The Jaguar Story was, for 50 years, the story of one man, founder Sir William Lyons, who built up one of the world´s greatest automotive names: renowned for captivating style, breathtaking performance, and a commitment to quality.
Since the company was founded in 1922, Jaguar has evolved from the production of motorcycle sidecars to become one of the world's leading designers and manufacturers of premium sedans and sports cars.
Over the past 18 months the Jaguar product range has gone through a period of remarkable change. There have been continuous developments, including revised versions of the compact X-TYPE and distinctive S-TYPE and the beautiful XK sports car range. Jaguar has also launched the all-new aluminum XJ, and the beautiful XJ long wheelbase models. The stylish and flexible X-TYPE Sportwagon is scheduled to launch in late 2004.
This significant list of updates and replacements, in less than two years, provides proof that Jaguar is an inspiring combination of performance, comfort and driving enjoyment, with the ability to change character to reflect customer needs and desires.
At the heart of our product philosophy is a firm commitment to emotional engineering: the production of beautiful, fast cars that combine intelligent, relevant technologies and contemporary luxury. While modernization is part of this commitment, we will not lose sight of our traditional values. Our customers are those who seek out and demand excellence.
The Years 1922 to 1932
To trace the birth of Jaguar, we must go back to the northern seaside town of Blackpool. Here a young motorcycle enthusiast by the name of Bill Lyons, not yet 21 years of age, met William Walmsley, who was building a rather stylish sidecar which he was attaching to reconditioned motor cycles. Young Lyons immediately displayed the two traits that would be his greatest qualities for the next 50 years or so. His business acumen shrewdly espied a good commercial opportunity and his eye for style appreciated the attractive appearance of these normally mundane creations. He felt there was great potential if the activity could be organised along business lines and production increased to make the operation viable. As soon as William Lyons came of age, the Swallow Sidecar Company was formed in September 1922, with a bank overdraft of £1,000. Humble first and second floor premises were obtained in Blackpool and, with a handful of employees, production commenced. A young Arthur Whittaker was taken on to help with sales but proved better at buying. He remained with the company for around 50 years becoming one of the shrewdest buyers in the business.
Pioneering the use of aluminium, the very stylish sidecars were immediately popular and production expanded rapidly. Then in 1927 Herbert Austin introduced his baby car, the famous Austin Seven. Intended to bring motoring to the masses, the tiny Sevens were cheap, easy to drive and reliable, but lacked individuality. Lyons saw another opportunity. He created a most stylish two-seater body which was mounted on the Austin Seven chassis. An order for 500 was obtained from one of the main London garages and production commenced. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between Lyons and Bertie Henly, who operated Henlys, one of the country's leading garages. At £175, or £185 with a hinged hardtop, the splendid little Austin Seven Swallow proved highly popular and the company introduced a Swallow body for the larger Morris Cowley chassis. The range then increased significantly with the introduction of the Austin Seven Swallow Saloon in late 1928. Priced at £187 10s, the Saloon was not expensive but it looked it. At a time of economic hardship, many people were having to lower their expectations, yet the Swallows, by aping the style of the more exotic or luxurious machines of the era, softened the blow and allowed owners to 'keep up appearances'. Such features as the polished radiator cowl and Ladies Companion Set elevated the Swallows above the average. With sales of the cars and sidecars continuing to increase, it was decided to move to the Midlands, traditional heartland of the British motor industry. Thus, the young company was moved 'lock, stock and barrel' to Coventry.
At the annual London Motor Show of 1929, three new Swallow models appeared for the first time. These were based on the Fiat Tipo 509A, the Swift Ten and Standard Big Nine. Most important of these was the Standard for it was the beginning of a significant relationship, as we shall see. The Standard Swallow was a rather larger saloon and sold for £245. Again the body style offered a more extravagant treatment than the manufacturer's own product and an extrovert range of colour schemes.
In 1931 the larger Standard 16 hp six-cylinder Enfield chassis received the Swallow treatment and this introduced the company to the 2054 cc sidevalve engine, which admirably suited Lyons and Walmsley's purpose for the next ambitious step forward. Meanwhile a model of rather more sporting pretensions was introduced with the addition of the Swallow version of the Wolseley Hornet. Offered just as a two-seater at first, a four-seater was added a year later in 1931 and, a year after that, the bodywork could be supplied mounted to the even more sporty Hornet Special chassis. The Swallow company had now been in existence for a year short of a decade and it had been an exciting time of steady expansion and sound success. But the ambitious Lyons was far from satisfied and a further bold step forward was needed.
The Years 1932 to 1935
William Lyons was not content to merely build bodies on other people's chassis. This constrained his creative desires and equally restricted him to products which were stolid rather than sporting. If Lyons and Walmsley were to throw off these shackles, they needed to create their own chassis to suit their ends. However, the industry was littered with failures and Lyons determined that a cautious approach was necessary. Consequently, he arranged for the Standard Motor Company to build a chassis to Swallow's design but fitted with Standard engines. Meanwhile Lyons, the shrewd publicist, had set the scene. 'WAIT! THE 'SS' IS COMING,' stated an advertisement in July 1931. '2 New Coupes of Surpassing Beauty. SS is the new name of a new car that's going to thrill the hearts of the motoring public and the trade alike. It's something utterly new … different … better!' Thus announced, the SS I and SS II Coupes were duly presented at the 1931 London Motor Show, and sensation they certainly caused. The body was ultra low and the bonnet outrageously long. It had, stated the press, the £1,000 look, yet was priced at a very modest £310, highlighting Lyons' unique ability to offer remarkable value for money.
Lyons was almost obsessive about making his cars as low as possible. By moving the engine further back in the chassis than was normal practice and by mounting the road springs alongside, Lyons was able to achieve this long, low, sporting appearance. The SS II, which appeared alongside and was inevitably over-shadowed by the SS I, was simply a smaller version based on the Standard Nine chassis. Basking in the reflected glory of its more flamboyant and larger sister, the SS II would be popular and sell well. Remarkably it cost only £5 more than Standard's own version. Shortly after the announcement of the new SS models, the larger 2552cc 20 hp Standard engine could be specified and for 1933 a number of revisions were introduced to make the larger car a little more practical. Lengthening the wheelbase by seven inches and widening the track by two, allowed two passengers to be carried in the rear.
In July 1933 the SS I Tourer joined the Coupe, and apart from being the first open SS model, the significance of the Tourers was that they were the first to be entered in a serious competitive event. A team of three Tourers was entered in the 1933 Alpine Trial in mainland Europe and the following year they enhanced the SS name very considerably, taking the team prize on this particularly tough event. The little SS II was considerably improved in late 1933 when it was given its own purpose-designed chassis which gave a wheelbase more than a foot longer. At the same time the front wings were altered to conform to the new style of the larger model. Also, following the form of the SS I, Saloon and Tourer models of the SS II were introduced. For 1934 a new saloon was added to the line-up. Known as a four light (four windows) saloon, this model was rather less flamboyant and rather more practical - at least the rear seat passengers could now see out!
