In this Newsletter: Thoughts on the F-TYPE, a tribute to Les Bottrill, and the availability of Allan Crouch’s great new book on SS and Jaguar ‘pushrod’ cars. Plus Ian Cooling’s 2013 automobilia auction is up and running!
As I write this in early November, it has just been announced by Jaguar that they will be revealing a coupe version of the F-TYPE sports car just ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show on 19 November. I anticipate that this will look even better than the current open two-seater, as arguably has been the case with previous Jaguar sports cars – when I ran a 3.8 E-type coupe many years ago, I always felt it was a more successful design than the open car, even though I much admired that too. Similarly, many consider that the coupe is the prettiest of the XK 120 range.
F-TYPE: thoughts from behind the wheel…
I’ve now experienced driving the F-TYPE, thanks to a Jaguar driving day in Warwickshire. Available to try were all three variants: V6 (fast), V6 S (very fast), and V8 (ridiculously fast) and although there wasn’t enough time to really plumb the character of the car, it provided valuable first impressions.
Jaguar claims that the F-TYPE is today’s equivalent of the original E-type of the 1960s, and for those who may think that it looks much like any other modern high-end sports car (it is often mistaken for a Maserati), I would say that the car has to be viewed in the context of what it is designed to do – which is to compete in the worldwide marketplace. This now includes countries which were simply not on Jaguar’s map a few brief years ago, such as China, India and Russia. Buyers in these markets do not have the perspective of their counterparts in North America, Britain and most parts of Europe. When they were younger they did not commonly see Jaguar XJ sedans, XJ-Ss and E-types in the parking lot of their local shopping mall. Most of them did not have a local shopping mall… Maybe a few of the more wealthy Indians and Chinese now have a marginal appreciation of Jaguar’s heritage as a sports car manufacturer, but I believe they would be hard pressed to name such as the marque’s Le Mans winning years, or define exactly when the E-type was in production.
So these people are primarily going to judge the F-TYPE against similar cars produced by Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and Toyota, marques which have become familiar to them over the past few years. A new Jaguar sports car can’t be too different in appearance and specification from these products, therefore, and the F-TYPE duly isn’t. In fact it takes a knowledgeable enthusiast to detect the discreet influences from Jaguar’s heritage which lie part-disguised in the car’s handsome modern lines.
So much for the marketing approach: does the car deliver the pure sports car experience on the road which Jaguar claims? On my all too brief acquaintanceship the answer is yes, it does, and I am sure that the car is more than competitive in terms of straight line performance, handling, road holding and refinement; it also blends these in the unique Jaguar manner, even though I think it’s the harshest Jaguar ever made in terms of low speed ride. But this woodeness (due not only to suspension settings but also very low profile tyres and the sheer rigidness of the aluminium body) is soon forgotten out of town when higher speeds and g-forces smooth it all out.
Yes, it is very responsive to steering input, though turn-in to a corner is not quite as sharp as I expected from Jaguar’s hyperbole. Maybe this is a function of the power train being heavy and largely up front: after all, the V8 engine actually weighs more than the entire bodyshell, which must have given the suspension engineers quite a complex job to do. Certainly the car is no lightweight, as the big engine contributes to the fact that the F-TYPE V8 is only about 12 pounds (or around 6kg) lighter than a Mercedes SL500.
I said at the beginning that the F-TYPE V8 was ridiculously fast. Well, it is. I did a standing-start on full throttle and am quite prepared to believe that this car can achieve 100mph in 8.8 seconds. With the blare of the V8, seemingly constant gearchanges (there are eight forward ratios) and the wind rushing by, it was a heady experience. It was also one that in practice, unless you drive regularly on deserted roads far from radar guns, you are unlikely to indulge in very often. The average owner, especially one who has not owned a really fast car before, will perhaps never sample the full accelerative potential of their F-TYPE, because quite apart from being a licence-loser, it will be too intimidating. Even for the experienced, and despite all the electronic aids to maintain traction, the F-TYPE’s full performance has to be used with discretion, especially in wet conditions. Well might it be thought that this level of performance is pointless and, in the real world, unusable.
But it has ever been thus. The first British magazine road test of the XK 120 said back in 1949 that this new sports car could “provide acceleration such as most drivers have never even imagined” and more than one journal commented that the road not the car was now the limiting factor. I remember that when, in 1968, I first drove an E-type for a reasonable length of time, initially it seemed totally impossible that I could ever really use the car’s full performance. But after acclimatisation, and certainly when I ran a 3.8 E-type as an every-day car later on, the car’s performance became the norm and it was ‘ordinary’ cars that seemed wrong because they were so desperately slow. I expect the same would happen if I drove an F-TYPE for a while.
