Jaguar has announced that they’re getting back into the engine designing and building business, after more than a decade and a half of being dependent on buying motors from Ford. There was a time, though, that Jaguar designed and built what many considered at the time to be the most advanced engines in the automotive world. There was the venerable and powerful six-cylinder XK engine introduced in 1948 and in production for over four decades, followed by the Jaguar V12, introduced in the late 1960s. The XK engine was designed by Walter Hassan and William Heynes, while Hassan joined Harry Mundy to lead the design of the V12. Between the two of them, Hassan and Mundy had a hand in designing many of the most technologically advanced postwar British engines that were ever made.
Walter Hassan (1905–1996) went to work a a 15 year old shop boy in W.O. Bentley’s newly formed Bentley Motors. After Bentley passed into the hands of Rolls-Royce, he left the firm and designed a number of successful racing specials in the 1930s. After a stint with ERA where he met Harry Mundy, in 1938 Hassan joined SS Cars Ltd, soon to be renamed Jaguar, as head of research and development. During the war he moved to Bristol, working on engine development but returned to Coventry after the war where he worked with Bill Heynes developing what would become Jaguar’s XK DOHC inline six that would power Jaguar to victories at LeMans. In 1950, Hassan joined Mundy at Conventry Climax where, with Claude Baily, they designed a lightweight engine originally intended to run portable fire pumps (this was just years following the bombing of London and Coventry by the Germans during WWII, when a need for portable firefighting equipment became known). The FW series of overhead cam engines would go on to wins at LeMans and in Formula 2 and Formula 1 racing, bringing two world championships to Lotus with Jim Clark at the wheel.
Harry Mundy (1915-1988) went to school in Coventry and apprenticed at Alvis, going to ERA (English Racing Automobiles) in 1936, first working as a draftsman. At ERA he and Walter Hassan became lifelong friends and colleagues. In 1939, Mundy went to work at the Morris engine factory where he worked for the duration of the war. In 1946, he took a position as head of design for British Racing Motors (BRM), and had a hand in the development of BRM’s V16 F1 engine. In 1950, he joined Coventry Climax, working, as mentioned above, with Hassan on the FWA engine. Mundy then took a career detour, becoming technical editor at the UK’s The Autocar magazine in 1955, though he still did consulting work. One of those commissions was for the design of the Lotus Twin Cam head for the Ford “Kent” block four cylinder. When offered the job by Lotus head Colin Chapman, Mundy was given the choice of either 1,000 British pounds as a design fee or a 1 pound per engine royalty. Not entirely believing that Chapman was running a going concern, Mundy took the sure thing but would later regret it as Lotus eventually built about 40,000 “twinks”. After Jaguar bought out Coventry Climax, acquiring Walter Hassan in the bargain, Hassan convinced his old friend to return to engineering and join him at Jaguar. Along with Bill Heynes they designed the Jaguar V12.
In the video above, Hassan and Mundy explain the features and design philosophy behind their bent twelve. Though they retain proper British reserve, you can still tell just how proud they were. They also go into technical details that you’d not likely hear at a new engine introduction today.