In 1970 Ed Abbott joined Jaguar Cars Coventry as a 16 year old apprentice, travelling 150 miles from his native East Anglia to do so.
For the next 15 years he was involved with the XJ-S on a daily basis, firstly with V12 engines then building crash test cars while an Apprentice at Radford, then as a test driver/engineer working for Norman Dewis on every aspect of V12 Engine Development, the birth of the XJ27/ XJ-S and the following model varient's until he left Jaguar in 1985, by which time the "HE" and AJ6 3.6 litre models were in their golden years of production numbers.
This XJ-S page will major on the pre-HE models 1975-80 and Ed owns 1980 Rally V12 XJ-S.
I joined Jaguar in August 1970, as a 16 year old Technician Apprentice, just as the seeds of what was to become the XJ-S, has been planted and were germinating.
Universally known at Jaguar, as the XJ27, to give it its project number, it was simply known as the "27", at the works until the BL/Jaguar marketing development christened it XJ-S in 1975. In 1970, Jaguar was busy installing what was to be its first ever major investment in production engineering. The successful 1960's, clearly had earned Jaguar enough money for the first time in its life, to enable it to invest in a state of the art production line to make the V12 engine, destined for the XJ-S, by way of the V12 E-Type and XJ12.
The Jaguar Daimler plant, acquired by Jaguar in 1960, to gain more manufacturing space, was home to all Jaguar Engine, Manual Gearbox, Suspension and pressing manufacture, manufacturing and assembly. If you ventured into the vast machine shops, as I did as an apprentice to work alongside the tired and desperately bored machinists, you would see rows and rows of machinery, equally as tired as the operator and in most cases of war time age or even pre-war, they were dirty, temperamental and in most cases past their retire by date! The air was heavy with the fumes of hot cutting oil, but this was the beating heart of Jaguar.
By stark contrast, the new "transfer line" in 60 shop to build the V12 was a brave new world of automation, seemingly devoid of operators and all caged in to prevent human intervention or interference!
It was all new in a blue and silver paint and a far cry from everything else at the Radford Plant. It must have cost a fortune, but certainly made a bold statement as to Jaguars faith and commitment to the V12 engine. Strangely only a few people out of the 3000 employees at the "Daimler" or Jaguar Radford Plant, would know it was even there. These were the days of a "need to know" basis. Employees in those days were not allowed to wander about the plant and needed an "Internal Movement Pass" from a Foreman, just to go to the surgery or stores. We Apprentices on the other hand, could roam the factory un-restrained and I certainly explored every nook and cranny!
In 1971, I worked for 3 months building the V12 engine, from putting valve seats into the cylinder heads, right through all stages of its construction. The V12 engine was bright, new and all shiny and sexy on its fancy new production line. Awash with all the latest fancy gizmos to speed production, it made the 6 Cylinder XK6 assembly area, 100 yards away, positively dark and ancient in comparison - here was the future!
It workers all had a spring in their step, as they operated a new generation of air tools, all ergonomically positioned to speed production as the engines waltzed past on angled pedestals mounted on an escalator style moving floor.
Fresh from the smell of machined aluminium of the V12 engine production line, I was posted for a 3 month stint in "Vehicle Safety" – again still at Radford, aka "The Daimler".
This top secret department – it even had double pedestrian doors so no one could peep in – carried out all crash testing of prototype cars. It was the only experimental/engineering site at Radford, supervised by senior engineers from Browns Lane, some 3 miles away, who would swan down in a nice Jaguar Saloon car to see how things were progressing – it was very rare to see any Jaguar cars at Radford!
At this time in mid 1971, the only complete XJ27's anywhere, were in Vehicle Safety as the all-important crash zones were still being perfected. These bare body steel cars, were on wheels and one of my first jobs was to build a V12 engine to go into a crash test car, which had to be the same weight as a normal fitted engine. Jaguar being Jaguar, meant this engine had to be built out of rejected parts and it seemed I was the only employee in Vehicle Safety capable in building a V12! One novelty was to use lead shot in place of engine oil to simulate the correct weight of oil – so that when the sump broke in a 30mph impact no oil would spill, making a mess!!A re-creation of the XJ27 5mph bumper impact test at the Jaguar/Daimler factory at Radford Coventry circa 1971, only the Fire station in the background exists today. Image and design copyright Ed Abbott/Cliff Ruddell.
