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.
By early 1975, the XJ27 programme was hotting up, with more cars appearing in Experimental.
To maintain some sense of order, all Jaguar XJ27 cars that had been assigned to experimental, were given an XJ27 identification code number, starting with XJ27/1. All of these cars, up to about XJ27/30 were identified by this number written on a round white disc, positioned in the right hand side of the rear window, held in by a Jaguar Tax Disc Holder! (Issued free with every new Jaguar).
Other cars that "appeared" in experimental, were known by their body numbers. Not many cars were actually registered, so the experimental code number system was vital in keeping tabs on all the fleet. A significant number of these cars were assigned to the rapidly growing emission department and spent most of their lives on rolling roads or factory based emission testing.
Homologation cars were produced for each overseas market Jaguar intended to export to, also this amounted to over a dozen for European Countries, plus US and Canadian, Australia. Far and Middle Eastern Markets. Each car had to be run in, by our growing durability team of mileage drivers, for at least 500 miles and all snags rectified before being sent overseas for the specific markets, authorities to check the cars conformed to their specific safety regulations.
Some cars were taken to MIRA to validate performance or noise criteria, if these were likely to cause issues. In theory, all these cars belonged to Jaguar and should have been returned to Browns Lane. In reality few did, due to lack of administration and shipping costs.
The Australian Homologation car 2W 1053, ended up being raced by Australian legend John Goss, from 1981 through to 1986. Some homologation cars dribbled back to Jaguar years afterwards and ended up as test cars.
With the all important launch of the XJ-27 coming soon, a batch of Press Cars were being prepared by the expanding press car garage, which was effectively part of Experimental, now run by Peter Taylor. Cars defined as "Technical Press" cars for the only 2 major UK Motoring Magazines "Autocar" and "Motor" (yes there were only 2 major titles in 1975!), were prepared with the utmost attention to detail and these cars established the bench marks for what the XJ-S could do in terms of performance, handling and comfort. I spent a huge amount of time with Richard Cresswell as his observer, or me as driver and other staff carrying out press car performance tests at MIRA, initially on manual cars, then automatic versions.
It was imperative to Jaguar and particularly Bob Knight, the Engineering Director that the XJ27 was going to match the outgoing V12 E-Type and surpass the 3 year old XJ12 saloons in terms of acceleration performance. All this work was carried out at MIRA, sometimes day after day, week after week, until the cars performed as they should.
If a car had a slightly noisy rear axle it was changed and if the performance criteria would not be achieved, another known engine would be fitted, some of these engines were hand built in the Experimental Engine Shop and dyno tested. Sometimes it was necessary to run the engine on the dyno for 24 hours at high load to free off a few more bhp! Eventually a total of 10 cars were worked up for the Technical and Regional Press and as press cars for the launch at Penrith, near Carlisle.
XJ-S Press impressions Fleet at Edendale Hall Hotel, Penrith July 1975. Headed up by Peter Taylor far right of photo. This Hotel and car park remain unchanged when visited by me in 2018!
Principal Technical Cars were:
LDU 867P Silver 4 Speed Manual
JCV 484N White Automatic
These cars received high levels of preparation with hand built engines and huge attention to detail and suspension setting up.
General Press Cars were:
LDU 870P (Man)
Publicity/PR Cars were:
Other cars not on the press car fleet, belonged or were "borrowed" by the P.R. or publicity departments for photo shoots. Some cars photographed were not actually registered but used "made up" or borrowed registration numbers, just to get a publicity shot.
Once the XJ-S was launched was over, some of the press cars found their way to Experimental, as general test cars, a few were sold.
XJS Tow Bar
No sooner had the XJS been launched, then demands for a tow bar were being made by owners. The idea of fitting tow bars to Jaguars, was considered somewhat alien at Jaguar!
Witter came up with a design and I was given the task to test and sign it off.
The Body Drawing office, were less than impressed that a 1.5 ton payload was to be attached to the rear of the XJS, stating 'no one' had told them about this at the design stage to build in extra strength and it was definitely a bad idea! However, the electrical DO had anticipated this requirement and actually included a connector in the harness. I had noticed Land Rover had a nice sturdy test box trailer at MIRA and they kindly agreed to lend it to me. Using the newly issued B.L. testing manual for tow bars, I set about trying to break the tow bar attached to the XJ-S.
This testing procedure involved a whole series of extreme manoeuvres at the MIRA test rack which involved heavy braking, violent acceleration and cornering over a variety of surface cambers and bumps. Driving at maximum cornering speeds for the XJ-S it was possible to get the trailer quite sideways behind the car more or less under full control !! This procedure was repeated virtually all day as prescribed by the B.L.Test schedule. Once finished the car was returned to Browns Lane and the body inspected at the stressed points in the boot and rear inner wings and all attachment points. A minimum of disturbance was found and the Tow Bar installation signed off. The tow bar remained on the car, which suddenly made it very popular to borrow as a tow car for a variety of private use purposes!!
