Archive : The affair of the missing Jaguars

On this day…

The Times, 1 May 1970 reported that delays for Jaguar XJ6s were so intolerable, Swiss buyers came to London and took matters into their own hands…

Jaguar XJ6 1968-73

Impatient at delays in delivery of Jaguar’s highly successful XJ6 model (above), a party of Swiss businessmen clients staged a demonstration outside BLMC’s Berkeley Square showrooms in Mayfair yesterday. As demonstrations go these days it was a peaceful affair.

The score or so of smartly dressed bankers and industrialists, who had each paid 500 Swiss francs for the day return flight from Zurich. marched slowly round the square with their banners (in red and white -the ‘Swiss national colours). ‘We give you Swiss francs – give us Jaguars’

And, ‘Does British Leyland discriminate against Switzerland’ read the banners. Other demonstrators carried placards, ‘I am waiting now 14 months for my XJ6,’ said one. Three police officers, curious as to what was going on, were assured that no sinister motives lay behind the demonstration. and left with a warning on the consequences of obstructing passers by.

While the officers were busy satisfying their curiosity, two members of the party, following accepted demo protocol, paid an , impromptu call on BLMC’s chairman Lord Stokes and handed over a protest note.

‘In no other country is the delivery situation as chaotic in Switzerland,’ said the note. ‘How did we deserve this? Does British Leyland discriminate against Switzerland? We hope not, and we are confident that your Lordship will help us.’

Obviously impressed by the demonstrators’ genuine concern, a smiling Lord Stokes left his office to meet each of the protesters. ‘This is the sort of demonstration we like the most, it shows people want our products,’ he told them. Every effort would be made to speed up delivery, he said.

Lord Stokes. who entertained the enterprising demonstrators to lunch, was unable to be more specific. Strikes permitting, the Swiss may not have to wait much longer for their XJ6s.

Keith Adams
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  1. I’d hate to see the protest staged when the 100% BL qualty controlled* Jaguars arrived in Switzerland!!!!

  2. I’m sure Lord Stokes could have reassured them that the company bore no ill will toward the Swiss. Customers in all countries where treated with equal contempt.

  3. Actually these would have been S1 XJs, early ones, the best made of the lot till the late SIII

  4. Blast from the past… what a shame that BL couldn’t keep up with demand for Jags for the Swiss. The bad old days. At least the modern JLR company is much better organised and building a better product too.

  5. I seem to recall a friend of mine’s Dad was waiting forever for a S1 4.2 around this time and never got it. He bought an almost new Daimler Sovereign 4.2. Wonderful thing

  6. I remember there was a long waiting list for XJ6’s – but did the Swiss get a specially enfeebled version?

    I know there was a special underbored version of the Daimler V8 250 which has a capacity of 2500cc (lost about 50cc from the standard version) and that Rover fitted the 2.6 engine from the P4 110 to the 3 litre (which must have been just what it needed to climb Alps)

  7. Well if it had been me I would have taken my custom elsewhere and bought something else… A brand new Rover P5B 3.5-litre Coupe.

  8. That will be not correct with the 2,6 litre engine for the P5 in Austria.
    The 2,6 litre engine in the P5 were used in France. In Austria we had an engine which was never used in any other Rover model.
    It was a 2,4 litre engine which was only made for Austria and sold in Austria as Rover 2,5 Litre.
    This was made, because the Austrian Rover seller thought that the he could sell more cars when the buyers had to pay lower taxex and that was possible in Austria if you had an engine with less than 2500 ccm.
    I think it was not such a great idea because only 25 of these 2,5 / 2,4 litre cars were sold.

  9. The Series 1 at the head of the article – is that Lord Stokes’ own car? I seem to think that registration is one I got to go in back in March ’99 when the S-Type was launched. Looks like a cracking car in the picture, and it was in the metal too.

  10. It is Sir William Lyons personal car.
    During the 1960’s Jaguar produced around 25,000 cars a year.
    Demand for the XJ pushed this to over 30,000 a year until 1974 when the oil crisis killed demand and even this meagre ammount was more than the market wanted and Jaguar had unsold cars stored at Wellesbourne airfield. Hopes of expanding to produce 60,000 cars a year evaporated in the face of rising fuel prices, even though the XJ was widely regarded as the best car in the world.
    Somehow the Jaguar was always a niche product and the breakthrough to achieve sales on a par with BMW or Mercedes never came. Even now current Jaguar sales have not exceeded those achieved by the Egan era management, the majority of JLR sales are by Land Rover.

  11. And you know, those Swiss business men and industrialists are still waiting …

    Ian Nicholls…it’s only since the launch of the current cars that Jaguar has had a range of truly desirable, ‘I want one of those’ cars, for the first time since the Egan era. They will surely break through over the next 3-5 years.

  12. they’re still considered a bit niche now but only because they lack the smaller saloon and compact car. AWD versions in estate form are also needed too.

    Funny though.. Didn’t production have to stop recently one year? Not because of strikes but because they ran out of engines……

  13. @ Ross A.

    Can you imagine that? “Hello Sir, I’m sorry your car will be delayed. Why? Well, the problem is we can’t get any bloody engines!”

  14. @13, Ian,

    I’ve always liked the Series 3 XJ6s- esp with pepperpots. Yeah, the electrics and other components went on strike about as frequently as the workforce that made them, but that didn’t stop it from being a gorgeous and achingly desirable…

  15. I remember my Granddad waiting in 1971 for his Range Rover, eventually he had to accept one in a different colour to ordered, the delays for orders were so long.

    It so sad that such great cars as the XJ6, Range Rover and Stag (who had a line up as good as that in the early 70,s) were ruined by British Leyland’s inability to build enough of them and build the few they did, so badly.

  16. @16, By the time the Series 3 came along the days of constant stoppages at Jag factories were over. The car was so good (I so love the name Daimler Double Six) that it was arguably the best all round car at the time quite an achievement given the age of the original design, and reliability / quality was acceptable for the time, certainly a lot better than the early XJ40’s.

  17. There maybe a great story out there waiting on the full investigation. Shortage of supply, long waiting list. Premiums paid for new cars. Geoffrey Robinson Jaguar MD. Belgian importer, Mme Joska Bourgeois and an offshore trust she set up for Mr Robinson.

    In the early 70’s you could walk down the 2 saloon lines at Browns Lane and see the card on the car indicating who the customer was and what country the car was destined for. There certainly were a lot of cars going to Belgium, even if virtually none went to Switzerland !

    I seem to recall that his company TransTec was significantly involved in Robert Maxwell’s engineering interests, which transformed its prospects.

    Robinson was at one time, owner of 2 Lutyens country mansions, although he sold one for over £6m some time ago.

    Geoffrey Robinson MP was one of the very few MPs not involved in any of the recent expenses scandal.

    There was a superb piece in the Daily Telegraph at the time it was breaking the expenses story. It was about the honourable MPs who did not fiddle their expenses. It caused quite a few laughs in this household. No, Geoffrey Robinson MP had certainly not tried to defraud the taxpayer of £500 or even £5,000.

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