A unique design feature of the new XJ27 was going to be its ability to crash into things at 5mph and have its bumpers absorb this impact and spring out again. The main "thing" it crashed into at Radford, to perfect the design, was a WW2 concrete air raid shelter by the main gate, which had a white line painted on the tarmac leading up to it, as the aiming line. The test cars suitably ballasted up to projected production car weight, as they had no trim, were pushed by about 8 staff members, the 400 yards from the Vehicle Safety workshop, to the crash test site, with the car steered, from the rear by a remote steering wheel, mounted at the rear of the boot, the shaft passing through the car to its normal steering point, there being no glass fitted at this point.
At the front, on top of the roof, mounted vertically, was a speedo the size of a dinner plate graduated in large segments up to 5mph. This was in plain sight of the team of 6 pushers, who were to propel the car into the wall, keeping the white line in the centre of the car. I was nominated to steer the car all the way to the crash site, which made me as one the first people ever to drive an XJ27!
Once at the site, a 40 yard run up was made and the car pushed at a gentle trot with the supervisor calling out the speed until a steady 5mph was achieved, with everyone letting go about 10 feet before impact!
The assembled onlookers of engineers and pushers would then examine the impact area and take measurements, before returning to the workshop for more detailed examinations.
The more serious 30mph crash tests were made at the MIRA Test Facility, 10 miles to the north of Coventry. One common denominator resulting from both the early 5mph and 30mph impact test was that certain body areas had deformed too much and needed beefing up ahead of more testing. It is not surprising therefore, to see that the bumper irons on my 1980 XJ-S weigh 33lbs/15kgs each!
I left Vehicle Safety after my 3 months and it would be another 6 months before I saw another XJ27, but this time it would be in the hallowed Experimental Department at Browns Lane!
Shown is a XJ-S door side impact protection "bar".. a Jaguar first for the XJ27 to conform to growing safety regulations imposed from 1970's onwards. While in vehicle safety I was involved in aspects of the development of this to stiffen it up, and the second layer of "Armco" can be seen!! The assembly weighs 6.5 Kg or 14.3 lbs ! per door...
In late 1972, I moved from Radford up to Browns Lane, Jaguar's Centre of Administration and Car Production and found myself, working bizarrely, as a personal assistant to George Mundy, (cousin to Harry Mundy), the hyperactive head of the Jaguar Spare Parts Division!!
I was severely out of my depth as everyone talked in part numbers and could reel off 10 numbers and expect me to remember and action them! No way! However, I was productively involved in the beginnings of the XJ-S parts catalogue, RTC 9109, which was the last of the Jaguar parts book illustrated by Jaguars own artists.
These parts bibles with excellent black and white drawings, were masterpieces in their own right. I was able to liaise between the artists, who I knew, the spares department and drawing offices to help ensure the drawings and specifications were accurate. This kept me busy for the full 3 months, while I was in the manic spares organisation.
The spares or parts catalogues, although totally a Jaguar product, were issued as the "Leyland" XJ-S catalogue and today remain a constant partner to me, as I maintain my own XJ-S.
In early 1973, I was instructed for my next 3 month stint, to work in Jaguar Experimental, or "the experimental" for short, it was not to become "Engineering" until about 1978. Tucked away in the South East corner of the Jaguar site, it was an exclusive and exciting place to be. This was a lucky move, as statistically, as an Apprentice, you only had a 5% chance of getting there. By modern standards, it was a scruffy place, the workshop boasting 6 vehicle lifts or ramps, all very old and a machining and welding section, butting right up to the ramps. Adjoining the main shop was the "Competition Shop", now devoid of any competition cars and a lovely "stores", full of every nut, bolt and washer you could hope for, ideal for my own car projects.
