Malcolm Sayer (21 May 1916 – 22 April 1970) was an aircraft and car designer. His most notable work being the E-Type Jaguar and Jaguar XJS. He spent the last twenty years of his life working at Jaguar Cars and was one of the first engineers to apply principles of aircraft design to cars.
Sayer was born in Cromer, Norfolk. He was educated at Great Yarmouth Grammar School (where his father taught Maths and Art). At age 17 he won the prestigious Empire Scholarship and attended at Loughborough College (later Loughborough University) in its Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering, earning first class honors.
Sayer traveled to Iraq in 1948 to work at Baghdad University where he established the Faculty of Engineering. While there he reportedly met a German professor who helped him recognize the mathematical relationship to curve shapes and identity. Often he worked instead maintaining the fleet of government vehicles. He returned to the UK in 1950.
Sayer was hired by Jaguar Cars in 1951. He described himself as an industrial designer and artist. He loathed the term 'stylist', saying he was not a hairdresser.
His designs include:
His prime concern was that a design 'worked' both aerodynamically and visually. Some of his particular contributions were the introduction of slide rule and seven-figure log tables to work out formulae he invented for drawing curves, work which is now undertaken by complex Computer Aided Design software.
Sayer's first design for a sports racing Jaguar was the immensely successful and C-Type that won Le Mans in 1951 and 1953. The C-Type has been lauded for its beauty and is still considered one of the world's most desirable car models.
To surpass the C-Type, Sayer then designed the revolutionary D-Type Jaguar that was one of the most successful racing cars of all time, winning Le Mans in 1955, 1956 and 1957. On the Mulsanne Straight, D-ype could achieve a speed of 192.4 mph (309.6 km/h).
Sayer went on to design the Jaguar E-Type, the icon of 1960s motoring. Even today, many of the design elements associated with the E-Type Jaguar can be found on the company's cars. The long bonnet, haunches over the rear wheels and the stance are all features incorporated into Jaguar's XK8 coupe designed by the late design director Geoff Lawson, which have continued on in the current Jaguar line-up by his successor Ian Callum.
In 1965, Sayer designed the Jaguar XJ13, a mid-engined Jaguar sports racing car that was intended for competition at Le Mans. Cost constraints and a rule change at Le Mans meant the XJ-13 was never driven in international competition, but it exemplified all of the classical Sayer sophistication in aerodynamics as his earlier designs. In 1971 the XJ 13 prototype was brought out of storage to help promote the new V12 E-Type when it was largely written off in a major crash. The car was rebuilt in 1972/73 albeit with changes from the original — losing some of Sayer's classic lines in the process.
At the request of Sir William Lyons, Sayer designed the 12-cylinder Jaguar XJS. The XJS never achieved the same iconic status as the E-Type, but it was acclaimed for its comfort, luxury and grandeur as a grand tourer. The XJS remained in production for 21 years (1975-1996).
Sayer married Pat Morgan in 1947. They had three children: daughter Kate (born 1948), son John (born 1953) and daughter Mary (born 1956).
He was a watercolorist and musician, playing piano, guitar and other instruments.
He suffered a fatal heart attack outside Parkside Garage, next to the Regent Hotel in Leamington Spa, one month before his 54th birthday.
A memorial plaque to him was unveiled at Loughborough University on 21 May 2005. On 24 May 2008 a plaque was unveiled at his birthplace on Cromer, and another at Great Yarmouth Grammar school. A blue plaque dedicated to him was unveiled on 28 April 2010 at Portland Place (his last address) in Leamington Spa.