Criticisms of the F-TYPE? On the basis of my short time with the car, I would not presume to make too many judgements. The trunk space is small but those who have bought the car tell me you can pack a surprising amount of luggage into it. What does slightly concern me is whether the lack of plus-two seating will inhibit sales in the longer term, especially in the US where the ability to fit children, extra shopping or even (for short journeys) a third adult in the back is apparently highly valued. Offering a two-plus-two version of the E-type in 1966 boosted its sales markedly, the new variant going on to out-sell its two-seater equivalent. The same situation occurred with the XJ-S convertible, which only in later life received seats in the rear. Could the F-TYPE be stretched later on to provide extra accommodation, or will the two-plus-two format be left strictly to the XK range?
Regarding the interior, I wasn’t sorry to see that the transmission control knob has been replaced by a selector stick which, if anything, harks back to the ‘J-gate’ device first seen back in 1986 on the XJ40. I never really liked the knob, which to me looked like something from a 1970’s hi-fi set. Push the new stick to the left and it allows driver selection of the gears by means of paddles on the steering column. Yes, these can be entertaining on back roads but as previously with the XK and other modern Jaguars, I soon tired of it, and found equal enjoyment in allowing the superb auto box to make its own judgements about ratios. Besides which, unless you go down several ratios, there was very little engine braking to be obtained – and with modern brakes, who needs engine braking anyway?
Then there’s the noise. The engine is programmed to rev a little on start-up, which I am positive would irritate me as an owner, especially if I wanted to make a discreet departure from somewhere late at night. In fact it irritated me pretty much straight away. As for the strident engine note on acceleration, it is all very exciting but not something I couldn’t live without. These are comments not criticisms, however; this car is aimed at a clientèle 30 years younger than I am, and if paddles and a bit of noise assist the badly-needed task of re-aligning the Jaguar image more towards the sporting, then I am all for them.
Just one thing is needed to make the F-TYPE indisputably a sports car in the E-type mould, and that’s the option of manual transmission. Nothing else could possibly add such a huge amount to driver satisfaction as a stick shift and clutch. By coincidence, around the time I tried the F-TYPE I received an e-mail arrived a V12 E-type owner in the US who had just driven an F-TYPE. Said Gary, “The F-TYPE is a lovely car, very fast, quite refined (but not too refined, if you catch my drift…) and hugely capable. Perhaps, like most modern cars, a bit too heavy. And, of course, it needs, wants, cries out for…a manual transmission, a nice big aluminum ball on a stick with the six speeds (or seven or eight) and reverse clearly diagrammed. And a clutch pedal, of course.”
I couldn’t put it better myself – and against all odds, it seems likely to happen. Adrian Hallmark, Jaguar’s global brand director, was quoted a year ago as saying that Jaguar were indeed going to offer a manual shift in due course. I hope it makes an early arrival on the F-TYPE. For me, at least, it would make the difference between buying and not buying one.
Les Bottrill 1926 – 2013
Again we need to pay tribute to the passing of a significant ex-Jaguar man. For over 25 years in Nyack, New York, a small car repair shop was run by one Les Bottrill, but few customers would have realised that the proprietor had, in the mid-1950s, driven 160mph Le Mans cars daily for many months. Yet that was one of the jobs which Les Bottrill undertook when he worked for Jaguar.
Leslie Thomas Bottrill, who died on August 31st aged 87, was born on April 5th 1926 in Brinklow, England, and as a young man followed his father by joining Jaguar. In 1950 he began working for the service department run by FRW England, and having already worked on such important cars as the C/D prototype, had by 1954 graduated to the competition department, where the new D-type was being built.
Les was amongst those in the works team who attended Le Mans for the D-type’s inaugural race in 1954, although he nearly didn’t make it. With Frank Rainbow in the C-type (047) which had been prepared at Coventry for the Belgian team Ecurie Francorchamps, Les was flung from the car when Frank spun the car into a concrete pylon during a low-speed overtaking manoeuvre near Montebourg in France. Miraculously, both men escaped serious injury and were able to prepare XKC 011, hastily called out from Coventry, as the substitute.
Les then looked after a Belgian-entered D-type (XKD 503) in the fateful 1955 Le Mans race, Claes and Swaters taking it to a great third place, and he was a team mechanic at Le Mans again in 1956, the last ‘official’ year for Jaguar in the 1950s. Most famously, however, Les Bottrill was given the task of testing and running-in the 67 production-built D-types prior to their sale to private owners.
He drove each car to the MIRA test ground where on its banked circuit he would drive each one for 200 or more miles, noting each fault and its rectification after attention back at Browns Lane. Some D-types some cars returned to MIRA eight times before being passed. With Norman Dewis largely confined to the relatively few works cars, it is safe to say that no-one has ever driven (or will ever drive) more individual D-types than Les Bottrill did.
In the late 1950s Les was given the chance of working for Jaguar’s service operation in New York. He never returned to the UK as after leaving Jaguar in the British Leyland era he set up his own business in Nyack, New York. British Car Service catered for various marques and after 27 years was sold when Les retired. He and his second wife, Milou (who he married in 1991), moved in recent years to Salt Lake City to be near Milou’s family. It was here that Les died from a perforated colon at the end of August.
