Malcolm Sayer - Aerodynamic Wizard

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Jonathan Glancey tells the story of one of the most talented but little known British designers, Malcolm Sayer.

Sayer was responsible for the classic Jaguar cars, the C- and D-Types, that won Le Mans five times throughout the 1950s. He went on to create that 1960s icon, the E Type, and the XJS.

During WWII he worked for the Bristol Aeroplane Company and, following the war, he went to Iraq in 1948 to work at Baghdad University. This only existed on paper, so he worked instead on the maintenance of a fleet of government vehicles. While overseas, he met a mysterious character who taught him some arcane and advanced mathematics.

Returning to the UK in 1950, he joined Jaguar the following year and began to use the maths he had learnt to create some extraordinary designs. He used the slide rule and log tables to work out formulae for drawing curves - work which is now undertaken by complex Computer Aided Design software.

But in many ways, Sayer was years ahead of his time. Neville Swales, who is building a replica of the one-off XJ13, has used Sayer's calculations and married them with up-to-date technology - he found that they matched almost exactly.

The programme includes interviews with Neville Swales; Sayer's test driver, Norman Dewis; Sir Stirling Moss; one of Sayer's daughters, Kate; his grandson, Sam; fellow workers at Jaguar, Peter Wilson and Mike Kimberley; writer, Philip Porter; Goodwood owner, Lord March; motoring journalist, Mick Walsh; sports car enthusiast, Jools Holland; and current Jaguar designer Ian Callum.

Jonathan Glancey also takes the new F-Type for a spin to see whether Sayer's legacy is being upheld.

Produced by Neil Rosser

A Ladbroke production for BBC Radio 4.