Jaguar: The Art of the Automobile

Zef Enault & Nicolas Heidet

Mitchell Beazley, £40

Review by Keith Bruce

The exquisite waterfront lines of the V&A in Dundee are not besmirched by anything as vulgar as an adjacent car-park, but when the first visitors arrived to view the museum's permanent exhibition of Scottish design, the first object they encountered, parked in the middle of the gallery’s upper floor, was a car: a Jaguar F-Pace, the marque’s first excursion into SUV territory.

It was an appropriate way to celebrate Scotland’s continuing influential place in the international world of car design, since the F-Pace – which had restored the reputation of Jaguar as the home of the best-looking modes of transport money can buy – was one of a slew of beautiful vehicles overseen by a Scot, Ian Callum. Ferraris are also gorgeous, of course, but remember that when Enzo Ferrari saw the first E-type Jag at the Geneva motor show in 1961, he pronounced it the most beautiful car in the world.

The authors of this lavish new book, designed with the coffee-table rather than the work-shop in mind, certainly do, and they use the Italian’s endorsement in their chapter on what remains the most famous car of Jaguar’s long and illustrious history. E-type owners included Frank Sinatra, George Best, Brigitte Bardot, and George Harrison, and one of the boldest strokes of Ian Callum’s 29-year tenure as Head of Design was to follow it up with the F-type, Jaguar’s first two-seater sports car since.

There are niceties of definition at work in that description, admittedly, but it is unarguable that the stable of saloons, sports cars and SUVs that Ian Callum created was as coherent a collection as Jaguar had ever produced in its long history. I once served on a design award panel he chaired, and it was fascinating to hear him talk about the sustainability of the motor car in an environmentally-conscious age. He was insatiably curious about each one of the very diverse entries for the prize.

Callum stood down from the Jaguar job five months ago, and both the V&A display and this book are now celebrations of his legacy, but it's worth noting he was only the most recent example of a long Scottish relationship with Jaguar.

Just over a decade ago, three-times Formula 1 champion Jackie Stewart designed a memorial event at Gasgow Cathedral for his brother Jimmy, who died at the beginning of 2008. It was Jimmy who had introduced Jackie to motor-racing and had the family’s first successes, driving for the Ecurie Ecosse team.

Inside the cathedral the congregation was entertained by young singers from the National Youth Choir of Scotland (young James had been a fine boy treble), players from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill and superstar guitarist Eric Clapton. To some eyes they were all up-staged by the car parked outside: a very rare example of the E-type’s predecessor, the XJ120-C, or C-type.

The sporting heritage of Jaguar continues to this day, in the lineage of the evolution of the Red Bull team at Formula 1. Back at the start of the 1950s the founder of the company, William Lyons, had his eye on success at the Le Mans 24 hour race and the C-type was created with that goal in mind, successfully achieved in 1951, in an era when Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari were also at the top of their game. Only 53 C-types were built, and two of them flew under the Ecurie Ecosse flag, prepared for racing success in an Edinburgh garage at Merchiston Mews, and often driven by Jimmy Stewart.

Ian Callum’s predecessor at the Jaguar operation of that era, Malcolm Sayer, had a background in aeronautics and would go on to design the superb D-type, which was also successfully raced by Ecurie Ecosse, and its very rare derivative, the XK Super Sport, of which there were just 16, all sold in the US (for less than $7000), including one to actor and amateur pilot Steve McQueen.

But whether it is that speedy road to the E-type and beyond that interests you, or the elegant saloons favoured by John Thaw’s Inspector Morse, as well as by Royalty and Lords Provost in their Daimler guise, The Art of the Automobile covers the ground.

Alongside photographs, the history is packaged with anecdote and enough geeky technical stuff for those impressed more by acceleration and brake horse power than elegant curves. And so what if the authors seem a little less well-informed about Jaguar’s Caledonian connections? Petrolheads in Scotland know better.