William Walmsley, who did not share his partner's driving ambition and was losing interest in the venture, severed his connections in late 1934. Lyons now turned his attention to improving the mechanical integrity of the cars. First he turned to Harry Weslake, a distinguished engineering consultant specialising in cylinder head design. Then he formed an Engineering Department and appointed a young William Heynes to be his Chief Engineer. Heynes was to play a major role with the company for the next 35 years. The range was once more supplemented in 1935 with the addition of the SS I Airline Saloon. This design was not a particular Lyons favourite but the shape was fashionable for the time and sold well. Yet another model joined the line-up in March of that year when the SS I Drophead Coupe was introduced. In appearance it was very similar to the Coupe but now the whole hood folded away under a hinged cover on the luggage locker and resulted in a most pleasing appearance. The fruits of Weslake and Heynes' work were shortly to be seen but, meanwhile, a very stylish sports car was introduced. Known as the SS 90 and powered by the 2.7 litre side-valve engine, the performance once again did not quite live up to the car's dramatic appearance. But all that was about to be changed.
The Years 1935 to 1938
In 1935 the 'Jaguar' name sprang upon the scene for the first time with a completely new saloon and sports car range. William Heynes had been working to produce a completely new box section cruciform braced chassis for a vastly improved new model range. Meanwhile Weslake had been turning his talents to the Standard engine and by adopting overhead valves he succeeded in increasing output from 75 hp of the previous 21/2 litre sidevalve engine to no less than 105 hp. For the new chassis and engine unit, Lyons designed a fresh body style, less flamboyant than previous models, yet still stylish. Indeed it was closer to contemporary Bentleys which cost nearly four times the price!
Sophistication was increasing, and now customers were offered four doors for the first time on an SS. Indeed so different were the new models that it was felt that a new model name was needed. The Company's advertising agency suggested 'Jaguar' and though Lyons took some persuading, it was finally adopted. Thus the new cars would be known as SS Jaguars. The 'Jaguar' name was an ideal choice - feline grace and elegance, combining docility with remarkable power and agility. The cars have matured and developed to justify the analogy in every way. With typical showmanship, Lyons had arranged a lunch at the Mayfair Hotel in London to launch the new model to the press a few days before the 1935 Motor Show. The SS Jaguar 21/2 litre saloon was unveiled to much favourable comment and the assembled company were asked to guess the price. The average guess was £632. The actual price… just £395.
All the earlier SS designs had been superseded with the exception of the larger Tourer body which lived on with a revised radiator grille and the fitment of the new 21/2 litre engine. The superb new sports car design, which had been glimpsed just briefly as the SS 90, reappeared in similar form as the SS Jaguar 100. With a revised treatment around the fuel tank area at the rear, and more importantly, the adoption of the new chassis and engine, the company now produced a sports car to be proud of. For many, the SS 100 is a pre-war classic amongst sports cars. The price, incidentally, was just £395. This new model was to be used to considerable effect in competitions, both national and international.
In 1936 the motoring journalist Tom Wisdom, driving with his wife Elsie, won the International Alpine Trials in an SS 100. This car, which came to be known as 'Old Number 8' was run very successfully at the Brooklands circuit by Wisdom and in the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb by Coventry garage and theatre owner, Sammy Newsome. A year later a team of three cars was entered by the factory in the RAC Rally, the premier rally event in Britain. The team, which included the Hon. Brian Lewis (later Lord Essendon) took the Manufacturer's Team Prize but outright success eluded them. Instead the event was won by a privately entered SS 100! A new, enlarged 31/2 litre engine had been developed and tested in 'Old Number 8'. In September 1937, this engine, together with a new 11/2 litre unit, joined the 21/2 litre version in a completely revised model range. The new models were not very different in appearance, distinguished from their predecessors by the lack of the side mounted spare wheel, but the range now employed 'all steel' construction. Additionally the old Tourer was replaced by Drophead versions of the saloon in each engine size.
Heynes had designed a further stronger chassis for the new body construction resulting in more interior space and bigger doors. Prices ranged from £298 for the 11/2 litre saloon to £465 for the 31/2 litre Drophead Coupe. The new 31/2 litre engine was fitted to the '100' model and this gave genuine sports car performance with sixty miles per hour reached from a standstill in 10.5 seconds and a top speed of over 100 mph. At £445 the bigger-engined SS 100 was in a class of its own. Meanwhile the experimental 31/2 litre unit fitted to 'Old Number 8' was being increasingly modified. Responsible for this work was a man who had accepted the position of Chief Experimental Engineer with SS in 1938. His name was Walter Hassan, a man destined to become a legend in the motor racing world and one who would play an important role in the Jaguar story. For the Motor Show of that year Lyons had designed a stylish closed body for the SS 100. Reminiscent of the Bugattis of the period, just one was made before the outbreak of World War Two decreed an end to car production.
The Years 1938 - 1953
During the war, the manufacture of sidecars was increased for military use with nearly 10,000 made. Additionally, aircraft and fabrication work had the beneficial side effect of introducing the company to aircraft design and techniques. Not surprisingly Coventry had been a particular target for bombing raids, and it was necessary to organise rosters of people for what was known as 'fire-watching'. One such group consisted of Lyons himself, Heynes, Hassan and Claude Baily. Together they made plans for a new engine that would establish the company as a world force. Early post-war times were difficult for British companies. Amongst other problems were shortages of steel and foreign currency. The Government issued the dictum, 'Export or Die' and steel quotas were closely related to export performance - in other words, no exports, no steel! Firstly however, it was necessary to resurrect production as soon as possible and the best way to do this was to reintroduce the pre-war range in largely unchanged form. At the same time it was decided to drop the SS name, which had acquired an unfortunate wartime notoriety and simply call the company Jaguar Cars. Soon after the war the sidecar division was sold and the 11/2, 21/2 and 31/2 litre saloons and dropheads were reintroduced to begin the big export push. The 31/2 litre model proved a little thirsty for the UK market, but was ideal for the USA where the majority were shipped. The SS 100 model was not produced after the war, but a lone example had been stored, unregistered throughout the war. Known by its subsequent registration, LNW 100, the car was very successful in the Alpine and Tulip Rallies in the hands of Ian Appleyard.
