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”
Continuing our Longer Read series with DTW’s XJ40 opus magnum.
This I’m forced to admit is somewhat off the meta scale: A repeat of a repeat of a series, entitled History Repeating.
The lengthiest of our Longer Reads, this piece began taking form as far back as 2009. Over that (close to) ten year period, it has probably been subject to nearly as many changes and midnight-oil revisions as the car itself during its even more protracted and strife-ridden gestation.
Writers occasionally speak of falling in love with their characters; certainly XJ40 was a car I approached with a degree of ambivalence, swayed by a post-production and media-led reading of failure and dashed hopes. However, through a combination of archaeology, study and reasoned evaluation, I found myself reaching what was for me at the time a surprisingly emphatic resolution.
Having arrived at this conclusion, the account evolved into something of a an impassioned elegy, for the car itself, yes, but also for the type of broadly accessible, engineer-led motor car which has become largely-extinct. A opportunity furthermore, to honour the people who not only created it, but imbued both it and all true Jaguars with qualities which were somewhat unique and sadly absent from the modern cars bearing the storied name.
It also resulted in a number of hitherto unexpected outcomes; firstly an audience with Professor Jim Randle, the car’s architect, and furthermore to elements of this series forming part of a book, published in 2016 to commemorate XJ40’s 30th anniversary.
So with little further ado or indeed much by way of apology, I present DTW’s XJ40 saga which debuts a new opening chapter, and a revised text, to reflect more recent insights. I must warn you however that it does run to nearly 14,000 words, so I’d recommend finding a comfortable chair to perch (and perhaps a wee dram). If the story of Jaguar’s last stand captures your imagination, you can continue reading by clicking here.
Ford’s post-acquisition strategy for Jaguar was one of aggressive growth, but it came at some cost – particularly to their core model line.
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”
In the last of this series, Jim Randle describes a Jag with a jinx, XJ40’s presentation to the press and outlines his principles for suspension design.
During Jaguar’s brief period of independence, senior management were tasked by Chairman, Sir John Egan to spend time at dealerships, selling cars, meeting customers and seeing issues first hand. Randle was a keen adherent of 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”
In this second part of our interview with Jonathan Partridge, XJ40’s foibles come under the spotlight.
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”
In part three, Jim Randle speaks candidly about what was possibly the XJ40’s most controversial aspect – its advanced electronics system.
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”
As we continue our XJ40 commemorations, we examine the car through the prism of sales and marketing with Jaguar Heritage’s Jonathan Partridge.
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”
In part two, Jim Randle talks about the challenges facing Jaguar’s styling team, and skewers a few more holy orders along the way.
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”
Ever wondered why so few XJ40s remain on the roads? One word: scrappage.
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 would appear) of the 2009 government stimulus package aimed at propping up the motor trade in the wake of the financial crash. Continue reading “Exquisite Corpses”
To mark the 30th anniversary of XJ40’s launch, we speak exclusively to former Jaguar Engineering Director, Jim Randle.
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 Driven to Write spoke exclusively with the father of the ’40 to re-evaluate the final purebred Jaguar saloon. Continue reading “Thirty Times ’40 – Jim Randle Interview : Part One”
With due consideration, your correspondent gets off the fence.
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”
In 1988 thoughts at Rover Group finally began to coalesce around a replacement for the original Range Rover. The P38A programme was the result, a car nowadays mostly dismissed 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 me to Continue reading “Nine Degrees”
I’ve spent a lot of time looking at shutlines this past month…
… 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.
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 1981)
When auto journalists profiled Jim Randle, the same adjectives 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”
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 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.
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.
The Rhymes of Goodbye. As Henry’s new broom sweeps both baby and bathwater, XJ40 gets a final makeover before it bows out.
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”
Phase Four: 1986-1994 – The Legend Stumbles. As Jaguar’s woes multiply, Ford senses its moment and strikes.
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. The clamour swiftly reached a pitch where few believed he could hold out, and with Jaguar’s financial prospects in retreat, journalists speculated over who would Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 17”
Keeping up appearances. Jaguar revises XJ40 as the tide turns against it.
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.”
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”
From 1990 to 2002 this car represented the very best Nissan could be.
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”
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. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 8”
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”
Phase One – 1972-1975: Jaguar Year Zero. The Autumn of 1974 marked a point when the sky fell in at Jaguar.
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”
A new Jerusalem, or nothing but the same old story? DTW examines XJ40’s turbulent conception and asks, 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, the 1986 XJ40-series represented a new beginning for the embattled marque. XJ40’s 22-year career from conception to retirement encapsulates probably the most tumultuous period in the company’s history.
The tragedy of XJ40 has a number of strands. Throughout the 1970s, XJ40 became Jaguar’s talisman, the one hope a demoralised corps could cling to when their very future was at stake. Central to this were efforts of successive engineering chiefs within Browns Lane to maintain the marque’s identity, but success in this would come at bitter cost.
As much the story of Jaguar’s dogged resistance as it is of the car itself, XJ40’s lengthy gestation would mean the end result was viewed by some 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 quickly became tarnished by an early reputation for build and component issues it has never quite overcome.
Despite being the best-selling XJ series of all, XJ40 still remains something of an outcast within the official Jaguar narrative, only beginning to be appreciated for its finer qualities and for its status as arguably the most ambitious and technically pure Jaguar saloon ever.
This original series has been revised and repurposed as a single (and rather lengthy) article in light of further information coming to light – in particular following a wide-ranging interview in 2016 with XJ40’s creator, the late Professor Jim Randle. This more detailed chronicle can be found by clicking the link immediately below. To read the piece in full, CLICK HERE
You will also find a link (below) to a large number of XJ40 related articles on the site. MORE ON XJ40