Jim Randle: A Personal View


Picture courtesy of JDHT

On Friday 5th July we were enjoying an evening out with some friends when my phone rang. I was awaiting news of the impending arrival of Grandson number 4, but this call was to say that Jim Randle was very poorly and to expect the worst. An odd evening, as later I was alerted that Grandson number 4, now three days overdue, was finally on his way ….

On the following evening, Saturday 6th July 2019, Robert James Mace came into the world and James Neville Randle departed, within an hour of each-other ……. the former lightened the evening, as we celebrated with friends at dinner, who were waiting for our news.

The news of Jim’s passing was told to us as personal friends and was to remain confidential pending the official announcement.

Last month, when I wrote ‘Norman Dewis: A Personal View’ the last thing I expected to be doing this month was writing a similar tribute to Jim Randle, another Xclusively Jaguar patron!

When I spoke to Keith Helfet following the death of our mutual friend, he said ‘Its a dangerous business being a patron of Xclusively Jaguar!’ …. I appreciate his sense of humour but sincerely hope that his prophecy does not become a reality.

Having lunch with Win Percy the following day, he too acknowledged that of my two original  patrons, he was the only one left, now that Norman has passed on.

 

Jim Randle with Letitia Mace at the XJ220 Reunion 2012

Jim Randle had a long and fruitful life, and I met him for the first time in June 2012, relatively close to the end of it, having been asked to arrange a ‘Project XJ220 Reunion’ for those who conceived, built and marketed Jaguar’s only true supercar. I was totally in awe of this Jaguar Icon – a consummate engineer with a quiet, composed demeanour and dry sense of humour.

 

Later the same year, Rob Jenner asked me if I would invite Jim to Coventry Transport Museum for an XJ40 Reunion, where he was reunited with Alan Jenner, one of his former colleagues. Finally, he was re-engaging with the Jaguar community, after an absence of many years.

 

Jim Randle with with former colleague, the late Alan Jenner and D38BRW at Coventry Transport Museum 2012

Jim Randle with Jenner Senior and Junior and Rob’s XJ40 Majestic at Coventry Transport Museum 2012

In 2016 he joined a number of XJ40 owners and former colleagues at Dunkeld to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the launch of XJ40 and chose to drive my XJ40, E264 OMP over the original test route used by The Press in 1986. E264 OMP went on to win car of the day, and I had the honour of receiving my award from Jim Randle. Jim Randle and Letitia Mace with E264OMP at Dunkeld
Jim Randle driving Letitia Mace's 3.6 Sovereign at Dunkeld (photo: Paul Skilleter) Jim Randle hands Letitia Mace the award for Best XJ40 Dunkeld 2016

 

My report on Dunkeld in Xclusively Jaguar News triggered a response from an ex-Police Officer who had driven D38 BRW on a sponsored ‘Quest to Turkey’ to raise funds for the Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster of 1987. He wanted to acknowledge the 30th anniversary of the event, so a meeting was arranged to include a photo-shoot at Bourton Dassett, a favourite place for Jaguar press photographs. This included the re-creation of a press photo taken in 1986 when, of all the cars Jim could have chosen to stand beside at Dunkeld, he chose D38 BRW, now the only surviving XJ40 from the Press launch, owned by David Marks since the 1990’s.

 

Jim Randle & D38BRW – Seen (left) at Dunkeld in 1986 and (right) at Bourton Dasset in 2017.

Picture courtesy of JDHT

 

Jim Randle, Letitia Mace and D38BRW at Bourton Dasset

Jim Randle driving D38BRW with Howard Hunt as Co-Driver

Letitia Mace listens intently to Jim Randle as he relates one of his fascinating stories

Even Rob Jenner is quiet and contemplative in the presence of Jim Randle!

 

Jim then drove D38 BRW along some of the old Warwickshire Jaguar test routes and over lunch he turned to me and said ‘If we went to Gaydon and I took you round all of the cars I’d worked on and told you about them, would that help you with your newsletter?’ Wow, what an offer! I asked if the invitation could include Rob Jenner and David Marks, as I knew that they would appreciate this and would have done the same for me if a similar offer was made to them. So, on 26th October 2017 David, Rob and I arrived at Gaydon in D38 BRW and met Jim in the car park in his XF – a car he was never truly happy with, and he explained the reasons for this in great technical detail.

