Looking In At Jaguar

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Some notes on the famous Coventry firm and a description of the new Jaguar XK150

The title does not refer to the several occasions on which Jaguar cars have appeared on TV. It refers to a quick visit by Motor Sport to see how the world-famous Coventry factory, which manufactures only cars of the highest performance, has recovered from the unfortunate fire last winter and to examine and photograph the new XK150 which supersedes the so successful Jaguar XK140.

The Jaguar Factory

The present Jaguar factory lies at the foot of Windmill Hill on the Birmingham side of Coventry and the Jaguar executives have thoughtfully provided huge arrowed signs indicating just where visitors should turn off the ring-road. This factory consists of a 600-yard-long line of buildings, with triangulated glass roofs, divided centrally by the link-road, the latter now roofed over and part of the factory. The fire which broke out in a tyre store last winter destroyed the contents and roof of the left-hand line of buildings, where the assembly lines are situated, as well as some 200 cars. It is now history that Jaguar faced this severe set-back with characteristic vigour and were soon back in production, at first employing all the staff, but in two three-day shifts. About a fortnight after the disaster production was steadily mounting towards normal, and this quick recovery of very vital export trade is largely due to the courage of the workers, who set about helping to clear up the mess in the burnt-out shops and then worked uncomplainingly in the bitter cold of wall-less unheated shops. It is pleasing to pay, even belatedly, this tribute to another triumph of British tenacity in defeating adversity.

To revert to the factory, when Jaguar outgrew the original Swallow premises at Coleshill, following the tremendous sales-appeal of the s.v. S.S.90 and 3½-litre o.h.v. S.S.100 sports cars, they sold out to their neighbours, the Dunlop Rim and Wheel Company. Today, the factory they have occupied since 1952 is leased to them; during the war it was the Daimler shadow factory.

As we have said, the left-hand side is devoted to assembly, being divided from the right-hand section as you face this long factory from behind the office blocks by the entrance road. Here the gallant efforts of many fire brigades stopped the spread of the flames, which was fortunate, because under the link-road is a 500-gallon petrol storage tank! The right-hand side is the engineering section, where engines are built up and tested and bodies arriving from the Pressed Steel Company are painted and pre-mounted on the separate box-section chassis.

It is only fair to explain that in describing the present arrangement of the factory some evidence of the fire still exists. Thus trimming has to be done in an area of the engineering section and seats and cushions are stacked in part of the quietly-elegant reception hall, on one wall of which hangs a painting of H.M. the Queen, reminder of her visit to the Jaguar works. Moreover, part of the one million square feet of the factory area is still “out of bounds” and much of the roof is temporarily repaired and will have to come down. To enable repairs to be effected, a new 250,000 sq. ft. building is being put up to house some of the assembly lines and, after the main factory is fully rehabilitated, it is expected that this will be retained for storage and spares dispatch, etc.

The reduced area of the factory due to fire damage has resulted in some cramping of the assembly lines, which now double back one behind the other so that the fullest possible use can be made of the reduced shop area. However, all 4,000 workers are employed on a full five-day week and Sir William Lyons has led his team rapidly back to nearly full production. We, who live in a country partly dependent on motor-car exports, rejoice and give thanks that it is so.

The chassis frames, which arrive from Rubery Owen, are of box-section channel — except in the case of the XKSS, which has a tubular space-frame. Here it can be said that we saw only the prototype XKSS cars in the factory, for very unfortunately a batch of production SS Jaguars was destroyed in the fire and production had not recommenced at the time of our visit. However, the reception accorded in America to the one SS which was on the high seas at the time and thus arrived intact is well known to Jaguar, and no doubt the first customers’ cars will arrive in New York any day now.

Some D-type cars were in the factory but production of these has ceased. Nor do Jaguar intend to take any further part in racing, at all events for the time being, which those who regard with pride the “Le Mans Winner–1951, ’53, ’55 and ’56” plaques on their Jaguars must regret. The explanation is that the load on Chief Engineer Bill Haynes and loss of the ordinary mechanics who used to be taken from the production lines to work on the sports/racing Jaguars can no longer be tolerated. While they were in production 100 each were built of C- and D-type cars. Ecurie Ecosse now “wave the Jaguar flag” but they get only moral support from Coventry.