Next door was the "Engine Department", with its 12 test cells, 5 of which were assigned to V12 development and a long open workshop for building engines, with its own stores. At the front of the building was a small open plan office, with the only telephone that could access outside calls! From this nucleus of buildings, all Jaguars Le Mans winning 'D' Types, had emerged, some 20 years earlier, not that there were any tangible reminders, apart from the pit equipment in the stores.
Parked up in the workshop, were an assortment of scruffy Series 1 XJ-6's and XJ-12's, the "new" Series 2 XJ-6's and a few XJ-27's. Most of these cars were unregistered, dirty and decidedly uncared for!
I was assigned to work on silver XJ-27, which according to my Apprentice Report book, did not have an XJ-27 vehicle number, so it was probably a very early prototype. The exhaust over-axle pipe, was not a signed off item and was still being designed and jigged to fit. This item has a very tortuous route and has to be made millimetre perfect, to have any chance of fitting and not fouling. I was left on my own to fit and remove the axle or beam, several times, as drawing office staff took measurements to perfect the design.
In conjunction with the exhaust work, we were given prototype over-axle heatshields, made from silver fibre board, to fit and again liaise with drawing office staff, as we found the ideal mounting hole centres and worked round all the obstructions, including rear anti roll bar mounting points.
It is somewhat ironic, that some 45 years later, I find myself removing the same items on my own XJ-S, that I helped to engineer, all those years ago. This particular XJ-27 work carried on for some 4 weeks.
Whilst working in the Jaguar Experimental was a great experience, staff morale was very low, as the heavy hand of British Leyland was now everywhere as the traditional management of Jaguar had all gone. A new man called Geoffrey Robinson was at the helm.
If I was lucky to get into the "experimental", I was dead lucky to be moved into "Experimental Road Test", under Norman Dewis, for the next 3 months. This was the ultimate Apprentice dream ticket. Little did I realise, I would be there for the next 12 years!!
At this time, in August 1973, the XJ-27 was only 2 years away from launch in September 1975 – not that there was much evidence to support that. The XJ Saloon in all its guises was far more important, even the XJ-S V12 fuel injection development, was being done using an
XJ-12 – they had far more room inside for test and measuring equipment. With so much shared hardware already proven on the XJ6 and 12, the XJ-27 had a lot of development items ticked off already. There were precious few XJ-27 development cars.
In October, 50% of experimental road test staff, namely Peter Taylor and the late Richard Cresswell, set off in a hastily registered XJ-27/2 (OWK 335M) and a support XJ12, with mechanics (OWK 334M), to carry out high speed tyre, cooling and aerodynamic tests on the Belgium Motorways, near Liege. The XJ-27 being a carburettor V12 at this time.
The most tangible result of this 2 intense week test programme, was that the XJ-27 needed a front spoiler, rather uniquely called in house as the "chin". This rubber spoiler and plastic under tray assembly, improved engine cooling and reduced front end lift at speeds above 120mph. It would be another 8 years before any XJ-27's ventured overseas for any further high speed testing!!
Any remaining development work for our department on the XJ-27, now revolved around brake testing. With the "service" or main brakes being a direct carry over from XJ-12, there was little to do, but the unique handbrake required development to pass certification tests.
Throughout 1974, XJ-12 HHP 35L, worked tirelessly on the development of the fuel injection system, destined for the XJ-27. This was a "D" series Bosch/Lucas System and I spent scores of hours either as an observer or driver of this car, in conjunction with Engineer David Scholes, whose project it was. This was all very exciting work, as the "Petrol Injection", as it was known in house, made the V12 so much more economical and powerful.
