With the rains deluging down outside, the last month has been one of planning and preparation for what will hopefully be finer months ahead. The technical, marketing and archive teams have been busy on many fronts….
A History Lesson for Visitors
With the centenary of the start of the Great War being commemorated this year, it seems appropriate also to cast one’s mind back to the Second World War. Jaguar Cars Ltd. played its role like most of the Midlands manufacturing industry, producing an increased number of motorcycle sidecars for military use and also fabricating many parts for the aircraft and munitions industries.
One of the main aircraft production sites was on the edge of Birmingham, in a specially commissioned factory near West Bromwich, close to the large Fort Dunlop rubber factory complex. By a quirk of history, this later became the Castle Bromwich plant, where all the current Jaguar cars are now produced!
The Jaguar association goes back to 1966 when it merged with BMC to form British Motor Holdings. BMC already owned Fisher and Ludlow, a sheet metal company that took over the Castle Bromwich factory after the war. From 1966 to 1980, the plant produced the bodies for many cars in the British Leyland stable, including all the Jaguars, but Jaguar Cars finally took over control of the site in July 1980. Initially, the plant continued producing just finished painted body shells, but a trim and final assembly line was installed for the new S-TYPE launched in 1998 – the first time complete cars were to come out of the plant!
However, turning back to the war years, the Castle Bromwich factory has a fascinating history. It was built as a result of the government Expansion Plan in the 1930s which recognised the need to increase military aircraft production, which had declined dramatically in the post World War One years. The site was chosen because of its proximity to RAF West Bromwich and work started in July 1938. The factory was built at an incredible speed and was virtually complete by the time war broke out in September 1939 – at which point it already had a workforce over 6,000 strong.
Archive aerial view of the Castle Bromwich factory showing the camouflage applied to the roof areas.
The plants built under this scheme were referred to as ‘shadow factories’ because they were designed to mass produce aircraft that were already being made by established aeronautical companies. In the case of Castle Bromwich, this was Vickers Armstrong who owned Supermarine, makers of the famous Spitfire aircraft. The first Castle Bromwich built Spitfire was handed over to the Air Ministry for testing in June 1940.
Production continued apace, through several iterations of design. In July 1941, the 1000th Spitfire came off the line, fulfilling the initial order that had been placed by the Air Ministry in April 1939 – not bad going! 1941 also saw the first orders being placed for the much larger Avro Lancaster bomber which was produced at Castle Bromwich alongside the Spitfire from 1943 to 1945. By the end of the war, the plant had produced a total of 11,780 Spitfires and 305 Lancasters – an incredible feat.
To remind visitors to Castle Bromwich of the origins and history of the plant, a booklet was produced a few years ago by Jaguar Heritage entitled “Spitfires to Jaguars”. This has been very popular and is given out to everyone who comes on a Factory Tour. The booklet was written by Francois Prins, one of Jaguar Heritage’s Archive Volunteers and a well-known Jaguar historian, and is illustrated with an amazing collection of archive images showing the aircraft being produced. The booklet has recently been revised and updated with new images to bring it right up to the present day.
A more dramatic, physical tribute to the Castle Bromwich plant’s history was established in 2000 with the installation of a large sculpture on the appropriately named Spitfire Island – a roundabout on the Chester Road next to the plant. Titled ‘Sentinel’, this 16m high sculpture is by Tim Tolkien, great-nephew of J.R.R. Tolkien (the author of The Lord of the Rings), who grew up in Birmingham. It was unveiled in November 2000 by Alex Henshaw – the former test pilot who air-tested more than 2,000 Spitfires during the war years.
More from the Archive
Continuing with the archive theme, a rare example of the Gordon Crosby designed leaping Jaguar mascot has recently been acquired to fill a gap in the collection. As reported in last September’s edition of Jaguar Heritage News, Frederick Gordon Crosby was commissioned in 1938 by SS Cars (as Jaguar was then named) to produce an official Jaguar mascot. Gordon Crosby, who was also the lead illustrator for Autocar magazine, created his original sculpture in French Plasticine. The finished work was then used to create a limited number of prototype castings in bronze by Parlanti, the London foundry he favoured.
He delivered the bronze prototype to Lyons later in 1938, and fortunately it met with Lyons’s approval! After SS Cars had used the prototype as the pattern for the mass-produced Version 1, the bronze was returned to Gordon Crosby, who used it as the mascot on his own SS Jaguar Saloon. His son, Michael, confirmed that this was the only version of the prototype he ever saw. Any others would have been returned to Parlanti to be melted down.
After the artist’s death, the prototype passed to his widow, and then his son. Sold in 1996, it was later sold in 2011 for the sum of £42,000 – the world record price for a single item of Jaguar automobilia!
