Jaguar understood it had to develop an eventual replacement for the XJ-S coupe and convertible, and in the mid-to-late 80s the design team had several unfinished attempts to pull together a concept which was better looking than the ‘stodgy but commercially-successful’ XJ-S.
|Jaguar XJ-S 1975
Geoff Lawson was appointed Director of Design at Jaguar in 1984 and immediately began work on a modest facelift for the XJ-S twins.
|Geoff Lawson XJ-S facelift proposals
By 1986 the design team had produced a concept codenamed XJ 41, however, Jaguar Engineering still had its hands full ‘fixing’ the XJ40 sedan series, which due to a severe shortage of engineering staff, had launched with a host of quality problems.
|Project XJ 41 original styling clay
Designer Keith Helfert led the team on the XJ41-42 project, but his early work attracted some criticism for not being ‘brave enough’. The convertible version, especially so.
The eventual production engineering work on XJ41 unfortunately resulted in a car which was ‘bloated’ and now, ungainly.
|Project XJ 41 styling proposal
To make matters worse, the project ran way over budget.
In November 1989 Ford Motor Company acquired Jaguar, and in July 1990 had installed the tough, outspoken and fearsome Bill Hayden as Chairman.
Hayden took no prisoners, and at the first styling review to see what Jaguar had waiting in the wings XJ 41 was presented.
Not only was it big, heavy, and over budget it didn’t possess any ‘Jaguarness’ in its styling. Hayden simply stopped the presentation (and the project) in the middle of the review meeting, saying: “We’re not doing this car, as is. Go back to the drawing board.”
In the same year Ian Callum, who had previously held a number of design jobs within Ford, was appointed head of design for TWR Group, reporting to Tom Walkinshaw.
Callum had spent some time at Whitley on various visits with Geoff Lawson, Jaguar’s head of design, and in 1991 Lawson had shown Callum the now-dead XJ-41 concept car.
On his return to TWR, Callum told Tom Walkinshaw about the visit. Walkinshaw was always quick to spot an opportunity to make more money from his client, Jaguar, and as the company was floundering in its efforts to come up with a viable concept to replace the XJ-S, Walkinshaw told Callum to see if he could ‘whip up a design asap’!
|Project XX proposal
Callum produced a beautiful concept car (on the XJ-S platform), which TWR codenamed XJ R Project XX.
|Project XX proposal
Walkinshaw invited the Jaguar Board Members to his factory at Bloxham to look at the car. Most of the Board members were enthusiastic, but (typically) Tom blotted his copybook by telling Jaguar he would have to charge the company for Callum’s design work, and also that the concept was not ‘Federalised’ for sale in the USA.
Walkinshaw was a canny businessman and negotiator, and most times got people to agree with him, but there were times he overplayed his hand.
If the car couldn’t be sold in the USA, it would not make commercial sense to build it, but the Jaguar Board bridled at the concept of paying TWR for the design, and also the ongoing work.
Project XX went under the covers at Bloxham, but Walkinshaw didn’t have to wait long to re-charge the project. He had recently signed an agreement to develop a new car for Aston Martin (also owned by Ford).
|Ian Callum clay model for Aston Martin DB7
So Ian Callum indeed went ‘back to the drawing board’ and with some subtle changes to the Jaguar XX, he created a clay which would be proposed as the Aston Martin DB7!
|Aston Martin DB 7 production model
Callum is particularly proud of this design. As he has said: “Once free of the Jaguar design constraints, we were able to breathe new life into the concept and I think the result is a car I’m very happy with.”
Few would argue, but that’s also why so many people saw the DB 7 as ‘almost a Jaguar’.
However, looking back to 1990-91, the task of replacing the ageing XJ-S twins then took another turn. See Jaguar Tails Part 2.
Ian Callum joined Jaguar in 1999 as head of design to replace the late Geoff Lawson. In 2006 Callum produced the XK 8, which many observers commented at the time, 'looked a bit like an Aston Martin!’
|Ian Callum-designed Jaguar XK-8
* All sketches by former Jaguar artist Stuart Spencer