The invitation's dress code - 'London cool' - should've rung the first alarm bell. The sight of a bloke joining the queue to enter Earl's Court sporting a tie-dye kaftan and a Mohawk another.
'Alex' starts his journey of discovery...
Quickly shepherded into an auditorium I texted Harris to say I'd find him after the show and meet him by the Silk Cut XJR-8. Beside me a bloke in a distinctive camel coloured suit reached for his phone and got a message saying I'd meet him after the show by the Silk Cut XJR-8. Oh, there he is! The lights dropped and Harris and I looked uneasily at each other as a full orchestra appeared and a male ballet dancer flung himself around the stage. Ostentatious but not unknown for a big car unveiling. Then John Hannah appeared and told us over the next 90 minutes we'd have the full story of Jaguar. 90 bloody minutes?
What followed was the most bizarre combination of mega budget visual effects and amateur dramatics I've ever witnessed, hung around the basic premise of a young Scottish lad called 'Alex' inspired in the 60s by the sight of an E-Type to become a car designer and create the Jaguar of the future. Time travel to key points in Jaguar's history with a gang of mates followed with musical cameos by Emeli Sande, Eliza Doolittle and the Kaiser Chiefs. Actually, put like that it doesn't sound too bad.
John Hannah and a ballet dancer; still no XE
But an hour in and the increasingly desperate Tweets from the auditorium (check out @HarrisMonkey and @SniffPetrol from last night in particular) were telling a very different story. An appearance early on by a dive bombing Vulcan bomber (OK, only on the screens but still impressive) raised hopes, soon dashed by an increasingly hammy script that left little but the opportunity for increasingly sarcastic sabotage of the #FeelXE media wall outside via Twitter and childish sniggering at script based innuendo and SNAFUs. Like when an early E-Type was introduced by one of the characters as the Jaguar 1 Series. Indeed by 9pm - a whole 45 minutes after the embargo had lifted and the pre-prepared stories were live - we still hadn't seen the car, making the 3,000 people Jaguar had flown in from all over the globe to witness the unveiling the only people in the world NOT to have seen the new XE.
Kaiser Chiefs on stage eventually; still no XE
Jaguar made a big point about the number of significant cars in its history that had been unveiled here at Earl's Court. TVR has previous here too of course, the 1970s Blackpool alternative to mega budget audio-visual shows being the rather more pragmatic approach of draping naked ladies
on its show cars. Maybe next time, eh Jag? Would have kept with the whole time travelling theme too. The one thing Jaguar seemed to miss was the fact that the very first flight of the SEPECAT Jaguar
actually coincided with yesterday's unveiling, a plane geek pal alerting me to the fact the first prototype flew on September 8 1968. OK, so that's probably less interesting to most people than a free gig by the Kaiser Chiefs. But anyway.
So were there any actual conclusions to be drawn from this extravagant extravaganza? Well, the XE is officially A Big Deal for Jaguar. But we didn't need Emeli Sande bellowing out a specially written song from a barge on the Thames to tell us that. The one thing I took from it was that of all the attributes they chose to latch onto it was design that was thrust into the limelight. Engineering, performance, supposed affordability and other qualities were mentioned along the way but it was the real 'Alex', Ian Callum, who was chosen as the Jaguar figurehead to finally present the car and its style promoted as the thing that sets it apart from the crowd.
Is that enough to topple the Germans? We've added some more pics to our main story to help you decide. And you don't have to sit through single musical number before you do!
[Sources: Wikipedia, RAF, ARonline]