Jaguar Heritage Collection – Coventry (GB)

Since this item was written, in January 2008, the museum has sadly been closed, as the site has been sold for redevelopment. Some of the cars are now on display at Gaydon, the rest are held in storage and will appear at various events.

Today’s museum visit was to the Jaguar Heritage Collection, which is hidden away at the Browns Lane site. It’s only open on the last Sunday of every month, and admission is free of charge. You simply drive up to the main gate, wait for the barrier to rise, and then drive round a collection of somewhat run-down buildings that are, of course, no longer in use, and eventually, you end up at a small building, with about 30 cars on display. The whole collection, I was told, numbers approx 160 vehicles, with a large number of the Formula 1 cars, and they are all stored on-site. I was told that sometimes the museum staff will take visitors over to look at the stored cars, but, sadly, today was not such a day. Anyway, there was plenty to see, and to marvel at. Here’s the view from the first floor gallery, of the front part of the museum:

There’s a mixture of production cars, concept cars, and racing vehicles. So, starting with the concept cars: The RD06:
The R Concept:
The XK180 – unusually for a concept car, this was fully functional, and could be driven. 2 such cars were made, one for the US, in left hand drive.
Although this car looked like an XK, it was actually the “ALC”, which was shown as a concept car in advance of the launch of the production vehicle:
The rarest car, and doubtless the most valuable, is this, the 1966 XJ13. There is only one such car in the world, and it was extensively damaged following a massive high speed accident in the 1960s, but has since been beautifully recreated:
The sporting heritage was well in evidence, too: A “C” Type, dating from 1953:
Just one Formula 1 car was on display:
Jaguar was successful at Le Mans, and this is the winning car:
The production cars: Where better to start than with an XJ220? The car on display is actually the concept version, first shown in 1988. A production version was then launched in 1991, with several modifications, not least of which was a different engine.
The launch of the XK120 at the 1948 London Motor Show caused a huge sensation. The car was intended to be produced in small quantities as a test bed for the new XK engine that was going to be launched in a saloon a couple of years later., But overwhelming demand encouraged Jaguar to produce more cars, and after building a few in aluminium, switched to a steel body for the bulk of the production run. This 1953 car is one of the later ones before the upgrade to the XK140
Jaguar caused yet another sensation in 1955 when they launched the 2.4, a sports saloon at a surprisingly affordable price. The example shown here is actually a 3.4 model, but still the Mark 1 version:
The sensations continued with the 1961 unveiling of the “E” Type. This Series 3 is the very last produced, in 1975.
The Collection has managed to acquire many “first” and “last” cars. This is the very last XJS model produced, in April 1996, just before the switch over to the XK8:
The XJ6 on show was not the first, but it was an early model. This car was owned and driven by Sir William Lyons himself for a number of years
This is the oldest known surviving Swallow from 1928. Based on an Austin Seven these cars were surprisingly successful, and laid the foundations for the Swallow Sidecar Company that eventually became Jaguar
After the success of this one, Lyons introduced Swallow versions of a number of other cars, including an offering based on the Standard 9, and this one, based on the Wolseley Hornet
Buoyed by this success, the range developed upmarket into some very appealing grand tourers. In 1931, the SS1 and SS11 were launched, and were instantly praised for their styling, engineering and all round desirability. This is the SS1:
A couple of years later, this was followed up by the SS Airline. Not quite so well received, but still a supremely elegant vehicle, even now:
Another elegant 30s offering:
This car was known as the “Lady Lyons”, and was driven by Sir Williams’ wife for some years
This 3.5 liter saloon has succesfully completed the 2007 Paris to Peking race:
The 20th James Bond film, “Die Another Day” featured a much modified XK8. Several cars were produced for filming, some more modified than others. Here is one of them:
Daimlers also feature in the collection, too. The Conquest, launched in 1953, was so named because the price came out at £1066.
The oldest car in the display was this 1897 Daimler:
and here is a slightly later offering:
When I got to Browns Lane, there were quite a few people milling around, and plenty of XFs in the car park. I got all excited that perhaps I was going to be able to sign up for a test drive on the spot. Sadly not, as this was a special event for Jaguar employees, who were being allowed out on a 45 minute circuit to test out the cars that they have helped to design or manufacture. Not as many cars here as Peet saw in his real test drive at Gaydon, but out on the road, these cars look stunning.
The future of the Browns Lane site, and indeed Jaguar itself is far from clear, so the future of the collection is also uncertain. It’s well worth a trip if you are in the area and it is the last Sunday of the month. Open from 10am til 4pm.
2009-12-18 20:24:43

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