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.
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”
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”
Phase three – 1981-1986: Free at last. Jaguar’s independence becomes a reality as Sir William takes a more active role.
When John Egan made contact with Sir William Lyons in 1981 to sound out the Jaguar founder for the role of company President, he was taken aback by his response. ‘I already am, lad!’, Lyons informed him. Amid the turmoil of the previous eight years everyone appeared to have forgotten. Lyons warmly embraced the new incumbent, believing the Lancastrian was the man to reconstruct Jaguar after the disastrous Ryder years. The two men quickly developed a rapport and Egan became a regular visitor to his Wappenbury Hall home where he would take advice from Jaguar’s venerable founder.
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”
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 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 – 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 One – 1972-1975: A Question of Style. Jaguar knew how XJ40 should look, but BLMC management had other ideas.
In October 1973, the complete XJ40 styling proposal was presented to BLMC’s Donald Stokes and John Barber. The car’s style had evolved noticeably over the intervening twelve months, but the XJ-S-inspired lineage remained. The differences lay in the height and shaping of the canopy, the daylight openings – which now featured a six-light treatment – and the addition of a lineal shoulder line. Overall, it presented a cohesive and not unattractive projection of Jaguar saloon style. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 2”
Phase One – 1972-1975: A New Jag Generation. We examine the landscape within Jaguar as the initial XJ40 concept coalesced.
XJ40 underwent several distinct phases in its path to production, the first of which began with the 1968 launch of the XJ6 saloon, a car upon whose shoulders Jaguar would unknowingly place the next 18 years of its existence. The XJ was a superb car, its excellence the sum of several factors. The careful honing of proven hardware, a gifted development team, Jaguar’s V12 engine, and the appliance of stylistic genius. It would be the pinnacle of Sir William Lyons’ vision but as a new decade dawned, it was necessary to plan for its successor.
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