- Ian Callum spoke with Car and Driver about his new consulting firm, simply named Callum, which will work in automotive and luxury-goods design.
- The veteran design chief announced his departure from Jaguar in June after 20 years.
- Callum, who told C/D, "I'd like to take some of the cars I've designed and maybe redo them a little bit," is responsible for designs including the Aston Martin DB7 and Vanquish and the Jaguar XF and F-type.
Jaguar's recently departed design director, Ian Callum, was never destined for a quiet retirement or life on a golf course. Now we know why he left his coveted role at the British luxury brand: to start his own consultancy, one that will be offering design and engineering to help create limited-run products, not all of which will be cars.
Callum's career has more highlights than practically any other. As Aston Martin's chief designer, he was responsible for the DB7, the original Vanquish, and most of the work on the DB9 and the previous-generation Vantage, although he had left the company before they were launched. He went from there to Jaguar, leading design for 20 years and with a portfolio that ran from the original XK to the I-Pace. The first question when Car and Driver spoke to him about his new company, which will be named Callum, was why he chose to leave the security of his old job for the risk of the new one.
"I've always had the ambition to work for myself," Callum said, "to come in to 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."
Callum's relationship with Jaguar isn't over—he still has a contract as a brand ambassador—but he insisted he doesn't mind that cars he has led most of the work on will be shown by and maybe even credited to somebody else.
"There are some cars coming I feel very close to, like the next 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 [replacement design director] Julian Thomson's domain now, and that's how it should be. There's always an overlap.
"Julian is gracious enough. He's never going to stand there and claim all the credit, and I'm not precious about these things. I know who did it, and those who need to know know as well."
This new Callum firm is more than just Callum's personal project. The company is launching with a staff of 18, including project director David Fairbairn, who previously did much of the work to bring the lightweight Jaguar E-type re-creation to market. While the company will be drawing from some of the founder's back catalog as a source of projects, Callum insisted these won't be its sole focus.
However: "I'd like to take some of the cars I've designed and maybe redo them a little bit," Callum admitted. "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 has always had both eclectic tastes and an enthusiasm for different projects. He previously built a California-style hot rod from a 1932 Ford coupe and then worked with a U.K.-based restorer to build his own idealized version of the Mk 2 Jaguar. He admitted to having been hugely inspired by the work Singer has done with air-cooled versions of the Porsche 911, but he said he doesn't want the Callum firm to try to take the same path. "There is the chance to take iconic designs and make them a bit better, to take them to the level they deserve to be at," he said, "but I want to be looking forward. That's where design should always be."
Callum insisted that his new company's automotive projects will also need to offer improvements to dynamics and drivability as well as design. But it isn't just about cars; he also wants to work with other luxury goods. Despite having recently turned 65, Callum reckons he still has plenty of time ahead of him.
"Time is of the essence when you get to my age," he said. "I think I've got maybe 15 years of design aptitude left, and I want to make the most of it."
We look forward to seeing what that looks like.
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