Amateur Racing Driver and Career Public Relations Man
Born on 9th November 1929, Bob Berry, a Cambridge graduate, joined Jaguar’s Publicity Department in 1951 as an Assistant Public Relations Officer working for Ernest ‘Bill’ Rankin. He had a promising amateur racing career in the 1950s, became Jaguar PR Manager in the 1960’s and later held senior positions within Jaguar and then British Leyland.
Berry talked his way into working for Jaguar.
While studying at Cambridge he wrote to Lofty England in 1951, saying he normally went to Le Mans, he spoke French as his mother was French and he would be happy to help out while there. England responded that they had their own team of people but he was welcome to make himself known while they were all there. Berry and his sister did turn up and he was given a job timekeeping, and ended up working for England for the duration of the event. After Le Mans he was given a job in the PR department working for Bill Rankin.
The early 1950s was an exciting time to join Jaguar with XK120s performing well in a number of races and the new C-type winning Le Mans at its first outing in 1951. Early in 1952, the first C-type (XKC 001) had been fitted with Dunlop disc brakes for testing carried out by Norman Dewis. This was done at the MIRA track near Nuneaton and at Perton near Wolverhampton, a former Royal Air Force airfield.
Berry was part of the Jaguar team that took the disc braked C-type (XKC003) to the Mille Miglia in Italy in 1952. The C-type was driven by Stirling Moss and Norman Dewis, with Berry and mechanic Frank Rainbow as support crew in a Jaguar Mark VII loaded with spares. During pre-race checks Berry had to phone Lofty England and order a new set of shock absorbers as the ones on the car were leaking and they didn’t have a new set amongst their spares. These were flown into Milan airport and while attempting to fit them there was a difference of opinion about the correct settings. Moss and Dewis decided to race with the originals fitted, assuming that the leaks had been caused by atmospheric differences coming over the mountains.
This was the first international race for a disc brake equipped C-type (or any disc braked car) and although the brakes didn’t give trouble, the car did not finish after a minor incident when they left the road and damaged the steering.
Berry reported back on the Mille Miglia: “The Jaguar caused considerable interest, especially as it was coupled with the name ‘S. Moss’, though the car was mentioned more as the victor at Le Mans rather than as a potential winner of the Italian classic; but I feel Moss’s very gallant drive in the race will not go unnoticed in knowledgeable circles. There is no doubt that Moss had very bad luck this year, for if the mounting brackets had not broken or a tyre loosened a tread, he very likely would have got third place and, possibly, second. Even not considering the small amount of practice Moss got, his drive can only be described as being in the best Moss tradition – a brilliant effort by a truly great driver. Just before we left Calino to return home, Count Maggi took me aside and said (I quote as near verbatim as I can remember): ‘You English have the wrong approach; you have the car, you have the driver, but you come too late. It is no good. Come earlier and you will win our Mille Miglia”.
After the race Moss sent a telegram back to Browns Lane with, “Must have more speed at Le Mans”. This spurred the team on and Malcolm Sayer altered the body design of the C-type.
For the 1952 Le Mans race the bodywork was modified to streamline the cars even further. Testing of the disc brakes hadn’t resolved all the development issues so the cars were fitted with drum brakes. Following the first practice session at Le Mans Stirling Moss insisted on having disc brakes fitted so the parts were ordered from the factory, flown in and Berry was dispatched to collect the parts from the airport at Dinard. By the time they arrived back at Le Mans, efforts were concentrated on trying to resolve some overheating problems and the disc brakes were never fitted. All three C-types eventually retired due to over-heating.
For 1953 the C-types were lightened and fitted with the improved disc brakes. In the practice for the race the Jaguar team inadvertently ran a spare car with the same number 18 as one of the racing cars. The race officials spotted this and threatened to disqualify the whole team before the race had even started. Berry was sharing a room with Lyons at the Hotel des Ifs and Lyons woke him up at half past two in the morning to write a letter of apology to the French authorities. His mother being French, his fluent apology letter was accepted (allegedy a fine changed hands as well) and the team were back in the race.
Tony Rolt and co-driver Duncan Hamilton won the race at an average speed of 105.85 mph (170.34 km/hr) with Stirling Moss and Peter Walker coming second. It was the first time that the race had been won at an average speed of over 100 mph (160.93 km/hr) earning Jaguar massive worldwide press coverage.
