Our columnist resurrects a dormant car brand, says goodbye to his lockdown motor, and talks design with Jaguar this week
Steve Cropley Autocar
20 May 2020

In this week's automotive adventures, Steve thinks about what is to come from Jaguar, chats with an F1 commentator, bids goodbye to his lockdown motor, and more.

MONDAY: Our interview with Jaguar’s new(ish) design director, Julian Thomson, makes me impatient to see the new direction he’s promising for the marque’s future cars. Outgoing boss Ian Callum put Jag Design back on the rails; Thomson wants even more Jaguarness, more richness, more beauty. He’d also like to create some smaller cars, he says, although that road is paved with difficulty because they cost as much as big ones but are less profitable. Still, Thomson led the team that created Land Rover’s LRX concept that led to the Range Rover Evoque, Jaguar Land Rover’s last real rule breaker, a good omen.

Thomson talked affectionately about Jaguar’s 2003 R-D6 concept (“we all still love that car”), which was proposed as a kind of grown-up Mini Cooper, but Jaguar’s (Ford) management didn’t like it. To me, that car did two precious things: used the ‘shield’ grille better than anything before or since, and utilised the D-Type’s wonderful curves in a modern way. More, please.

TUESDAY: Reckon you could change the automotive world? If you’ve had a great idea, now’s the time to reveal it – and enter our Drivers of Change competition. With the help of key sponsors, we’re offering generous cash prizes to innovators in the industry’s most important fields. Three of our writers have even come up with entry examples to get you started. Please give it a go.

WEDNESDAY: Good fun talking to Martin Brundle, former Formula 1 star and Sky F1 commentator, for a motorsport feature further inside. I’ve known him a long time – since the days when he was Michael Schumacher’s team-mate at Benetton – and I’ve always found him thoughtful, helpful, lucid and thoroughly normal. Which is exactly as he comes across on the Haunted Fishtank.

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Whenever we talk, I’m reminded of stuff he told me years ago about the unseen challenges of driving: what F1’s cornering, braking and acceleration forces do to the long-suffering body. In high-downforce braking, the retardation can be so huge that moisture from your tear ducts gets thrown forward onto your visor, and you can have trouble lifting your foot off the brake pedal.

And after just a couple of laps, the forces can make a tightly adjusted harness feel amazingly loose. The only solution is an extreme tightness. “I used to get my mechanic to pull down on the straps until they passed the threshold of pain,” he told me, “then give ’em one more.”

THURSDAY: A nice bloke called Derek came this morning to collect the lockdown Bentley Flying Spur after eight weeks. I’ve only driven 150 miles in that time, but I’m still missing it. Guess that’s the test: how you know a car’s truly desirable.

FRIDAY: Doubt I’ll ever buy another old car (new ones are too appealing), but if I did, one candidate would be an early Bristol. Because of that, I particularly enjoyed working with our resident car designer, Ben Summerell-Youde, to propose an all-new model for this issue. It’s apparent (and our expert, David Brown, confirmed it) that to do anything decent nowadays, you need a modern donor car that can contribute its interlinked powertrain, fuelling system, clean air gadgetry, instrumentation and more. With DB’s help, we alighted on the Ford Mustang.

Must say I find Ben’s sketches amazingly convincing – imagine driving that through London – and I can’t believe someone, somewhere won’t acquire the name and breathe low-volume life into it again. I showed our proposal to Bristol expert Richard Hackett (sljhackett.co.uk), who proved instantly willing to get involved in selling a car like ours, even at £295k a throw.

AND ANOTHER THING: Had a tough lockdown? Imagine how it’s been forreader Paul Fasey, whohad his family’s two carsflattened by this mightytree in a recent overnightstorm. In a letter wrylyheadlined ‘It neverrains….’ he says that atleast the insurers, LVand Admiral, areplaying ball.

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20 May 2020

The current designs are fine. Not amazing, but not bad either. The same applies to Audi and BMW. The problems are weight, technology and reliability. 

It's worrying that Thompson still likes the car that Ford rightly dumped. It was just an update on the S-Type theme. The S-Type was cool for 5 minutes, when retro was all the rage, like the Beetle, and then deeply uncool thereafter. 

MrJ

20 May 2020

Funny that... I have a glamorous neighbour who drives an MX-5 in summer. She's covered the car in street-art style yellow stickers, and it looks great with her behind the wheel.

In winter she drives an S-Type, which she has tweaked with a few minor mods. Nice wheels, satin chrome, interesting running lights. With my neighbour inside, the S-Type becomes a dose of instant cool.

 

 

22 May 2020
I agree. If he starts thinking the S type and all that retro nonsense is good then Jaguar are finished. You have to build cars THE CUSTOMERS want, not what you think is nice.

The X Type - its competitors had black leather interiors with carbon fibre or aluminium trim but good old Ford decides the way to capture this market is beige cloth seats and loads of wood everywhere and 15 inch steel wheels.

20 May 2020

Retro design gave Jaguar its USP and made its cars distinctive. And it's working well for Fiat, Mini, Porsche and arguably Land Rover. Personally I think Jaguar should have stuck to its guns and continued with its retro theme. Not everyone wants a modern look or cars that can only be identified by their badging. 

22 May 2020
When will people learn Jaguar ARE NOT a retro car company.
Bill Lyons didn't sit in his studio in the 50s and 60s and bash out old fashioned retro designs, Jaguar got a name for designing sleek sexy cars that were extremely modern at the time. People who keep harping on about retro really don't understand what Jaguar is about.
The S Type and X Type were retro, they were both loss making disasters.
Either people want a car company out there making money or one making antiquated designs and in insolvency.

20 May 2020

"Doubt I’ll ever buy another old car (new ones are too appealing)..."

Mr Cropley is on a very different page to me.

Or is he maybe returning a favour for his friends at the SMMT?

20 May 2020

The XJ wasn't selling. The S-Type stopped selling. The X-Type bombed. Callum produced the first generation XF and it really sold. Except for Porsche the updated same design thing only really works on small cars.

The 500L is a joke car. The bigger MINIs look awful. 

 

20 May 2020

8 weeks in lockdown, "stuck" with a Flying Spur. You were luckier than many other motoring journalists LOL

20 May 2020

current Jaguar designs apart from the F-Type coupe and to a certain extent the i-Pace are terrible, the mk1 (X250) facelift was lovely, everything else is a crap, Callum ruined Jaguar design, he should have been hammered after he decided he could do better than Sir William with his reimagined mk2. 

People claim the S, the X and the XJ are failures, have they not seen how poor the sales of the XE and XF and just about every other Jaguar are, I wish Julian all the best, because he cant possibly be any worse than Callum. 

Oh and the RD6 was awful, but the R-Coupe was actually pretty good. 

However the car they should have built was the XF-2 door coupe concept. 

22 May 2020
XF Mark1 face looked like a Rover trying to be cool. It was dreadful. Stick a viking badge on it and nobody would have known.
At least when Callum was given total free range the cars started to look halfway into the current century.

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