(Dialogue Magazine) — Over the years, Jaguar has reinvented itself into a more modern vehicle. The man behind the transformation, Director of Design Ian Callum, discusses his passion for Jaguar cars and design.
Dialogue Magazine: Can you tell us a little about your background?
Ian Callum: I grew up in a little town called Dumfries in Scotland during the 50s and 60s and I was very passionate about cars. It was something that was important to me, um the most exotic car in town was the Jag, we didn’t see many Ferraris, an occasional Porsche, an occasional Aston Martin but Jaguar was probably the most attainable and most seen exotic car in my life at that time so that’s probably why I fell in love with them so much.
But it was sort of an average place, when I see movies in America like ‘American Graffiti’ and such, I realize when I watch these movies that these little towns are the same everywhere. Everyone knows everybody else, there are places you hang out in the evening, you get into trouble with the various authorities, but not heavily.
But what got me out was that I wanted be car designer from a very young age and everything I did in schooling and stuff was a means to an end.
DM: When did you begin to develop a passion for design?
IC: Um, I don’t know, I went into my primary school at the age of 5 and I told my teacher I wanted to be a car designer at the age of 5. And I remember drawing stuff all the time and I remember thinking at a young age that I wanted to design stuff when I grow up. One day I saw a Porsche 356 drive pass the house, a silver one, and I thought wow that’s amazing. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it was fabulous. I started drawing motor cars, and learned to draw them quite efficiently for a 4-year-old and it kinda stuck with me. By the time I was in secondary school I had so much commitment in my mind as to what I wanted to do that nothing else was going to matter really.
Unless I became a rock star (laughs), but that never happened.
DM: Tell us about your restoration and update of the Jaguar Mark 2
IC: Well the Mark 2, it’s a 1960s car actually, and um we just took this car apart and I rebuilt it the way I wanted to rebuild it, so it’s an old car but its been reinvented. The Mark 2 was a common car, a regularly seen car when I was growing up in the 60s. It’s what all the professionals drove, it’s also what all of the bank robbers drove because it was the fastest car to drive around these parts or around anywhere in Britain. It got the accolade of being the fastest GT car to drive and so it’s what all the “Baddies” drove, hence the slogan “It’s good to be bad,” that’s where that came from.
I loved that car as a kid but I wanted to redesign it at that age because I saw things about it I didn’t like. The bumpers, etc. and some of the detailing. So I finally got one 2-3 years ago and we just rebuilt it to spec the way I imagined it would be from all these years ago. So that’s really what the car is, it’s just a bit of fun. We’ve put an old engine in it which we’ve tuned up, redone the suspension so it handles better. We’ve redone the interior completely with different woods, different leathers, different details.
It’s a bit of a British hot rod really, I think is the best way to describe it, but a bit more sophisticated.
DM: What would you consider your greatest achievement and most challenging moment of your career?
IC: Well they’re probably one and the same actually. I take great pride in reinventing Jaguar over all. We’ve moved Jaguar in the last 10-12 years since I started from a very retro, very conservative, traditional car company which it had turned into. That was never its natural state from what I remembered. I’d like to think I was instrumental in turning it back into a modern, youthful and exotic car company that produces extremely good products, and desirable products and modern products.
The turning point for me was the Jaguar XF and that was about 7 years ago. We created a whole new car company behind the ethos of that car. To me it’s still the most modern car in its class. That really is my proudest moment, to get the XF through the system, to change the brand.
The most difficult was getting the XF through the system and through approval and getting people to buy into it. It was a hard job, we were changing the brand completely, to me it wasn’t a mystery, to me it was an very obvious thing to do. I couldn’t see how anyone else couldn’t see it. When we did it, the perception of Jaguar changed overnight.
I’m very proud of that but it was a very difficult job to convince everybody including some people at Ford it was the right thing to do.
DM: Advice for those wanting to enter your field
IC: Well I think the best advice would be to concentrate on industrial design to begin with, to give yourself a much wide open field of opportunity when you leave college or university. I think it’s important to involve yourself in drawing and art because it’s still a communication tool, still our first form of communication. I still draw things and I insist my people can draw and also to understand the basics of mathematics and engineering, physics and chemistry, all of that good stuff that shows you the technical mind and that you can understand the basic principles of engineering really.
My advice would be, have a point of view, try to create your own mind, your own visual objectives, your own practical objectives in everything you do. Listen to people, listen to those with experience and always understand that everything you do will never be good enough because you’ll look back on it one day and realize it wasn’t that great and you can do much better. That’s what I always remember in my own mind, of course you have to stop at one point and say that’s it. I know at some point I look back and think, actually it wasn’t that great, I can be better ‘cause things can always get better.
And always look at things as if someone else had designed it.Take your own personal subjectivity away from it and that way you can be much more ruthless in your judgment with it.
That’s the best advice I could give.