exquisite Corpses”

Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview Part One

To mark the 30th anniversary of XJ40’s launch, we speak exclusively to former Jaguar Engineering Director, Jim Randle.

Image: taketotheroad.co.uk
Image: taketotheroad.co.uk

If the XJ40-series’ legacy represents a series of lasts, then chief amongst them is that it remains arguably the final mainstream British series production car to embody the single-minded vision of one man. Because if a car could embody the personality and mentality of its creator, then XJ40 is Jim Randle, whose stamp is all over its conceptual and engineering design. Recently we spoke exclusively with the father of the ’40 to re-evaluate the last purebred Jaguar saloon.  Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview Part One”

Thirty Times ’40

With due consideration, your correspondent gets off the fence.

The last Jaguar? Image: Favcars
Image: Favcars

Praised to the skies by an adulatory UK motoring press at its launch thirty years ago, pilloried mercilessly in subsequent years and even to this day, only grudgingly accepted even by marque loyalists, the Jaguar XJ40’s reputation remains a matter of often quite heated debate.  Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40”

Land Rover’s XJ40

Not satisfied with a year-long treatise on Jaguar’s mid-80s saloon, DTW’s kitty chronicler-at-large goes looking for connections further afield.

The P38A Range Rover. Image: autokult
The 1994-2001 P38A Range Rover. Image: autokult

In 1988 thoughts at Rover Group finally began to coalesce around a replacement for the original Range Rover. P38A was the result, a car mostly dismissed now as a half-hearted reworking of a true original. Sound familiar? Well, history isn’t just confined to repeating itself at Jaguar, because as you’ll see, similarities between P38A and Jaguar’s XJ40 run surprisingly deep. Allow us to count the ways. Continue reading “Land Rover’s XJ40”

Theme: Shutlines – The Difficult C-Pillar Junction

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at shutlines this past month…

How it used to be done. Original image via carsbase
How it used to be done. Original image: carsbase

… and one thing inevitably leads to another, so today we’re taking a (not particularly comprehensive) look at how manufacturers used to deal with another, often tricky junction. The one at the base of the C-pillar.

Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The Difficult C-Pillar Junction”

The Men Who Made the ’40 – Jim Randle

In the second of our postscripts to the XJ40 story, we profile its architect.

Untitled-1Randle2

“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”

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”

Sunday Matinée – Life Begins At ’40

Research has shown it’s impossible to have too much XJ40 in your diet, so here’s another helping.

If like us, you haven’t sufficiently gorged yourself on all things XJ40, don’t worry; Driven to Write is on hand with this series of short promotional films from the ’40s launch in 1986. Immerse yourself in a world of almost universal moustaches, nascent CAD, grey slip-on loafers and illicit assignations, as XJ40-man jets back to his fancy woman via the Scottish Highlands – (where he indulges in some unexplained wildlife photography), the Canadian wilderness and the Australian outback in what can only be described as the mother of all commutes.

 

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?

XJ40 (1)
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 18

Phase Four – 1986-1994: The Rhymes of Goodbye. As Henry’s new broom sweeps both baby and bathwater, XJ40 gets a final makeover before it bows out.

Twilight of a champion?
Best for last? The 1993 XJ12. Image: automobilesdeluxetv

Bent on beating General Motors to the punch, it appears the Blue Oval not only overpaid but failed to carry out a sufficiently thorough pre-purchase inspection. As the scale of Jaguar’s issues became clear, budgets and new car programmes were slashed. It didn’t take long for the briefings to start, the US giant unashamedly publicising their findings, seemingly oblivious to the negative PR this would engender – to say nothing about morale.  Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 18”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 17

Phase Four: 1986-1994 – The Legend Stumbles. As Jaguar’s woes multiply, Ford senses its moment and strikes.

XJ40rearqtr

Jaguar’s rehabilitation was dubbed the Egan Miracle by a UK press charmed by a compelling narrative and the Lancastrian’s charisma. But by 1989, Sir John’s halo had slipped and the knives were out. Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 17”

History Repeating – XJ40 Part 16

Phase Four: 1986-1994 – Keeping up appearances. Jaguar revises XJ40 as the tide turns against it. 

Image via productioncars
1988 and XJ40’s fortunes become inextricably bound up with Jaguar’s wobbly financials. Image: productioncars

With the British motoring press sharpening their quills, Car’s concluding long-term report on an early 3.6 Sovereign sounded a somewhat conciliatory note.  “Because it did some things remarkably well, the contrast with the things it did badly was sharper. Mostly it was the detail design that gripped us with despair… It rings of the bells of time running out and shortcut solutions running freely.”

Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 16”

Japanese Limousine of the Day: Nissan President

From 1990 to 2002 this car represented the very best Nissan could be.

1990-2002 Nissan President
1990-2002 Nissan President

It’s the President. Like the Toyota Century the styling is very formal indeed. It has overtones of Jaguar XJ-40 and Chevrolet Caprice all fused in that unique way the Japanese have of synthesising. Since this version the President has lost its way and is now a variant of something also sold as an Infiniti. Continue reading “Japanese Limousine of the Day: Nissan President”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 8

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

1980_jaguar_xj_1
A tough act to follow – the Series III – image: Jaglovers

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. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 8”

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.

prodline
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”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 3

Phase One – 1972-1975: Jaguar Year Zero. The Autumn of 1974 marked a point when the sky fell in at Jaguar. 

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Cultural revolution. Even the leaping cat at the factory gates was removed. Image unknown

Government appointee, Sir Don Ryder’s report into BLMC’s collapse was published in April 1975 and its findings were greeted with horror at Browns Lane. Ryder recommended British Leyland should henceforth operate as a ‘single integrated car business’. As such, marque identities would be subsumed into centralised BL business units. Jaguar would cease to exist, with its two plants now managed by separate Leyland Car divisions. The effects of rationalisation would go to ludicrous extremes, but with the UK government picking up the bill, there was little room for sentimentality. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 3”