Jaguar’s former design director is set to go it alone. You’ll never guess the name of his new business…
You’d be hard pressed to name a car designer with a more distinguished CV than Ian Callum. The Scot has been in charge of styling at both Aston Martin and Jaguar, with a highlight reel that runs from the DB7 through to the I-Pace.
When it was announced earlier this year that he was leaving Jaguar, it seemed like an anti-climatic end to a hugely distinguished career.
It turns out it wasn’t. Indeed, Callum reckons that the establishment of his own design and engineering consultancy means his best professional years may still be ahead of him.
“Time is of the essence when you get to my age,” the 65-year old told CarAdvice when we interviewed him yesterday.
“I think I’ve got maybe 15 years of design aptitude left and I want to make the most of it.”
The newly formed company isn’t going to win any prizes for the originality of its name – CALLUM – but will be working on limited run projects that won’t be limited to just automotive ones. Callum says he hopes to be creating other luxury goods including watches.
The company will be run from Warwick in England, close to Jaguar’s various HQ offices, with a total of 18 staff including Callum and Project Director David Fairbairn, who previously did much of the work bringing the ‘continuation’ Lightweight Jaguar E-Type to market.
Ian Callum’s relationship with Jaguar isn’t over – he still has a contract as a brand ambassador – but he says he doesn’t mind that cars he has played a huge role in creating, including the forthcoming all-electric Jaguar XJ, will be presented by his successor Julian Thompson.
“Of course there are some cars I feel very close to, like the new XJ,” he said, “there are a couple of facelifts next year which are already done – and something after that I still can’t talk about.
“But it is Julian’s domain now and that’s how it should be. There’s always an overlap, and he’s gracious enough to never stand there and claim all the credit.”
Above: While we’re yet to see the next-generation XJ, Callum and team were recently presented with the World Car of the Year award for the all-electric I-Pace.
Callum’s departure from JLR felt sudden, but he insists it was part of a long-term plan.
“I’ve always had the ambition to work for myself,” he said, “to come into work in the morning and do what I want, not do what somebody else wants… I’ve been hugely fortunate in my career, but this was something I felt it was the right time to do.”
Many of CALLUM’s projects will be drawn from its founder’s illustrious back catalogue. But although admitting that he has been hugely inspired by the work that Singer has done with air-cooled Porsche 911s, Callum says he is not trying to copy the same approach.
“I’d like to take some of the cars I’ve designed and maybe redo them a little bit,” Callum says, “it’s a good starting point because I think I’ve got the right to take those cars and do something with them, whether they are Astons or Jaguars.
“But ultimately I want to do something more than that – to work on forward-looking projects, I don’t want to be seen as just a chop shop.”
Callum’s own eclectic tastes have long been on display. His obsession with classic-era American hot rods led him to build one from a 1932 Ford coupe a decade ago, and he later worked with a respected Jaguar restorer to produce his own idealised version of an ‘improved’ mk2 Jaguar saloon.
He insists that CALLUM’s automotive projects will need to offer improvements across the board, in terms of dynamics as well as just looks. But he also wants to expand beyond cars.
“There’s lots of stuff out there to be designed, he says, “bespoke products could be cars or they could be something totally different. I’ve got a great team behind me and I don’t want to work in corporate OEM land anymore.”
Callum has earned a peaceful retirement; he’s planning anything but.
Ian Callum creates own design consultancy: ‘It’s the right time’