It began as a schoolboy sketch; now one man’s highly personal mod-saloon hits the road
Ian Callum is used to watching another striking new model from Jaguar appear from under a dust sheet. This time, though, we’ve seen it before – 55 years ago. The remarkable thing about the unveiling is that it’s carried out by someone who was there in 1959 to see it happen first time round. Norman Dewis, development driver on the Jaguar Mk2, has been invited to reveal a ‘Mk3’, reinvented by Jaguar’s modern design chief. Callum conceived this modified car only for himself but, as the launch brought an explosion of interest, builder Classic Motor Cars of Bridgnorth will now create more – starting from £350,000.
It’s a special day for CMC, too – the opening of its huge new Shropshire premises by John Surtees, who causes a laugh by standing by the curtained plaque and announcing “I have great pleasure in pulling this string.” Over the past 20 years CMC has restored some very special Jaguars including 9600HP, the oldest E-type left, and some of Jaguar’s own collection. I can see OKV1, the 1954 works D, and the Lindner/Nocker low-drag coupé that they straightened from a crushed ball. They’re lined up behind the lunch buffet, among scores of Jags and a couple of Swallow Austin 7s getting treatment from this well-regarded operation. Founder Peter Neumark is also a keen historic racer, while co-founder Nick Goldthorpe previously ran Vicarage, famous for Mk2 conversions, so this was the obvious place for Ian Callum to take his plans.
This is, Callum says, something he’s schemed on and off since he was 12. Yes, he drew Ferraris in his schoolbooks but a Mk2 was a more attainable fantasy, a car he saw racing at Ingliston. And though his work days are about creating real cars from a blank drawing board, which ought to satisfy anyone’s boyhood dreams, there’s something about revisiting and upgrading an existing form that’s a different sort of challenge. We discuss successful car updates and I mention Triumph TR4 into TR6 – Michelotti’s clever new nose and tail that made an apparently new car from an old one. “I’ve just bought one of those,” Ian exclaims. “Very satisfying aesthetics. I won’t be modifying that!”
Does the Callum Mk2 look like the 12-year-old’s version? Broadly yes. “Those girder bumpers were always going to go,” he tells me, “and the crab track too. I wanted the rear wheels to give it a broad stance, so the body has been pulled out front and rear, but subtly.” Certainly the front change is hard to see, though the rear flares over 225 tyres are very obvious. “And I always thought there was too much chrome.”
Callum has removed the swageline highlight and the centre bonnet strip; it’s a change that takes time to twig, except that the whole shape seems cleaner. “I knew the form was in there; it didn’t need shouting about.”
The heavy bumpers have been replaced by carbon-fibre fairings that are far more complex than you’d think. “There’s no metal behind the bumpers,” says Ian, “which is why they didn’t remove them for racing. I had to shape an entire structure – nine months of CAD/CAM I funded myself. The days of sneaking things in at work are long gone!”
Those front vents are real, aimed at the brakes, while the shark gills extract hot air from the 4.3-litre XK engine, details that Callum says come straight from 1960s saloon racing. Inside is more radical, with scarlet quilted seats, pop-up media centre and glossy black dash with machined metal switches. “Not everyone will like it,” Ian says cheerfully, “but there are hundreds of other Mk2s. This one’s mine!” And as long as it’s not the last example of a model, I cheer that sentiment. Originality matters in a historic vehicle, but there’s room for creative modification too.
One major mechanical change is the rear suspension, an all-independent system designed by CMC. There’s a bit of banter with Norman Dewis as Ian says he wants his car to handle even better than the stock Jaguar and Norman defends the car he tweaked over miles at MIRA. He’s driven the modified car briefly but admits only that it “seemed all right”.
Now that his car isn’t going to stay unique, is Ian’s marker pen wandering towards other classics? He nods to a bare XJC shell. “That would be fun. Very elegant shape.” Huge Broadspeed flares like John Steed in The Avengers? “Oh no. Much more subtle. Remove the vinyl roof, maybe a front valance. The original XJ6 was a great shape, too…”
You can’t switch off a creative mind.
