Inside the mind of Britain’s most prolific car designer behind the Jaguar I-Pace, Aston Martin Vanquish and Ford Puma
YOU’VE probably never heard of Ian Callum.
But I bet you know all about the Ford Escort Cosworth. And the Ford Puma. And the Aston Martin DB7. And the DB9. And the Vanquish.
What about the Jaguar F-Type sports car?
And the F-Pace SUV? And the all-electric I-Pace? And the Bond baddie car in Spectre?
Well, Ian is the man behind them all.
Of all the people in the car industry you would forgive for having more swagger than Cristiano Ronaldo at a hen do, it would be him. But he’s totally the opposite.
He has the demeanour of your favourite uncle at Christmas — a nice, down-to-earth bloke who happens to design cars for a living.
We are sat eating custard creams and sharing a bottle of water as Ian spools through his incredible CV and talks about the cars we all salivate over. He is now up to car No 23.
The 64-year-old Scot, Jaguar’s head of design, said: “I feel very privileged when I see that list.
“My involvement in each one is varied but I do feel a genuine sense of responsibility for their existence. Every car has a story.”
Let’s go through some of the highlights . . .
FORD RS200: The iconic Group B rally car. Ian says: “This was really the first time I got a chance to work on anything. It came from Ghia – a very basic design.
“I went through the whole car front to back, changing just about every detail.
“It had cut-down Sierra doors and Reliant built the fibre-glass bodies. You’d pay a lot of money for one of these now.”
FORD GHIA VIA CONCEPT: An I-Pace ahead of its time? Ian says: “I worked on this one with my brother Murray at Ghia in 1988. It didn’t run.
“It didn’t even have room for an engine.
“I always wanted to do a cab- forward five-seater, so in some ways this should have been electric.”
FORD ESCORT RS COSWORTH: The Nineties poster hero. Ian says: “I was the Ford guy. Peter Horbury’s design company started it, I finished it off.
“ It’s a Sierra underneath, so the whole body had to be re-done.
“That’s why the wings and everything are all different. The whale-tail spoiler is essential for downforce.”
ASTON MARTIN DB7: Ian’s calling card. He says: “This was the catalyst for my career. If it wasn’t for DB7, I wouldn’t be at Jaguar now.
“It gave me the credentials to say I could do it.
“ I saw one the other day and I thought, ‘You know what? It’s all right’.”
ASTON MARTIN T.AX CONCEPT: The one that got away. Ian says: “Nobody has ever seen this before. We proposed it to Aston but they didn’t want it. Sad. Lovely car. It looked wild.
“We packaged it all, V8 Jag engine in the back, carbon tub. It would have been what all these supercars are now, 20 years ago.”
VOLVO C70: Yes, really. Ian says: “I was working for Tom Walkinshaw at the time and I told him how much I loved his M3. He said, ‘I tell you what, if we get this job, I’ll give you an M3 for a year’.
“He got the contract and I got my M3 but I had it for two years in the end. We put shape in the C70 Volvo had never seen before.”
Ian says he’s tempted to buy a Ford Puma and trick it up a bit[/caption]
FORD PUMA: The budget DB7. Ian says: “Ford said, ‘Would you like to do a mini DB7 for us?’ They gave me a sketch I used as a starting point.
“We painted the model bright metallic yellow, sent it to Ford and it knocked them out.
“I’m not sure how much DB7 ended up in it but it has its own character. It doesn’t matter.
“I’ve always been tempted to buy one and trick it up a bit. I might still do. It would be a nice project.”
NISSAN R390 GT1: The Le Mans road car. Ian says: “Nissan wanted to go back to Le Mans but the race car had to be based on a road car. It was a proper runner with a V8.
“My brother found it in Florida the other week at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
“Great thing. I loved it. It’s probably worth millions now but Nissan would never sell it.”
Aston Martin Vanquish was a real piece of indulgence on my part, says Ian[/caption]
ASTON MARTIN VANQUISH: The only one in his garage. Ian says: “That was a real piece of indulgence on my part.
“The show car was called Project Vantage, then we turned it into Vanquish.”
ASTON MARTIN DB9: The Aston hat-trick. Ian says: “We did this one in the Jaguar studio. Until then, I’d been a freelance designer doing the Aston work because it didn’t have a design department.
“I told Ford I’d take the Jaguar job as long as they’d let me do the Astons as well.”
JAGUAR XK: The first Ian Callum Jag. Ian says: “I was very apprehensive because it was my first car. We were just finishing DB9 and I was very conscious about it. I saw one today, actually.