In September 1948 Jaguar announced its first new post-war, stop-gap model. Something more radical was being conceived but various constraints dictated that the Mark V would carry the company's fortunes for a couple of years. The main innovation was the adoption of independent front suspension, conceived by Heynes. The exciting new engine was virtually ready for production, but it was considered that the Mark V was a little too conservative to launch it in and so the Saloon and Drophead Mark Vs were offered with the usual 21/2 and 31/2 litre power units. Lyons had specified that the output from the new engine should be that ultimately achieved with 'Old Number 8', 160 bhp. The designers bravely chose an overhead camshaft layout and after trying several configurations, the final engine was decided upon. It was to be a straight six of 3442 cc and given the name XK. The achieved output was 160 bhp! Jaguar now had an excellent new chassis, a tremendously exciting new engine, but no sports car. So the decision was made to produce a small number of sports cars, which would generate publicity and perhaps gain a few competition successes. The task fell then to William Lyons to design a suitable body in just a couple of months for the 1948 Motor Show.
The result 'stole the show'. It was known as the XK120 and was destined to become one of the greatest sports cars of all time. This was no thinly disguised racing machine. It was refined in the usual Jaguar manner, had unrivalled comfort for such a car, and to cap it all, was priced at just £998 (£1,298 with tax). The name was based on top speed which made it the fastest production car in the world. Indeed at first people were sceptical and refused to believe what was being claimed for the XK120. To convince the sceptics however, some tangible proof of the claimed prowess was needed. Accordingly Jaguar took over a closed section of dual carriageway at Jabbeke in Belgium where, in front of the assembled press, a standard XK120 proceeded to clock 126 mph. With the windscreen removed 133 mph was achieved and, as if this was not enough, the driver then pottered past the amazed press at a mere 10 mph in top gear. The orders came flooding in and Jaguar quickly realised that the couple of hundred originally intended could not possibly meet demand. The waiting lists were lengthened still further after the XK's racing debut at Silverstone in a Production Sports Car race. Three cars were loaned by the factory to well known drivers Peter Walker, Leslie Johnson and Prince Bira of Siam. Bira was unlucky enough to have a puncture, but the others finished first and second.
In 1950 it was decided to take three cars to France for the world famous Le Mans 24 hour race, merely to assess their capabilities against international opposition. They were unlucky not to finish in the top three, when the leading example succumbed to clutch trouble after 21 hours. However, valuable lessons had been learnt.
One of six specially prepared XKs had been lent to Tom Wisdom for competition use. He proposed offering the car to a young up-and-coming driver for the famous Dundrod Tourist Trophy race in Ulster. Jaguar were not too keen as this young man was reputed to be too fast for his own good. Reluctantly they agreed, and in appalling conditions, Stirling Moss left the field behind to take one of the most important wins of his career. On the rallying front Ian Appleyard had replaced LNW 100 with one of the six special XKs. NUB 120 took Appleyard and Lyons' daughter Pat, to success in the Alpine Rallies of '51 and '52 and the Tulip Rally in '51 and became one of the most successful rally cars of all time.
At the 1950 Motor Show the Mark VII saloon was unveiled and once again Lyons 'stole the show'. Designed with the US market in mind, it was, by European standards, a very large car. It was certainly a full five-seater but being powered by the now-famous XK engine it was no slow coach. Americans took to the Mark VII and some $30m worth of orders were taken within months of the car's introduction. Such was the demand that a larger factory was required and the company moved to the present manufacturing plant at Browns Lane, Coventry in 1951/52. 1951 also saw an addition to the XK120 range - The Fixed Head Coupe. As the name implied, the model had a solid roof reminiscent of the one-off SS 100 Coupe prepared for the 1938 Motor Show of pre-war Bugattis. The long distance capabilities of the Fixed Head Coupe were demonstrably proven when Bill Heynes' own road car was taken to Montlhery Autodrome near Paris. Here Stirling Moss and three others drove the car for seven days and nights at an average speed in excess of 100 mph.
After the three XK120s' exploratory trip to Le Mans in 1950, it was realised that Jaguar had the makings of a successful competition car if weight could be saved and aerodynamics improved. Consequently Lyons was persuaded by Heynes and the Manager of the Service Department, Lofty England, that a car should be produced solely with racing in mind. Hence was born the XK120C, or as the car is more generally known, the C-type. To reduce weight, a multi-tubular triangulated frame was chosen and designed by Bob Knight. The body was designed by an aerodynamicist, Malcolm Sayer, who had joined the company from the aircraft industry. Many components were carried over from the production XKs including, of course, the engine. This, however, was modified with larger exhaust valves, higher lift cams and larger SU carburettors.
Three C-types were finished just in time for Le Mans in 1951. They were to be driven by Stirling Moss (now the team leader) and 'Jolly' Jack Fairman; the Peters, Walker and Whitehead (a couple of gentlemen farmers); and Leslie Johnson with Clemente Biondetti. The Jaguars were an unknown quantity and the crowd were watching the Ferraris, Talbots and Cunninghams. However, Moss set off at a great rate of knots breaking the lap record and the opposition. An amazing 1,2,3 looked possible until an oil pipe flange broke on Biondetti's car. Then a similar fate befell Moss. The third car's luck held however and Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead recorded a remarkable victory first time out for the C-types. Unfortunately the return to France in 1952 did not yield the expected second victory. Concerned about reports of the new Mercedes' straightline speed, Jaguar hastily and unwisely fitted more streamlined bodies but were unable to test them at sustained speeds of 150 mph. Within hours all three had retired with overheating problems. Jaguar built a small quantity of 'production' C-types and of the 53 built, including the works cars, a number found their way to the States where they were successfully raced.
In April 1953 a third version of the XK120 joined the Open Two-Seater Super Sports and the Fixed Head Coupe. It was a cross between the two and known as the Drophead Coupe, being a more sophisticated open version. Meanwhile Jaguar engineers had been working in conjunction with Dunlop on a completely new type of brake that had, as yet, only been used on aircraft. The new development was the disc brake and was to be Jaguar's secret weapon upon their return to Le Mans in 1953. The 24 hour race that year was notable for having representatives from most of the leading European motor car manufacturers and most of the top Grand Prix drivers. Rarely, if ever, had the competition been so intense. With their fade-free brakes the C-types could decelerate at the end of the three and a half mile Mulsanne Straight from speeds of around 150 mph, time after time, with complete confidence and furthermore, they could leave their braking far later than their rivals. The result was a complete walkover, the Jaguars finishing first, second and fourth.
The winning car was driven by a couple who typified the amateur drivers of the era. Major Tony Rolt had won the Military Cross for distinguished war service and Duncan Hamilton was a larger than life character to whom it was very much sport for sport's sake. Moss and Walker finished second after suffering fuel feed trouble early on. If further proof were needed that Jaguar was now a world force and the XK engine a world beater, then the emphatic triumph of '53 against one of the strongest fields any race had ever seen provided it.
