Obituary : Bob Knight 1920-2000

Unique niche in motoring history for the man who designed XJ12

A former managing director of Jaguar Cars, who played a crucial role in the development of the company, has died.

Mr Bob Knight was widely regarded as the most talented chassis engineer of his generation and played a vital part in the development of every modern Jaguar during his 36-year career at the Coventry-based luxury car maker.

Mr Knight joined SS cars in 1944, one year before the company changed its name to Jaguar Cars.

He started out as a technical assistant in the chassis drawing office and as specialist in chassis development he was responsible for the design of the victorious C-type and D-type racing cars which won Le Mans five times during the 1950s.

Disc brakes, which are now a universal automotive safety feature, were first pioneered by Mr Knight on the Le Mans winning cars.

He was appointed chief vehicle engineer in 1963 and worked on the XJ6 and XJ12 saloons. The XJ12 is still regarded as a benchmark in automotive design.

After being appointed to the board of Jaguar Cars in 1969, he assumed all responsibility for its engineering programmes.

He was awarded the CBE in 1977 and in 1978 was appointed managing director of Jaguar cars. He retired in 1980.

Mr Knight, who died at the age of 80, recently drove a Jaguar XJR Saloon, which he described as a worthy successor to his original Jaguar XJ12 saloon.

The company’s managing director, Mr Jonathan Browning, said: ‘Bob was a talented and visionary engineer and he made an immense contribution to the development of Jaguar.

‘His gifts as a chassis engineer established Jaguar’s world class reputation for outstanding ride, road holding and refinement.

‘As managing director of Jaguar, he also played a major role in preserving Jaguar’s independent engineering department when the company was part of British Leyland and by doing so laid the foundations for Jaguar’s growth and expansion over the past two decades.’

Keith Adams

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