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Unique Jaguar E-Type stars at V&A exhibition
A unique Jaguar E-Type is the star of the show at a new British Design exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Celebrating the E-Type’s inclusion, Jaguar last night (Monday 25 June) invited guests to hear design director Ian Callum speak about the company’s past greats – and its future.
The new V&A exhibition is entitled “British Design 1948-2012: innovation in the modern age”. It reflects changes in Britain since the last Olympic Games, but also coincides remarkably well with the development of the Jaguar sports car.
1948 saw Jaguar introduce the XK120 – a beautiful example of which was positioned outside the museum, alongside a D-Type and an E-Type; 2012 will see Jaguar unveil the new F-Type, its first two-seater sports car since the E-Type.
The F-Type makes its debut UK appearance during the Goodwood Festival Speed this weekend, where it will perform demonstration runs twice a day in the hands of Jaguar chassis guru Mike Cross.
However, the F-Type’s full official launch isn’t slated until the Paris Motor Show that takes place in September. Callum, in fact, made no mention of Goodwood at all, so don’t be surprised if the F-Type there is still in pre-production camouflage.
It didn’t put in an appearance at the V&A, either. Instead we were shown a teaser video of the new car, silhouetted in red silk. But Callum was happy to reveal that the finished version will look extremely similar to the original C-X16 concept.
Confirming the significance of this new model, Callum said: “I am more excited about this car than any other car I have been involved with.” But that doesn’t mean he isn’t acutely conscious of Jaguar’s past.
He opened his speech with a few words on British design in general, before describing Jaguar as a builder of “beautiful cars that perform beautifully” and going on to discuss the enduring allure of the E-Type.
He described it as looking “like the future” when it was first unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961 – and also acknowledged, conversely, that Jaguar had been guilty in recent years of spending “too much time looking over its shoulder.”
He confirmed that all future Jaguars would therefore continue the trend set by the XF and XJ, and be very forward looking. But also explained design tells a story, about the consumer – and about the brand.
In Jaguar’s case, Callum described how it has a history of building cars where form follows function – the C-Type and D-Type both started from “aerodynamic first principles”, hence the lack of “fussy details”.
But, he said, “let’s not forget that one of Jaguar’s functions is to be beautiful,” a significant part of the E-Type’s success.
The E-Type on display as part of the V&A’s exhibition is a particularly special example. It is THE original Geneva show car, the one first revealed on 15th March 1961, the eve of that year’s Motor Show during a stunt at a restaurant involving a giant plywood packing case.
Current owner Christian Jenny was on hand to talk about the car, and revealed that there’s actually much more to ZH 424479 than meets the eye.
A last minute choice to use coupés to debut the new E-Type and show them almost simultaneously in Geneva and New York left Jaguar a car short. So it was decided to build the original prototype coupé body up into a working vehicle.
The E-Type was designed as a convertible, so the prototype coupé bodywork had initially been little more than an experiment until it caught Jaguar founder William Lyons’ eye. Only this last minute emergency turned the prototype into a real working vehicle.
As a result, this particular E-Type is literally unique. Because it was hand made none of the measurements match the production version – during its restoration even items such as the windscreen, the roof, and even that famous bonnet were found to be significantly different.
As you can imagine, this caused several major headaches during the rebuild. But it’s definitely been worth it, as according to our senior exhibition tour guide the E-Type literally stops people in their tracks when they enter the room.
The V&A British Design Exhibition runs until 12 August 2012, and also features other such intriguing British motoring designs as traffic lights, road signs, the Routemaster bus and – of course – the Mini.
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