TIPS, TRICKS AND NOSTALGIA FROM A LIFETIME IMMERSED IN OLD CARS
Trying to sell a car to BMW and Audi buyers in their 20s or 30s is not helped if it looks like something from Keeping Up Appearances
A BLEAK GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE ‘And now, the time has come, the end is near...’ Could these lyrics apply to Jaguar?
If someone had told Frank Sinatra back in 1969 that his most famous performance would be considered a fitting end to many once great manufacturers, Ol’ blue eyes might have given you a funny look. And rightly so. In 1969, many now moribund car companies were riding high. Riley had just ceased to exist, but Alfa Romeo had yet to be embroiled in the Alfasud disaster and Jaguar had just launched their Magnum Opus, the remarkable XJ6.
And yet now in 2023, both of those storied marques are arguably on the verge of extinction. You read my diatribe against that gawky, narrow bodied 4x4 hybrid heap – the Alfa Romeo Tonale – last year and the fact that Alfa (the company doesn’t really exist now) see fit to launch such a vehicle on the public and hope to get away with it shows the contempt they have for you or I. Come on, just admit it. It’s crap.
Jaguar though. Blimey. Imagine owning or maintaining a car since new, and then passing it on to another custodian who neglects it before it finds another hero to champion its cause and bring it back from the dead. That would be Sir William Lyons, British Leyland and Sir John Egan. The former and latter were men of action, visionaries who knew what a Jaguar should be. Always look forwards, never back – Bill Lyons was not a man given to nostalgia. With more money and a longer run, he would have moved Jaguar from Browns Lane to a more modern factory and sold the Allesley plant for redevelopment. He wasn’t styling the E-Type and XJ6 to look like something made 30 years or more before. Egan got what he was given – a bloody shambles – but capitalised on what Jaguar did best: beautiful looking cars with wow factor, the best ride of any car anywhere, the most inviting, aromatic interiors and a price tag that made you believe in a German sense of humour. Rule Britannia!
Then Ford came along. They did some great things at first such as pumping millions into a factory that really should have been bulldozed, sentiment apart. The 1991 XJS facelift breathed a new rust resistance into a car seemingly designed to rot, whilst the X300 XJ6... well, I saw it as a retrograde step over the oblong head-lamped XJ40 Sovereign, but everyone else liked it. Then came the XK8. Not as sharp as a BMW 8 Series and a bit pub landlord even when new, but that was the Jaguar image caused by the lack of a sharp looking compact executive since the last 240 was built in 1969. Time then for a razor sharp, sleek Jaguar to rival the all conquering 5 Series, eh?
I can still recall the first time I saw a 1990s S Type. I’d gone to the Earls Court motor show that year and taken my lady friend, a Virgin Atlantic hostess who was hoping to meet Tiff Needell. We looked at most things and went onto the Jaguar stand. This was 17 years after my dad took me to the NEC show in September 1982 where I queued up to get onto the Jaguar stand and sit in an XJ saloon. Supposedly youngsters don’t like traditional Jags, but I sat in two, including a metallic racing green XJ6 4.2, and it was love at first sight, aged 14 and a bit. You could sit in it, stand and look at it and just drink in the beauty. The BMW and Merc stands would have needed to pay me to queue and sit in a 7 Series or S Class. Nice cars etc, but not a Jaguar XJ.
And that brings us back to the S Type. As well as looking 20 years old already, the grille reminded me of one of those XK120 kit cars where they nailed a Mk2 Jag grille on so that it never looked quite right. Kelly swung herself into the passenger seat, sniffily saying that the interior ‘looked like my dad’s Toyota.’ And it did! The instrument faces, the acres of brown plastic, the bits of wood here and there – it was a Jaguar as designed by Mitsubishi. I’m sure it was a good car really. Would I buy one over a 528i? Not a prayer. At 32, I wasn’t old enough, sorry. A black XJR however, yes please.
The X Type repeated the same mistakes because trying to sell a car to BMW and Audi buyers in their 20s or 30s is not helped if it looks like something from Keeping Up Appearances, a faux Jag that looks sort of like the one your dad bought secondhand in 1973. And now, Jaguar have lost yet another CEO, a French bloke in a nice suit. The XE and XF are dead in the water, the F-Type dies next year and the various Paces – I couldn’t tell you which one has an i, an e or an f prefix – are not enough to sustain a marque. The proposed and almost ready electric XJ has been canned.
The car market has changed beyond recognition since 2002, yet some things are the same. We still buy on looks and price, which is why nobody buys an XF. People bought Jaguars because they were the prettiest thing on earth and cost considerably less than the opposition. That might just still work, but now that electrification is taking over, all cars have the charisma of a sofa and you’re fighting for a charge point, Jaguar are going to need a miracle to survive past 2030.
As ever, other opinions are available... I always liked the S-type, and think we should feature it soon! – Ed