This visit was recorded in Brucie’s Diary: October 2017 (scroll past the 1st feature on Hull).

 

Tony Merrygold very kindly allowed us into the museum early, so that our tour was uninterrupted, and as we came upon each car Jim told us about his involvement with that particular model, his memory for engineering detail clearly serving him very well. Jim Randle, Rob Jenner and Letitia Mace at The Collections Centre, Gaydon

 

Apprenticed at Rover in the late 1950s, his first major project was the P6 2000TC, of which he spoke fondly and in great detail.

 

He started at Jaguar in 1965, working towards the launch of XJ6 in 1968 and moving through successive models and ranks until he reached the pinnacle of his career as Jaguar Director of Engineering and creator of the XJ40, for which he is probably best known.
We looked closely at the XJ40 estate … Jim very was sorry that this car, with its clean lines and vast capacity, never made it into production.

 

Behind the scenes at Jaguar he was held in high esteem by colleagues and suppliers alike, who readily yielded to his enthusiasm and contributed to his out of hours skunkworks which were responsible for many projects, the best known being the XJ-S Cabriolet, and of course, XJ220, both of which went into production, while the remainder fell foul of politics and accountancy.

 

 

He spoke at length of both of these at Gaydon as we examined each of the cars in question and discussed the differences between prototype and production model.

 

Jim Randle at the British Motor Museum, Gaydon – reminiscing over the time he drove XJ13 at Le Mans and got ‘a good telling off’ for over-taking D-type OKV1 down the Mulsanne Straight!!!

 

Jim was the last surviving Director of Jaguar to have known and worked with Sir William Lyons, for whom he had the utmost respect. He was never happy about the Ford takeover and left Jaguar to continue his career elsewhere, producing some very fine work before finally retiring.

Following our visit to Gaydon Jim invited us back to his house, showed us his unique Lea Francis prototype, a 1/4 scale model of the XJ220, and the original chassis design for the XJ220, pointing out that you could clearly see that it was to be 4 wheel drive configuration. Jim laughingly referred to this as CAD (Cardboard Aided Design) – the way it was done before the arrival of the computer!

In another conversation Keith Helfet remembers Jim coming into his office with this V12 4WD chassis prototype and saying ‘Here, put a pretty frock on this!’ …. He did, and the 1/4 scale model we saw was the result and become the 1988 XJ220 show car.

 

 

Finally, the end to a perfect day – he invited us to look at the two XJ40’s he has had hidden away for 20 years or more. He’d told me about these back in 2012, along with other prototypes that he’d tried to save, but were taken by Ford and crushed. He never forgave Ford for destroying these precious prototypes.

Jim’s XJ40s are now both back on the road, one of them, D802 CDU, pre-dates David Marks prototype D38 BRW, and is now the earliest surviving XJ40 in existence!

As we looked at Jim’s XJ40’s, which had clearly been recently exhumed from the back of a barn, Rob asked  ‘What made you do that after 20 years or more?’ ‘ You two!’ he said, pointing at Rob and myself, as he signed my copy of ‘The XJ40 at 30’

 

Time spent with Jim Randle was always very precious and I hold cherished memories of all our meetings.

At Silverstone Classic 2017 we were discussing Nigel Webb’s V12 powered XJ220 which met with Jim’s approval!

Letitia Mace and Jim Randle discuss Nigel Webb's Jaguar XJ220 V12 Concept Recreation at Silverstone

Keith Helfet, Tony Brooks, Letitia Mace and Jim Randle at Silverstone 2017

Keith Helfet, Tony Brooks, Letitia Mace and Jim Randle at Silverstone Classic 2017

Keith Helfet and Jim Randle with Rob Jenner and Letitia Mace

Keith Helfet, Rob Jenner, Letitia Mace and Jim Randle at the NEC, November 2017

 

There is a wonderful tribute to Jim Randle written by his son, Steve, on a site called ‘Driven to Write’ and another on the same site by  Eóin Doyle – both are well worth reading.

Jim passed his engineering prowess onto his son Steve, who survives him, along with his daughter Sally, and 5 grandchildren. His beloved wife, Jean,  having sadly passed away in the early 1990’s.

The family opted for a private funeral to which we were invited, along with D802CDU, D38BRW and E264OMP.

Professor James Neville Randle, Director of Engineering, Jaguar Cars, retired  – 1938 to 2019 RIP