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New Zealand Classic Car - - AUTOMOBILIA - By: Pub­lished ISBN Re­viewed by: Avail­able

aguar has had a long and dis­tin­guished his­tory, and this fas­ci­nat­ing 224-page book by Sir John Egan fo­cuses on a cru­cial pe­riod for the mar­que. But when you read it, you have to won­der how Wil­liam Lyons’ baby kept go­ing through the ’70s and ’80s.

Af­ter a pe­riod with GM — but not want­ing to live in Detroit — Egan joined the Bri­tish Ley­land Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion in 1971. His first com­pany car was a TR6, and BLMC had 43 car plants. Af­ter a num­ber of moves, in­clud­ing mak­ing a suc­cess of the Uni­part busi­ness, Egan was ap­pointed as CEO of Jaguar in 1980 and walked into a strike over pay rates on his very first day.

That kind of set the scene for the new job: grad­u­ally, pro­duc­tiv­ity and qual­ity were turned around, but it was a re­lent­less and of­ten dif­fi­cult task. Egan gives the broad pic­ture of the com­pany’s strug­gles with the unions (par­tic­u­larly the shop stew­ards), his good re­la­tion­ship with Sir Wil­liam, model de­vel­op­ment

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such as the ini­tial prob­lems with the AJ6 en­gine, ne­go­ti­a­tions with pos­si­ble part­ners, the end­less frus­tra­tion with sup­pli­ers, striv­ing to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity and qual­ity and to mo­ti­vate the deal­ers, rac­ing with the XJ-S, and later achiev­ing a Le Mans vic­tory, as well as the po­lit­i­cal back­ground to the pe­riod.

At the same time, the author pro­vides the sorts of de­tails that only some­one in­volved at the core of it all would know. So, you’ll find out that man hours per XJ6 were re­duced from 700 to 300 over a five-year pe­riod; it cost only four pence (nine cents) to re­place door han­dles with ones that wouldn’t lose their coat­ing; for some time, red, yel­low, and white were the only colours that XJ6S could be painted, and the lead used in their con­struc­tion used to melt; Jan Lam­mers had to dis­guise the loss of all gears ex­cept fourth as he drove his Jaguar to vic­tory at Le Mans; and Sir John en­gi­neered the fir­ing of his own board chair­man! There’s lots more fas­ci­nat­ing stuff like this.

Hav­ing guided Jaguar to­wards greater in­de­pen­dence, Egan then had to deal with the pos­si­bil­ity of part­ner­ing with, or be­ing pur­chased by, other com­pa­nies. GM came close, but, even­tu­ally, Jaguar joined the Ford fold. Although he ad­mits the Blue Oval had some pos­i­tive ef­fects on Jaguar, Sir John clearly be­lieves the cur­rent Tata own­er­ship is a far bet­ter ar­range­ment. This is an im­por­tant story, well told by some­one who was at the heart of this cru­cial time for Jaguar. It is well worth read­ing!

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