The replica bronze Gordon Crosby leaping Jaguar mascot, recently acquired by Jaguar Heritage
One of the private owners had a series of 30 replicas cast directly from the original prototype – this is one of those replicas, also cast in bronze. It was acquired by Jaguar Heritage at Ian Cooling’s Jaguar Automobilia auction held at the end of last year and delivered to the Archive in January. It is a valuable addition to the archive’s collection of ‘leaper’ mascots.
Recent Events and Activities
Continuing on the theme of the D-type 60th anniversary, Jaguar Heritage’s trusty 1954 prototype, chassis XKC-501, was put through its paces for a special photo shoot at MIRA near Nuneaton on January 31. The lucky drivers were well-known journalist Andrew Frankel together with former Jaguar test engineer and now something of a legend, Norman Dewis.
Andrew is preparing a major feature for a forthcoming issue of MotorSport magazine which will include some of Norman’s reminiscences from the Le Mans testing sessions in 1954 and the subsequent races. Andrew was accompanied by freelance photographer Howard Simmons who took a wide range of static and tracking shots which will be used to illustrate the article. Luckily the weather just held out and it was possible to shoot the D-type both on the handling circuit and the high speed banked track.
The clock has to be wound back a further 50 years for another vehicle from the Jaguar Heritage collection that received some attention this month. This was the mighty 1907 Daimler TP35 Open Tourer which was a regular exhibit in the museum at Browns Lane. In late January, we were contacted by Nick Whitaker who owns a number of classic cars including a similar 1907 Daimler TP45 that he acquired at a Bonhams auction in 2012. Nick was interested in coming to see the Jaguar Heritage car as he is carrying out a conservation project on his car and wanted to check some of the details on a car of a similar vintage.
Nick duly arrived at the Jaguar Heritage workshop where the big yellow Daimler had been lined up ready for inspection. Also on hand was Eric Baptiste, one of Jaguar Heritage’s volunteers and something of an expert on old Daimlers and Lanchesters – owning two fine examples of the latter make. Although the JH car and Nick’s are from the same period and have many similarities, they are from an era where no two cars were identical and Nick immediately spotted several key differences. The most obvious of these is the fact that the cylinder head on the JH car is made of two pairs, whereas on Nick’s car, it is a single block for all four. The capacities are also different, the JH car having an 8.5 litre engine (134 x 150mm) and Nick’s the even larger 10.6 litre (150 x 150mm).
Naturally the provenance of the two cars was discussed but Nick had the upper hand in this area with his car. The early history of Jaguar Heritage’s car is a little uncertain; it is believed to have been a Daimler works car, a sister to one famously raced at Shelsley Walsh in 1905/6 by Ernest Instone, General Manager of Daimler during that period (it has a works number plate DU 541). However, it then appears to have languished at the Daimler factory for several decades until it was suggested in 1955 that Rupert Instone, Ernest’s son, should run the old Daimler at the Shelsley Walsh Jubilee meeting that autumn. It was in poor condition but it did manage the drive from Coventry to Shelsley and up the hill. After this it was tidied up and went initially to the motor museum at Beaulieu before coming to the Coventry Art Gallery and Museum (the precursor to today’s Transport Museum) in 1967.
It was rebuilt during the 1970s under the supervision of Mike Bullivant and had another outing to Shelsley Walsh in 1979 where it was driven up the hill by the famous Bill Boddy, editor of MotorSport magazine from 1936 to 1991. The car featured on the front cover of the November 1979 issue and was the subject of a four page article which has provided some useful additional insight into the vehicle’s early history. The car was eventually acquired by the JDHT in 1997, since when it has been kept in good running order. It made a further return trip to Shelsley Walsh for the Centenary celebrations in 2005 where it did another run up the hill. It is hoped to get it out and about for further events this year – watch this space!
DU541 at Shelsley Walsh in 2005 for the Centenary (driven by JH volunteer Gary Jones)
By contrast, Nick Whitaker’s 1907 car, registration AC 1094, has a well-documented provenance right from the start. It was built for William George Robert Craven, the fourth Earl, and delivered to his family seat at Coombe Abbey near Coventry (now a luxury hotel). A member of The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, The Earl was clearly fond of the Daimler marque as this car joined a small fleet of at least four other Daimlers in service with the Craven family in 1907. The Craven cars were all liveried in dark blue with white and red coachlining and this car was no exception.
The 1907 Daimler TP 45 owned by the 4th Earl of Craven (photo courtesy of Bonhams)
There is plenty of documentation relating to its early years, which reveals some fascinating details about work done on the car; it is recorded as being with Daimler from 25th January to 3rd March 1910 for ‘plating and varnishing‘. It is presumed that this was when all the brightwork was copper plated – the car always being known by the Craven family as ‘The Copper Car’. It is also thought that the wheels were changed from the original wooden artilleries to wire wheels at the Daimler factory in the 1915-1919 period.