Twin London concours events meant record sales of car polish in September
I can’t make up my mind about concours d’élégance. As a spectacle they can assemble some wonderful cars in one place, which is why I attend. But I can’t get excited about whether this car won that award; judgement is so subjective, despite notional points totals, and this was confirmed for me lately when two judges at major events in previous years told me tales of disputes and furious owners complaining of being under-rosetted. How do you compare a 1960s machine built in hundreds with a pre-war sports car with a one-off body? To me, the honour of simply being invited to show your car ought to be prize enough; after all, merely making the MAN-Booker short-list is enough to send a novel’s sales into overdrive.
To help me decide I visited both the big September events in London, and there were treats at both. Salon Privé at Syon House is more than a concours, with concept cars, a ‘luxury fair’, modified vehicles of varying levels of taste and for the first time an auction. In between McLaren P1 and Pagani supercars, Touring showed its electric Mini Spider (above), a spare, attractive shape if not immensely redolent of the old Mini, a taster for a possible sports car. Its taillights formed a split union flag, but that may have been art, not political comment. Those who find the Ferrari F12 a bit dull could upgrade to the TRS, with stripped cabin, aggressive airdams and window bonnet, or switch allegiance to Lamborghini via Zagato’s 5 95, which lurked on the lawn in matt tangerine – one of five to celebrate the styling house’s 95 years.
Morgan also showed a one-off, built to the spec of a serial customer. Called SP1, it highlights the firm’s new build-to-order Special Projects unit and the crafts skills it possesses. Within the striking alloy bodywork, Morgan’s head of design Jonathan Wells pointed out exposed cabin cabinetry including moulded plywood seat frames that fold Z-wise to access luggage pods under a fastback roof. Apparently this is the first Morgan to have a curved windscreen; surely the sky will fall…
Among trials and custom bikes (one a V10), an impressive display of Maseratis and Fangio’s desirable Mercedes service van, the concours entrants paraded, and though I said I wasn’t very concerned about results I wouldn’t argue about 1954 works D-type OKV1 taking the top trophy in this D anniversary year, while another pot for best pre-war coachwork went to a wonderfully original Alfa 1750 Zagato, the very car Campari and Ramponi drove to win the 1929 MM. I was told the paint dates back to 1931.
Hampton Court Concours had an altogether different feel. Where Salon Privé has a strong commercial slant with tickets costing almost £300 (you do get a lobster lunch), this movable feast stretched luxuriously along royal paths and attracted spur-of-the-moment visitors to admire some magnificent vehicles. The Jaguar XK120 that hit 173mph at Jabekke in 1953 looked impressive after its restoration to streamlined bubble-top form by JD Classics, while I hadn’t previously seen the Zagato-bodied XK140 in person – another gem from the firm’s greatest era. Pleasingly running against the tide of sportifying chassis, a Bugatti 57 looked almost stately with a handsome Paul Née coupé body, a contrast to Bertone’s spare, scalloped Siata 8V spyder. A healthy mix included a Monte-winning Lancia Delta S4, the astonishing Zero concept that spawned the Stratos, and AMX/3, the 1970 design exercise Bizzarrini assembled for AMC. One special award, the RAC Spirit of Motoring, went to Jonathan Turner, who having restored the gorgeous Corsica-bodied Donald Healey Triumph Dolomite 8C did the 1000 Mile Trial in it before driving to Hampton Court.
Despite probing I couldn’t get much out of Bristol’s designer about its forthcoming Project Pinnacle. Now linked to the Frazer Nash group, the rejuvenated firm plans to mark its 70th anniversary in 2015 with a new luxury model harking back to its heritage. Teaser photos show a hint of 404 air intake, possibly the best-looking Bristol; let’s see what a 200mph update brings to it.
Next year this event’s tour of royal venues shifts to Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh.
How we’d blow the budget this month
Art & Revs
Delahaye 135 S Figoni
One of only 17 built, this Figoni-bodied car made four starts at Le Mans, scoring a best result of fourth in 1938. It’s highly original and on public sale for the first time since 1956
Aston Martin DB5 Volante
Long, sleek and rapid grand tourer that unusually looks even better with hood up. There are even seats in the back! Restored by Works Service and maintained by R S Williams
GT40 by Gelscoe
Tool-room reproduction of GT40 1076, driven at Le Mans in 1969 by Hobbs and Hailwood. Has been racing recently and has current HTP papers; 494bhp Gurney Weslake and ZF box