...the Jaguar XJ-S. It was so much more than my company car, says former British Leyland chairman ‘The XJ-S was my daily transport. It was wonderfully comfortable, and the styling superb, ideal for someone like me working in public relations. It also chan
Ihad my Jaguar XJ-S for 12 glorious years, and I loved it. As chairman and managing director of British Leyland Europe and Overseas, as well as world sales chief of BL, Rover, MG and Jaguar Cars, I was entitled to run a stimulating variety of company cars. In 1983 I left to start up my own event production company, Tony Ball Associates, which included the responsibility for staging the British International Motor Show and also the organisation of new car launches for the motor industry. As my daily transport I bought a red Jaguar XJ-S. I thought the shape was exceptionally appealing. I’d had E-types when I was with Jaguar but I considered the XJ-S to be even more refined. It was wonderfully comfortable – I always maintained you sat in a Jaguar while in something like a Mercedes you sat on it. The styling was superb, ideal for someone like me working in PR.
The car’s registration was ABA 11 and a lady who lived in the same apartment block as I did asked the porter if the car belonged to the footballer Alan Ball. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘That’s Tony Ball’s car, father of singer Michael Ball. ‘What a coincidence,’ she said. ‘I was with Michael only last night doing Friday Night is Music Night for the BBC.’ We were introduced. The lady was Jan Kennedy, MD of Billy Marsh Associates, the theatrical agent. She managed people like Bruce Forsyth and Morecambe and Wise, so whenever I needed a musical director or artists for my events she was the go-to contact.
The first time I took Jan out in the Jaguar was to Rules in Covent Garden, the oldest restaurant in London. At that time our meeting was purely business, nevertheless the car changed my life. Our relationship led to a wonderful marriage, caused quite coincidentally by the XJ-S.
It proved to be such a happy car and for someone in my profession it projected my personality perfectly. On another occasion many years later I’d gone shopping in St John’s Wood. I noticed a very attractive young lady walking down the street towards me. Because the Jaguar always drew admiring glances and complimentary comments, when I saw her looking at the car and then me I expected her to say something nice. Not so. With a wonderfully sympathetic smile she asked: ‘Do you need any help?’ It was at that point I realised I’d passed my sell-by date – and sold the Jaguar immediately.
Alan Ball felt that the red Jaguar XJ-S he ran as his business shuttle represented him perfectly – until a passer-by inadvertently burst his balloon