It can be stated without a trace of hyperbole that the Series III XJ remains the most commercially significant Jaguar of all time. Not the most successful, mark you; other XJ generations have sold in greater numbers, others still to come may yet again transform its fortunes, but the Series III remains to this day the car that single-handedly saved the company.
Today we interrogate Jaguar’s quality claims, explore Browns Lane’s engine policy – and indulge in a spot of counter-factuality.
“Unreliable and unjustifiable, its cars had become a laughing stock, its management a comedy and its accounts a tragedy. Only when it began to take itself very seriously indeed, to cultivate the quality it had previously scorned did things change…” (LJK Setright – Car 1986)
It has been retrospectively stated that the Egan-led quality drive was more illusory than real, which is perhaps a little unfair to the huge effort from all concerned. There was however, in Egan parlance, perhaps a little more sizzle than steak to it. Nevertheless, the reforms had a basis in fact and if the JD Power statistics were any guide, it’s evident that Jaguar made significant strides in this area.
Series III’s advent coincided with a number of technical innovations, but one in particular would come with a side-order of calamity.
Despite the outwardly positive manner in which the Series III was presented to the motor press, there was no getting away from the political environment under which the car was developed. Jaguar was reeling under the dictates of the infamous Ryder Report, a series of post-nationalisation recommendations which as implemented, stripped Browns Lane of its leadership, its identity and ultimately its ability to Continue reading “Saving Grace – Part Two”
Forty years ago, Jaguar introduced the Series III XJ. Its combination of virtues cast deep and lasting shadows.
Frequently exercises in diminishing returns, facelifts tend to fall into the category of change for changes sake, or perhaps a last ditch effort to breathe life into a fading model line. Rare indeed is one which successfully transcends its originator. But if the original XJ saloon’s body styling was the inevitable culmination of a lifetime’s study by a master auteur, the Series III of 1979 proved by comparison to be something of a fortuitous accident.
In 1973 Jaguar introduced the second-series XJ, a modest revision of a highly successful model line – for at the time, no more was required. By then, work had already begun upon its ultimate replacement – the troubled XJ40 programme, then scheduled for release in Autumn 1977.
In 1978, Pininfarina made one final pitch to gain Jaguar’s business. It didn’t succeed, but did it precipitate another, more tangled narrative web?
By around 1976 the automotive world had broadly coalesced around the belief that Jaguar’s XJ-S was, in stylistic terms a rather poor show from a carmaker renowned for being the business of beauty. It didn’t really matter that this particular set of shared assumptions had largely been formed by a UK and US press corps who had whipped themselves into a frenzy on the false premise that Jaguar would reprise the E-Type’s impact and ambition and by consequence required a scapegoat when reality proved somewhat different.
Blaming Jaguar was perhaps cathartic and while some argued the carmaker might have controlled the narrative a little better in the run up to the XJ-S’ announcement, in reality, the embattled residents of Browns Lane couldn’t Continue reading “Along Came a Spider”
In the spring of 1975, the XJ finally went on sale in coupé form, but the timing proved somewhat inauspicious.
From the point of inception, it had been Jaguar’s intention to produce the XJ in two door coupé form. Indeed, during 1967, Jaguar’s North American distributors stated that they were only interested in this body style. But with the XJ4 programme already a good 18-months behind schedule, and other BLMC programmes being accorded priority, PSF ceased development of the coupé body entirely.
A revised XJ appeared in late 1973, just in time for the sky to fall in.
At the 1973 Frankfurt motor show, Jaguar displayed the facelifted Series II XJ series, billed in the launch material as “the logical evolution of British Leyland’s most coveted car.” External revisions were largely confined to the nose treatment which lent the car a fresher appearance. The revisions were made partly with one eye to the XJ’s duration in the marketplace, but mostly in accordance with increasingly stringent US regulations. Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Seven)”
In 1968, Jaguar put all its saloon car eggs in one decidedly comely basket. We examine the likely causes.
In 1964, a series of factors led Sir William Lyons to take the momentous decision to replace Jaguar’s multiplicity of saloon models with a single car line, betting the entire enterprise upon its success. Retrospectively of course, one could say he needn’t have worried, but at the time, it must have been a deeply anxious moment.
In this second instalment, we examine the XJ6’s technical package.
Sanctioned in 1964, XJ4 was intended to launch in 1967, which seems in hindsight to have been a rather optimistic timescale. The project team would be led by Bob Knight, Jaguar’s senior development engineer and one of the finest conceptual minds of his era. The Browns Lane engineering department at the time was something of a collection of minor fiefdoms, most of whom Continue reading “The Quintessence : (Part Two)”
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 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”
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”
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 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”
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.
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.
Phase four – 1986-1994: An Ecstatic Début. Jaguar’s management bask in the approbation of a valedictory UK press as XJ40 breaks cover at last.
It even made the TV news. On the 8th October 1986, Jaguar finally revealed their long-anticipated XJ6 and the UK media went nuts. There wasn’t this much excitement since the Austin Metro launch, six years previously. Car, devoted 28 editorial pages to the new Jag, describing it as a triumph of engineering against overwhelming odds, which to some extent it was. Continue reading “History Repeating – XJ40 Part 14”
Phase Three – 1981-1986: Not so Fast Mr. Egan. Was Jaguar really going to launch XJ40 in Autumn 1984?
With Jaguar heading for privatisation, internal BL politics once again reared their head. Sir Micheal Edwardes’ successor, Ray Horrocks was opposed to Jaguar’s independence, lobbying to prevent Egan successfully manoeuvring towards BLexit. With BL at work on an executive saloon to be launched in 1986, Horrocks also moved to ensure there would be no encroachment into Rover’s market. Unsurprisingly, Jaguar’s Chairman had other ideas. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 10”
Phase Three – 1981-1986: Trouble at ‘Mill. As John Egan begins extricating Jaguar from BL’s grasp, XJ40’s development programme hits some early setbacks.
As quality improved, Jaguar customers could appreciate the cars’ elegant lines and refined character anew, and sales rose sharply. Despite a continuing sales depression in the US market, 21,632 cars were sold worldwide in 1982 – up from 15,640 the previous year. For Egan however, exit from the BL straitjacket became his primary focus. Amongst discussions held was the serious prospect of a tie-up with BMW. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 9”
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.
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”
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”