An unassuming man, only towards the very end of his life, when he was contacted by the local Jaguar club in Salt Lake City did Les begin to realise the huge interest there was in him and his time with Jaguar. But his contribution to Jaguar and his place in its history are assured, and our sincere condolences go to his wife Milou and his sons.
SS & Jaguar by Allan Crouch. ‘Pushrod’ Jaguars 1935 to 1951 inc. SS 100
Published price £50. Our price £45.00 and FREE P&P UK and heavily subsidised cost to overseas destinations! Until mid-January 2014.
We have just received our first stocks of this new book which covers all ‘pushrod’ Jaguars from 1935 to 1951. It’s the outcome of years of research by Allan Crouch who previously wrote the excellent book on the SS 1 and 2 cars. Hardcover, it has 200 pages and measures 270 x 210mm (10.5 x 8.25 inches).
A Jaguar Heritage volunteer, Allan Crouch has spent untold hours extracting information from the chassis record books held by Jaguar Heritage, producing some fascinating facts and figures to back up the detailed descriptions of the cars which Allan also compiled. The book covers the 1936/37 coachbuilt saloons, the Tourer & 100 two-seater, the all-steel range 1938-40, and the postwar ‘Mk IV’ and Mk V. The nine chapters also detail exports and CKD (completely knocked down) cars, special bodies, competition activities, car identification, and tool kits.
Appendices include production statistics, exports, colour/trim analysis (including a listing of one-off schemes) and even rally entrants by chassis number. Many colour photographs of restored cars are augmented by archive images. This is the only book of its type and it’s essential for anyone with a pushrod Jaguar, or eager to know how it was that Jaguar developed from being a niche manufacturer of a slightly oddball coupe (the SS 1) into a serious player in the luxury sport market in the pre-XK engine years.
Our price for this book is £45, on top of which we will send it post-free in the UK, and at a heavily subsidised cost to Europe (+ £2.45) and rest of world (+ £9.45).
Jewels in the Crown by Ray Hutton, published by Elliott & Thompson Ltd.
This is an entertainingly told account of how in 2008 Tata of India bought Jaguar and Land Rover, and what it did with them afterwards. I found it a fascinating read, as author Ray Hutton, formerly editor in chief of Autocar, has personally interviewed virtually all the leading players in this very real drama (and usefully lists them in the appendix, together with biographical notes).
As the story unfolds, we learn that the purchase was not specifically planned because Tata decided to enter negotiations with Ford only when Jaguar and Land Rover came on the market unexpectedly. They immediately regarded it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Included is much behind-the-scenes details of how various new models evolved (XJ (S-TYPE. X-TYPE, X350, F-TYPE) and how a strategy emerged which has seen JLR contribute 90% of Tata’s profits and which might see Jaguar’s annual production approach the million mark in the future…
This book essentially brings the history of Jaguar up to date, taking the story on from where Andrew Whyte’s ‘History of a Great Car’ book (with its periodic updates from myself and Mike Cotton) left it some years ago. Thoroughly recommended. Hardback, 224 pages, 23x16cm. £19.95 FREE P&P UK!
Back in stock!
Mike Hawthorn Golden Boy, by Tony Bailey and Paul Skilleter, published by PJ Publishing Ltd.
The standard edition of this highly detailed, exhaustive story of Britain’s first World Champion has been out of print for nearly a year, but in an office sort-out we have just discovered half a dozen or so new but very marginally shop-soiled copies of the updated and augmented version. Those who follow such things may have noticed that since going out of print, copies of Golden Boy have been changing hands on eBay and Amazon at well over £100, but we are offering these few remaining new copies at £99.50 plus £9.50 P&P UK. Note: We still have a small number of the slip-cased leather edition at £150 plus P&P.
OTHER BOOKS AND FORTHCOMING TITLES
As mentioned in the last Newsletter, Bernard Viart is well advanced on an XK 150 Explored book. This will be even more detailed and comprehensive than his XK 120 and XK 140 titles, with 300 all-new drawings already done. Publication is at least a year away but it will be worth the wait. PLEASE email me [ email@example.com ] if you are interested in this book so we can gauge interest. We are also investigating an E-type Explored series – watch this space!
Meanwhile, XK 120 Explored and XK 140 Explored (the latter the updated reprint) still bring praise from owners, as do Urs Schmid’s magnificent two-volume work on the XK 120 (we are the main distributors for his ‘Cult Object’ books which are sold all over the world to serious owners and enthusiasts). Also popular is Philip Porter’s Original XK book, which, uniquely, covers all three models (120, 140 and 150). This third edition is much expanded and revised. For details of these and many other books, see our website.
Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
Paul Skilleter Books/ PJ Publishing Ltd
Tel: +44(0)1425 612669