In late 1974, it fell to our department to test and sign off Jaguars, first Alloy road wheel – the GKN "Kent" Alloy, designed for the XJ-S. There was some concern about the "new-fangled" alloy wheels and their longevity. This wheel of course was standard fitment at the launch of the XJ-S from 1975 until 1981. It was decided to submit the wheel to 1,000,000 load reversals on a test schedule at an old airfield, north of Lichfield, called Fradley, which Dunlop had access to. The test wheels were fitted to an unregistered, Regency Red, Series 1 XJ-12, which was then driven at full cornering loads, round a triangular track, formed by about 3x 60 metre length sides.
The severity of the cornering loads, would cause the front tyres to wear out in about 30 minutes, which was just as well, as the drivers could only stick about 15 minutes' worth at a time, such was the constant "G" load. Whilst not driving, the other 2 drivers rested in a support XJ-12 out of the cold!
Peter Taylor, Richard Cresswell and myself, stuck this out for about 3 months, off and on over the winter, at this bleak and cold airfield. A Dunlop tyre fitter was also a constant companion, who fitted new tyres throughout the day, from a large pile of new but rejected Dunlop tyres.
The precious 4 test, 6"x15" Kent Alloy wheels, having seen off about 200 tyres, were duly signed off and became an integral part of the XJ-S persona. This rather unique process was the first and last time Alloy Wheels were tested in this manner at Jaguar!
As an interesting aside, we had frequent visits from the local police, who were responding to claims that there were "hooligans" on the airfield, tearing round in Jaguars!
The most significant of all XJ-27 tests, was its 1000 Mile Pave Certification that took place over the winter of 1974/75. I was to be "stuck" with this 3 month long epic at MIRA, over the full course of its duration, supervised by my 3 superiors!
Jaguar, in particular Norman Dewis, put great importance on Pave Testing, which on the rough cobbled surface, was reckoned to put 100 miles of normal road stress on the car, for every 1 mile completed on the MIRA Pave.
2 miles driven on the Pave made the dampers (shock absorbers), so hot (I burnt my finger on one once!), that they needed cooling off by driving through a water splash, for 2 or 3 minutes.
The water splash was a 60ft long concrete trough, set into the ground 8ft wide with 6-8 inches of water in it. The constant use of this every ten minutes, soon had the car smelling internally of dank and dirty water. Every 20 pave miles required a thorough underbody inspection, on the ancient ramp in the Spartan Jaguar Garage at MIRA. The still wet Jaguar would drip onto the observer, risking electrocution from the 240 volt inspection lamp! It was well over 300 miles before a few minor cracks appeared on the front subframe, but perhaps more importantly, a new problem had arisen in that the car would cut out on bends, with less than 4 gallons of fuel in the tank.
It was obvious that fuel surge was causing the high pressure fuel supply to be interrupted, something that would not occur on the early carburettor V12 prototypes. The XJ-27's fuel tank was a Jaguar first, in so much that it was mounted mid-ships in a safe from impact position, but being high up and wide, fuel could flow from one side to another when low on fuel at moderate cornering speeds. The fuel pickup in the middle and to the rear, would not have any fuel over it and the high pressure pump below would briefly be starved of fuel and the engine cut out. The "crunch" point seemed below 4 gallons, about 1 gallon before the "low fuel" light came on.
This problem became a high priority to resolve and I was given the job to sort out, while liaising with design staff. The XJ-27 tank did have an internal baffle system, but clearly not effective enough in comparison with a Mercedes car we had on the fleet that could run ok down to its last litre of fuel with a similar fuel tank design.
It was decided it was too late in the day to redesign the internal baffling of the tank, so a fuel collector pot was positioned under the battery in the boot, which meant the fuel pump and fuel filter had to go somewhere else! The fuel filter ended up under the bonnet (until 1980) and the pump moved towards the spare wheel in a less than fully engineered layout and pipe run, that endured for many years!
This solution cured the problem, at the cost of hours and hours of work at MIRA, which involved forever draining and refilling fuel tanks at 1 gallon a time, as improvements were assessed! and I did all this single handed!
The fuel filter eventually returned to the boot, hidden behind the spare wheel for 'P' Digital Cars, introduced from 1980MY.