Bob Berry, like most PR people, always differentiated very clearly between publicity and advertising. He was very keen on getting as much favourable editorial as possible, because it was free and, since it was written by someone who wasn’t employed by the factory, it was unbiased. “He always said that good editorial was worth at least two adverts. He was confident that a good product at the right price that was pleasing to the public would sell itself, but he certainly did not leave it to chance”. The press coverage of Jaguar’s second Le Mans win was a huge boost for the Company.
Upon their return to Coventry, the victorious C-types paraded through the city and made a ceremonial entrance to the Browns Lane Factory, where the entire workforce was assembled in the car park below William Lyons’s office to welcome them back.
Public Relations Role
In addition to organising press drives and captalising on the publicity from Jaguar’s race wins, Berry wrote a lot of speeches for Lyons. Lyons rarely gave a speech without preparation, “he would do an ad lib speech in extremis, but he’d work very hard not to do it. The very nature of the guy meant that whatever he said had to be exact, precise, and therefore he would avoid any situation which would make that difficult”.
Berry managed the press interviews and described Lyons’s reaction to the interviews as polite despite, “some incredibly crass things being said to him, he would never afterwards say, ‘Well, that was rubbish’. He always respected someone else’s point of view. He never expressed an opinion about any individual – whether he liked or hated them you had no idea by the way he spoke… He was very guarded that way. No, not guarded – it just wasn’t him”. Berry described, “His (Lyons) idea of humour was a very subdued sort of chuckle. I never knew him to laugh out loud… He was amused by situations… He could see the funny side even through a serious situation. He used to laugh with his eyes – he had eyes of a very steely blue, and unwavering. If he was annoyed with you he’d bore holes through you. If he was going to relax, you would see it in his eyes first; nothing else would change. He had a sort of twinkle in his eyes if he was amused by something”.
One particularly challenging part of Berry’s PR role was organising the Jaguar ‘do’ at the Earls Court Motor Shows. Sir William treated them very much as his own personal parties and Berry had to fend off people pleading for invitations.
Amateur Racing 1954 to 1957
Whilst working at Jaguar, Berry had a successful amateur racing career and was considered as one of Britain’s up and coming drivers. He raced with his own modified XK 120 (registered MWK 120), one of the three works lightweight (magnesium) bodies built in 1951 as a contingency plan in case the C-type wasn’t ready. He raced MWK 120 regularly throughout 1954 and 1955 claiming three 1st places, four 2nd and three 3rd places among 23 races. in 1955 Jack Broadhead bought D-type chassic XKC403, registered OKV 2, for Bob Berry to race. Berry raced it throughout 1955 and 1956 on 18 occasions with varying degrees of success, claiming three 1st places, three 2nd and two 3rd places. Berry referred to the D-type as “Ecurie Broadhead”.
With Norman Dewis as his partner, Berry competed in the 1955 Goodwood nine-hour race scoring fifth place. At Dundrod in Ulster, he spent the first lap in third place, but during lap two he had to retire after an accident. “Unfortunately I clipped a bank at Tornagrough, which is a double ‘S’ bend and very tight. The blow was not very great – it did not even deflect the car – but it was sufficient to damage the front offside tyre which started to deflate. Three quarters of a mile later I slowed right down as the car was handling most peculiarly and, entering the left-hand Quarry bend, the tyre deflated completely. Virtually unsteerable, the car mounted the grass bank on the right and slid easily over the top and down into the field beyond. The only difficulty was that the field was about twelve feet below, a fact that nearly gave me heart failure. However the car remained upright and the rest of the race was observed from the pits. The most unfortunate person in this episode was poor Ninian Sanderson who did not get a drive” recalls Berry.
Berry had another accident, at Goodwood the following Whitsun, he had won one race and was leading another when he left the track being thrown out of the D-type, leaving him badly injured on the grass listening to the car continuing pilotless to destruction. He spent two months convalescing and Lyons told him he couldn’t spare Berry from the office for Friday practice, let along recuperation time in hospital.
Berry’s last amateur race was at Oulton Park on 12th October 1957, in Broadhead’s D-type, which he won!
Berry’s driving skills were put to good use by the Company in 1954 as along with Norman Dewis he was involved in the testing the prototype D-type XKC401 at MIRA.
At the 1954 Tourist Trophy race at Dundrod the rules penalised larger-engined cars so the factory built a 2,482 cc version of the XK engine. Three D-types were entered: Moss/Walker (XKD 406) and Whitehead/Wharton (XKC 403) in 2½ litre cars, and Rolt/Hamilton (XKC 402) in a regular 3½ litre car. A fourth car, a C-type driven by Dewis and Berry, was intended to enter but ultimately didn’t run.
