If Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director, were to put his pen down today, his position high in the design firmament would be secure forever.
A few years later, Callum’s vision of the future allowed Jaguar, whose management at the time wanted to keep it handcuffed to worn-out traditions, to leapfrog two design generations and become modern again – starting with the XF in 2007 and leading to today’s XE, F-Pace and now I-Pace. But Callum refuses to “wallow in glory”, as he puts it.
“I’m lucky to have come in at difficult times for both companies,” he says. “It’s easier to fix something than to improve what’s already good.” Besides, none of the biggest successes would have been possible without the loyal, multi-talented design team he has assembled at Jaguar but which is barely visible to the outsider’s eye.
Indeed, the desire to understand the duties of this team was the main reason we began asking a year ago to share one of Callum’s working days inside the Whitley design studio. There were initial, understandable concerns about confidentiality, but we came to an eventual understanding that we’d be talking more about people than products.
7.30AM IAN CALLUM’S HOUSE
We’re drinking coffee in the kitchen, looking at a big mural on one of the walls, a colourful abstract of a speeding Jaguar F-Type. There’s no getting away from cars in this house, it seems. Callum is elated because the postman has just brought a new set of Minilite alloy wheels for one of his two treasured Mini Cooper Ss. They are part of an eclectic collection that includes a beautiful Jaguar XJ-C, a Ford hot rod, a Vanquish, one of Land Rover’s last Heritage Defenders and a 1957 Chevrolet saloon – all acquired because Callum feels he needs projects, for sanity’s sake.
7.50AM IN THE CAR
Callum lives 15 minutes from the office and knows the difference it makes to his life. His red F-Type R (“I love primary colours”) hardly gets a chance to warm up, but he has still driven 8500 miles in six months, mainly on trips to Scotland and Heathrow. A new car will be coming soon; there’s a market among Jaguar enthusiasts for ex-Callum cars.
We chat about the Vanquish (“Mine’s a later model; the gearbox works fine”) and how he would like to tweak the design. “I like doing facelifts,” he says, “because fashions change and you change as a designer, and this is a chance to reflect that. People sometimes think there’s something cynical about the way you design a car, allowing for the facelift and all that. But that’s not the case. You always do your best. But you also learn things as the original car goes through its life, and you can usually make it better.”