HISTORIAN’S CORNER – COLORS AND ICONS

May 22, 2017 in Front Page, Front Page Slideshow

By Gene Cohen, club historian

A paint color known to just about every auto buff is British Racing Green. This storied color goes back to the very early days of international racing, 1902. International racing at that time had strict rules regarding the components, drivers and colors of the racing cars. The cars had to made from parts made in the country they represented and have been by a driver with the same nationality. Each country was expected to have its own color representing it and was usually from the nation’s flag.  The colors of the British flag red, white and blue were already taken by other countries. During these early days of international racing the countries had their racing colors. The colors represented the nationality of the teams not the nationality of the company that made the car.

Belgium: Yellow
France: Blue
Germany: White
Italy: Red
US: White with Blue
Great Britain: Green

The red on my 2016 XF S is Italian Racing Red.

During the race for the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1902 which was the first race for Great Britain they came away winners in a Napier driven by Selwyn Edge. This win had earned Great Britain the right to host the next year’s race as was the custom at the time. Alas, Great Britain had a problem, motor racing was illegal. The speed limit in England at this time was 12 miles per hour and the race cars exceeded that speed. The fates stepped in and the race was held in Ireland which was part of Great Britain at that time. Being held in Ireland and out of respect, the early British race cars took Shamrock green as their racing colors.

Through the years the shades of green ran the gamut from light greens to the darker greens and in 1929 the classic darker shades of green we know as British racing green was first noted appearing on a Bugatti owned by Briton William Grover-Williams who entered the car in the 1929 in the very first Monaco Grand Prix. British Racing Green has been an international racecar color for many years and many British racing teams have used the color including: Jaguar, Vanwall, Cooper, Lotus, Brabham, BRM, Bentley, Aston Martin and MG.

Jaguar has offered British Racing Green though the years on nearly every model and has included a metallic as well. In some years, the color has been called Jaguar Racing green.

Leaping into my next topic with a growl, a small piece bit of Leaper and growler history.

In September 1935 William Lyons selected from a list of animals presentenced to him by the Nelson Advertising Agency. There were a other contenders for the car name along with jaguar, there was the Hawk and the Gazelle. The purpose was to identify the three cars the Swallow Sidecar Company was manufacturing, two sedans and one sports car (SS). Once the jaguar was selected the first SS Jaguar appeared.

The fist leaper made its debut in 1936 as a bronze hood or-nament for Bill Rankin the company designer who mounted it on his personal car.   Upon seeing the hood ornament William Lyons comment was “looking like a cat shot off

a fence. Never the less William Lyons approved it as an accessory and the first one was ready for sale during the Christmas of 1938.

For the classic look of the leaper we can thank F. Gordon Crosby who was a renowned illustrator and painter for his work in Autocar from 1906 to 1943. The Leaper has been modified over the years and appeared as a hood ornament in 1955 on a MK 1 sedan. With the banning of hood orna-ments during the safety-first years the Leaper left Jaguar except for the few that graced  the hood of the XJs and was last seen on the 2009 XJ.  Currently the Leaper is appearing on the Boots of all Jaguars.

A close cousin of the Leaper is the Growler. The Growler started life as a badge for the XK 120 and has evolved over the years and serves proudly as the badging on Jaguar grilles on all the late model cars. You can find growlers on wheels, horn buttons and various other places including valve stem covers.

Colors and icons all have a place in Jaguar history and lore.