There are few car brands as evocative as Jaguar.
The name conjures up images of Swinging Sixties icons hopping into E-Types and roaring off to Carnaby Street, Withnail & I taking their battered Mark 2 for a "splendid weekend in the country," Inspector Morse's rather more well-appointed model, and – of course – Austin Powers and his "Shaguar".
That's a lot of heritage to draw on – but it also means that designing a new Jag is fraught with difficulty, with each model having to respect the past while forging ahead to the future. That's especially true of the new F-Type, which bore a formidable weight of expectations as the brand's first new sports car in years.
For a brand that brought us the XJ220 and other iconic machines, Jaguar has somehow made do without a proper sports car for some time. The XFR and the XKR, for instance, are wonderfully fast machines but are grand tourers at heart.
The F-Type Coupé is an important car for the brand, then. It represents the spiritual return of the E-Type and flies the flag for what a fast Jag can do – and it had to look fantastic. That job fell to Jaguar design director Ian Callum and his team – and who better to tell us the story behind the F-Type than the man himself?
Why did the convertible come first?
"It's very difficult to engineer a coupé and turn it into a convertible, it's the wrong way to do it. If you're going to do a convertible you have to start off that way, you have to engineer it that way and then you have to design it that way. Designing a convertible is more difficult from my point of view and I always say if you get a great looking convertible you get an even better looking coupé out of it. In doing it the other way around, it works, but it doesn't always work as experience has shown me.
"So that was one of the reasons. The other reason was at the time when we made the decision, if you looked at our understanding of the US market, particularly California, convertibles were the highest selling cars. So we decided to focus on what was happening in California at the time. Funnily enough, since then things have shifted a bit. And I suspect with the [F-Type Coupé] we have here, things will shift even more. Historically, over the last 10 years, convertibles and coupés were 60 to 40 per cent... I have a feeling it will go the other way around."
F-Type Coupe vs F-Type Convertible: Which is best?
"I loved the E-Type, like everybody else. I've always said this, it was the Coupé that was iconic. The Convertible's beautiful and people focused on it and paid more money for it – as convertibles are generally more expensive – but for me it was the Coupé that was the iconic car, the one that created the shape.
"As a design, the full shape, for me, is always going to be more exciting than a convertible roof, which is going to default to what the roof shape is."
Why no folding hard-top?
"We decided early on we wouldn't do a folding hard-top, where it would've added a bit more spice into the form but it would've compromised the back end totally and we didn't want to do that. Also the weight distribution was a bit difficult because of it as well, as some of our competitors have found out.
"The Coupé is, at the end of the day, the real statement. I think time will show that. I love it."