The Jaguar book is a love letter to the British brand
The Jaguar Book, a magnificent new volume, offers a unique visual record of one of the most beloved automotive brands of the 20th century.
Mention to the average oilman the names of automotive designers, engineers and entrepreneurs such as Ettore Bugatti, Enzo Ferrari, Ferdinand Porsche, Battista Farina, Giorgetto Giugiaro or Marcello Gandini, and you’ll no doubt get a long list of great cars for which they were responsible. But drop William Lyons and Malcolm Sayer into the conversation and you’re likely to encounter a polite misunderstanding.
Yet these two Englishmen – Lyons, the autocratic founder and boss of the Jaguar automobile company, and Sayers, an engineer and aerodynamicist – were the driving force behind what many (and among them no less eminence than Ferrari himself) called the finest car ever made, a machine that has come to be regarded as a masterpiece of design and an enduring symbol of ‘swinging sixties’ Britain. The car, of course, was the 1961 Jaguar E-Type, a sensually curvaceous projectile built around a 3.8-litre straight-six engine capable of carrying two people at speeds of up to 240 km/h, a speed at the time achieved only on racing circuits. .
Although it caused a stir when it debuted at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, the magnificent E-Type was actually the culmination of a long line of fast and desirable sports cars from the British company, which started with the SS90 and 100 of the 1930, and continued through the post-war years with the XK120, 140 and 150; they also included the highly successful Type C and D drivers, which helped Jaguar to five Le Mans victories in the 1950s. Perhaps tellingly, Sayer participated in every machine produced from the early 1950s until to his tragically early death in 1970, including many of Jaguar’s luxuriously elegant sports saloons, whose memorable advertising slogan was “grace, space, pace”.
Later engulfed in the massive mergers of the British motor industry from the late 1960s to the 1980s, Jaguar’s luster was gradually tarnished by a reputation for questionable build quality and conservative designs that increasingly seemed to contradiction with prevailing trends. In 1990, the company fell into the hands of American auto giant Ford, which seemed so protective of its charge that it was unwilling to innovate; in 2008 it sold Jaguar to its current owner, Indian conglomerate Tata, as part of a deal with Land Rover. Echoes of the past still linger in the current F-Type, a handsome old-school two-seater, although the brand’s focus is now on electrification and SUVs, the latter’s days seem numbered.
But with a timeline that encompasses some of the most illustrious motor cars ever built, it is indeed a glorious past – a past that is now celebrated in a lavish new tome, The Jaguar Book, a 272-page doorstep, big enough to take up the real estate of a reasonably sized coffee table, which was launched to mark the 60th anniversary of the launch of the E-Type. It’s stunningly illustrated with studio photographs by famed automotive photographer Rene Staud, whose earlier Porsche 911 book is being simultaneously republished in a welcome updated edition.
In this piece, we offer a glimpse into this visual record of one of the most famous automotive brands of the 20th century, a volume that certainly deserves a place on the shelves of anyone who loves motoring – or, indeed, of anyone who appreciates good design. Feast your eyes and dream – and in the process remember the names of Lyons and Sayer, two lesser-known but nonetheless pivotal figures in automotive history.
Hero and featured image: An evolution of the early post-war XK120 sports car, which enjoyed international success both commercially and in motorsport, the XK140 was in production for just three years. Powered by a 3.4-liter straight-six engine, which could be ordered in two versions, it was available as a roadster, coupe and (pictured here) drophead coupe. Over 9,000 XK140s were produced between 1954 and 1957.
The Jaguar Book is published by teNeues