Jaguar of Coventry

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Motor Sport visits Browns Lane to try the latest models from Jaguar-Rover-Triumph Ltd.

In view of the release of the Series III models from Jaguar and Daimler a few days ago, after the Press had sampled them in Torquay, the Company’s first model-launch since it was established as BL’s specialist division, it seemed opportune for Motor Sport to pay another visit to the Jaguar factory at Browns Lane, Allesley, near Coventry to discuss these cars, how they were planned, and examine some of their exclusive features. Andrew Whyte, latterly Product Manager of Jaguar-Daimler Marketing, was happy to lay this on, in his usual efficient manner, for he is a 100% Jaguar enthusiast and historian who was apprenticed to the Company in Sir William Lyons’ time. He had ready for us two of the impressive revised Jaguars, a fuel-injection five-speed 4.2-litre with the long-lived twin-cam six-cylinder engine, and a 5.3-litre V12, also with fuel injection, and automatic transmission. C. R. writes about both these fine motor-cars later in this article.

I also drove briefly both these Jaguars and would remark that the Six is so good, and so incredibly flexible with its injection power unit, that anyone unable to afford twice its number of cylinders should nevertheless be quite happy, even though the vee-twelve-cylinder-engined car is the Ultimate jaguar. If I remark on the outstandingly silent running of this 12-cylinder model and its companion-in-luxury, the Daimler “Double-Six”, I may well be told by exacting readers that there is no such thing as a completely-silent motor-car. So may I just say that no automobile ranks higher in the No-Noise stakes than this splendid Jaguar, for whose mechanical near-perfection and up-dating Harry Mundy, the Engineering Director, Powertrains and Transmissions, is responsible, while Jim Randle, Director of Vehicle Engineering, supervised the coachwork transformation. It is an astonishing and very satisfying experience to come from a quiet car, by other maker’s standards, to this big-engined Jaguar (or Daimler) and to waft away in unimagined hush, a hush which persists right through the speed-range. Moreover, this V12 from Coventry is the sort of car in which you find you are doing 100 m.p.h. when the intention was to cruise at 70 – perhaps this is why a Cruise-Control is now an option – closeted in luxury and comfort, yet with entirely effortless acceleration even from, say 80 to 100 m.p.h. and beyond. At the other end of the scale, the latest fuel injection 4.2-litre Jaguar will pull away in 5th-speed from a crawl at which its tachometer-needle was indicating a mere 200 or so r.p.m., as a demonstration of what has been done for this now-aged, but unbowed, long-stroke in-line “six”.

At lunch Andrew had brought together to meet us some of the most important people in the newly-established British Leyland section. On my right sat Bob Knight, Managing Director of Jaguar, and among those present were Harry Mundy and Jim Randle, previously mentioned, Mike Beasley, the Manufacturing Director, and Peter Taylor, a senior development engineer. Conversation ranged over production methods here, in Germany, and in America, production targets, paint problems, the steady emergence of the Hassan/Mundy V12 engine in its latest form, and the up-dating of the former Jaguar models. These, and the styling alterations, which include a higher roof-line, new wrap-round bumpers, increased glass area, and improved interiors with the accent on even more luxury and quietness (from better sound-damping), will be dealt with below. The Series III cars represent an investment of more than £7,000,000 and it is because I regard them as such fine cars that this feature about them seemed to be desirable, at a time when the Buy British campaign may – and certainly should – be gaining ground. Of them Bob Knight has said: “When we designed the new Jaguars and Daimlers we faced the difficult task of improving upon products which have already earned a World famous reputation for their performance and refinement. The new range is intended to be evolutionary, in concept. By applying the latest techniques in advanced engineering and many more luxury features I am sure we have added an extra touch of excellence.” Having been out in two of these latest Jaguars I was fully prepared to drink to that, before going into the factories to look at some of those special items that go to make a Jaguar (or Daimler) such a very special kind of car.

* * *

I had been over the Browns Lane Jaguar plant previously, as had C. R., so we confined ourselves on this occasion to looking at the trim and upholstery shops, with just a quick visit to the long assembly lines, from where, last year, more than 26,500 cars emerged, 1,700 more than in 1977, with nearly 5,000 of these going to American buyers, an increase in USA sales, over those in the previous year, of 10%.

The size of the trim and upholstery departments at Browns Lane is visual evidence that Jaguar has no intention of giving up the traditional leather seats and veneer finish in its cars. Whereas some stylists try to blend in the tree-wood (or a horrid synthetic substitute) with the plastic, or slyly add a strip or two of wood here and there in an otherwise undistinguished decor, Jaguars and Daimlers continue to have fully-veneered, beautifully-finished interiors and leather upholstery; and it looks as if they always will. Indeed, leather is a no-cost option on all models except the 3.4 XJ6, for which it is an extra, and it is standard on the 4.2 and Daimler Vanden Plas models. In fact, some 90% of customers ask for leather. This calls for a large shop in which to produce this adjunct to a pleasing-to-own status motor-car. The leather is supplied by Connolly’s, who deliver something like 1,500 hides a week, of which about 2½ hides go into the upholstering of each car. The use of templates when cutting out the hides into the required patterns obviates waste and whereas plain leather is used for the Daimler and Vanden Plas bodies, that for the rest of the range is embossed, which enables a slightly less-perfect hide to be made use of. The suitably-shaped upholstery is then sewn to the foam of the upholstery. In the preparation area the hides are got ready for dispatch to the equally large trim shop, where ordinary tough Singer sewing-machines are much in evidence. 600 operatives are employed here, including 31 girl-machinists (it is traditional to have ladies for this work) using a total of 60 sewing-machines, mostly these quite aged Singers.