The Years 1953 to 1963
In 1954 the XK120's were superseded by the mechanically updated XK140's fitted with the more powerful 190 bhp XK engine which had been used in the Special Equipment 120's. The new models were visually similar to their predecessors differing in external details only. The fixed head had an extended roof line and together with the Drophead Coupe, was given two small extra seats in the rear, suitable for children or adults for a short journey, but they made the XK's a little more practical for the family man.
Overdrive was now an optional extra and the car could be ordered with a C-type cylinder head in which case power output was increased to 210 bhp. The price of the roadster, all but a handful of which were exported, was now £1,127 (plus tax). Special Equipment versions were known in the States as XK140M's and, when fitted with the C-type head, as MC's. The XK140's maintained the XK's popularity but very few found their way into competition. However, the C-type was just about to be superseded by the D-type. A prototype had made a couple of private appearances in 1953 and this was a halfway stage between the 'C' and eventual 'D' models.
The D-type was to break fresh ground as it was of largely monocoque construction. To this 'tub' of magnesium alloy was attached a tubular front sub-frame which carried the engine, steering and front suspension. With its bag tanks for the fuel, the D-type borrowed a good deal from aircraft practice. It was created by Bill Heynes and Malcolm Sayer. The new D-types were taken to Le Mans in 1954 with high hopes pinned upon them. Engine problems early on in the race were traced, rather suspiciously, to the presence of a fine grey sand in the fuel supplied. With the cause diagnosed the drivers began a valiant battle to make up lost ground. Hamilton and Rolt leading the charge in the 'D' they were sharing. Further frustration was experienced when Rolt was pushed off by a slower competitor and the heavens opened to almost flood the track - Hamilton was getting wheelspin at 170 mph! After many hours of driving as fast as they dared, during which the D-type ran faultlessly, they finished just one minute and 45 seconds adrift of the winning Ferrari after 24 hours. Revenge was gained a few weeks later when Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton won at the 12 hour race at Rheims. Jaguar had now carved for itself a fine reputation. It had in production a superb large saloon and a very fine sports car, but it needed a high volume smaller car.
One million pounds in 1955 was a very significant amount and that was the investment expended on designing and developing Jaguar's important new compact saloon. The saloon's unitary method of construction was a new venture for Jaguar. This type of body, in which the basic shell doubled as the chassis, had an advantage in that it saved weight and was inherently more rigid. There were concerns that the new models might be too noisy, because unitary bodyshells often acted like steel drums when noise and vibration were fed into them. Here, Bob Knight founded his reputation for ride and refinement by insulating potentially noisy components from the bodyshell by the use of rubber mounting blocks, a technique still prominent in today's assembly methods.
When Heynes, Hassan and colleagues had first designed the XK engine the intention had been also to produce a four cylinder version, and indeed an XK100 was actually listed. This engine was considered for the small saloon but the refinement levels were not up to Jaguar's requirements and high standards. Consequently the decision was made to use a reduced version of the 3.4 litre six cylinder. Thus a 2.4 litre was produced and fitted to the new saloon, the model simply being known as the Jaguar 2.4. Indeed this was to be a most important model for Jaguar and would remain in production, in one form or another, for more than 10 years.
Le Mans 1955 had all the makings of a titanic struggle. British driver, Mike Hawthorn, joined the Jaguar team as Moss had moved to Mercedes-Benz in his quest for Grand Prix success.
For the first hour or so a magnificent race was fought by Castellotti in the Ferrari, Fangio in the Mercedes he was sharing with Moss and Hawthorn in a D-type. The D-types had been revised and now wore 'long-nose' bodywork to improve air penetration. A new 'wide angle' cylinder head with increased valve sizes had been designed with a resultant increase in power to 275bhp. Sadly this was the year of the tragic crash with a large number of spectators killed when one of the Mercedes crashed into the crowd. Fangio and Hawthorn were locked in a thrilling tussle, passing and re-passing until the remaining Mercedes were with-drawn. Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb went on to a rather empty victory.
Just as Jaguar had manufactured a small quantity of 'Production C-types' so they now began selling a limited number of 'Production D-types'. Again these were mainly intended for competition use. Of the 42 made, some 18 were exported to the States. The big Mark VII's were showing that they could also be used to good effect in competition. Indeed Ronnie Adams crowned a number of successes with victory in the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally. Jaguar thus became the first manufacturer ever to win both Le Mans and the Monte Carlo Rally in the same year. Indeed 1956 was a very special year for Jaguar and Sir William Lyons, for such he had been bestowed in the New Year's Honours' List.
Le Mans that year was a curious one for Jaguar. On the second lap two of the cars collided with each other in the Esses and the third was put out of contention by a split fuel line. It would have been a complete disaster had it not been for the fact that Jaguar had, in effect, a back-up team. A private Scottish team by the name of Ecurie Ecosse had been racing Jaguars for several years and were running two D-types. Luckily for Jaguar the one driven by Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson crossed the line in first position.
Late in 1956 the Mark VII was replaced by the evolutionary Mark VIII. In appearance the car benefited from being given a one-piece windscreen, and the radiator grille was altered. Mechanically the car was given a new cylinder head christened the B-type, illogically following the C-type! This new head had an altered valve angle and enabled the engine to produce 210 bhp. Around this time the very exciting XK-SS, a road-going version of the D-type, with refinements, was produced. Amazingly, this was to use up D-type parts which were surplus because of poor sales of that model! However, XK-SS production was abruptly halted after just 16 had been made due to an enormous, and potentially catastrophic, fire at the factory. Luckily damage was reasonably restricted, and with marvellous co-operation from workforce and suppliers, normal production was resumed remarkably swiftly. But the vital jigs for the D-types and XK-SS's had been destroyed.
The same near-disaster almost ruined the launch of a new sister for the 2.4 saloon. Logically, Jaguar had decided to fit the 3.4 engine in the saloon body and this made a very sprightly sporting saloon. Maximum speed was 120 mph and 60 mph could be reached in just 11.7 seconds. Having developed disc brakes in the best testing conditions possible - endurance racing - Jaguar were ready to fit them to production cars and the first models to benefit were the new XK150's in May, 1957. Fitted as standard with the 190 bhp XK140 engine, the 150 could also be purchased in Special Equipment guise with the 210 bhp B-type engine. Braking had never been the XK's strongest point and with performance and weight gradually increasing, the new disc brakes adequately provided much needed improvement.
