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Jaguar Motor Cars as An Early Pioneer In Auto Stying

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Jaguar

Jaguar Motor Cars as An Early Pioneer In Auto Stying

Terry S. Vostor
November 12, 2010

Terry S Vostor
http://www.eagleridgegm.com/

Today in 2010 / 2011 classic vintage Jaguar XK motorcars are more than extremely desirable and popular. Indeed a whole cottage industry has built up around the re-manufacture of both auto , mechanical and body parts as well as the vital professional restoration of these cars. Even they are extremely usable as well as great fun to drive , and while with their characteristic "skinny tyres", an XK will not corner like a modern new automobile. Still there is nothing like the thrill of driving or being driven as a passenger in a vintage Jaguar XK motorcar.

The very first of the line - the XK 120 first appeared on the world - One of the premier auto shows of the time - of the continent and certainly of the British Empire worldwide was the hallmark automotive show held annually in London England. In today's automotive industry - automobile design ,manufacturing , and production departments are all nicely & neatly coordinated and integrated with CAD computer drawing setups. Whole series of specific departments in the planning, design & engineering, production, sales marketing and even supplier networks are integrated. Its one nice mesh network in order that coordinated efforts can all row in the same direction to produce a vehicle from start to finish. It's all one big cascade of efforts and expertise from initiation to concept for niche production models all in the shortest of orders and time frames.

However not long ago this generally if not always was not the case. Even in the powerful US auto industry in the 1950's and 60's the sequence from start to finish generally took 8 to 10 years from concept to the final fruition. To produce a car in a standard worldwide auto design and produce process usually took upwards of 8 to 10 years. It seemed that "everybody hated everyone"> The designers resented management's edicts, the parts and mechanical toolmakers resented the design staff as haughty. It went down the line to production management and production line middle management entrusted to implementation. The workers being badgered by abusive middle management , pushing for quotas and higher production figures disliked their superiors. You can add union / management antagonisms to the mix. Finally in the case of the US auto industry with planned obsolescence at the helm, in the end directed their fury and anger at the ultimate purchasers of the product - the consumer at the dealership. It was considered the role of the auto dealers to fix problems on the vehicles. After all "quality" was something the dealer took care of. It is amazing in retrospect that the auto industry survived at all , never mind prospered and grew and that as well any new products were developed and released. Product, technical and engineering workups and specs were actually drawn by solitary draftsmen on paper, and then sat around on physical paper. Then add in physical logistics of mail and delays because of the time costs of physical snail mail between departments. The drawings and internal departmental mail would actually sit on the desktops waiting and waiting. In the end the sum totality of most business and industrial processes all depend on practical logistics . In these cases think of the time spent "in the mail" and "on people's ( and manager's ) desks sitting forelorne and unopened or open in plain view but not dealt with. Its like the power of compound interest only in reverse. Next , especially in the more rigid British management models the next steps involving being be passed up through most rigid management systems of approval, further approval, dispersal and finally production. It all took a lot of time in both logistics and a rigid tight management system - where approval was doled out sparingly and protection of perks and privileges by especially British management was more than apparent. In the end it might be said that it took eons and eons to get anything into production and onto the roads and highways. Yet somehow the Jaguar series was able to get through all of these hoops.

Yet in the case of Jaguar itself the company did have a solid history and reputation built around the sports car market itself. The "SS Jaguar 100" model built before the second world war had proved just how valuable , and what a cachet it was , to build a high performance sports car capable of winning important auto racing competitions. And win they did race after race, important competition after even more prestigious trophy event. Indeed it was more than readily apparent to those in management positions at Jaguar that the SS 100 had elevated the cars' and Jaguar's status way beyond what was warranted to any degree by the production sales numbers made.

The SS 100's immediate history was that it developed from a 1935 era predecessor the "SS 90" which in essence was a pre-production prototype or workup from which the SS 100 evolved. The SS 90 was turned out right up to the outbreak of the British end of the war. There was no penalty either , no need for constant attention from a highly skilled mechanic. The XK engine might of been then the classic specification for a true Grand Prix competition engine, but William Heynes had designed it solely as a production engine. more than able to take all the abuse that the average unskilled schmendrick driver could dole out and well within the abilities of the average good mechanic to fix. Still many sought to differ. If the aluminum head was not torqued exactly the same warpage could result. Hence many sought out and purloined only their "favorite" chosen mechanic to work on their car - especially the motor and its components to work on only and exclusively. Others in the US and Canada sought out British mechanics not trusted the locals and local talent used mainly to working with Chevys and Fords. Powered by the same 2 ½ or 3 ½ liter overhead-valve engines used in the SS Jaguar saloons , these could achieve a genuine 160 km / hour ( 100 miles per hour in the US and Canadian roads and tracks) in its larger 3 and one half liter form. By virtue of its one time prime economic position Britain has arguably been responsible for more well known and widely admired cars that any other nation. While British "greats" may not have the grandeur of a Mercedes 540K , the liveliness of an Italian 12-cylinder Ferrari or the sheer presence of an American Dusenberg , their individual greatness and significance is by no means diminished by any means or form what so ever.

Like nearly all subsequent Jaguar sports cars (the E-type being the major exception), the SS 100 used a modified short-wheelbase version of the company's contemporary saloon - in this case the SS 100. This SS 100 was a most traditional sports car with its four leaf springs, long bonnet (the British designated term for the hood of car) and tail mounted spare tire. Results were achieved via the well proven formula of light weight and a large torque power plant. By then however, independent front suspension was being adopted by progressive car makers and by 1940 SS vehicles were experimenting with it as well for what became the "post war" range of vehicles.

Unfortunately the managing director died in a tragic car crash , leaving no one in management really at the helm. It seemed at the time that Jaguar had reached a stalemate. Yet somehow with inertia and good staff things moved onwards and upwards. William Lyons had his sights set on an all-new luxury saloon capable of those 100 miles per hour speed range. Planning, testing and retesting was done, even during the war, and by 1945 essentially the essential features of the new post war car had been laid out. For his merits, extreme devotion to and credit to the British automobile industry William Lyons was later knighted.

It can be said that nothing is for nothing, and that everything good requires hard work and preparation. That can certainly be said of the Jaguar XK series of vehicles. Planning and follow through of this core vehicle which laid the work for most of what we take for granted in automotive styling in the auto industry of our times was laid and worked out with care and precision over an extended period of time. We take much for granted today.

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