Remarkably, given the importance of heritage to premium automotive brands, it has lacked one since 2012, leaving the hundreds of notable cars it religiously maintains either relegated to a corner of a Warwickshire car museum or hidden behind closed doors.
The Jaguar Gallery at the Coventry Transport Museum goes some way towards fixing this. A high-end installation within Coventry’s thriving auto heritage centre, located less than a mile from Jaguar’s global HQ, means the public can again see classic D-Types, E-Types, the XKSS and XJ220 – for free.
Typically for Jaguar, deliveries were made in style. The cars massed at a country hotel and were driven in a police-escorted convoy into the centre of Coventry, where hundreds of onlookers had gathered in the blazing sunshine for the preview. The D-Type alone is effectively priceless, and estimates regarding the collective worth of the display were in the tens of millions of pounds.
So why, then, has Jaguar’s heritage been homeless? Its famous base for five decades, the Browns Lane plant, was sold by Ford, Jaguar’s former owner, to housing developers in 2007. The onsite heritage centre was given a stay of execution until last year, when it closed to some disquiet. It would be like the Henry Ford Museum closing in Dearborn, Michigan. Only now has Jaguar started to right things.
While beautiful in its execution, Jaguar’s new digs are no standalone heritage centre – and for a brand with such pedigree, that absence is conspicuous. BMW spent $200m building BMW Welt, its temple to self in Munich, Germany. The Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, the world’s largest standalone car museum, reportedly cost over $190m. Even sports car maker Porsche spent $130m on its Stuttgart heritage museum.
“In heritage is our future,” said Jaguar/Land Rover CEO Dr Ralf Speth at the opening of the Jaguar Gallery on 1 Aug. His very presence at the event, along with that of design chief Ian Callum, indicated how seriously the company takes the matter. Surely, then, Jaguar World cannot be far off?