Howard Snow a Jaguar Student

XJ40 project Jaguar

Howard’s way… Former Jaguar student apprentice Howard snow’s entire working life was with Jaguar.  Howard Snow was a Jaguar Student Apprentice under Sir William Lyons in 1962 and had key roles until 2003. He recalls his life with the Company. Words – Howard Snow. Photography – Howard Snow – les. Hughes – George Thomson.

I couldn’t know it back in 1962, but Jaguar would be the only company I ever worked for. I would be part of colourful and sometimes controversial eras of its long history, and now looking back from my home in Mandurah, Western Australia, I realise what a colourful career it was. When the editor asked me to pen it I too was sometimes surprised – so I hope you get an insight into my life at Jaguar Cars.

I was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1945, and applied to Jaguar for a prestigious Student Apprenticeship in December 1961, when a possible entry would be available September 1962. Only three places were granted per year, so I was very pleased to be shortlisted for a final interview on May 22,1962. You can imagine a 16 year-old’s terror because it occurred at Jaguar’s Browns Lane HQ, and I was interviewed by the Board of Directors! Sir William was away – so Bill Heynes was in the chair, plus Lofty England and others.

When asked, I said I was interested in engine design, at which point Lofty asked if I could take an XK unit apart – then reassemble it? I said I thought I could. “What about the valve timing?” he asked, and was rather taken aback when I described how to do it!

Obviously, I made it, and started on September 10, 1962. It encompassed five years, during which the Company sponsored a four-year ‘thin sandwich’ degree course at the University of Aston-in-Birmingham. I had six months each year at university, and six at Browns Lane, earning a First Class Honours degree in Mechanical Engineering, which led to gaining membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and becoming a Chartered Engineer.

Lofty took a particular interest in my progress, possibly because after one of the annual Apprentice Prize Days he asked me what I wanted to do at Jaguar. I told him: “I want your job!” He never forgot that, and guided my career from then on. At his Memorial Service in 1995 his widow Doris said Lofty often mentioned what I had said!

I was keen to gain experience in other areas, and once more Lofty got involved by placing me with the recently-appointed Group Spares Administration Manager. I later had a spell as Commercial Manager of that area.

Under British Leyland things began to change rapidly, and in 1970 and ‘71 there was a move to integrate the Jaguar Daimler Parts Division into a combined Jaguar-Rover-Triumph one. Even then, at Jaguar we could see that ultimately it would become part of Unipart.

Lofty called me up to his office and said: “You don’t want to go round to the JRT Parts, do you?” That was followed by: “What would you like to do next? Have you met Sir William?” My answer was: “No, not yet” – to which he ordered: “Come with me”. He marched me to the other end of the corridor, straight into Sir William’s office, introduced me – and promptly departed.

A brief ‘chat’ followed, while Sir William asked a few questions about me! That was an experience not to forget.

I told Lofty I would like some time in the Finance area, and moved there in mid-1971, but that was short-lived because at the end of February 1972 he told me Sir William was standing down as Chairman, and he would be assuming that position – would I be his Personal Assistant? That’s not something one would readily turn down, so in early March I moved up into the ‘Front Office’ overlooking the Browns Lane main entrance, and started a new phase of my career.

The next 18 months were very interesting. I was involved in the launch of the Series 2 XJ which boasted ‘automatic’ climate control; difficult customers experiencing problems with their 2.8 litre XJ6, and being in a meeting with Lofty and Bob Knight to set out the features list for XJ40. This was in 1973, but the XJ40 project went back and back, so the Series 3 XJ was squeezed in before XJ40 arrived in 1987. The original XJ40 features list was remarkably similar to those which appeared on the Series 3 XJ!

We also chose new paint colours including Greensand, Lavender and Heather – while rejecting others. I took part in the selection of Student Apprentices (now from the other side of the table) and met personalities including HRH Duke of Kent and Graham Hill. I recall very nervously driving a Daimler Double- Six Vanden Plas prepared for HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother – while avoiding any obstacles in the Browns Lane plant. Lofty wanted to personally okay the car before it was handed over.

Howard today lives in Western Australia… and a cover boy in green overalls.

