Jaguar Automobilia – Jaguar Posters

Ian Cooling explores another colourful collecting theme

(All content supplied by Ian Cooling)

Clearly, this is a huge subject and even focusing on individual themes like Le Mans or individual cars like E-types, would keep me going for months. In this taster article, I have therefore offered a deliberately wide selection from the 1930s to the 1990s including saloons, sports cars and racers.            


I just had to start with this trio. They are most extraordinary survivors from the pre-war SS Cars era. Normally art-work like this would have been junked within a couple of years of production as all the spare corners of the studio or the ad agency filled up and someone ordered a clear-out. These came up at auction in the early 1990s along with other similar artwork of the era. The story in the room was that they had indeed been rescued from a skip, but only a few months previously.

The interest here is the way they clearly show how ad agencies and their artists evolved a poster in the olden days when cut and paste meant scissors and glue, not whizzing a cursor around a screen. The first image shows the basic template with the SS hexagon at the top, a horizontal line for text towards the foot and vertical block of shaded grey on both sides.

This is produced using a spray over masking tape, which gives the clean edges. The SS hexagon would then have been stuck on top of the shaded areas. The zigzag shows the central white box for the main text quite close to the SS hexagon. If you look closely you can see the way the vertical white strip below the box has been pasted over the horizontal strip.
The second image shows the text has been pasted into the horizontal strip and the main box. Note the way the main box has been shifted down and away from the SS hexagon. Note too the marginal scribbles from the layout man (it usually was a man in those days) where he has worked out his proportions and balance.
The third image shows what I think was the penultimate stage. Colours have been filled in. Vertical lines have been entered either side of the main block (I suspect that the marginal scribbles on the second image may have helped the lay-out for these too). Also, this was probably the final shape and location of the main text box in the middle – the largest size of the three images and close to the horizontal line. That line is blank again and that is what makes me think there was at least one more stage in the design process before it went off to the printers.



Having shown the various stages involved in designing the SS/Castrol poster (also used as an ad in the motoring magazines), I thought you might like to see this 1936 SS Car Club poster. This is less complex than the other one. However, with different blocks of colour, several different fonts for the lettering including the complicated “SS” font and “white out” printing in the blue panel, this is still quite a fiddly job for a club poster, albeit one almost certainly produced for them by the factory.

The “white out” effect can be especially tricky. The words “Come to the” at the top would have been straightforward. Standard red lettering pasted on the white strip. However the words in the blue panel would have been carefully cut out of a screen. The blue would then have been printed as a block of colour with the screen keeping the ink away from the white paper to create the white lettering.Like much pre-war SS Cars automobilia, this is a very rare item; the only one I have seen. It is in excellent condition and although creased by folding, this has made sure that the colours remain bright and fresh. One spot of research I never completed is to pin down the Secretary’s address. There are several Church Lanes in and around Coventry. The company’s advertising manager Ernest “Bill” Rankin was Secretary at the time, so this would presumably have been his house. Wonder what’s still lurking in the attic!



I include this poster for two reasons: the first is that it is a good example of the very wordy style that prevailed for much of the 1950s. There were literally scores of showroom posters like these, full of words and no illustrations. They celebrated Jaguar’s international victories such as Le Mans, Monte Carlo Rally, Tulip Rally and the Alpine Rally, as well as the likes of the saloon back up events to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which were a Jaguar benefit throughout the 1950s. The trade knows these posters as “DW2” – “Didn’t We Do Well”!

The second reason is obvious from the text. To my mind this poster celebrates the finest achievement by any Jaguar or SS car driver bar none, ever. The Alpine Rally in those days was a uniquely gruelling challenge to car driver and navigator. It lasted three days, the pace was relentless and much was run over many kilometres of unsurfaced road with the added interest of a rock face on one side and a sheer drop often of hundreds of feet onto more rock on the other.

To win this landmark Rally once without dropping a single point was exceptional. To do so the following year, again with no points lost was quite remarkable. To do so again for the third consecutive year means you have redefined the word “outstanding”!


No article on Jaguar posters would be complete without mention of the art of Roy Nockolds. I have already covered his work in some depth, so I shall focus here on the poster itself. This shows the second of the two iconic Jaguar images left us by Nockolds that will endure as long as there is any interest in the cars. The head-on shot of the D-type at speed was also chosen by the company to illustrate their sales folder for the car.You will note that this poster celebrates Rolt & Hamilton’s second place in the 1954 Le Mans race. They were out-run by the Ferrari of Gonzalez and Trintignant notwithstanding a superb drive by Hamilton in driving rain. He very nearly made up all the time lost when Rolt had to pit after a detour into the Arnage sand bank having been forced off the road by an idiot Talbot driver. Design and print techniques had not moved on much from the days of the SS/Castrol poster I describe above. I wonder if the second place caused feverish cutting and pasting to redesign a first place poster!


Still in the 1950s with this attractive show-room poster of a 2.4 litre Mark 1 gliding away from the ancestral home. This was one of a pair with the other showing a maroon 3.4 litre in the same setting. The artist for both images was George Bishop, who gathered quite a number of Jaguar commissions at the time. In addition to these two, his paintings also featured in the company brochures for the Mark 2 and the Mark IX.  Those images were also used for the company Christmas cards of that era, which I touched on in a previous article.




Forward into the 1970s now with this poster of the Series 3 E-type from the British Leyland era. Like so much from that time, this is an image that almost works, but not quite. The superb flowing lines of the E-type have always lent themselves to the photographic image. Even the Series 3 (which was developing middle-age spread in the same way as the XK150 had) could be photographed in such a way as to retain the sinuous lines. Sadly, those lines are both distorted and weakened by the strong reflections in this image. Instead of swanning off to Italy or France or wherever this photo was taken, far better to have stayed in overcast Britain.




Hard into the 1990s with the XJR-15 shown in this 1990 JaguarSport poster. It is a car born into some controversy. Jaguar saw it as a competitor to the XJ220. However, Tom Walkinshaw was never one to walk through a door when there was a perfectly good wall next to it, so he decreed that production should go ahead. To create space between the XJR-15 and the XJ220, the latter was marketed by Jaguar as a road car and the former by JaguarSport as a racing car. To emphasise this, the “Intercontinental Challenge” race series was devised to showcase the cars.

Like the E-type (and the XJ220) the XJR-15 is another car that is attracted to the camera. The flowing lines are eminently photogenic and the photographer for this image has used the studio lights quite cleverly to show the lines to good advantage. However, my eyes are always drawn to that out-of-focus rear wheel. It is such a simple thing to have got right that I was very surprised that JaguarSport passed the image for use. It wouldn’t have happened in Bill Rankin’s day!