By now almost anyone with a passing interest in current happenings is aware of the Jaguar Advanced Lightweight Coupe. The recent debut of this concept car on the stages of the world's auto shows has to be considered a success for not only the design team but for the suits in the corporate boardroom. And why not? After several recent setbacks, design honcho Ian Callum has Jaguar poised for a bright future indeed, with some truly inspired cats ready for the next big leap. Clichs aside, this is what Mr. Callum had to say to us.
ec: A few years ago you stated Jaguar's current models were too fragmented in design and that they need more of a lineage. Do you feel that you are heading in the direction you want with the current offerings?IC: We are getting there. A change of direction like this takes time and I would think that the ALC for me is that first step. Hopefully the next lineup of cars will reflect this trend.
ec: Another point you made was that heritage is important, but the company also needs to send a stronger contemporary message. The new ALC certainly is part of that message, but does the S-Type fit in that scheme with its retro-styled look?IC: Well, with reference to retro styling and the S-Type, no, not entirely. We did facelift tests recently and I think we did a nice job of modernizing the S-Type. I don't know how familiar you are with the facelifted version. With that car there is only so much we can do and spend on it. Definitely, the next generation of the S-Type will not have that retro-styled feel.
ec: Is the new car something that's moreon your ground and in the direction that you want to see it go?IC: Absolutely, and I have full support in that area, there is no issue. I mean, fundamentally Jaguar is a contemporary car company and we need to reestablish that fact. I'm not surprised people would think otherwise though.
ec: The ALC feels British, but in an odd way it also seems like a throwback to the jewel-like Pininfarina coupes of the '50s and the Zagato-bodied Aston Martin GTs without being a retro design. What was your inspiration for the ALC?IC: Interesting observation. Let me tell you something: My favorite car of all time is the short-wheel-based Ferrari 250 GT SWB by Pininfarina. There are a lot of similarities in these cars and the Italian cars of the '50s. There is an influence yes, but I think we can put this in my mind's reference for design. Although I don't want to recreate them in some sort of heritage way, there are definite influences that I have picked up. Of course, the Zagato Aston was also a beautiful car.
ec: That's what you liked as a kid and it's what you still like today.IC: Of course, and to try and meet that kind of Ferrari-type feel, and lot of the E-Type, in that emotional area. That's where some of the Italian influences come in. The ALC has a coupe profile as well. But all of these cars of the '60s and late '50s really did influence each other anyway.
ec: It seems like light years from the R Coupe to the ALC. Are there compromises made to concept cars that you hope to see make it to production?IC: Well, I think there are obviously compromises on the show or concept car. The compromises are kind of self imposed in that we naturally exaggerate things with a show car. But I think it goes without saying that a lot of the current thought makes it to production, unlike the R coupes. Where we have probably compromised ourselves is that we've made the ALC more of a show car, such as with the wheel size, which we deliberately exaggerated. A show car needs to be a caricature to a point. So there are rather aggressive expressions of some things that might make it to production. I suppose in some ways we did compromise, because these are the things that we are not going to get in reality, so we kind of spoil ourselves. But on the whole, we shouldn't have to compromise the show car as such.
ec: Do you feel a natural evolution in your work from the XJR15 during your TWR days that is apparent in today's ALC? Is there an Ian Callum "line"?IC: Yes, when you look at the cars I've done there is definitely a sense of some set of rules that I stick to. I have worked on a quite a number of different brands over the years, but yes, there is a line... but I don't exactly know what it is. My obsession is with proportion. This fits perfectly into the Jaguar brand. The rest, I don't know what it is, I haven't got a clue. I worked on the XJR15 for Tom[Walkinshaw] 15 years ago. I'm sure you might find something there.
ec: Peter Stevens commented that when you are most efficient in design, it can inspire a cocky kind of confidence. Looking at something like the ALC, you obviously have to feel confident when you are building something like that.IC: Oh absolutely, and I have to say through the various experiences of building these cars I personally feel very comfortable now. You have to, or the lack of confidence will show in the designs.
ec: Aston Martin scored a big win at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the DBR 9 is considered one of the best looking racecars on the scene today. The ALC seems to have all the right stuff to be a possible competition coupe. Would you like to see Jaguar return to frontline GT racing and could the ALC become the weapon of choice?IC: I would like to picture the ALC as the ultimate road car. I hadn't thought about it really, it's not even on our radar or plans, and as long as it looks good and very meaningful on the road, well...
ec: That's a good answer from the corporate side, but that wouldn't stop somebody from deciding to develop the ALC on their own, such as a Prodrive or a wealthy individualist. The Ferrari 550 was never going to be a racecar and it won at Le Mans with no help from Maranello.IC: Well, you know, all I can say is that we certainly have no plans to race it, although it's got the proportions of a racecar.
ec: There, you gave me the answer I needed. You're off the hook.IC: (Laughing) But there are no plans to race it that I know of.