Then dramatically, in September 1973 it was announced by British Leyland that Geoffrey Robinson was moving from Innocenti in Italy, to become Jaguar’s new Managing Director. Lofty was to move into Sir William’s old office, while Geoffrey would occupy Lofty’s – no doubt to make sure people knew who was in charge … he had only been in situ for a few days when he told me he didn’t work with a PA, so would find me another job!

I had been involved with Mike Carver from BL Central Staff over Programme Timing, and the lack of such a thing at Jaguar, so it came as no surprise to find Geoffrey wanted to move me to Product Engineering in order to help Bob Knight have some ‘proper’ programme timing.

Feisty Bob was determined there would be no formal timing programmes for Jaguar engineering projects, and although Harry Mundy reported to Bob, I was not welcome to discuss projects with his Power Unit engineers either …

Bob’s reluctance changed suddenly. One day he burst into my office and told me we must have a big wall chart showing the timing for engineering on the XJ40 project. He added that very soon he was going to have visits from very senior BL staff who would want to discuss its timing!

We hastily pasted sheets of paper all over one wall of my office, and created a basic chart from Styling Approval to Pre-Production. Of course, what was shown was never met. In fact, it was modified so regularly we considered having the months and years on a separate roll so we could simply take it down, move it along, and pin it up in another position to represent a new Styling Approval date!

During the trauma of nationalisation for British Leyland, and thereafter, Bob took much more interest in timing. I spent many, many hours in his office while he mulled over strategy – both technical and political! My role expanded, taking on various administration functions within Engineering. Some were British Leyland central functions, but Bob didn’t like their type being involved in his business – so I took them on.

(I refer to him as Bob, but virtually all of us could only call him Mr Knight. He was very insistent, and often ignored senior colleagues who tried to attract his attention by calling: “Bob, Bob”. We were more friendly after he retired, and often took my wife and I out for dinner. We had him to dinner at home too – but it was more than 10 years before I took the plunge and said: “Happy New Year Bob,” as the clock struck midnight. After a look of surprise, he realised the reality, and he was ‘Bob’ after that!).

Together we spent many hours in the Styling Studio staring at the Jaguar XJ40 clay, and considering other matters too. You may have heard he styled a key XJ40 feature on a pocket calculator – I can vouch for that. He and I each purchased (with our own money!) a Casio FX75 programmable calculator, together with an adaptor to download programmes and data onto tape. We could exchange details between calculators, and Bob had a theory that the main ‘crown’ line along the side of XJ40 could be determined by a mathematical formula. I then crunched the numbers for modellers to digitise it onto the clay. There was a large number of iterations before we got close to the eventual shape…

Bob retired in 1980, and I continued as Engineering Programme Manager until the end of 1981. That’s when Jim Randle wanted to set up a small engineering presence in the USA so we could experience our biggest market first-hand. Each engineer would go out for about six months, using the Jaguar Cars Inc sales office in New Jersey as our base, but we also needed a base for testing prototype cars in hot weather, with excursions into bitterly cold Canada in the winter.

Jim asked me to set it up, and added I would probably be there for about nine months. I arrived in January 1982, and eventually returned in November, but Richard Cresswell, Norman Dewis’ right-hand-man in Experimental Road Test, came out to work with me. We drove all over California, Arizona, Colorado and Texas in an XJ12 looking for a suitable place – that was a good job!

We settled on Phoenix, and Richard went there with his family – in effect reporting to me while I was in New Jersey. When Norman Dewis retired in 1984, Richard returned to take over Norman’s role.

I enjoyed my spell in the USA, and the experience was useful for a role I took up a couple of years later, but not before Jim appointed me Engineering Project Manager for the XJ41 sports car. Keith Helfet was the stylist, and before I was involved he had developed a style which he showed to Sir William, John Egan and others. They all liked his style in clay form.

I describe Keith as a ‘Stylist’ because under Doug Thorpe it was known as the ‘Styling Studio’. When Geoff Lawson replaced

Doug he maintained the Styling or Stylist terminology. It wasn’t until Ian Callum, and after Geoff’s untimely death, that the buzz-word ‘Design’ replaced ‘Styling’. In my personal view that was bad, and gives the outside world the impression that Ian, as ‘Design Director’ is responsible for the total engineering of Jaguar vehicles.