After the brief interlude of sorting the fuel tank issue I returned to the Pave work. We never drove the Pave car on the public highway for obvious reasons,,it had to be trailered back to the works at a time that I don't think experimental even had a trailer...It had been back to Browns Lane and updated and fitted with the new front "Chin " and under tray. I was never really convinced that plastic pop friction rivits was the ideal way to secure all this assembly to the car, bearing in mind the loads it was subjected to, but that was the Drawing office solution. Once back at Mira we settled into the Pave Routine. It was now a cold winter and one morning the water splash was frozen solid. I drove over it once and it remained solid, impressive stuff I thought, returning in the opposite direction the ice broke allowing the water to cool the hot dampers. Coming back the other way seconds later I spied what looked like a Shark's fin in the water and ice floes...As I puzzled over this was it dawned on me it was the new spoiler and under tray removed as the car dropped through the Ice... Thinking Norman would not be impressed by this turn of events, I gathered the parts and managed to refit them again in the freezing cold Jaguar Garage at Mira, minus a few rivits that I eventually brought over days later to finish the repair!!
The XJ27 Pave car never ran with the camouflage on we had available at that time, as it would rattled itself to pieces. With the car in a permanently dirty condition it was far enough away from prying eyes to be a security risk. However any other daytime testing at Mira required us to fit Camouflage for the 10 mile trip to Nuneaton The camouflage was extremely crude in its manufacture being fibreglass made in house somewhere, We only had a about 2 cars worth and it was held on by grey 6" wide Duct tape, although we called it Tank tape. There was only one roll in Experimental that was locked up at all times in the foreman's office, and we were not allowed to take it away ! Once at Mira the camo would be removed and the original tape used to refit it for the journey home. Any speed above 60 mph would see the Camo blow off, and this was a tiresome and regular occurrance. Eventually the Mk2 camo came out with rubber strap attachments which was only marginally better blowing off at 70 mph! However no sooner as was this available it was deemed unnecessary to use it as the company wanted "sneak " photos of the car to appear in the press to stimulate pre launch interest in the car.
A rare Photo of an XJ27 with camouflage on it driven by Norman Dewis. This photo was taken around 1976 to support an article in a leading car magazine about Test drivers in the car Industry. I had to rummage around experimental to find a car set of camouflage which was in the scrap pile. In the background is the new Portakabin we had just moved into, we had one quarter of it !!
With the Pave nearing the 500 mile mark, cracks were appearing in the engine mounting saddles, fitted to the front subframe, so the car was trailered back to Browns Lane for the D.O to investigate and the car to have a general service. This subsequently led to the mountings being strengthened, but after the car had entered production.
The Pave soldiered on at the rate of about 100 miles a week as medium priority, when thankfully it made the 1000 mile mark and it was over! I submitted all our findings to Norman Dewis and he issued the subsequent report.
About this time, February 1975, the in house photographic department decided they needed some library shots of the XJ27 being "developed". I was tasked to find a car and went over to MIRA with Chief Photographer, Roger Clinkscales, to see what they wanted.
Norman Dewis was at the MIRA that day at a Users Meeting and would join us later. As I drove Roger around MIRA, looking for a location, I suggested a shot on the "Ride and Handling" circuit may be in order, as pictures of Norman on the MIRA banking were "two a penny". Norman was never keen on us using the ride and handling circuit, as it was akin to a Fairground "Rolla Coaster" ride - with viscous adverse cambers and a simulated railway crossing in a dip that was very good at bottoming V12 cars out and damaging the exhaust downpipes!
As I "pottered" around the circuit, Roger assessed the best vantage points and eventually set his tripod up at a prime spot and we awaited Norman. With me riding alongside, Norman then proceeded to lap at full speed as Roger snapped away. Below is the fairly well known picture of "Norman testing the XJ-S at MIRA", with me barely visible in the passenger seat hanging on!
This car was 5W1037, a car I was carrying out speedo calibration tests on in order to sign off the Speedometer and Odometer accuracy.