The wood-working shops, known as The Sawmill, are another very special feature of the Jaguar plant. Dashboards really are dashboards, shaped from birch “through-and-through” plywood, with the apertures for the instruments, etc. formed ingeniously with electric rotor machines as the operatives nimbly negotiate templates round fixed pegs on the machines’ flat-beds. The highly-polished, Californian-grown, figured-walnut veneers, brought from France, are matched from the centre outwards on a given panel. Slightly darker veneers are favoured for the Daimler Vanden Plas bodies, which are soon to adopt high-quality burr-walnut as used on the big Daimler limousines. All the veneer selection and matching is done by one pair of experienced eyes, those of Bill Burke, who has been with the company since the war years and remembers working on Swallow sidecars. Blanket presses are used in the veneering process, some of which are nearly 30 years old. The pressing occupies only a few minutes for most jobs, up to quarter-of-an-hour as a maximum. Man-made veneers have been looked at, but we got the impression from the scathing comments of Sawmill Foreman Frank Burrell that they are not going to be seen on Jaguars, at all events not in the immediate future. Before veneering the plywood panels are flatted off and their edges and apertures sealed. After the veneer has been applied it too is flatted off and a sealer coat applied. Then follow two coats of polyester and two grades of flatting before the surface is polished twice on an automatic machine to give a burnished wood finish. The beautiful burr-walnut for the limousines is polished with mops by hand. Jaguars sought for many years to overcome the effects of the sun on woodwork and this was achieved by the foregoing type of finish, introduced with the Series II XJs. Now, if there is any effect at all it is for the woodwork to darken rather than be bleached or the varnish to crack and peel as before.

The assembly lines at “The Jaguar” are another impressive sight. We have described them previously; two floor-level tracks now operate for the saloons and XJ-S coupes, these running the length of the vast, well-lit assembly area, then turning to go in the opposite direction as the cars take shape. Jaguar engines were traditionally fitted by lowering the body onto the ready-assembled engine/front suspension/subframe assembly, a system started with the first unit-construction car, the 2.4, in 1956. This was all very well with the Solex-fed 2.4 engines, but with the later SU-fed Mk. 1 3.4s and 3.4 and 3.8 Mk. 2s, the carburetters had to be removed from the fully-assembled engines to allow clearance between the longitudinal frame members. The fitting of the engines from below continued with the introduction of the XJ6, but was not possible with the broad V12 which had to be lowered in from above, the production line having to be modified for this purpose. Only very recently has this simpler process been adopt for the six-cylinder cars.

Output of Jaguars and Daimlers is presently running at approximately 600 to 640 saloons and 75 to 100 XJ-S a week, a total of 30,000 a year. The expectation is that next year output will be up to 32,000 to 35,000 cars. In 1978 13,500 cars were registered in the UK. The bodies come to Allesley from a new £15,500,000 paint plant at the Pressed Steel Fisher factory at Castle Bromwich, which is housed on two working levels covering an area of 500,000 square feet. The improvement in the Jaguar paint process with the introduction of the Series III XJs is most significant, for paint finish has always been the main point of complaint from Jaguar customers. I will leave it to C. R. to describe briefly the new process and the new range of colours, both shared by the XJ-S, in his description of the new cars.

One significant point on which to conclude my brief survey of all being well at Jaguars. Now that the great vee-twelve-cylinder engine is fully established and petrol injection has improved its fuel thirst from the original 9 to 11 m.p.g. apparently to something like 15 m.p.g. (full information when Motor Sport has road-tested the latest model), just over 1/5th of the saloons are supplied with this bigger engine. I will now hand over to C. R. for an impression of the engine-assembly plant at Radford, his description of the Series III modifications and his report of driving two of the new Jaguars. – W. B.

* * *

By the time W. B. and I had tried the Series III cars, lunched with the directors in the oak-panelled dining room and toured the Browns Lane Factory, the workers at the Radford engine plant had dispersed, for the normal two-shift working had been reduced to one while production of the new models was wound up to full swing. Thus Andrew Whyte and I had a lonely visit. A tour of silent, idle machinery is much less informative than the active process of components taking shape, so much of the information on vee-twelve production which follows later has been gleaned from Jaguar’s own sources.

