Ian Callum’s pet project to reimagine the Jaguar Mark 2 is finally complete. He takes John Simister for a spin
14 December 2014

“Isn’t it small?” That’s Ian Callum’s surprising first observation about his Jaguar Mark 2. “It looks smaller than the original,” he goes on, “because it’s lost the chrome and the bumpers.”

You have to agree. Those of us old enough to remember a Jaguar Mark 2 as a reasonably everyday sight think of it as a big car, as befits its hefty straight six engine and directors’ car park habitat. But not today, when even a Vauxhall Astra takes several seconds to walk past.

The visual shrinking of something already compact is an unintended consequence of Jaguar design chief Callum’s latest project, coincidentally revealed to the world at the same time as the new XE, its closest modern equivalent.

As well as latest, it’s in a way also his oldest; Callum has been mentally reimagining Mark 2s since he was a boy. Now, half a century later, he has crystallised those thoughts with the help of the Classic Motor Company of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, diligent and long-established restorer of interesting old Jaguars.

“When I was a kid, I wanted the Mark 2 to look like this,” Callum explains. “Those Mini and Escort racers with no bumpers looked great – so clean and pure. Why not the Jaguar? Actually, it was because there was nothing under the bumpers. It took a long time to come up with this design, with brake ducts like a racing car’s. It’s functional, matter-of-fact.” And controversial? “Not everyone likes it, but hey, it’s my car. And the design is non-negotiable for the later cars.”

Later cars? What started out as Callum’s one-off realisation of a long-mulled-over idea has grown into a plan to make 11 more examples of the ‘Mark 2 by Callum’, all dechromed apart from details such as the grille (now with a modern Jaguar badge) and door handles (remade to accommodate the absence of a chrome flanking strip). “Several people have shown interest,” reports CMC’s Nick Goldthorp. “But no deposits yet.” The likely £300,000 price could be a factor, but that’s what it costs to re-engineer a car as thoroughly as this.

Today is the first time Callum has had a proper drive in his new toy – which, incidentally, is entirely his own concept and nothing to do with today’s Jaguar company. We’re driving from Jaguar’s design and engineering centre at Whitley, Coventry, towards Kenilworth and Ian’s house.

First thoughts? “It’s great being able to see out of the windows,” he says. “There’s a lesson for modern cars here. I love this steering wheel; I wondered about going half an inch smaller, but it’s just right. And now this sat-nav is telling me I’m speeding and I don’t know how to turn it off…”

Sitting next to Ian as the reality of his idea’s realisation, and the fact that it all works, sinks into his head, I can take in an interior cleverly different from the original yet reassuringly familiar. There’s a full complement of wood, but it’s the dark oak from an XFR (“It’s much more modern, and the machined switches add a bit of glamour”).

The soft trim is red, with some quilting in the leather, and the headlining is bonded to the roof as in the Daimler V8-engined derivative of the Mark 2. “It’s much more chic,” Callum contends. The front seats are Alfa 156 beneath their red leather skins.

We accelerate out of a roundabout, exhaust growling with a crisp edge. “I’m impressed with how easy it is to drive,” enthuses the car’s creator. “It feels poised, with nicely balanced steering, and the body feels strong. I could drive to Scotland in this quite happily. I’m delighted with it.”

Now we’re at the house and the neighbours are coming out to have a look. Ian points out the subtleties: the external fuel filler for a tank now set vertically behind the rear seat, the air extractor louvres where the filler flap used to be and more air extractors ahead of the doors.

Yes, the signature Callum wing louvres: “I’ve got the functional side vents at last.” The front wings have been remade to pull the tops of the arches out slightly, so subtly that you’d never guess. ‘IC’ logos adorn the bootlid and main dials, and Ian’s signature, in silver, is encased in the glovebox’s lacquer.

The wheels are 17in split-rim wires by Turrino. “We had some debate about wheel size, but 18 inches was too big. It needs some tyre on it to look right.” All four wheels sit perfectly within their arches thanks to offsets that make the front and rear tracks equal, unlike the original. It’s part of a suspension revamp that includes lowering the body by 30mm on the front subframe, adding anti-dive, fitting a bespoke, electrically assisted steering rack in place of the steering box, fine-tuning the camber and killing the bump steer.