“You know what? It’s a nice car. A black one with the R-S GT kit on it. Maybe I should get one of those too . . . ”
Ian Callum says the Jaguar XF was met with a bit of resistance[/caption]
JAGUAR XF: The face of the future. Ian says: “This is the point where I said to the team, ‘We’re going to change the face of Jaguar now’. It met with quite a bit of resistance, to be honest, but I said to myself, ‘Where would Sir William Lyons (Mr Jaguar) be now?’.
“He would have moved on.”
JAGUAR XJ: The archetypal Jag. Ian says: “We were really playing with the crown jewels here.
“Five generations of it never changed but we brought it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
“I was very instrumental in the shape of that car. It’s now ten years old. It worked. The next one has to be just as exciting.”
Jaguar C-X75 is the motor seen in James Bond movie Spectre[/caption]
JAGUAR C-X75: The one from Spectre. Ian says: “We did this concept to celebrate 75 years of Jaguar. It breaks my heart we didn’t build it.
“It would have been the most sophisticated sports car in the world for many years to come. It was a hybrid, 500hp four-cylinder engine with two electric motors, total of 900hp.
“I’ve been in it at 120mph electric-only and, my goodness, it was stunning.”
JAGUAR F–TYPE: The modern E-Type. Ian says: “I love it. I’m going to buy a coupe so the grandchildren can look at it. I wanted to capture some of the feeling of the E-Type in the back but in a modern way.
“It’s so satisfying to see them on the road. It will be a hard act to follow.”
Ian Callum says the F-Pace wasn’t easy to get right but it has ‘done the numbers’[/caption]
JAGUAR F-PACE: The first SUV. Ian says: “It wasn’t easy to get right but it’s done the numbers, 190,000-odd.
“It’s got the face you recognise and a great back end – the same recipe as an F-Type really, just different proportions.
“The F-Pace is elegant whereas the E-Pace is more about being cute.”
JAGUAR I-PACE: 59 global awards and counting. Ian says: “I’ve never been one that seeks approval from others but the 2019 European Car Of The Year award was special. I know how big that one is.
“It really was an Oscar moment. We decided to do an electric car because we felt we had to catch up with the rest of the world. We didn’t realise we were beating everybody else to it.”
MOST READ IN MOTORS
Ian has clocked up 40 years as one of our most gifted car designers.
Not bad for a lad who wrote to Jaguar asking for career advice aged 14.
… and one for 2025?
PICK a favourite. “Oooh, that’s like picking a favourite child! I’d say I-Pace or F-Type. The I-Pace is revolutionary and I’m so pleased I’ve done it. But I think, overall, the best balanced car of them all is the F-Type coupe.”
WHAT’S it like seeing your cars on the road? “Wonderful. It’s probably like a songwriter hearing their song on the radio, it’s a great buzz. I’m in LA and I see an XJ come round the corner and I think, ‘Aaah!’ It just lifts me.”
WHAT’S next from Jaguar? “The next XJ. We’re looking at it in a rather individual way. That’s all I’m going to tell you.”
IS IT all-electric? “It could be. I think it is important Jaguar latches on to the idea now that we’re an electric car company – because one day everyone will be, so let’s just get on with it.”
WHAT about a J-Pace? We already have XE and E-Pace and XF and F-Pace. XJ and J-Pace? “After the success of E-Pace and F-Pace, it would be worth looking at another one, yes. But we can’t become obsessed with it. We are still a car company. We have a sister that specialises in SUVs. But in terms of sales opportunity, it would be a good idea to do another one.”
SO could the J-Pace be all-electric? “Potentially. That’s my view. We should just go for it.”
AND how about an all-electric F-Type? “Can you imagine? It would be phenomenal. But we haven’t decided yet. It’s already in my head. It wouldn’t be that dissimilar to C-X75, I would think, in some ways.”
HOW about a city car? You’ve never done one. “I’d love to do a small car but the expectation on price is too difficult for a low-volume manufacturer. The only way we could ever do it – and there is no plan to do this, by the way – is in partnership with somebody.”
WHAT’S in your garage at home? “I’ve got a lot of not-very-expensive cars and that’s what I prefer. They all mean something to me.” Here’s the full list . . . 1995 Porsche 911, 1973 Porsche 914, 1995 Mini Cooper, 1976 Jaguar XJ 4.2C, 1978 VW Beetle convertible, 1970 Chevy pick-up stepside, 1932 Chop, 32 Ford hot rod, 1974 Ford Escort RS2000, 2005 Aston Martin Vanquish, F-Type (company car), E-Pace (company car).