Here is the legendary Franny Lee, posing à la Steve McQueen in front of his Jaguar XJ series 1 in 1972. It may have been another rainy day in Manchester but this could still be a shot from a movie poster.
Lee had every right to be a trifle smug, after all he had helped City to the league title in 1968, the FA Cup in 1969, and European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1970 – and went on to represent England at the World Cup that year.
In the 1971–72 season Lee set a British record for the number of penalties scored in a season, with a staggering 15 of his 35 goals scored from the penalty spot. Some journalists were of the opinion that Lee gained a number of penalties by diving, so they gave him the name ‘Lee Won Pen’ instead!
Lee also holds the record for the most goals in Manchester derbies, scoring 10 goals in all against Manchester United – a tally that equalled Joe Hayes’ record – although Wayne Rooney looks set to eclipse that figure soon as he also has ten.
You can understand why Lee was keen to dress up for this photo. This, after all, had been the car you bought if you’d made it. Whether you were Morecambe and Wise at the height of their fame, or an England international footballer like Franny Lee, a Series 1 would always be in the backdrop.
From the 1968 launch of Sir William Lyons’s final masterpiece, the Jaguar XJ Series 1 was recognised as “the best car in the world”.
His vision of the new XJ (standing for Experimental Jaguar) replacing all of the company’s saloon worked and would in fact support the company until the end of the century.
In later V12 form it was also the world’s fastest saloon, nudging 140mph. Driving a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow felt, in comparison, like a terribly luxurious stagecoach.
Finest Jaguar Ever
The car was introduced in September 1968. Power-assisted steering and leather upholstery were standard on the 2.8 L De Luxe and 4.2 L models and air conditioning was offered as an optional extra on the 4.2 L. Daimler versions.
In a series of television advertisements featuring Sir William he referred to the car as “the finest Jaguar ever”. An unusual feature, inherited from the Jaguar Mark X and S-Type sedan, was the provision of twin fuel tanks, positioned on each side of the boot / trunk, and filled using two separately lockable filler caps: one on the top of each wing above the rear wheel arches.
Victim of its own success, early deliveries were slow as Jaguar’s attempt to meet the demand and were hampered by delays in body manufacturing; the first cars were suffering from quality control problems. Despite these, the XJ6 was so superior to its competition that buyers were willing to wait and could even resell their just delivered XJ6s at a profit should they want to.
In 1972 Jaguar launched the XJ12, which was Sir William Lyons final achievement before his retirement that same year and the numbers speak for themselves: one of the fastest production four seaters in the world at 225 kph and 0-100 times of 7.5 seconds.
Like Mr. Lee, a true classic.