At the end of 1956 Jaguar announced that it intended retiring from motor racing, at least for a year or so. The small engineering team was hard-pressed to maintain Jaguar's outstanding record on the track, and also design and develop new road cars. There were no factory D-types at Le Mans in 1957, but there were private entries and Ecurie Ecosse had a pair of ex-works cars out once more. All five D-types finished, the Ecurie Ecosse cars driven by Flockhart and Bueb and Sanderson and Lawrence, taking the first two places, the French duo of Lucas and Mary third, and the Belgian pairing of Frere and Rousselle fourth. Duncan Hamilton and American Masten Gregory, though the fastest, were delayed when the exhaust burnt a hole in the floor, and came home sixth. That same year it had been decided to mount a challenge race between the best of Europe and the fastest Indianapolis cars from the States.
Billed as the 'Race of Two Worlds' it was to be held on the banked track at Monza in Italy and was given the name, Monzanapolis! With the exception of Ecurie Ecosse, the European teams boycotted the event. The US cars were designed specifically for this type of event but only three of their eight starters were still running at the finish. The three D-types, two of which had just completed 24 hours of racing, ran faultlessly and finished 4th, 5th and 6th.
In early 1958 the roadster version of the XK150 joined the other two body styles in answer to demand from the States. This roadster had the luxury of wind up windows and a less crude hood. Coincidental with the launch of the XK150 Roadster was the introduction of the 'S' variant with a new cylinder head developed by Harry Weslake. This was known as the 'straight port head' and, with three SU carburettors, increased power considerably to 250 bhp. With this engine the XK150 could attain 133 mph and reach 50 mph from stationary in just 7.3 seconds. Soon afterwards the 'S' engine became available in the other XK150's. At the 1958 Motor Show the Mark VIII was succeeded by the Mark IX. Visually the cars were virtually identical, but the new car was given an enlarged 3.8 litre version of the trusty XK engine and disc brakes. Power assisted steering was also offered.
During '59 it was the turn of the small saloons to receive attention and a vastly improved Mark II model was announced towards the end of the year, these benefiting from an increased rear track and disc brakes fitted as standard. The changes that were most apparent, however, were in appearance, with the glass area being increased significantly by using slender roof supports. The 120 bhp 2.4 litre and 210 bhp 3.4 litre models continued to be offered, but were joined by a racy stablemate in the shape of the new 3.8 litre. With 220 bhp on tap this turned the already rapid small Jaguars into businessmen's expresses, which cost only £1,842. As the horsepower race continued to hot up in the States, Jaguar countered once again by offering the new 3.8 litre engine in the XK150 from 1960. This could also be had in triple carburettor 265 bhp 'S' form giving a top speed of 136 mph. Not surprisingly, a number of Mark I's and II's were raced. Their successes were prodigious and examples were driven by top Grand Prix drivers of the day, such as Mike Hawthorn, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Roy Salvadori, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Mike Parkes.
A positive plethora of rallying successes were gained with overall success in the Tulip Rally for the Morley brothers in 1958 and team prizes and class wins in the Monte Carlo, RAC and Alpine Rallies. Five successive victories were gained in the increasingly tough Tour de France. The 1963 event, which saw Jaguar's last victory, consisted of 3,600 miles of high speed motoring. Touring car races were won in Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania, and International Long-Distance Records set in Italy. In the UK the Mark II's kept up Jaguar's tradition of winning the Production Car race every year at Silverstone and in 1961 took the company's 13th annual win. In 1960 Jaguar purchased the motor pioneer firm of Daimler. Jaguar needed more space and Daimler had a large factory in Coventry, to which engine manufacture would subsequently be transferred.
The Years 1963 to 1968
Jaguar had planned a short retirement from racing, but various factors delayed their return. The factory fire; the need to concentrate on road cars and, above all, high market demand for the product. However, the engineering department had been planning a successor to the D-type as far back as 1955. Malcolm Sayer, the legendary aerodynamicist, had been working on a car that could be both a sensational road car and a Le Mans winner - the E-type. Sayer was one of the first to apply the principles of aerodynamics to motor car design. During development the E-type project diverged into two distinct categories; a road car and a sports racing car, a prototype of the latter being built in 1960.
Briggs Cunningham, the American sportsman and gentleman racer, had, in the mid-fifties, transferred his allegiance to Jaguar. He opened a large dealership and ran D-types in American colours. Whilst visiting Jaguar in early 1960, he was shown the prototype, E2A, and persuaded Lyons to let him run it at Le Mans that year. Lack of development time mitigated against the venture and, although it set the fastest time in practice, retirement followed in the race during the early hours of Sunday morning.
By 1961 the XK150s, though good cars, were no longer pacesetters and Jaguar needed to make a quantum leap forward to maintain sales and prestige. The E-type, which was announced at Geneva in March 1961, was just that. Like the XK120 in 1948, it was an absolute sensation. The body styling was sensuous, beautiful, and the car set new standards in all areas. A brand new independent rear suspension was designed by Bob Knight and situated in a cradle, which was mounted via rubber blocks to the body unit. The brilliant rear suspension, used on the XJ-S, gave excellent roadholding, a first class ride and great refinement. The car had the triple carburettor 3.8 litre XK engine first seen in the XK150 'S'. Producing 265 bhp in a lighter aerodynamic body gave virtual 150 mph performance, with acceleration of 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds.
The E-type, or XK-E as it would be known in the States, seemed to have the best of all worlds. It was very fast, had vivid acceleration, great flexibility, unheard of comfort and refinement for such a car, and pure good looks. Even the launch was dramatic. Most testing had been carried out on a couple of open roadsters, but it was decided to produce a Fixed Head after a brilliant American sheet metal craftsman, Bob Blake, created a mock up for Lyons. The Fixed Head version was built and loaned to various motoring magazines and newspapers in early 1961. The car was just capable of the magic 150 mph, a relief to Jaguar who had already printed the brochures.
This same car was due to be launched to the press at Geneva. The press reaction was ecstatic, as was that of the public. Rarely, if ever, had a car been so lauded. The price added to the incredulity at £1,830 for the Roadster and £1,954 for the Fixed Head. Aston Martins were twice the price and Ferraris nearly three times. A few weeks later two Roadsters and two Fixed Heads were shown at the New York Motor Show. The reaction was equally extraordinary. As with the XK120, Jaguar's claims were tested on the racetrack. Two cars were entered in the 25 lap GT Trophy race on the twisting, undulating circuit at Oulton Park. They were entrusted to Graham Hill and Roy Salvadori, who were up against competition Ferraris and Aston Martins.
