An old photo of Browns Lane

Local Coventry hero: Guy Broad

Cars

Guy Broad is one of the world’s authorities on everything XK. We spent some time with Guy at his Browns Lane showroom and explored how the Jaguar spirit is alive and well at the place of its creation.

Guy Broad

Local Hero:If you want to know about anything XK: Guy Broad is your man. Picture: JM DRAKE

There’s something in the air around Coventry. It’s to do with productivity. It’s to do with enterprise. It’s to do with a certain kind of pride. There’s something very ‘20th Century’ about that atmosphere – but something, as the years move on, that feels very contemporary too. It’s the same kind of atmosphere that you’ll find in Detroit. Or Dagenham. Or Stuttgart. There’s a straightforwardness to things. A down-to-earth aspect that comes from having over a hundred years of expertise. It’s the sort of expertise that has applied itself to all sorts of things – but mostly machines, and mostly cars. You can smell it in the atmosphere. And that is a good feeling. To breathe that proper automotive air.

Inside Jaguar's Browns Lane plant

The Jaguar Plant in Browns Lane, Coventry produced across six decades every single Jaguar to bear the XK designation. Picture: JAGUAR

There are so many amazing machines that came out of the Browns Lane end of Coventry. The place where we have our dealerships is right here – and it’s wholly appropriate. This was a garage all the way back to the 1950s, when the Browns Lane plant was built. So in a way, these are a home for the XK Jaguars. We’re proud to be part of the texture of things here.

All the XKs were built here. They all came out of the Jaguar gates, up there where it used to be just up the road from where we stand right now, and they were all test driven on these very roads. There is an atmosphere in this part of Coventry. It is infused with Jaguar. You would have had huge amounts of people cycling from the village areas to work in the factories, and as many of these houses around here were populated by people who worked in the factories, and the pub up the road. Round the corner was full of Jaguar execs from lunchtime every Friday.

Norman Dewis

Legendary test engineer Norman Dewis in Belgium, 1953. Picture: JAGUAR

You can imagine cars like the D-types and C-types being test-driven on the roads around here. People would wake up in the morning and there would be every XK, every E-type and every D-type just casually driving around. The whole Le Mans works team would literally drive straight down from Browns Lane, race the 24 Hours, and then drive back, and people would line the streets. Jaguar represented Britain on the world automotive stage, and so Coventry was always at the heart of our automotive identity. It’s unsurprising that people had great pride in being part of Jaguar – and by extension great pride in being from Coventry.

A side-on view of a Jaguar XK 120

Hand drawn design of the XK 120 lines owe as much to 30s art deco as post World War 2 Tech. Picture: JAGUAR

The cars that Jaguar built were just so stylish. It might be amazing to some to think that such exotic cars would arise out of an unassuming place like Coventry, but there’s a logic to it. You can trace the styling of the XK 120 to pre-war design, the curves and the sweeping lines. Then, of course, World War 2 came and changed everything. New technologies were everywhere and working their way into civilian manufacturing. This part of the midlands was packed with engineering and manufacturing workshops — and the sheer pace and intensity of productivity and innovation would have been absolutely peaking toward the middle and late years of the 1940s, because of the war effort and then all that overcapacity when peace broke out. There was such great expertise everywhere.

An interior view of a beautiful Jaguar.

An interior view of a beautiful Jaguar. Picture: JAGUAR

The most visible aspect of that was of course the aerodynamics that made their way into the cars. Malcolm Sayer, who was such a key figure at Jaguar in the post war years, was a guru of understanding how important air flow was in making a car not only beautiful, but quick and efficient. All these amazing curved lines were to do with Sayers’ knowledge of aerodynamics. He also had a wonderful eye drawing them – the lines just came out of his head, on to a page and then into the steel.

A Sayer model

A Sayer model shows the elegant curves that adorn various Jaguar cars. Picture: JAGUAR

The other element was that XK engine. It’s a format that remained relevant and important to Jaguar all the way through to the 80s and beyond. Straight six, simple, strong and powerful. It looks as beautiful as the steel panels that encase it.

Inside a Jaguar engine

Under the bonnet, the iconic straight-six. Picture: JAGUAR

In the early days of the 1950s Britain was recovering its economy after the war. The car business was all to do with exports, so a huge amount of the early cars left the country. Britain needed the foreign cash. So at first the XK cars were very rare to see outside of this area. There were long waiting lists and you couldn’t just go and get one in a showroom because the drive was everything to do with export. But once the mid-50s started to roll around production was increased and they became much more available to people. It wasn’t in everyone’s reach, but by the late 1950s these cars were the sort of thing people could actually get hold of. My father owned an XK120 as a very young man — and that is probably where my interest in these cars began.

A Jaguar XK 120 Roadster from the side

A Jaguar XK 120 Roadster is a thing of beauty, especially from side-on. Picture: JAGUAR

Because I have grown up with XK 120s around, and C-types and D-types around here and there, you get a little blasé about them. But every now and then you catch a glimpse of them with the same eyes that you had when you first saw them. Their presence, their character – their sheer beauty can take your breath away. And today, with every new car looking the same and the wholesale move to electric, that hand-made, hand-drawn aesthetic looks all the more breathtaking. When we are out test driving this stuff, it is amazing how many people will pull up beside you and still be amazed and ask you what it is. Quite often they will say it is the most beautiful car they have ever seen. And when it comes down to it – I have to agree.

Guy Broad at Browns Lane

 

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