The XJ41 clay looked very attractive, and its style was a worthy successor to the E-Type. In fact, in its early stages it was known as the F-Type within the Company. However, it was clear early on there were features which were going to create serious problems. For example, Keith had styled the door glasses with a double-curvature (curvature in both the normal top-to-bottom view, but also in the front-to-back).

Jaguar Engineering was introducing Computer Aided Design (CAD) and it showed that the opening in the top of the door had to be around 100 mm wide and glass sealing would be a serious problem. Forward visibility was also a potential issue, so with Charles Linder (ex-Pressed Steel Fisher) we commissioned Specialised Mouldings to modify an old Triumph TR7 by putting the XJ41 ‘glasshouse’ onto it.

When we were able to drive the mocked-up vehicle around the factory after-hours, it was very clear visibility was NOT very clear! We seemed to be viewing the outside world through a narrow tank-like slit. It’s worth mentioning in light of today’s SVO, that Jim Randle made a new appointment back then with the title of Chief Engineer, Special Vehicles. John Cady came in from Leyland, to be later replaced by Mike Renucci.

I was involved in XJ41 for about 18 months, and one of the highlights was having the honour of showing the clay model to HRH Prince Charles and HRH Princess Diana. After lunch John Egan and Jim showed them the nearly-ready XJ40 and XJ41 clay. This was on the day that they announced Diana was pregnant with Prince Harry.

It was fairly obvious to me and to Jim, that my own interests were in working on items which could be addressed and solved in a relatively short time scale. So what came next was a role which took advantage of my experience working in the USA. It was in response to a need to keep our USA dealers happy about the quality of the vehicles they were selling then – not those in the future.

Not long after the takeover by Ford the XJ41 project was scrapped, but if you want to know what it would have looked like, check out the first Aston Martin DB7s – the likeness could be described as remarkable.

In early 1984 Jim gave me the very fancy title of Chief Engineer, Current Vehicle Problem Resolution. Was it to give me some standing with the USA dealers a little later?

I moved into an office immediately adjacent to that of good friend David Fielden, who was Quality Director, and one of my prime functions was to liaise with Production areas to help them with any issues which they thought originated from Product Engineering. I also represented Product Engineering in activities  with Barrie Thrussel’s Service Technical staff and David Fielden’s Quality function.

At the time intense activity was needed to address what was euphemistically called ‘under-bonnet thermal activity’. It led to a recall in July 1985 of all XJ12 and XJ-Ss fitted with the V12 HE engine, so regular working hours had no meaning then. David and I had John Egan’s authority to ensure the issue had absolute priority.

Both before and after then I was representing Product Engineering at regular meetings with the USA Dealer Service Sub-Committee. David, Barrie and I flew out to see them about three times a year, sometimes in Dallas, sometimes San Francisco, sometimes South Carolina, and sometimes at the New Jersey headquarters of Jaguar Cars Inc. That gave the dealers confidence that we recognised any of their issues, so the time I spent in the USA in 1982 was excellent preparation.

In 1989, a senior member of David Fielden’s Quality function left, so I asked David if he would consider me. As a result, I moved out of Product Engineering and became Engineering Quality Manager, reporting directly to him. I didn’t have to move my office – I was next door already! A prime function was to orchestrate the Engineering, Quality, Manufacturing and Service sign-off of all new models and up-dates.

Major changes took place after Ford purchased Jaguar Cars in late 1989 though. Processes were changed throughout the manufacturing sections in particular – and many of those went back to basics, throwing out procedures which had been in place at Jaguar for years.

Then in 1991 came a demand to reduce the staff numbers at Jaguar. Functions had to reduce the head-count by one-third. David decided that it was time for him to leave – believing he did not fit in with the Ford methods of working.

Production-related aspects of Quality business were devolved into Plant Quality functions, each reporting to the respective Plant Director. The remainder of David’s function was in the hands of Kes Lodge (Company Quality Manager) and myself (Engineering Quality Manager). We worked under Bob Dover, Jaguar’s Director of Manufacturing Engineering, but when Bob became XK8 Programme Director I reported to Kes who in turn reported to Mike Beasley, Manufacturing Director.

In terms of vehicle quality, the processes and procedures introduced following the take-over were very beneficial. So many processes were suggested that to some extent we had to cherrypick those which had the greatest short-term effect.

