Jaguar theme at Motorfair

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“It’s the first time for a dozen years that we’ve had an exclusive Jaguar stand” commented an enthusiastic Jaguar executive at the Earls Court Motorfair, and his pride in the new success of the company was obvious. The centrepiece was the XJ-S Cabriolet 3.6, flanked by a working cutaway of the new 24-valve AJ6 engine, an all-aluminium masterpiece that will take the marque through to the launch of the XJ40 saloon at next year’s British motor show.

Yet Jaguar are not only making and selling cars. The first transaction of the Motorfair was the purchase, by Jaguar Cars Limited, of four Harrods version XJ saloons made by Panther Cars at Weybridge. These will be exhibited by Jaguar in the Middle East — where else? — to divert attention from the boom in Mercedes customising which has now reached the ridiculous stage in tack-on panels. The Harrods Jaguar, by contrast, is refined with a sumptuous interior, full leather, Wilton carpet, cocktail cabinet, even a manicure set and a carriage clock. Gold plated interior fittings double the price of a standard XJ, the six-cylinder coming up to £35,000, but without the gold the on-cost can be kept to as little as £5,000, including 15 coats of paint!

The most opulent and expensive car at Motorfair must have been the Tickford Lagonda, which is not acne noted for its lack of creature comforts even in standard form. The Tickford treatment includes a higher grade of leather for the upholstery (white, with blue piping), two colour TV sets, tack-on aluminium exterior panels, and a new line in BBS three-piece modular forged alloy wheels of massive 8 in by 16 in proportions, shod with Pirelli 265/50VR16 P7 tyre equipment. If you have to ask the price you can’t afford it, but it works out at £85,000.

Of greater technical interest is the Tickford Capri Turbo, which has just gone on sale through Aston Martin and some Ford dealers at £14,985. Restyled body panels, flared arches, and a rear spoiler transform the appearance, while the performance aspect is taken care of by installing a Garrett turbocharger and AFT computerised ignition and electronic fuel management, raising the power of the 2.8 litre V6 engine to 205bhp. With a modified 5-speed gearbox, a limited slip differential, all-wheel disc brakes and fully floating driveshafts, the Tickford Capri is pretty far removed from the original Ford product.

Luxury is a very saleable commodity, even in a recession. Austin-Rover introduced three special editions for Motorfair, one being a Vanden Plas version of the Metro. Leather facings on the seats, pile carpet, and full stereo with four speakers are all included, each of the 500 examples having its number etched on the glass of the driver’s door… and you can have any colour you like, so long as it’s black.

The production of the half-millionth Metro in three years is marked by another special edition, the Gala, of which 2,500 will be made, and a third special edition (one to give the Austin-Healey Owners’ Club apoplexy) is the Mini Sprite, which is marketed with alloy wheels, a 4-spoke steering wheel and a new instrument binnacle. Like Jaguar, Austin-Rover has certainly turned the corner with its worldwide manning level stabilised at 41,000, and projected sales due to rise from 450,000 this year to 600,000 in 1986. Of technical interest on the Austin-Rover stand, the Maestro 1600 is now available with Volkswagen’s three-speed automatic transmission, and the Rover Vitesse is now available with the GM automatic transmission at no extra cost.

Lotus have restyled the popular Excel model with the addition of a rear spoiler, which blends nicely into the Giugiaro styling and reduces the rear lift at the back by two-thirds at 100 mph; louvres in the bonnet to reduce under-bonnet temperatures, and colour keyed bumpers change the appearance quite significantly, and the removal of the rear-seat headrests improves rearward visibility, a major criticism in our recent Excel report.

Ford introduced a number of new and revised models in recent months, notably the Escort Cabriolet, the three-door Sierra and the updated Fiesta, and now the Granada models have 5-speed gearboxes as standard equipment. From Alfa Romeo come revised versions of the Giulietta and Alfetta, with new front and rear styling, and the Alfetta is now equipped with Bosch Motronic engine management. Lancia introduce the Prisma saloon and the Volumes supercharged versions of the twin-cam 2-litre Coupe and HPE, the Coupe being a model which will soon be featured in Motor Sport.

From France, Peugeot launched the 205 range of small hatchbacks, engine sixes ranging from 954 to 1360 cc, and the range-topping 505 GTi model which is yet another contender in the BMW class, with 128 bhp from the 2,165 cc injection engine; a 5-speed gearbox and limited slip differential come as standard equipment on this £9,595 high performance model. Renault have launched the Fuego Turbo model at £8,700, a reasonable price for their 125 mph newcomer, and two new versions of the Renault 11 saloon.

Among the specialist manufacturers, Dutton have brought back the Moke, as sole UK agents for the British Leyland Portugal manufacturer. The Moke ‘Californian’ retails for £4,100, and it will be interesting to see if it is as popular as in the 1960s when Austin-Morris sold the car to the King’s Road set.

The Autokraft company is now in full Production with the AC MkIV, not a replica of the famous AC Cobra but an evolution, brought fully up to date and licensed to use the AC name. Brian Angliss plans to make 100 ACs a year for the States, where they will be sold through Ford dealerships, and a further 24 per year for Europe (this, too, will be featured soon in Motor Sport).

Graham Nearn’s Caterham Cars company celebrates 26 years of continuous production of the Lotus 7, and 10 years of association With Lotus, with an eye-catching all-aluminium bodied Caterham Super 7 with burnished bodywork made by Williams and Pritchard. The Jensen name is back. The first brand-new Interceptor to be made since 1976, and finished in maroon, appeared on the Jensen Parts and Service Ltd stand in the gallery in Series 4 form, with current Type Approval. Beautifully made, and fully equipped with a hide interior and lambswool seat inserts, the show car was powered by a 7.2-litre Chrysler V8 engine, though “production” cars will have the later 5.9-liter V8 installed. Ian Orford, the managing director, tells us that the West Bromwich company, with a staff of 38, can make 12 cars per year. Charles Follett Ltd are the sole UK distributors and have ordered the first 10 Interceptors, which will cost in the region of £39,000.

On a closing note, Portman. Garages displayed Barry Robinson’s Lamborghini Countach which, a few days before the show, opened, established 12 outright United Kingdom speed records and 12 class records, ranging from an average of 154.78 mph for five kilometres to 121.98 mph for 200 miles. Established at Vauxhall’s Millbrook proving grounds, the speeds would have been higher still had the record bid not been called off due to heavy rain and high winds! — M.L.C.

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