Jaguar XJS by Rivers Fletcher, 147 pp, 9 3/4 in x 6 3/4 in. Jensen Interceptor by Mike Taylor, 150 pp, 9 3/4 in x 6 3/4 in (Cadogan Books Ltd, 15 Pont Street, London SW IX 9EH. £8.95 each).
In company with several other motor-book publishers, Cadogan Books have started a series of uniform volumes, called their “High Performance Series”, to cover the brief history, technical development and features, personal opinions and tabulated data about classic fast cars. Rivers Fletcher and Mike Taylor have set this particular ball rolling well, Rivers with very personal opinions of the Jaguar XJS, backed by John Egan’s Foreword, Mike with very interesting coverage of that unfortunate lost-cause, the Jensen Interceptor.
I believe Rivers was able to borrow for test, several examples of the delectable XJS before setting down his opinions of this Jaguar model. He tells of how he first encountered it: “I live in a village on the edge of the Cotswolds close to Stratford-upon-Avon and only thirty miles from Coventry. Being so close to the heart of the British Motor Industry, we often see secret prototype cars on test . . On one occasion I myself had seen in the distance, a new long low sports car streaking up the famous Edge Hill. Though it was far away I felt sure this must be the new Cat. A few weeks later I was having lunch with friends at a restaurant in Stratford-upon-Avon. Happening to glance out of the window, I saw coming up to traffic lights outside the restaurant the most beautiful and exciting sports car — obviously Jaguar. I dashed out into the road, right up to the car. As I gazed in rapt admiration the driver lowered his window and called ‘Rivers!’. Then I saw that the driver was John Dugdale, an old motor-racing friend whom I had not seen since before the war. This happy meeting led to other things, because John Dugdale was over in England testing and evaluating the new Jaguar XJS for the American Market.”
That is how Rivers was introduced to the XJS and presumably how the book was launched. He continues to enthuse all through the text, which also gives a short résumé of the well-documented SS and Jaguar origins, Rivers Fletcher’s experiences with other Jaguar models, his views of high-performance cars past and present, including a description of Stirling Moss’s skill with automatic transmission, which is a crumb of comfort to those of us who have had such gearboxes thrust on us, and his more in-depth feelings for the latest XJS. Rivers sums this car up by saying: “To savour this car to the fullest, a man needs to have the companion of his choice, beautifully gowned of course [I hope he means a girl — Ed.], and a really fast and long drive to a wonderful venue — say from Belgravia to the Côte d’Azur, or at the right time of year, to Le Mans, where the populace would appreciate its magnificent past, present and future”.
There are many pictures of Rivers with various Jaguars and the expected tabulated data. The only grumble I have is that Rivers is so full of praise and his 51 pages of text, including chapters on the Lynx and Walkinshaw Racing, are followed by 84 pages of pictures depicting how the XJS is made (the individual operatives being named), overlooking a good deal of blank paper (for this essential commodity has not yet been the subject of shortage scares, like petrol), that the book is rather like a Jaguar sales blurb. And one should not have to pay £8.95 for a catalogue. . . .
Taylor’s book is more conventional, an objective look at the very interesting Jensen, again largely pictures, but including much useful data. One looks forward to more in this series. — WB