The outcome was first seen in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey results. In 1991, the first survey after the takeover, Jaguar was ranked 29th out of 31 manufacturers. Lexus was first, and remained in that place for some years.

Slowly but surely though, we climbed the rankings and in 1996 or 1997 Jaguar became the number one nameplate. As you can imagine, this resulted in much celebration – while Ford remained at around the midpoint.

We soon had a visit from very senior Ford personnel, and we were asked by Ford’s Quality Director how we had achieved the ranking. Our answer was: “We did what you told us to do!”

What had actually happened, I believe, is that because Jaguar was a relatively small, close-knit operation we introduced new processes and procedures right across the company quickly. Ford had a multitudes of sites, and there was inevitably some degree of inertia in introducing company-wide procedures.

I began to feel more frustrated with my lot then, and having passed my 50th birthday, I started to count down towards a future retirement. Ford USA had an arrangement whereby personnel who qualified under the ‘Rule of 85’ were automatically entitled to request early retirement. If you added your age and your years of employment, and they totalled 85 or more, you qualified. The ‘Rule of 85’ was not permitted to be used by Jaguar though. I would have qualified in September 1996 as a result of having 34 years of service and being aged 51.

I was very fortunate to have a staff of well-qualified engineers who worked within each of the new model projects, introducing processes such as Reliability and Robustness, and becoming the ‘local experts’ for the Product Engineers.

In 2000 Ford was acquiring Land Rover from BMW so I was involved to a small extent in the due diligence. Following the take-over there was a gradual integration of the two companies, so Kes Lodge added LR Company Quality to his Jaguar responsibilities. I worked in conjunction with the LR Engineering Quality Manager to integrate the processes and procedures. At the same time I took over responsibility for the FCPA quality audits (cars selected at random and carefully reviewed) and also for Exhaust Emission Audit where production cars were tested against the emission test regimes.

Towards the end of 2002 it was announced that a Voluntary Redundancy and Early Retirement Programme was to be made available, so I made it known I was very serious about making an application. I had qualified for my 40 years Long Service Award – and my feeling was: “If I don’t qualify for this, then who the blankety-blank does?”

After some weeks I was told Mike Beasley agreed to my request, but I would have to stay until the following July holiday shut-down. That suited me, and so on the evening of July 17, 2003 there was a small function in the Jaguar Daimler Social Club at Browns Lane. Both Kes Lodge and I said goodbye to many friends and colleagues.

I enjoyed my almost 41 years with Jaguar Cars Ltd (I refuse to acknowledge any other companies were involved!), and I always speak with great pride when telling people I worked for Jaguar. It was a very rewarding career and I am delighted people love Jaguar just as much as I do. Thank you Jaguar.

An image taken in 1996 of the Browns Lane home. The XJ40 may have been Jong coming, but it was so good it evolved into the sales winning X300 saloon seen here, In 1972/3 Howard’s office was adjacent to Lofty’s at top left while Sir William’s office was on the far right,

One of the surviving XJ41s. With Ian Callum at TWR, the XJ41 was tweaked into the Aston Martin DB7. Bob Dover went on to run the XK8 programme then later became Jaguar Land Rover’s Chairman and CEO . 68:4 With XJ40 delayed, Jaguar updated the XJ.

Howard greets HRH Prince Charles, with Engineering Director Jim Randle behind. The shell of a Targa bodied XJ41.

Four XJ41/42 survive, XJ41s? No, they are DB7 bodies at the Bloxham plant – mechanicals remained basically untouched Jaguar.

Everything changed for Jaguar, Lofty England and Howard when Geoffrey Robinson: arrived. Mr Knight’ (left), saved Jaguar from extinction. Searching for a new US test home – was this Utopia? Howard and Richard Cresswell found snow within days of Utopia.

A proud and determined Howard was one of three Jaguar Student Apprentices in 1962 with his wife Sue – she worked at Jaguar for 30 years. Awarded by the great Bill Heynes.

Howard today lives in Western Australia … and a cover boy in green overalls.

Sir John Egan presents Howard Snow with his ’25 Year’ gold watch XJ40 project was vitally important, but tor many reasons it took well over a decade to arrive, It was very fortunate to have the XJ saloon to fall back on and remodel into the Series 3 version.

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