Watch a heist film set in 1960s London, and chances are the robbers are driving Jaguars. Not so in real life says the self-proclaimed Managing Director of British Crime, Freddie Foreman. He told author Andrew English;
‘Jags? You couldn’t get into the bastards. Or out of them. Jags were always too low down, too cramped…’
I found this pic researching the MkVII. It’s a body mockup made for the car to replace the XK140. And it sent me down a tight little rabbit hole.
Jaguar started in short cabins. The Swallow Sidecar company. I saw my first recently at the Bendigo swap meet. From the start, the SS product became known for its attractive lines. They moved into cars and became Standard Swallow, and then one of the partners left and moved into caravans.
The partner who stayed was William Lyons, the aesthete of the two who shaped the cars himself.
His ultimate pre-war short cabin was this one-off 1938 SS 100 Fixed Head. It wowed the Earls Court Motor Show and, despite being the most expensive car ever from that maker at £595, sold off the stand.
After the war, Jaguar was one of the first back into the fray. Their 1948 The XK120 carried a brand spanking new motor under a very pretty body drawn from the pre-war racing BMW 328, and was the sporting roadcar that set the pace into the fifties.
Like the SS 100, its fixed head body had a pretty tight cabin. Unlike the BMW 328 racing fixed heads, this one curled itself back into the rear fender gloriously.
They made the cabin a little bigger for the XK140 and lost some of the curl.
Then they went back to two seats.
It’s hard to believe this mooted XK150 was serious, when you see it side-by-side with the XK140. That roof is incredibly, almost comically, low. Longer front axle-to-dash probably anticipated a driver lying prone.
It looks purposeful though.
Instead the actual XK150 ended up having an even bigger cabin.
One could get a carrozzeria to dress up a Jaguar in short cabin.
The problem with that is that the cars ended up looking like a product of the carrozzeria, and nothing like a Jaguar.
Which is not such a bad thing really. Because the carrozzerie had some pretty fantastic shapes.
Take this Zagato XK150, my favourite of the Italian Jags. It looks like a notchback version of one of their Maserati A6G fastbacks. Some of this series had a narrower Jaguar grille, but this broader aperture works better with the shape – which takes away its jaguarinity even more.
In pure jaguarine beauty, none of the carrozzerie were able to match Jaguar’s in-house efforts.
The only time anyone outside did was Lister.
Brian Lister ran Jaguar-based open racers very successfully in the immediate wake of the D-type’s glorious epoch. These became known as Knobblys on account of their pronounced bulges.
While the D-type morphed into the cleaner E-type, Lister took that source shape and made it more brutal, yet still evolutionary to the Jaguar aesthetic and no less handsome.
Lister also made this utterly gorgeous one-off closetop.
Frank Costin of Lotus fame was bought in to come up with something more aerodynamic, and he produced this fluid spaceframe shape. The lusciously swayed nose and wing contours are topped by a bubble cockpit treatment reminiscent of Zagato.
Never let it be said, however, that William Lyons’ eye was perfect.
Eóin Doyle at Driven to Write discussing the Utah origins of the MkII body;
William Lyons was a canny businessman and something of a stylistic genius, but his approach to Utah almost derailed the programme entirely. Having carried out his styling experiments in seclusion, he presented the completed design to Heynes with strict instructions that it must not be altered. The streamlined teardrop shape was undoubtedly elegant, and it would appear, smoother through the air than its 1959 successor, but an imposed rear track width some 4” narrower than the front compromised the car’s roadholding, especially given the relatively unsophisticated live rear axle layout chosen.
A GT body mooted for the MkII. Another very low roof.
This is a pretty hot looking machine. I prefer it in fixed head, channelling a custom 49 Merc and leaving the Rover Coupe in its wake.
But yet again, was Lyons serious about this or was it a starting point before making the turret bigger?
Standing is Fred Gardner, who headed the mill. He was a key person for Lyons to see changes to the wooden body mockups at full size in short order.
William Lyons brought in aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer for the C-type, which led to his D-type and his first road car for Jaguar; the barely-gentrified XK SS. The E-type was his as well, but Lyons took front seat for the XJ saloon.
Early proposals when it was still an E-type. The bottom one is a fantastic longnose short cabin, exceedingly rakish and well proportioned despite (or rather because of) the front wheels being thrust so far forward.
Then again, the production version was pretty attractive too.
The second series XJ dropped the SWB sedan, but used the wheelbase and roofline for the XJC. Extra metal in the c-pillar called for the vinyl coverup. Very nice shape.