In 1976/77 I embarked in what was to be the first dynamic appearance for the XJ-S, in front of the public on a race circuit.
A normal call of "Ed", heralded that Norman (Dewis) wanted me in this office. "They want a Jaguar Test Driver to demonstrate the XJ-S at some Leyland public days". Right up my street I thought! Apparently a large B.L. Dealer group south of London, was holding a significant weekend event, where every Leyland model from 850 Minis to Jaguar XJ-S, could be sampled. It seemed my immediate superiors, Norman, Peter Taylor and Richard Cresswell, were all too busy to do it!
In 1976, there were perhaps 50 British Leyland model variants of Austin/Morris/Triumph/Rover and Jaguar cars across the range. All these were to be demonstrated by dealer salesmen at the open days, but Jaguar insisted only a Jaguar Test Driver could demonstrate the powerful XJ-S, under track conditions! Plus the fact there were no spare XJ-S cars about anyway.
This dealer event, complete with fun fairs and huge numbers of marquees, was a significant public gathering and perhaps the first of this type of themed event ever to take place in the UK. It was going to be a great honour to uphold Jaguar's prestige at such a gathering!
B.L. envisaged running events throughout the UK. The first event for the South was to be run by the DOVE Group, who had a large number of B.L. franchises in Surrey/Sussex and Hampshire, at a disused airfield near Croydon.
Looking around for a clean and registered XJ-S, I managed to scrounge a technical Press Car, JVC 484N (which I was very familiar with, having done all the test work on it in early 1975) and as a bonus it had a test bed engine! I also spent some time going over it to ensure the rigours of being thrashed for 8 hours a day on the circuit. New brake discs were fitted all round and Ferodo 2430 brake pads fitted, a great performance compound, still with asbestos in them!
The model 12 automatic gearbox was put through its paces at MIRA, until it overflowed up the dipstick and any excess oil expelled (over the exhaust), so that this embarrassing trait would not occur in public!
Once cleaned and fuelled up, I set off for my first engagement, 2 full days at Kenley Aerodrome near Croydon. This WW2 base, still had all its runways and perimeter tracks in good order and a "circuit" of about 1½ miles had been set up with a variety of left hand and right hand bends, a half mile straight, and viewing areas. Starting at 9.00am, I soon had a sizeable queue for XJ-S rides and I specified on only 2 people at a time as it was always a squeeze in the back of an XJ-S! It was easy to top 100mph on the straight, but with 30 plus other cars on the circuit, it became difficult to drive a flat out lap every time, everybody got 2 laps worth which included a "flying lap".
I knew that I could run for 3 hours at a time, before I ran out of fuel, so my lunch breaks became a trip to the local filling station, some miles away.
After lunch, my queue for rides was impossible to shorten and I was having a great time impressing people with the power, refinement and handling of the XJ-S. Generally speaking the overriding comment was, people could not believe how fast they were going!
Saturday went without a hitch and I looked forward to an even busier Sunday. Good weather graced the event and at 6.00pm on the Sunday, I concluded my weekend at Kenley and headed back to Coventry, feeling very pleased with myself and proud that the car and even the air conditioning had worked so hard and reliably all weekend.
25,000 people had attended this event over the weekend and a large number of cars had been sold and in many ways the all new XJ-S was the star of the show.
2 weeks later, I was to repeat the performance at Donnington Park Race Circuit, near Nottingham, which had only recently re-opened since WW2! Another large event organised by the Midland B. L. Dealers. A new set of brake pads all round was all that was needed, plus a good clean all over the car.
Busier than Kenley, Donnington was terrific fun as I gradually learnt the new super smooth circuit and what a ride the public got! We had a dedicated pit garage and the guests queued up, organised by pretty sales girls! A new Rover SD1 V8 was being demonstrated at the circuit by a Rover test driver and was just about equalling the performance of the XJ-S!
Honour was at stake here and a Jaguar had to stay out front!
Raising my speed a tad, I soon found my car was beginning to oversteer round Mclean's Corner, in a totally controlled manner, but it was about 80mph! There was no way I could let the Rover overtake the XJ-S! However, it was only about once an hour we were close to each other. My normal driving saw the engine revved to 6000 RPM for each upshift.
At about midday, I was summoned to the Clerk of the Course Office, for reasons unknown, but it was to receive a bollocking, as the Marshalls at Mclean's were logging my oversteer antics every lap against a time of said incident!! With the confidence of youth, (I was 22) and my position at Jaguar, I said I was a Jaguar Test Driver and I was not out of control. This cut no mustard and I was told in straight Anglo Saxon terms, to stop doing it!
Back on the track, complete with my punters, I started to flash at the Marshalls at Mclean's and soon they waved back, I then introduced about one sideways movement every 5 laps and this seemed to be acceptable and I was not reported again! Once round Mcleans, the next corner, Coppice allowed the car to corner at around the same speed, before it opened up to the main straight and top out at about 110mph, before hard on the brakes for Coppice and the completion of one lap.
