Back in those heady days, motor cars represented more than just convenient personal transportation. They made a statement about their owners, their ambitions and their lifestyles.
OK. Much of it was just a lot of pretentious bee-ess. It was the kind of thing that pitched the bourgeoisie on collision course with their often cliched friends and neighbours. Millions became entangled in an inane game of Jones-beating one-upmanship. This was a world where credit cards were maxed out to the hilt and the middle classes teetered on the edge of mass penury simply to satisfy a desire to look the part and fit in. Personally, I never desired to pay good money simply to look like everyone else!
But the car industry loved it. It demonstrated a level of marketing prowess unmatched by any other sector. Even volume house builders attempted a similar strategy by introducing their range of dwellings with grandiose 'model' names such as "The Tewkesbury," "The Burlington," "The Windsor" and so forth. Presumably "The Windsor" would have been the premium dwelling because of its 'Royal' connotations. Perhaps a "Windsor" provided its occupants a life filled with paper doilies and knitted toilet roll concealers? Even corgi ownership beckoned if you could afford to live in a Windsor?
Riding the wave
Back in the day, two of Britain’s leading car manufacturers tailored new models to ride this wave of conspicuous consumption. In 1994, the Jaguar XJ (X300) and Range Rover (P38) were launched with only one day separating them. Both models had hard acts to follow.
Looking back, it might now seem a little odd that both Jaguar and Land Rover launched their two most important 1990's models as direct competitors. However, we have to remember that between 1984 and 2000, these two companies were independent. Land Rover's prestigious Range Rover was widely regarded as a direct competitor to Jaguar's XJ Models. Although the new models were aimed at different buyers, they would still compete within the higher end market.
In 1984 Jaguar finally gained independence from British Leyland after being bought by Ford. Having suffered years of underinvestment under the BL flag, Jaguar had been subject to the same kind of general in-house apathy that tainted other brands under BL stewardship. By the time the Jaguar (X300) was revealed in 1994, Jaguar Cars certainly had a point to prove, especially to their German rivals. Ford had paid a whopping £1.6-billion for Jaguar Cars, knowing they had a hefty mountain to climb. Ford executives realised that they had to quickly set about modernising the famous British brand in order to revive its fortunes.
Amidst this process of rejuvenation, Ford quickly took on the major task of renovating Jaguar’s Browns Lane factory in Coventry. This was part of Ford's plan to facilitate the introduction of a brand new range of smaller, more modern Jaguars. Ford hoped that this would help broaden the marque's appeal. New investment in the Coventry plant meant that Jaguar had the tools it required to go ahead and replace the (XJ40) with a fresher-looking, more profitable car. Although the (XJ40) had only been released in 1986, it looked old-hat in a rapidly evolving market.
The (X300) was unveiled in the Autumn of 1994. It turned out to be a fusion of an all-new model combined with a substantial facelift. Whilst the (X300) shared much of the (XJ40)'s underpinnings, it was blessed with some of the Ill-fated (XJ90)'s fabulous design cues. The stunningly beautiful (XJ90) concept was one of a long line of cars that Jaguar ought to have built but for reasons best known to themselves, didn't. Nevertheless, the (X300) ended up looking fabulous despite not having been drawn on a totally clean-sheet. The car was a very careful blend of enduring design traits (such as the return of twin headlamps) whilst, at the same time, taking the design forward with baby steps. Later models (X308) were fitted with the all-new AJ-26 light alloy V8's which turned a great car into a mind-blower - especially the supercharged XJR's
Over in Solihull, times were-a-changing too. However, unlike Jaguar, Land Rover was still under The Rover Group and didn't enjoy the benefits of Uncle Henry's fat cheque book. But the original Range-Rover (Classic) enjoyed a near cult following. It absolutely epitomised the upper crust's 'country set' lifestyles. It was all about green-wellied gaiety and horsey-culture. Any other off-roaders could just jolly well trot-on because nothing else quite cut the mustard! An all-new Range-Rover would need to tick a whole lot of boxes because it followed in the footsteps of an actual icon. But, it was deemed that a new millennium deserved a New Range-Rover.
Unlike the Jaguar (X300), the new Range-Rover (P38) looked markedly different from its predecessor. Whilst it was very recognisably a Range-Rover, it still had a different look about it. Like the new JAG, the new Range-Rover had a substantial amount of the previous model lurking beneath the surface but it was all greatly enhanced. The new model was to win hearts and minds by offering a much more refined driving experience.
The new Rangey was packed with the very latest tech and safety gizmos, providing more kudos than ever before. Aficionados were delighted that the Classic’s Rover V8 came as part of the (P38) package - albeit tweaked. At launch, buyers could choose a 190-bhp 4.0-litre or go all-out and get the 225-bhp 4.6-litre variant.
It’s fair to say that both the (X300) and the (P38) were miraculously produced on a shoestring by a pair of under-resourced companies. However, these important models were developed and produced at extensively upgraded production facilities which had been specifically created for both. It all cost around £200-million apiece. Small-fry when you consider that Ford's new Mondeo (launched in 1993) was part of a hefty £4-billion development programme.
Looking at them today, it’s clear that Father Time has been considerably kinder to the Range Rover than the JAG. Whilst the X300 is beautifully proportioned with plenty of special detailing, the (P38) looks that bit more impressive. Compared to modern offerings, the JAG just looks a bit small, with surprisingly cramped interiors.
So, as a future classic, would I buy the JAG or the Range-Rover?
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