Probably the mostest short cabin they made was the XJS. Long nose, short cabin and long boot disguised by flying buttresses.
There was nearly also a slightly-less-short cabin version in Daimler form. AROnline tells us it was proposed after the success of the V12 H.E. in the 1980s, but they decided to leave that marque to saloons and limousines. Side-on, it looks a bit like a DeTomaso Maserati.
But tightest short cabin on a Jaguar goes to this.
In 1953, the new Pegaso V8 engine had powered a Z-102 to be the fastest car on the road. The Royal Automobile Club of Belgium had recorded one travelling at 151 mph, faster than the previous record holder – an XK120 with full underbelly tray that attained 132 mph.
William Lyons would not have this.
He responded with an even more purpose-built XK120 at Jabbeke. Legendary Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis sat under the bolted-on bubble, and blew the Pegaso out of the water.
1948 London Motor Show by Roger Carr
Jaguar XJ6 Two-Door Pillared Sedan by Paul Niedermeyer
Excellent research & photos.
Intrigued by the model with an E-Type facia, and 4-dr. posterior.
(glad they stuck with the 2-dr. XK-E)
That was first stage for the XJ saloon after the E-type was finalised. Looking very Jensen front-on at next stage.
Then closer to the final thing.
I think those are some Volvo 122S (Amazon) grilles they tossed on there, because they needed something quickly, and their panel beater was on tea break and the chrome plater was on strike.
That opening shot looks like a test mule for an inline twelve. A classic Jaguar with an inline twelve would have been cool. Long hooded, but cool.
Also that XK-140’s shape bears a striking resemblance to the much larger 1940 Chrysler Newport phaeton.
Without the front seat. Lol
Don, I do love it so when you fall down the rabbit hole. The results of your subterranean explorations are inevitably delicious. This one is remarkable. I have not seen most or any of these before. Amazing; microcephalic Jags.
The E-type based four door caught my eye, as its greenhouse actually looks larger in proportion to that low body than the production XJ Mk1/2, and immediately brought to mind the MkIII version, with its taller and longer greenhouse.
I still think the MkI XJ6’s greenhouse was a bit too low too. Sure it looks great, but getting in and out of it was a bitch. It was the last time that was going to be the case in a big Jag sedan. I can’t help but think how many sales the Mk1/2 lost because of its very cramped greenhouse, especially compared to the very roomy Benzes.
I’ve never thought the vaunted Series 1 was the best looker either. Too much in the way of pillars and quarter vents, a mismatch of front window to rear (worse as LWB came), and front bumper miles lower than rear. Series 2 cleaned up a bit of that, and the Three is the nicest. But in terms of room, I can’t find anything out there easily that confirms the 3 is actually higher than the 2 or 1, despite many mentions of Pininfarina raising the roof, and despite it appearing higher.
A three was parked here a few weeks back: I could not get over what an astoundingly low beast it was.
Some great images, but I would argue that Frank Costin was more famous for Marcos than Lotus – unlike his brother, he wasn’t a Lotus employee and only shaped one of their racing cars.
The only time I ever drove an XJ6 – a Series 1 car – I had no trouble getting in or out. Then again, I was in my twenties, and as a Lotus fan I considered “lowness” as close to “Godliness”.
Correct you are on Frank, Uncle. His Lister almost demanded the chin-to-chest Jim Clark position as well.
At similar age, I sat reverently in the back of a late Series Three, trying to maintain a dignity rather at odds with the fact that my knees were higher than my eyebrows.
Wow, this gives a whole new meaning to the “long hood, short deck” theme! 🙂
Author: “In pure Jaguarine beauty, none of the carrozzerie were able to match Jaguar’s in-house efforts.”
Agreed! I was rooting for the Italians to bring the styling up to the proverbial next level, but I’d rather look at the original any day.
This is a very nicely turned out essay, and there’s a near-zero chance that I’ve ever seen any of the photos before. Bravo!
The first photo made me think immediately of the image below. It’s from the January 1971 issue of Road & Track. The car pictured was put together by customizer Ali Roushan of Newport Beach, Ca. It has two six-cylinder XK engines under that long bonnet. For some of the photos in the article, R&T blended the two engines together to make them look like an inline twelve. The joke was that this was a new model from the factory!
However, the real joke of that issue (unintentionally, I’m sure) was its cover story. It only took 48+ years for the real deal to arrive!
Oh, you’ve not lost your touch, teacher. Wondrous stuff.
I have seen most of them before, though certainly not including the headline 140 proposition, nor the facially-startling GT Mk 2.