The former Daimler factory was liberally plastered by German bombs and re-constructed post-war. When W. B. described a visit to it in Motor Sport, July 1966, its vast area housed an extraordinary production mixture of Daimler Majestic Majors, their 4½-litre V8 engines, 2½-litre V8 engines for the 250 saloon, Jaguar in-line six engines and Daimler Fleetline ‘buses. Now Daimlers are either re-badged and re-grilled Jaguars assembled on the mixed production line at Browns Lane, or limousines crafted at the Vanden Plas factory in North London, while the Fleetlines bear Leyland badges and emanate from Lancashire. But the sense of history has not been lost, for the factory showroom housed a privately-owned SP250, the Queen Mother’s old limousine, recently replaced on the Royal fleet by a new example, and a 1911 23 h.p., six-cylinder, sleeve-valve Daimler. I was also pleased to see there Jaguar’s immaculate, black XK 120 roadster, temporarily removed from the Browns Lane entrance hall, which a recent dealer convention had caused to be temporarily stripped of its inspiring Jaguar collection.

Besides engine production, the Radford factory is used for suspension subframe assembly and a liberal littering of MIRA-smashed, orange painted Jaguars reveals that part of the Engineering Department is housed there too.

Production of the long-lived Jaguar XK engine has changed little since W. B. described it briefly in 1966. The same battery of individual machines survives, a contrast with the huge transfer machines installed in 1971 for vee-twelve production. But crankshaft journals and camshaft profiles are now machine- instead of hand-lapped and a Fel-Electric Crack Detector has been installed. Crankshafts are Tuftrided, con-rods balanced end to end and pistons and con-rods installed as matched, balanced sets. Each engine is bench-tested with its gearbox on a row of ageing Heenan and Froude DPX3 dynamometers, firstly being started and run unladen to check for oil leaks etc., and then run for 45 minutes at 1,200 r.p.m and 25 lb. load, a rather less rigorous test process than the six hour cycle employed in 1966.

The fully-automated vee-twelve production line cost £3,000,000 when installed and would doubtless cost several times that today. W. B. described much of its operation in detail when writing about the new E-type V12 in Motor Sport, April, 1971. The machining and assembling procedures have been practically unchanged since then, save that the operatives on the moving carousel assembly line now bolt on Lucas-Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection instead of quadruple Zenith-Stromberg carburetters. New manifolding is cast and machined to suit.

The major items of equipment are three Arch-dale transfer machines with 57 stations between them. Equipment for machining the cylinder heads includes a 42-station Huller transfer machine. Crankshafts, connecting rods, bearing caps and other machined components are all done at Radford. There being no foundry here, the aluminium cylinder blocks and heads are machined from castings supplied by sources such as Birmid. Five special-purpose Cincinnati machines carry out initial milling operations on the block, including the sump, head, top, bearing cap seat and end faces. The three Archdale machines then carry out the main drilling, reaming, tapping, milling and boring operations. A Weatherly horizontal broacher is used for sump face and bearing cap locations and Desoutter and Ingersoll-Rand stud insertion and nut runners fit bearing caps. Other equipment used includes a GFM twin-headed miller, a Kearney and Trecker transfer machine, Landis grinders, a Boncham and Turner fine borer and Avery balancing equipment for the reciprocating parts.

For a more detailed description of the fine-tolerance production of this magnificent engine I refer you to W. B.’s aforementioned article in 1971. Minor changes have been made to the dynamometer run-up procedure since then: after being started without load they are run with 35 lb load at 2,000 r.p.m. for 30 minutes, followed by 80 lb load at 2,500 r.p.m. for 15 min.

All this machining takes place where the Majestic Major was at one time assembled, and Sp250 glassfibre bodies produced. After completion and testing the engines are stored in steel pallets in the lofty adjacent shop in which the Fleetline ‘buses were built. An asbestos partition between the two walls is a reminder of the flying welding sparks from the construction of armoured cars.

Leyland lorries carry the six- and twelve-cylinder engines from Radford, where Jack (no relation to Jim) Randle is Plant Director, the three miles to Allesley, the domain of Wal Turner. Quality control at both plants is under the Directorship of David Fielden.

Almost round the corner from the Radford plant is the Jaguar-Daimler Service Department, which is expanding under the direction of Neville Neal. This is interesting, because it denotes a change of policy within BL, part of the recognition that the Jaguar marque name must be kept strong and divorced from the rest of the BL range. In earlier Leyland days there was every sign that Jaguar would lose its individual character, of which the reduced facilities of the Service Department after its move from Browns Lane was symptomatic. No longer did Jaguar have its own service engineers providing direct link between dealers, and thus customers, and there is no doubt in the minds of some long-serving Jaguar employees that this disruption of liaison did the marque no good at all. Now the situation has been reversed: the company has its very own specialised service engineers once more instead of sharing those of the rest of the Group. The Service Department has a direct function too, servicing customers’ cars – mostly local – and dealing with difficult problems on brand-new or warranted cars referred to them from dealers by the service engineers.

Of course, the aim of Jaguar engineers is to cut down service problems and warranty work as much as possible and on that note of optimism I will move on to Jaguar’s hope for the immediate future, the new Series III XJ6 and XJ12.