No spotlights. No evocative music. No video walls playing carefully crafted videos. Unlike its world premiere on the stage at the Paris Motor Show, the first time Jaguar’s celebratory (75 years of heritage) and celebrated C-X75 set foot on the open road was a more gritty and real experience.
It might be Hollywood, but its edgy North Hollywood, not the Walk of Fame or the Sunset Strip, where Tinseltown’s favourite petrolhead Jay Leno became the first person outside Jaguar to drive the C-X75 on a public highway.
“I have compromising pictures of (Jaguar Design Director) Ian Callum. That’s why I am being allowed to drive it first,” joked the TV chat show host and all-round petrolhead, pacing about the Jaguar like the big cat of the same name.[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”left”]I have compromising pictures of (Jaguar Design Director) Ian Callum. That’s why I am being allowed to drive it first[/blockquote]
The real reason? Leno loves cars partly because of Jaguar. Leno’s obsession with cars was born when, as a 9 year old, he saw a neighbour in Massachusetts polishing an XX120. His passion for cars was ignited on that hot summer’s day. That was just over 50 years ago. Now Leno’s garage houses hundreds of cars and motorbikes, including a Jaguar XK120, XK140, an E-Type (XKE in the US) and a new XJ (ordered after launching the car in London last year).
As he was allowed to peruse the gleaming XK at his childhood home near Boston, 3000 miles away in England, Jaguar’s design team creating the E-Type were finishing off the iconic shape that sealed Jaguar’s place in the dictionary of cool forever. Now, almost half a century on, Leno thinks Jag have hit gold again.
“Jaguar really surprised everybody when they showed up with this car at Paris, but that’s what Jags do. They tend to show up and surprise everyone. The XKE in 1961, the XK120 in 1948 and this one in 2010. That’s part of the Jag tradition. You turn up with something cool, surprise everyone…then hopefully build it.”
The inspiration for the C-X75 comes from the same decade as the E-Type. In the 60’s, Jaguar made the XJ13 race car to take on the Ferraris and GT40’s at Le Mans. But only one of the V12 machines was ever made.
By coincidence, when Leno was in the UK in 2009 to launch the XJ, he picked the XJ13 from a cavalcade of Jags to have a test drive at Gaydon, near Stratford-upon-Avon.
“The minute I saw the C-X75 and Ian said it was his inspiration, I could see the link,” said Leno.
Callum and his one-off creation were in LA for the auto show. And to test the reaction of potential customers in the world’s entertainment capital.[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]My XK120, when I park it on the street, there will be women around when I come back. What kind of car is that? Then they ask me questions. They think it is fantastic, Leno tells Callum[/blockquote]
“The C-X75 is called that because it celebrates 75 years of Jaguar heritage and shows our thinking for the future,” said Callum, walking Leno around the car. “It also shows the kind of forward thinking talent we have at Jaguar.”
Leno caresses and touches the bodywork as he circumnavigates the C-X75. Like all Jaguars he sees the mix of femininity and muscular masculinity.
“My XK120, when I park it on the street, there will be women around when I come back. What kind of car is that? Then they ask me questions. They think it is fantastic,” Leno tells Callum. The pair have met many times. The bond of petrolheads is strong.
Leno’s view on Callum’s styling? “The nice thing, despite being so cutting edge, is it still looks like a Jag. It’s got certain key features like the detail on the buttress behind the driver’s head that is reminiscent of the new XJ. The back end is especially sexy and has hints of E Type and even the D Type.”
It’s clear Leno is keen to get behind the wheel. When the car is made. If the car is made, it will be powered by twin turbines charging four electric motors. The hybrid power plant is one thing that caught the press’ attention in Paris.
This concept car is battery powered. It is amazing that it drives at all but Leno thinks that and the ready-to-make look of the design are positive signs for its future. He climbs aboard.
The street near his garage has a man at each end to avoid a priceless prang. Otherwise this is a public thoroughfare. Jay emits a big grin from inside the cabin, which he likes for being spacious , having a liberal use of brushed aluminium and mixing modern with hints of history.
A touch on the accelerator and the world’s only C-X75 pulls away silently. Callum smiles, maybe out of nervousness, but certainly out of pride. His baby is now in the hands of the world’s best known gearhead. What Leno thinks has global resonance.
Jay takes the Jag up the street and back. It can easily manage the urban speed limit but the car’s starring role in LA means treating it with kid gloves. It’s a short test but an important one. As he returns, the familiar Jaguar nose straddling the centre line, and Leno’s famous face behind the polished aluminium steering wheel, Callum waits at the roadside.
The look on his face says ‘Well..?’ as Leno opens the gaping doors.
“There is no point talking handling and performance. It is just a thrill to even feel it move,” beams the comedian. “It’s such an important car for Jaguar. The design, the propulsion, the statement it makes about the company’s take on the future. It is just aching to be built. I hope. I really hope they do make it. It’s beautiful. And Jaguar’s are beautiful.”