That 140 – I rather like it – isn’t necessarily so silly in height, as the 140 itself is at least 1.5 inches taller than an XJ6, though I confess to laughing at the mental image conjured from the Jag Supine Special. Freddie had a good point.
I can’t travel with you to the Costin Jag as a peak, a bit piscine for mine, like many of his creations. I do love the Zagato 150, wishing only that they’d not faffled the wider grille with messy festoonments and left it plainer for fullest jaguarosity.
The linked article from Driven To Write is a cracker, nicely topping this gourmet feast, which, compliments to the chef, you’d never guess came from a rabbit-hole.
Thanks for a wonderful article and pictures, Don! Despite a fairly steady ingestion of 1950’s through 1970’s British car books and magazines, there’s much here I haven’t seen. And a great reminder of the unique place Jaguar held in the industry and especially the US market (perhaps others too, but I’m in the US).
On the one hand, the sports cars were amazing in technology (DOHC, 4 wheel disks, IRS on the E Type) and also style. Yet they were not low volume exotics like the Italians. On the other hand, the sedans, while stylish (MkX excepted) seemed useful and aspirational. A very distinct brand image to a kid growing up in the US, and very unlike Mercedes, which after the demise of the 300SL seemed stodgy until the 300SEL 6.3 came along, and even that was an anomaly until the AMG era.
I think Jaguar lost it with the advent of the XJS, although the XJ sedans carried on the grace for quite a while. While Jaguar has returned to a stylish full line again (and more with the SUV’s), I find the styling rather anonymous. Is that a Jaguar or a Kia?
Of these cars, the low Mk II GT coupé concept and the E Type style XJ prototypes are absolutely stunning. Thanks for digging these up and the detailed write-up.
My vote for the most attractive styling proposal goes to the GT body for the Mark II. Very clean lines without the front fender dip into the doors. I love the low roof and it’s a hardtop! There was a styling proposal for the Mark VII that had a similar fender line. The XJS based Daimler coupe’s short roof line is similar to the convertible models snug looking top. No wonder that the convertibles were so popular once they were introduced. I really like low cars. When I drive my ’97 XJ6 in traffic I marvel how the top of the fender is lower than the top of most car’s front wheel openings. Like my XJS it’s somewhat hard to get out of. At least for us old fat guys! I use the windshield pillar/ roof junction to help swing myself out. Thanks for posting those great photos. If you are still interested in in short cabin styling, check out the styling proposals for the 1960s/70s 16 cylinder Cadillacs. Thanks again.
It seems like “Jaguarness” skipped a generation with the XJS. It wasn’t until the XK8 debuted that Jaguar had another curvaceous sports model. It’s my opinion that Jaguar’s styling was influenced by the Italian coachbuilder’s GT products of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Even though it was introduced in 1975, in my mind it reflects Italian styling from the earlier decade. As I’ve stated before, the E Type styling had run it’s course by the time the last models had been introduced. Brown’s Lane had a bunch of them stored at a nearby airport because they didn’t sell. The Jensen Interceptor had been introduced earlier and was styled by Touring. The Italian styling influences are very clear. It appeared to be a newer and fresher design that also incorporated all the luxury features that buyers were demanding. I’ve found this great article on the Maserati GT in the Petrolicious site. When I saw the profile picture I immediately saw the stylistic relationship to the XJS. I’ve grown to really appreciate the styling of the XJS over the years. It’s retro, but not Jaguar retro.
Thanks Jose. I did not know the late E-type/airport storage story. Both the Interceptor and Maserati 5000GT were shaped by Federico Formenti at Touring. He also did the Alfa 1900 Disco Volante, which he claims the D-type was so close in copying that Touring considered suing Jaguar. That story coming early 2020.
Il Professore at his best…
Thank you for that Lister coupe — nicest racer I’ve seen in eons.
The one that really stands out for me is the Mk1 coupe. Never knew that was entertained, but it’s a great shape from the front and profile. Rear window is a mite too squat though. As John Lennon almost said “Got to be good-looking ’cause it’s so hard to see (out of)”.
My favourite haute-couture Jag is still the ’58 Ghia-Aigle XK150.
Cool looking car, but I couldn’t help but think that it’s the most phallic shaped car that I can think of in quite some time. It would likely fit in that doorhole right beside it…..just slip right in.
Don, you have a way of making the authoritative informative and readable, and you’ve done it again.
I sense that Lyons may have asked for the extreme so he could lead the row back to the practical? Make any sense to you?