The two E-types led until Salvadori experienced brake trouble and was passed by Grand Prix driver Innes Ireland in a DB4 GT Aston Martin. Try as he might, Ireland could not pass Hill who used all his skills to fend off the Aston and the three finished in close formation. It was a brilliant victory first time out and unassailable proof of the E-type's prowess. Later the same year, Jaguar announced another new model, a replacement for the Mark IX. This time the new Mark X was no evolutionary update but a completely new concept. Whereas the Mark IX had still employed a separate chassis, the Mark X was of full monocoque construction. It used a widened version of the new independent rear suspension as fitted to the E-type and was fitted with the same engine. The car was designed almost wholly with the US market in mind. It was very large by European standards and seated five people. In spite of the car's bulk, it was not slow with a top speed of 120 mph, and it certainly appealed to Americans with the US and Canadian dealers placing orders worth 63 million dollars (£22.5m). Unfortunately the model did not turn out to be quite as successful as hoped, though gradually it matured into an excellent vehicle capable of transporting four or five people quickly and in great comfort.
Three E-types were privately entered for Le Mans in 1962. One retired but the Briggs Cunningham entry, driven by Briggs and Roy Salvadori, finished a highly creditable fourth followed by the Peter Lumsden/Peter Sargent E-type one place behind. Meanwhile E-types had been clocking up a number of successes around the world and one car, entered by Jaguar dealer John Coombs, was being increasingly developed. The success of the E-types inspired Ferrari to build the 250 GTO and this led Jaguar to counter with a special racing version of the E-type, developed from the Coombs car. Generally known as the 'Lightweight E', these cars, of which just 12 were built, had an aluminium monocoque body and engines with a block of the same material. With fuel-injected, dry sump engines, considerably stiffened suspension and wider wheels, they posed a genuine threat to the Ferraris and beat them on a number of occasions.
In 1963 Cunningham took three Lightweight E's to Le Mans. Unfortunately one retired with gearbox problems, the second crashed heavily after hitting an oil patch at 170 mph on Mulsanne and the third only managed to finish ninth after a long pit stop to repair a badly damaged bonnet. Also in 1963 the S-type saloon car was announced. This was a pleasing compromise between the Mark II and the Mark X in shape. Most importantly the S-type was given independent rear suspension and the S-type was offered with either the 3.4 or 3.8 litre engine. Two 'Lightweight Es' were entered for Le Mans in 1964. Sadly, both cars retired with mechanical problems. To improve torque, the E-type was given a new 4.2 litre XK engine and synchromesh gearbox. Braking was improved by the deletion of the Kelsey Hayes bellows-type servo in favour of a Lockheed vacuum booster. Internally the 4.2 E-types were given far better seats. The aluminium dash panels and centre consoles were now covered in black leathercloth. Like the Mark X, the only external way of distinguishing the 4.2 E-types was by the badge upon the bootlid.
Sir William Lyons had felt for some time that the company needed a four seater 'sports car'. In 1966 this was achieved by lengthening the E-type and adding a pair of small seats in the rear, so that the car could 'extend dad's youth for another seven years' as Motor put it. The new car, known as the 2+2, was not to everybody's liking but certainly made a more practical machine. Performance was not helped by the extra weight and frontal area. Top speed was now down to 136 mph. Price, as ever, was very competitive at £2,385 and a very healthy number were sold with, like all E-type production, the vast majority crossing the Atlantic to the States. The 420 saloon was introduced in 1966. This was akin to a revised S-type with the Mark X frontal styling treatment. Offered, as the name implied, with the 4.2 litre engine, the 420 was an excellent car. It was, though, a stopgap model for Lyons and Knight who were working on something very special which would appear in a couple of years time.
For many years Jaguar had been Britain's top dollar earner and the most popular imported car in the US. By 1966 Jaguar's post-war exports totalled £200m. A year later the Mark IIs metamorphosed into 240s and 340s. The models, now near to the end of their lives, were rejuvenated by a few minor trim changes and the 3.8 model was dropped from the range. From time to time Jaguar's thoughts had turned to competition and Sayer had wanted to build a mid-engined car. Heynes and colleagues had realised that if Jaguar was to remain competitive it would need to design a completely new engine, preferably of 12 cylinders. In 1965, with the Lightweight E-types uncompetitive, a small team including Sayer and Mike Kimberley, later to head Lotus Cars, drew up plans for a mid-engined sports racing car. To power it, they designed a four cam V12 of 5 litres.
The car, the XJ13, was built in great secrecy in 1966 but there was an unfortunate lack of urgency about the project. It was eventually run in 1967. Sadly it was never to race and has become a museum piece for enthusiasts. The shape was another Sayer masterpiece. Of obvious ancestry, it was one of the most beautiful cars ever conceived, and a lasting tribute to this brilliant man who prematurely died in 1970. In 1968 the E-types underwent changes dictated by the US Federal Regulations. With a less clean shape and increasing weight, the E-type was in need of another boost both in terms of prestige and performance. Jaguar was working on the answer and it had rather more than six cylinders.
The Years 1968 to 1979
In the late sixties Jaguar had rather too many saloon models for a relatively narrow sector of the market. Equally, those worthy models were becoming a little outdated and it was time for another quantum leap and some rationalisation. The XJ6 arrived in 1968 and it was undoubtedly just what was required. Without question it was the finest Jaguar yet, and met with instant and ecstatic praise. First and foremost, the shape was another Lyons masterpiece. In an era when cars were starting to lose their character, the Jaguar strongly retained its identity. Not only did the car look superb, thanks to Bob Knight's sterling work on development, the XJ also set new standards of ride and refinement. With the advent of the XJ saloons, all other saloon models were deleted with the exception of the 420G which continued for a while at low volume. To satisfy a larger spread of the market with just one body style, Jaguar offered a choice of the familiar 4.2 litre XK engine, or a new 2.8 litre variation. However, the majority of XJ6's were sold with the larger engine.
The price, at just under £2,253, as ever was quite remarkable, and the waiting lists were long, to say the least.
Sir William Lyons' decision to concentrate on one model proved to be the right one, for the XJ range eventually sustained the company for nearly two decades. During 1969 William Heynes retired from the company. He had been in overall charge of engineering since 1934 when he joined SS Cars at the age of just 32 and he had moulded together and guided a brilliant team. Heynes and his colleagues had been thinking of a new engine for some time, inspired by the racing cars, and a need to keep ahead of their rivals. They had always leaned towards a V12 configuration and such a unit had been built for the stillborn XJ13 project in the mid-sixties. By this time, emission controls and safety regulations were blunting the E-type's once electrifying performance. Equally the XJ range needed another engine to satisfy a wider range of markets.
In 1963 Jaguar had acquired Coventry Climax who in the fifties and sixties had built highly successful Grand Prix engines. Wally Hassan had left Jaguar in the early fifties, joined Climax and been responsible for the world-beating engines. He was now brought back into the fold and there was nobody better to design Jaguar's new engine. Heynes and Claude Baily designed the four cam racing engine that powered the XJ13 and, following their retirement, Hassan and colleague, Harry Mundy, carried out extensive research with single camshaft engines before building 'their' single cam V12 of 5.3 litres. To save weight, the block was to be of aluminium and for the first time transistorised ignition was used. Both to give the E-type a boost, and to prove the engine in a relatively low volume model, the new V12 unit was offered in the E-type from 1971. The appearance of the Series III, as the V12 engined E-type was designated, was changed quite considerably. A larger mouth air intake was now covered by a grille, and flared wheel arches allowed for the increased track and bigger tyres.