The engine sits lower and slightly inclined, to straighten the driveline and improve cooling. The gearbox is a five-speed Tremec T5. Everything has changed at the rear, the leaf springs and solid axle replaced by a multi-link independent system based on that of the X-type but heavily redimensioned and using original Mark 2 mounting points. CMC’s Andrew Turvey designed it, plotting the geometry the old-fashioned way with fishing line and marks on the floor.

More than 6500 hours of building and development time have gone into this 1963-going-on-2014 Mark 2. “I must get Mike Cross to have a go in it,” says Callum. Yes, the Jaguar dynamics chief’s seal of approval would finish it off nicely.

So what's it like to drive?

Before driving the Mark 2 by Callum, I tried a standard car. Its heavy, springy steering and slow-shifting Moss gearbox gave it a strong feeling of likeable, busy vintageness. Callum’s car is from another planet.

Its 4.3-litre, 260bhp XK engine, fed by an authentic pair of SU HD8 carburettors, fired by electronic ignition and exiting its spent gases through a pair of central tailpipes, pulls cleanly and lustily.

The gearchange is quick and precise, ditto the steering. The rigidity and ride are both those of a modern car, and even the wind noise is acceptable despite the old-style rain gutters. 

Dynamically, this is a well developed, capable and enjoyably agile machine.

Just two snags. The brakes tend to ‘hang on’ momentarily when you release the pedal, a servo characteristic which CMC director Nick Goldthorp intends to fix. And, just like in the original Mark 2, it’s almost impossible to heel and toe, because the accelerator pedal is too low.

With these glitches fixed, this really will be a modern-feeling car in cleverly retro-flavoured clothes. You could happily use it every day, if you dared.

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Comments
19

14 December 2014
This is a very curious project and can't be a good advert for the Jaguar heritage. The flared wheelarches, extra louvres, dechromed bumpers ... all make this look like a bad aftermarket job.

14 December 2014
This car has nothing to do with Jaguar Heritage, it was built by CMC (Classic Motor Cars) in Shropshire

14 December 2014
Well, it's Ian's car, he paid for it and likes it so my opinion doesn't really count; if it was mine however... I'd lose the wire wheels for some sort of racing disc wheels. I love the seats, but the red headlining is a little too much for my taste and the centre console is a bit boxy.

 

14 December 2014
When I was about 8 years old I remember the sad day Mike Hawthorn was killed driving the original at some very early hour - it was and still is an unexplained accident. I cried buckets because he was my hero (and took 2 days off scholl!).
I also remember the Jag and the A90 going hammer and tongues round Silverstone and if memory serves me right - that Jag didnt have bumpers either.
This is a great job and I am happy one guy at least loved this design/car as much as me. IF there was ever a chance I had 300K to throw, I think it might well go there at risk of divorce and bags outside the door.
One point - Again IF memory serves me - shouldnt there be some beautiful leather straps on the doors to pull them closed? All the rest? Love it well done

what's life without imagination

14 December 2014
The result of having a mid-life crises in your 60's.

14 December 2014
I suppose he's been doodling in the margins for ages his ideal car,and here it is!,he likes it,i don't like all of it,i would have liked the lights flush with the body front and rear,the wire Wheels make them look too big in the arches,and, when you think about it,the car kind of loses it's Jaguar-ness.

Peter Cavellini.

14 December 2014
He is a one trick pony, who hasn't designed anything genuinely outstanding for years, he has taken the MK2 and IMO ruined it, flared wheel arches a gills ffs, the wire wheels of the original look far better than these he has added, and the central exhaust is all wrong, it should have had a pipe either side as Jaguars have had for decades, or out of one side like the original, leave the centre position for sports cars like the E and F Type. Its about time JLR replaced him before he ruins the next generation of Jaguars, and looking at the XE and the proposed new XF he is already halfway there.

14 December 2014
Over all I like it, a bit too red inside for my taste, the stereo looks naf and I'm not sure about the arches, I do like the front and rear bumper treatments though

14 December 2014
Not necessarily this one, but the Mk II in general. Not too sure about the big rims. Which designer will start the normal rims / high-sidewall tires trend? It is better for the suspension and comfort, and it will prevent you acting like a road hooligan.

14 December 2014
With all the silly vents and frills, it looks like the design hasn't evolved much since he was a kid. The back end looks weak too, with that sloping boot; it's got no class, man.

He should also go back and redesign the jarring angular headlights on the F-Type as they are totally out of kilter with the rest of the sweeping lines - I would buy one if he did that.

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