So production at Coventry is now concentrated mainly on the “2.4,” “3.4” and Mk. VIII saloons, which use box-section chassis with torsion-bar i.f.s.

The chassis frames, with engines installed, proceed on trolleys while the bodies are mounted, overhead conveyors bringing seats, wheels, etc., to the assembly point and they then proceed at floor level for final assembly and finishing, two automatic chain-conveyors dealing with “2.4” and “3.4” saloons and a similar conveyor with the Mk. VIIM, Mk. VIII and XK models.

The bodies arrive unpainted and are stacked outside the factory under weather sheets until required. They then go through a long paint oven, lining one side of the body shop, on rotatable jigs, so that paint can be sprayed on adequately during the 13 hours each one spends in the oven. We write “paint” but, in fact paint and cellulose have been replaced by synthetic enamel. XK bodies are welded-up in the factory, from pressed sheets delivered under contract. Castings also arrive from outside supply sources as Jaguar do not have a foundry, and these spend several weeks “in pickle” in the open. By purchasing complete saloon shells and XK body panels from outside suppliers Jaguar dispense with heavy presses, although they have small presses for the manufacture of seat-pans, body brackets, etc. Complete bodies are moved to the assembly lines on overhead electric hoists running on rails. Incidentally, Jaguar provide a weekly tour of the factory for interested individuals and parties, and neat overhead notices signify what each assembly line, or bay, is engaged on.

The engine assembly section of the Jaguar factory is extremely impressive. Here the famous twin-cam six-cylinder power units are built up-and thoroughly tested. We were intrigued to see what looked like several hundred of these purposeful power units with their gleaming cam-boxes, stacked until required for installation in a chassis There is no apparent standardisation in respect of machine tools and Landis, Churchill, Newell, Herbert, Maximatic and other lathes, grinding and lapping machines cope with crankshaft production. The individual care taken is notable. Crankshafts are examined carefully, journals hand-polished if necessary, and each one is dynamically balanced on Avery or Brockhirst electric balancing machines and then dynamically balanced again after the clutch assembly has been fitted. Before this, of course, a careful dimensional check has been made.

All engines are assembled, leisurely and carefully, by hand fitting, on a single automatic chain conveyor-line which starts at floor level as crankshafts are fitted into crankcases and continues on waist-high trolleys as the engines grow. Another chain-conveyor, parallel with this assembly line, carries “dinner-wagons” containing the required parts and components.

Towards the end of the line the gearboxes, with their short rigid levers, are fitted. It is significant that every Jaguar engine is thoroughly tested. A bay beside the end of the assembly line, to which completed power units are taken on 400-volt overhead cranes, is devoted to this testing. As exhaust gas and fluids are led away and fed from beneath the floor this shop is free from noise and fumes, although it is pleasantly warm!

Each engine is first run for 1½ to two hours at 1,500-2,000 r.p.m., some on petrol, some on town gas after being equipped with Mangoletsi gas carburetters. The sump is then removed, flushed out, and refitted for the power check on fresh oil. Some 25 Froude water-brakes are in use for this purpose, and every engine is tested for output in each gear (running with its gearbox in place), carburetter adjustments are made, and finally a flash-reading of maximum b.h.p. is taken. The complete test occupies four hours per engine. If an engine is below power or faulty it is given a red label and rejected. Engines which pass their test satisfactorily are sprayed with lanolin to protect the high polish of their cam-boxes and other parts from damage by sea-air during shipment. This is carried out in a small covered spray-chamber in which inspection is facilitated by four-tier neon lamps,

Quite as a sideline Jaguar machine massive crankshafts for outside firms under contract, using a Hey Engineering lapper installed when they built war-time tank engines.

The thorough testing, following the careful hand assembly, of the car engines bears comparison with the best Continental practice, and it is on account of the time spent on the test-beds that large quantities of engines have to be stacked up, to keep pace with the flow of car assembly.

