Just two seats, long, long bonnet and ‘crouching-cat’ lines, it claims direct succession from the fabulous E-Type, and has dropped jaws at every appearance.
We spoke to Ian Callum, Design Director at a resurgent Jaguar in Sydney.
TMR: You have made no secret that the F Type is the kind of project you have wanted to work on since joining Jaguar in 1999. What kind of pressure does that put you under when people immediately compare it to a 50 year-old sports car icon, the E-Type?
Callum: I don’t worry too much about it. The E-Type is a huge (act) to follow, because it was such a gorgeous car. But if I did a modern version of the E Type, you would not like it.
If I had to mould that car into the legislation we have to live with now, it would not be a pretty sight. Trust me, it would be like a gorgeous, sexy lady that has eaten far too much.
You have to start again from first principles, from the ground up.
But we saw a car back in 2000 at Detroit, a concept tagged the F-Type Concept Roadster…
This has no reference whatsoever to that car. That car was a concept created by my predecessors. It was nice car, but the first time I looked at it I realised it was not at all feasible, it would not meet any of the requirements that a car had to meet.
My fear with that car was that by the time you turned it into a reality it would look like a completely different car. We did try to go back and had a look at creating and evolving that car, and it looked nowhere near as exotic as the car we have created now.
Was this the reason why the project did not get off the ground during the Ford era?
We realised we had to fix the rest of the business, which included diesel engines – we didn’t have any, and the rest of the world did – so a lot of investment went into that, along with the next generation of XJ and S Type. Which evolved into the XF sedan.
These are volume cars; the luxury of having a two-seat sports car would come at the end of all that.
But it didn’t happen until Tata came into the picture, after Ford sold up in 2008. Surely it’s no coincidence that Chairman Ratan Tata is a huge fan of sporty convertibles…
The design team already had some ideas before he arrived of doing a two-seat sports car – that’s our job, to instigate new ideas without them necessarily being a part of the plan, to stir things up a bit. We showed (Ratan Tata) the ideas and he liked it, so at that point we knew it would happen.
So about a year after Tata bought us, we really got down to business on it.
And that’s the thing – a business plan has to work, and you have to really work through the cost of the car, the investment, and come out with volume and know what it’s going to (sell) before you can even start to build it.
We wouldn’t think a sports car from Jaguar would be a difficult sell, particularly at the price point we expect from this car?
It’s never easy, you’ve got to get that fine balance. If you spend a little bit too much money on the car, if you don’t get enough investment in it so the parts costs are high, if your volume fluctuates by even 10 percent, it can fall over quickly.
It’s quite tenuous. You have to get it right, believe me. But I think the numbers for this car will be good, we anticipate that this car will be very successful.
Jaguar is very big on tailoring cars to their client base, with different packs and options particularly on the likes of the XJ. The F Type is the same with many wheels and paint/trim options. What about bespoke fitment?
We will offer a service where we will do exactly what you want, at a price. We have a department called ETO, Engineered To Order. We don’t only do the RS versions, but also bespoke interior trims. It’s just being built up now.
When the F-Type concept car, the C-X16 came out, it was a hybrid. Will there ever be a hybrid Jaguar? A Hybrid Jaguar sports car?
(The Hybrid) was something that we were determined to try out as a point of experimentation; to show that we could turn a hybrid into something very exotic.
Whatever happens in the world, pressure is put upon us to create cars that are ecologically correct. But it still has to be a Jag.
Jaguar is not going to build a Prius. There’s a place in the world for the Prius – probably not in my world – and if we are going to build anything like that it still has to be a performing car.
And if we ever build a hybrid version of this car - I’m not saying that we will - but if we do, it will be a performance hybrid.
We wont just get the ecology figure right, but also the performance figure right. You can’t just throw away your values.
You already have XK, which has a convertible option, so it wasn’t more the case of designing something more compact because that car already existed, to find that different audience?
It clearly has do be smaller than the XK. We know the audience is more youthful-minded – I like to say that rather than ‘younger’, and we work around that in terms of the ethos of the car.
But dimensionally, it’s built around the V8 engine. You take the engine, put the overhang on it for crash requirements and there, you can’t make it any shorter.
Then you put two people in behind the engine, a gearbox in between them.
You actually end up with interior dimensions not too dissimilar to the XK. The front-end uprights (suspension) are very similar to XK, a lot of the front end structure is similar.
What about the inevitable comparisons to the Porsche Boxster?
If you measure from the H-point, the centre-point of the occupant to the outside of the door, it’s exactly the same as a Porsche Boxster. However we have a gearbox in the middle and they don’t, so that makes our car wider.
And the reason it’s the same as a Boxster is that legally, if you take that H-point, put an airbag and that structure in, you end up with the same answer. It’s just simple mathematics.
Both you and Porsche are reverting to putting your brand name back on the rear of your cars…
The Jaguar name (spelt out) is coming back on to the cars; the XJ gets it quite soon. The XF probably won’t get it as there isn’t enough room.
I was against it at first, because I like things to be simple, but the reality is a lot of people don’t know who we are. I’m very lucky to have an XKR-S back home, but when I drive it, some people still don’t know what it is.
We need people to understand that (performance cars) is our territory, and we are going to take it.
"Take it" indeed. The F-Type removes beyond any doubt that Jaguar, that great British badge that was once synonymous with sublime mouth-watering lines and rapier performance, is now back in town. If only all 'landlords' had the wisdom of Tata.
Jaguar, you would have to think, is a copybook example of how to revive a company by fostering its strengths and traditions, and not messing around with core values.
Long may Ian Callum be free to pen such cars as the F-Type. It's a 'must see' at this year's Motor Show.
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