By Jeremy Sinek for MSN Autos
Why are Jaguars so darn pretty? It’s easy — their designers try harder. Toronto, Ont. — One of the highlights at the recent Toronto auto show was the Jaguar C-X16 prototype. The gorgeous two-seater, widely hailed as a modern-day E-Type, was accompanied to the show by design chief Ian Callum, who answered our questions about the C-X16, the E-Type, and Jaguar design.
The C-X16 looks like a real, workable car, not just a blue-sky concept. Is it ready for production? We call it a production prototype for obvious reasons. It is feasible. That car drives — quite quickly actually. But we haven’t made a statement of commitment yet that we will build it.
I don’t see much value in producing something at the conceptual stage that you can’t really make or use. Concept cars used to be hugely flamboyant. But nowadays any vehicle is constrained by so many inputs, whether they be legislative or packaging or cost, that invariably if you do something completely fancy you couldn’t build it anyway. So you might as well take all these inputs up front and work with them.
Also we’re less precious now about showing the world what we might want to do. The secrecy is less than perhaps it used to be back in the ’50s and ’60s when it was more about the fashion and the latest model. Now with the world being so international, and the supplier base so common among many manufacturers, these things are not so easy to keep secret.
Are you calling the C-X16 a successor to the E-Type? Only in that, if we were to build it, it would be the first two-seater since the E-Type. And for me personally, that type of vehicle is the very centre of our brand. But we’ve had other things to do first. Now we’ve got to it I’m very glad we have. It will fit into what the E-type stood for in the 60s, hopefully.
The E-type is widely considered the most beautiful car, ever. Why not just reproduce that shape exactly as it was, but with modern engineering? Where do I start? In legal terms it would be impossible. Not by millimetres but by inches. From the nose to the tail. Almost every aspect of the cars we design now, I can give you reason to why it ends up the way it does. The designers have to be creative and manipulate these rules into something we all like at the end of the day.
But right, let’s start at the front: it’s got no bumpers. It’s got wheel coverage. The hood line is too high for the four-degree down-vision line. The windshield header is too low for the U.S. unbelted occupant requirement. The vision lines around the car probably infringe on a number of legal requirements now. And the side impact … there’s no way there’s space to get airbags in there.
Besides, I think if we did that car right now, the stance would look very old-fashioned because nowadays we like to get the wheels out to the body. And compared with the C-X16 the E-Type was tiny. It was probably about the same length, but it was about a foot narrower at least. And certainly a lot lower. I don’t like to get into an E-Type because it’s too small, even for somebody my size.
So there are many physical reasons why you wouldn’t do it. Now if you were to replicate that car in the dimensions that I’ve just spoken about, all the areas it would have to fit into, I don’t think you’d like it. It’s not the way to design a car. The E-Type was of an era. It was a very pure car, and that’s its beauty. And what we try and do is instil these values into a modern car.
Where is Jaguar now with moving forward while still acknowledging past design cues? I don’t like the word “cues” because I think they tie you into very specific things which may or may not be relevant. A lot of designers talk about design language, and “this is what our cars will do,” and it’s called whatever it’s called. Jaguar design is based on two or three fundamental values. One is to have a very exciting proportion and profile. You may say, “well, every car company wants to do that,” but they don’t do it. The reason they don’t is that they don’t actually decide it’s very important to them. Other designers will take a set of hard points that are given by some other set of inputs and they work to those hard points. I challenge every millimetre, to get that perfect roof line, that perfect fender line. And that is part of Jaguar’s DNA and its values.