Each car goes for an 8-10 mile road test, first in the hands of a driver who reports any faults. These are rectified and a different driver, who is not told the findings of the first driver, goes for a further run so that a double check is obtained. Temporarily the test department is situated in the aforesaid Dunlop factory. Each completed Jaguar is then carefully examined under neon lighting and body blemishes, etc., rectified. Twelve test-drivers and a total of 48 staff are employed in the rectification section.

At present the output is in the region of 69 cars a day, a week’s output of some 345 Jaguars being composed, on an average, of 60 per cent. saloons, 40 per cent, sports cars. A board in the linkway giving the output from hour to hour, and indicating which departments are causing a lag, if any, acts as a spur to production.

Run In A 3.4-Litre Saloon

Bill Rankin, Jaguar P.R.O., after taking us round the factory, drove us to lunch in a 3.4-litre Jaguar saloon with automatic transmission and later let us try it for ourselves. This roomy saloon, luxuriously upholstered in leather, with an imposingly deep, full-width walnut-veneer facia made in the factory, is an impressive “business-man’s express.” The seemingly unlimited supply of power which pours from the outstandingly smooth and quiet twin-cam engine is no surprise to those who have driven an XK model, but the supple yet roll-free ride, powerful brakes, and light steering possessing a taxi-like lock are amongst the pleasant surprises. The “3.4” is a very silent car, so that minor body noises are noticed. The Borg Warner automatic transmission embraces a wide brake pedal in lieu of a clutch pedal for those sufficiently dexterous to brake with either foot. The control lever for selecting reverse, low, drive, park, and neutral protrudes from the centre of the facia in a horizontal quadrant and is sensibly lettered. By flicking a switch on the right of the facia-sill middle gear can be held to any desired r.p.m. after being selected by a kick-down change, instead of top re-engaging at about 45 m.p.h. The engine ran-on after being cut at the conclusion of a short, fast drive. This fine 120-m.p.h. car is now available on the home market. It differs from the 2.4-litre in having S.U. instead of Solex carburetters, apart from the difference in engine size. It is distinguishable from the rear by its twin exhaust pipes, from the side by its non-spatted back wheels, and from the front by a wider radiator grille. So great is the prevailing demand for these saloons that there is no likelihood of an open version being introduced. Incidentally, asked if Jaguar care at all for history, Mr. Rankin reminded us that they own a fine example of Austin Seven Swallow saloon, on loan to the Montagu Museum together with a D-type Jaguar.

The New XK150

The XK140 has been superseded by the new XK150, which we examined and photographed but were not invited to drive. This retains the same chassis and wheelbase as the XK140 but has as standard the B-type cylinder head developed for the Mk. VIII, which gives good torque at moderate r.p.m. while providing a maximum of 210 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m., on a compression-ratio of 8.0 to 1, using twin S.U. H.D.6 carburetters. Three transmissions are available — a normal box with ratios of 11.95, 6.58, 4.54 and 3.54 to 1; a box with Laycock overdrive on top gear, giving ratios of 13.81, 7.60, 5.24, 4.09 and 3.18 to 1; or a Borg Warner automatic box giving ratios of 8.16-17.6 to 1, 5,08-10.95 to 1 and 3.54 to 1, selected mechanically. An outstanding feature of the XK150 is the use of Dunlop 12-in, disc brakes on all four wheels. Normally bolt-on wheels shod with Dunlop “Road Speed” 6.00 by 16-in. tyres are supplied, but centre-lock wire wheels are available as an extra.

Inside the coupe body of the XK150, which retains two folding occasional seats behind the two front seats, greater width and better visibility are immediately apparent. A wrap-round screen and partially wrapped-round large back window have altered both the appearance and the pleasure of occupying the body. Luggage space remains the same in area but is enhanced because the front wall of the boot hinges down so that golf-bags, etc., can be thrust through to the rear compartment of the body. The doors have very spacious storage wells and the familiar imposing facia is retained.

The weight of the fixed-head coupe is quoted as approximately 26 cwt. A drophead coupe is also available. With a top speed of approximately 130 m.p.h. and disc brakes as sure as the drum brakes on the very earliest XK120s were doubtful, the Jaguar XK150 should sell even more readily, especially in the U.S., than did the exceedingly popular XK140, which has contributed generously to Jaguar’s splendid record of post-war export sales exceeding 52½ million dollars. — W.B.