The Fixed Head model was dropped and just the Roadster and 2+2 variants produced. The open car was now based on the longer four seater floorplan and as a result could for the first time be offered with automatic transmission. Power steering was fitted as standard on both models.The V12 engine was remarkable for being silky smooth. It powered the car effortlessly and thus the image of the V12 E-types was entirely different from that of their predecessors. They were no longer a raw sports car but an increasingly sophisticated, touring machine.
In 1972 the car for which the engine had been primarily designed was finally launched. The XJ12 was another triumph of even greater proportions than the XJ6, which it joined rather than replaced. This was Sir William Lyons' crowning achievement. He had set out to imitate the style of the most expensive cars with styling that suggested rather more performance than his cars really had. He was now producing a car that gave these eminent manufacturers a run for their money in any department you cared to name - style, performance, refinement, comfort or the use of traditional materials. Performance, not surprisingly, was superb and Jaguar could now claim that the XJ12 was the fastest production four-seater in the world. That maximum speed was just short of 140 mph, whilst 60 mph could be accelerated to in 7.4 seconds.
Daimler versions of the XJ saloons were also produced though they were identical mechanically and differed in appearance only by having the traditional fluted grille. In 1972 a Vanden Plas version of the V12 engined Daimler Double Six was introduced. One criticism levelled at the XJ saloons was that they were a little cramped in the rear and so, in September 1972, a longer wheelbase Vanden Plas Daimler Double Six was introduced. Soon after that the long wheelbase body became available for the rest of the range. These were designated the XJ6L or XJ12L, as appropriate.
Aged 71, Sir William Lyons retired in 1972, handing over the Jaguar reins to Lofty England. The company had been in existence for some 50 years and was now one of the most respected in the world. An autocratic man, Lyons had led from the front, building a sound business empire and a product that enjoyed a rare loyalty. Apart from being a superb businessman, he was one of the finest stylists of his era.
Most of his designs have stood the test of time and are a monument to his unique contribution to the history of the car in the twentieth century.
In 1973 the immensely popular XJ's received a facelift, the new Series II versions were introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Also at Frankfurt, Jaguar launched a new body style. This was the XJ Coupe and exceptionally stylish it was too. The basic shell was changed to have just two doors and no window frames. Thus with no central window pillar the door windows and rear quarter windows could be lowered to give a complete pillarless effect. In this guise the XJ6C and XJ12C were extremely good looking and had a sporting appearance.
A pair of V12 XJ Coupes were being prepared and raced by Broadspeed for British Leyland in the European Touring Car Championship. In spite of using top drivers, such as Derek Bell, the cars were not successful in '76, lacking development. Just as they were starting to become a serious proposition the following year, they were retired for good. Sadly after a relatively small number of the beautiful Coupes had been built, Jaguar decided in November 1977 to discontinue manufacture of the short wheelbase shell and concentrate on production of the saloons in the long wheelbase version.
Meanwhile in the USA the V12 E-type was making a big impact on the racing scene. Bob Tullius, whose team Group 44 had successfully entered Triumph and MG sports cars in SCCA racing, persuaded Jaguar that the E-type would be competitive. Jaguar decided to back Group 44 on the east coast and Joe Huffaker, who had been similarly successful with MGs over the years, on the west coast. The E-types dominated their respective regional championships for two years, breaking the Corvette domination of the series. In 1975, Tullius easily won the B Production Championship. To put this into perspective it is worth reflecting that in the previous 17 years Corvettes had won the championship 14 times. Ironically, the E-type had gone out of production towards the end of 1974 and these racing successes just served to illustrate what an advanced design it had been in 1961. Arguably the most famous sports car of all time, some 70,000 had been built with around 60% shipped to the States. US legislation played a major role in the design of the E-type's replacement, which was not a conventional sports car but was rather more of a Grand Touring car.
Launched in September 1975 the XJ-S was closely related to the XJ saloons. While some considered the overall appearance of the new car to be somewhat controversial, no one could argue about its impressive specification. The fuel injected V12 engine was used and gave the car superb performance. 0-60 mph was achieved in 6.9 seconds and the maximum speed was 150 mph. Levels of refinement and quietness were raised to saloon car standards with air conditioning as a standard feature. Initially both manual and automatic transmissions were available but later the manual option was dropped. With the advent of the XJ-S, Group 44 built an example to go Trans-Am professional racing. A few exploratory outings in 1976 showed the potential and a full season was planned for '77. Group 44 fought off a multitude of Porsches with their XJ-S, which was now developing 540 bhp, and Tullius ended the season as Category 1 Trans-Am Champion.
The following year, with a new lighter car fitted with a 560 bhp engine, Tullius won the last seven races and again took the Championship. By entering the '77 XJ-S for Brian Fuerstenau, the car's designer, to drive in the last three events, Jaguar took the Manufacturer's Championship as well. In 1979 the XJ saloons were extensively revised. The new Series III range was subtly restyled with a flatter roofline and a larger glass area giving the car crisper lines. This, together with improved ancillary equipment had the effect of modernising the car and increasing rear seat headroom. Indeed it seemed almost to have become a timeless style of enduring popularity.
The Years 1979 to 1989
In 1980 a new era began at Jaguar with the appointment of John Egan as Chairman and Managing Director. Egan's motor industry career had taken in General Motors (AC Delco), Triumph Cars, Unipart (British Leyland) and others. Jaguar's quality had not been all that it might have been in the late seventies and Egan's immediate goal was to restore customers' confidence in the British marque.
This he proceeded to do and Jaguar enjoyed a strong resurgence of demand, particularly in the States. Jaguar's style stood the company in good stead and ensured loyalty amongst owners. However, fuel crises of the seventies had not helped matters and in 1981 Jaguar announced new High Efficiency cylinder heads for the V12 engines. These were based on principles espoused by Swiss engineer Michael May, and Jaguar engineers had spent five years applying them to the V12 engine. The result was a very healthy decrease in fuel consumption which gave the V12 engined saloon and XJ-S a considerable advantage in the more fuel conscious eighties.
