By Clifford Webb
Jaguar, British Leyland’s prestige car sales contender yesterday unveiled its long awaited new 12 cylinder engine. By so doing, it became the first car manufacturer to introduce such a complex engine for volume production and by relieving pressure on the existing six cylinder line at its Coventry plant it will be able to divert a substantial number of these older engines for use in its much sought after XJ6 saloon.
British Leyland has spent £3m. on laying down new production facilities for the V12 engine. A great emphasis has been laid on automation. Despite its complexity the new engine will require only one third of the labour which goes into the six cylinder. The installation is geared to produce 1000 power units a week on two shift manning. The initial production target is only 170 a week on single shift working, and for the time being this entire output is going into E-type sports cars destined for the North American market.
The remarkable success of the XJ6, deliveries are still lagging up to 18 months behind orders, has confounded the critics. It is this continuing high level of demand which has clearly led to the decision to use the V 12 as an alternative power unit in the E type only, at least at this time. It is also obvious however that with capacity for 1,000 V12s a week it will not be long before a version of the XJ6 also appears with the new engine. In the past two years Jaguar has produced some 8,000 E- types annually.
This year it plans to build 4,500 of the new V12Es backed by an as yet unknown quantity of six cylinder Es, unknown that is because until it has tested market reaction to a V12 costing only £250 more than the smaller engine model it does not know if there will be any continuing demand for the older unit.