The mighty Daimler remained in the ownership of the Craven family up until 1983 but sadly was little used after the untimely death of the fourth Earl in a sailing accident in 1921. Following this incident, the car stood on blocks for around 30 years at Hamstead Marshall near Newbury (the Craven’s Berkshire residence) before it passed into the ownership of Rupert Craven of Thurso in Scotland who used it sporadically. In 1983 it was acquired by the famous watch maker George Daniels who made more use of the car including a trip to Dieppe that same year. Following George’s death in 2011, the car came up for auction. More information
Amongst the paperwork that Nick acquired with this amazing car, is the original Daimler Parts Catalogue complete with the inscription on the first page recording its delivery on 2nd August 1907 to the Rt. Hon The Earl of Craven at Coombe Abbey! As this catalogue is thought to be extremely rare, Nick kindly consented to let Jaguar Heritage take a scanned copy for its archives. This will also come in useful for carrying out maintenance work on DU 541 as it contains many detailed illustrations and assembly diagrams.
No major developments since the January newsletter. Just a reminder that the firm events until the middle of the year at which there will be a Jaguar Heritage presence are:
Jaguar Spares Day at Stoneleigh on March 16
The Daimler and Lanchester Owners Club AGM at Shelsley Walsh on April 12
The Jaguar Mark 1 Day at Nigel Webb’s museum on April 13
The Mille Miglia in Italy from May 15-18
The Daimler and Lanchester Owners’ Club 50th Anniversary International Rally at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon on June 1
The Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club National Day at Thoresby Hall in Nottinghamshire on June 22
Vehicle Collection Update
During the winter months when there are fewer calls on cars to support events, the Jaguar Heritage technicians and technical volunteers take the opportunity to carry out more general maintenance and restoration work on the fleet.
F-TYPE chassis 00001 being valeted in the workshop alongside an illustrious predecessor!
One of the tasks outstanding from last year was to remove the 2013 ‘Job 1’ F-TYPE convertible from the gallery at the Coventry Transport Museum (where it has been on display since last August) in order to get it Type Approved. The reason for this is that the car was originally built to USA specification and to register it in the UK, various modifications were necessary to things like exterior lights in order to comply with EU legislation. This work was carried out by JLR’s Prototype Vehicle Operations department at Gaydon and the process involved modifying the car and then submitting it for VOSA testing. On its return, it was in need of a full clean and detail valet in the workshop before being returned to the gallery at CTM.
Planning ahead, one of the other vehicles on display at the Coventry museum was the 1958 3.4 litre ‘Mark 1’, registration TOX 1, which is needed for the event at Nigel Webb’s Mike Hawthorn museum in April (as reported in last month’s newsletter). To avoid leaving a gap in the gallery, another car from the post war boom era (1950s) was needed to take the place of the 3.4 litre. One possibility that came to light was a 1958 Jaguar Mark Vlll that belongs to the Coventry Transport Museum which was in their vehicle store. This car has spent its whole life in or near Coventry and has very low mileage. It was originally owned by a Ms Alice Fenton who was at that time secretary to William Lyons, Jaguar’s Chairman and Founder; it was then bought by another Jaguar employee who ran it for many years before it was acquired by the Coventry Transport Museum in 1974 for the princely sum of £275!
The Mark Vlll was taken into the Jaguar Heritage workshop for a clean-up and an assessment of whether it would make a suitable museum display car. Sadly, the car is showing some signs of its age and lack of use for many years, and the conclusion was that it could not be got into a presentable condition in the required timescale. In view of this, it was decided to replace the ‘Mark 1’ with the trusty 1955 Mark VllM formerly used by HRH Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. However, as the Mark VllM is quite frequently required for events, the search continues for another vehicle from the 50s that could become a more permanent exhibit in the gallery. If anyone has a spare Mark Vll, Vlll or lX in good condition that they would like to display in the Jaguar gallery, then please get in touch with us!
Another vehicle that has received some attention recently is a 1958 XK150 fixed head coupé. This car was acquired by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust in 1983 and was restored in the late 90s by the Manchester College of Technology. However, a major engine problem occurred in 2008 that necessitated a full overhaul and rebuild. In the course of this work, some parts of the engine went missing, leaving this car in a rather sad state without an engine. The impetus to resolve this problem was driven by a desire to put it on display in the Jaguar gallery at the Coventry Transport Museum in place of the white 1958 XK150 drophead coupé – which is a car that is regularly used at events.
A replacement XK engine was eventually found that could be fitted into the XK150 fhc and return its ride height to normal so that it could be put on display. This engine needed some cosmetic tidying up and is not currently a runner, but it has been fully assessed and it would not take too much more work to make it serviceable in the future if required. The car received a comprehensive clean and polish while the replacement engine and ancillaries were fitted and has now been put on display in the gallery at the Coventry Transport Museum.
The Coventry Transport Museum 1958 Mark Vlll following its clean-up and assessment
The 1958 XK150 positioned in the Jaguar gallery at the CTM alongside the 1955 Mark VllM which has replaced the 3.4 litre Mark 1
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All information correct at time of publishing.