The XJ-S HE was now capable of 155 mph and returning 27 mpg at a steady 56 mph. Also Jaguar could claim that the model was the fastest production car in the world, fitted with automatic transmission. At this time Jaguar was seeking a new six cylinder unit to replace the venerable XK unit. It had been intended to build a V8 version of the V12, or even a six cylinder by, as it were, chopping the engine in half. Neither of these courses turned out to be practical and so a completely new design was embarked upon under the guidance of Engineering Director, Jim Randle and Trevor Crisp, Chief Engineer Power Units. After many experiments, it was decided to offer the new straight six engine with two types of head. The higher performance version would use a four valve arrangement and an economy unit would use the V12's head which benefited from the May principles.
The new engine was named the AJ6 and for Jaguar represented an investment of over £21m. It had a capacity of 3580 cc and was inclined at 158 degrees from the vertical. With the 24 valve head the output was 225 bhp which compared favourably with the current 3.4 litre XK engine which was producing 162 bhp. Additionally the new AJ6 was around 30% lighter due to the use of an aluminium block. The AJ6 was intended for a completely new range of saloons but, in true Jaguar tradition, it was first fitted in a lower volume model launched in September 1983. The six cylinder XJ-S had automatic transmission or a Getrag 5-speed manual gearbox. Sixty miles per hour could be reached in 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 145 mph was possible. At the same time a new version of the XJ-S also became available. This was the Cabriolet, Jaguar's first open car since the demise of the E-type. Retaining the cantrails, roof pillars and a cross bar, the Cabriolet had two lift off, interlocking roof panels and the option of either a folding rear hood or a fixed rear window. Safety regulations decreed that the XJ-SC was just a two-seater.
Late in 1982 Group 44 had been given the go-ahead to design and build a sports racing car around the Jaguar V12 engine. The car was built for IMSA racing in the States. Named the XJR-5, the car featured an aluminium honey-comb monocoque which employed the mid-mounted engine as a stressed member from which was hung the rear suspension. A striking fibreglass body was finished attractively in white with green stripes. The car finished third on its debut at Road Atlanta and won at the same venue in '83. Two further victories followed at Mosport and Pocono, much to the delight of the British racing fans. The following season brought a late decision to enter the Le Mans French classic, as a learning experience. One car retired after damage sustained from a puncture and the second was running in the top six after 18 hours. It sadly succumbed to gearbox maladies.
Back in Britain a new force had appeared on the competition scene. Racing driver, Tom Walkinshaw had prepared an XJ-S for racing in Australia in '82 and had the idea of building a pair of cars for the European Touring Car Championship. The first season brought first and second in the Tourist Trophy Race at Silverstone. The following year the Jaguars took five wins to BMWs six; weight of numbers telling with around five of the German cars entered for each of the two Jaguars. Sir William Lyons had merged Jaguar with the British Motor Corporation (later to become BL) in 1966, in the belief that he was safeguarding the future of the company. The reality, however, was that the company suffered a severe loss of identity and image. The Conservative government, elected in 1979, planned to privatise a number of state-controlled companies, however, and in the early eighties Jaguar began to prepare for privatisation. In August 1984, Jaguar shares were floated on the London Stock Exchange for the first time. The government was keen to encourage public share ownership - and the share offer was oversubscribed eight times.
The 1984 season was a good one for Tom Walkinshaw Racing, who had added a third XJ-S to the team. The team dominated the European Championship with a string of wins and Walkinshaw ended the season as the European Champion. Following their emphatic success, TWR were given the task of designing a sports racing car to take on the world and win Le Mans for Jaguar for a sixth time. Teams such as Porsche and Lancia were well established but the British Formula One teams were worldleaders in chassis design and Tony Southgate, an ex-Grand Prix designer, was retained to pen the new XJR-6. Current Grand Prix cars used the 'ground effects' phenomenon to 'suck' the car down on to the road at higher speeds and Southgate's design made good use of this. Indeed the car was unusual in that the rear wheels were covered by spats to heighten this effect.
In February 1985, Sir William Lyons passed quietly away at his home, Wappenbury Hall having lived to see his beloved company returned to independence the previous year. The tributes were plentiful and glowing. For fifty years 'he' had been Jaguar and the part he played in the history of the automobile is quite immeasurable. In July the XJ-S Cabriolet became available with the V12 engine and a few months later the new XJR-6's made their debut at Mosport Park. They finished third, an excellent debut. It was decided to bring the TWR XJ-S's out of retirement for the prestigious Bathurst 1000 race in Australia in October. The dominant Jaguars finished first and third. Group 44 debuted a new XJR-7 at the end of '85 and in 1986, in front of the home crowd the team managed two fourths and a string of seconds, this consistency rewarding them with second in the Manufacturers' Championship once again. The TWR team had a fair season taking victory in the Silverstone 1000kms and coming close to achieving the World Championship.
The engineers in Coventry had been working for some time on a saloon replacement. The XJ6 was still selling well which meant that Jaguar could ensure the new car would be really right. Jaguar consulted several distinguished Italian styling houses but eventually it was Bob Knight who created the initial shape of the XJ40, as the project was entitled. A number of styling clinics were held with the new designs alongside Jaguar's main rivals. The new designs had little difficulty in scoring more votes than Jaguar's competitors, but the hardest car to beat was the existing Series III and Jaguar learnt from these clinics how important were the traditional materials used inside Jaguars. The Americans were emphatic; the appeal of the Jaguars lay in handcrafted leather upholstery and walnut veneers - British craftsmanship made a Jaguar!
Bob Knight had retired at the beginning of the decade and Jim Randle took over responsibility for engineering, designing a completely new suspension for the car. Prototypes were built and tested in every extreme of climate over a total of 51/2 million miles. Launched in Europe in late 1986 and in the States in early '87, the new XJ6 met with widespread approval. Offered with the 3.6 litre AJ6 engine and, in Europe, a 2.9 litre version as well, the waiting lists were once more extended. The 3.6 had very lively performance and the new suspension gave superb levels of ride and roadholding.
Either 5-speed manual or automatic transmission could be ordered. The automatic had a novel gear selector, the brainchild of Jim Randle. The 'J' gate allowed the easy and rapid selection of gears for more lively motoring. Three model derivatives were offered - the XJ6, Sovereign and, top of the range, Daimler. The Series III was not to be completely dropped from the range continuing in V12 engined form for certain markets. It was appropriate that in the year that the new XJ6 appeared, John Egan was knighted for his vital contribution to Jaguar. An excellent ambassador, he had admirably filled the gap left by Sir William's retirement. For 1987 the TWR XJR-6 was considerably revised and re-named XJR-8. They were now stiffer, lighter, more powerful and had greater downforce to assist roadholding.
The changes were effective for the Jaguars won the first four rounds of the 1987 Championship. The next round was Le Mans and Southgate produced a body design specifically for the fast French circuit. Three XJR-8LM's, as they were entitled, were entered but luck was not on their side as a puncture and cracked cylinder head eliminated two of the