The reaction of the passengers was interesting. Most were extremely thrilled and excited with the "G" force experienced, but some were clearly being frightened to death and had never realised how fast it was possible to go round corners, especially on road tyres!
As at Kenley, everyone got a flying lap past the pits before the challenge of Redgate Corner for the next lap.
My day finished at 5.00pm, with me and the car now feeling quite tired after a long weekend and over 800 miles clocked up! But what a brilliant circuit Donington was, soon to open to Motorsport again.
So that was to be an end of two exciting XJ-S demonstrations and back to more mundane XJ-S development work.
JVC 484N, had probably been the first XJ-S in the world to be publically demonstrated at full power on a race circuit and had done so over four days, with perfect reliability. The original Dunlop D1 Tyres, were superb and in many ways, years ahead of their time in performance. The brakes used sensibly, were good and it was a fine testament to the car that it could be thrashed for hours on end and not get flustered!
7 years later, TWR would return with their XJ-S Group A Car team, to a resounding successful International weekend at Donington, with a win against the might of BMW (and also Volvo!).
Still to come ...
GM400 Gearbox development ...
Publicity want an XJ-S in the air photo shoot ...
P System Fuel Injection Development
10:1 Compression Ratio V12 Development
May/ HE V12 Engine Saga/ Development
Nardo, Italy HE Engine Testing
XJ-S versus Lamborghini Urraco in Italy
A phone call from Transmission Supremo, Ray Townsend, in early 1976, ushered in a new name at Jaguar Engineering – “GM400”, a new automatic gearbox we were to adapt to replace the aging Borg-Warner model 12 unit. The GM400 was a proven design made in the USA, with a bespoke integral bellhousing, to bolt directly onto the V12 engine.
A Silver XJS, XJ27/14, had been fitted with one and we set about to run the gearbox in and discuss the test schedule. I soon learnt that auto boxes have over 30 different parameters for shift speeds and we had to appropriate all these to Jaguars liking and driving feel.
In addition, we had to test its reliability and cooling requirements, as all auto boxes have the operating oil cooled by a heat exchanger inside the radiator. A test schedule was drawn up and a tow bar fitted to the car so it could tow a dynometer at MIRA, to simulate towing heavy loads, typically a caravan up an Alpine climb of over 10 miles!
I spent a whole month at MIRA, testing the gearbox, which included running flat out for hours on end (well as fast as you could go at MIRA!), measuring oil temperatures inside the gearbox and establishing correct oil levels/capacities. The first major benefit was that oil no longer came out of the dipstick, onto a hot exhaust manifold when being driven hard – not uncommon with the preceeding Borg Warner Model 12!
Initially the GM400 gearbox would kick down into 1st gear, from around 40mph, but this was soon to change and ruin my fun of driving the car in extremis!
The dynometer setting was controlled from a control panel on the end of a cable, so that the load could be altered from inside the car. It was an odd feeling to feel the car working very hard, but not going uphill!
To meet “Drive by Noise Test” regulations, it was deemed necessary to ensure the V12 would not kick down to 1st gear from above 28mph! Very frustrating for all sporting driving and remained that way until about 1988!! This was the one major criticism levelled at the XJ-S by the motoring press for many years!
This GM400 test was unusual at Jaguar as an XJ-S did the lion share of all the Testing and the car went onto remain in this role for some time, until it was written off following an accident in April 1977 (not me!).
GM 400 Fgearbox as installed on V12 Engine
The GM400 was a resounding success for the V12 Engine and was fitted to virtually every V12 engine for the next 18 years! Generally speaking, it was robust and reliable, but a tad frustrating for the sporting driver, limited by only 3 gears.
Introduced for production in April 1977, Chassis Number 2W2833, it suggests only about 1750 XJ-S were made with the Model 12 Gearbox, identifiable with its chrome dipstick on the LH side of the engine.
XJ-S 4 Speed Manual “KM” Series
The much desired (30 years later!), 4 speed manual XJ-S (not if you are in traffic for long!), used a minor evolution of the existing Jaguar Synchro Gearbox, used in the V12-E-Type (1971-74), this being the KL Series Gearbox.
The XJ-S gearbox, was designated the KM series unit and most of the clutch development and gearbox testing for the new XJ-S, was carried out in a White LHD DHC V12 E-Type Test Car, XJ26/4, over the Winter of 1973/74 at MIRA. This was one of my first jobs I drove at MIRA, having recently joined Norman Dewis and his Test Development.
The KM XJ-S gearbox had a lower first gear ratio, (3.238:), to ensure all drive by noise tests would have to be carried out in 2nd gear and thereby keeping the noise down a tad! Virtually indestructible, this gearbox was very strong, but like all Jaguar gearboxes, was not the slickest shifter of gears! Between 1974 and 1976 we had several manual gearbox XJ-S on the Experimental fleet and 2/3 press cars. However, by 1978, they had all disappeared, being sold or in one case loaned to a supplier. I didn’t drive a manual V12 car at Jaguar between 1978 and 1985 (when I had left the company) as there were none to be had!