“The 2½ litre engine was actually quite good except that it was a bit heavy. Dundrod was a difficult circuit and a C-type would probably have been better there, but once the D-type existed Jaguar couldn’t really put it away just because it didn’t suit a particular circuit. That would have been a mistake commercially” – Moss.
He participated in a formal test session organised by Lofty England at Silverstone in November 1954 driving XKC 404 and XKD 406. The track started off damp and by the time it was described as ‘semi-dry’, Berry had recorded a best of 1 minute 54.5 seconds, with Peter Walker on 1-57, Jimmy Stewart on 1-58 and Ninian Sanderson on 2-01. This led to him being listed as one of the possible drivers for the 1955 Le Mans.
1955 Double Tragedy
In the end he was not to race at Le Mans in 1955 with the team comprising; Ivor Bueb, Mike Hawthorn, Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton. The Jaguar team cars were air ferried across to France instead of being driven, but Bob Berry drove the Belgian entered D-type to Herne airport in Kent from where it was flown to Cherbourg and Berry then drove it the rest of the way to Le Mans.
Lyons’s only son, John Lyons, joined the company in March 1955 at the age of 25 with the intention of one day succeeding his father at Jaguar. Lyons sent a memo to all staff explaining that John would, “ultimately take a position of responsibility. His first assignment for the company will be to undertake an investigation into economies which can be achieved in the design, construction and manufacture of the Mark VII. I shall be glad if [you] will give him every possible assistance and co-operation”. John was doing well at the plant, but the assignment he had been given was tough, “my clear impression was that John had been given a task that would have daunted anybody in the business with many more years experience. He was pretty unhappy about the whole thing” commented Berry.
While working there, John took an interest in the competition shop and in June 1955 he was en route for Le Mans, driving a Jaguar Mark VII support car. Six D-types, five of them long-nose cars, and a spare car (XKD 504) with Berry as the second reserve driver, were taken. Berry and Dewis who were driving two of the D-types, were supposed to meet John at Southampton so that they could fly out to Cherbourg. “We waited and we waited, and we finally decided we could wait no longer. It was getting dark and the last thing we wanted was to drive these cars in the dark down to Le Mans, so Norman and I decided, having given up our slot and sat there and sat there, that we had to go” Berry recalled. John caught a later flight and shortly after pulling out from a petrol station at Montebourg, he collided head-on with an American service vehicle in circumstances which have never been fully explained. It was a great loss for both his parents and the company. Lyons plunged himself deeper into his work. It was his way of coping. In private, he and Greta Lyons would have grieved, but in public, Lyons would not allow his emotions to take over.
1955 was also the year of the tragedy at Le Mans as over 80 people were killed when a Mercedes crashed into the crowd. Hawthorn and Bueb drove their D-type to a very hollow victory.
Berry was working late when a fire broke out in the factory on 12th February 1957. It was a tremendous blow for several hundred cars – including the yet to be announced 3.4-litre small saloon – and a great part of the factory was destroyed, with damage estimating at £3½ million. Lyons and others including Berry helped to push or drive cars out of harm’s way to safety, but the damage was considerable. Lyons rose to the occasion and spoke directly to his workers and his suppliers and they rallied round. Within thirty-six hours the factory was in limited operation and two weeks later production was under way, and the repairs were completed by early June.
Following one very critical report of a Jaguar test car in the Sunday Express, Lyons sent a harsh memo to Rankin asking how this could have been allowed to happen. Rankin replied that in future all press cars would be double checked by himself or Berry before going to the press and were almost hand-built to levels of perfection not matched by normal production examples. These came to be referred to as ‘Bob Berry Specials’ for many years to come.
Berry’s PR work continued to be interspersed with driving activities, and in 1959 he was involved in testing Dunlop radial tyres at MIRA in an XK150, sharing driving over two days with Wally Rheese and Norman Dewis. During this weekend Berry had a slight argument with one of the posts on the banking and a damaged door was repaired by the service department the following day. In 1960 he went with Jaguar to Le Mans when E2A was being tested and as in 1951 he was checking lap times for E2A and keeping an eye on the other competitors.
Purchase of Daimler
Jaguar’s success during the second half of the 1950s meant that they had outgrown Browns Lane and required additional manufacturing space. They were not allowed to expand on site and were being forced by the Government of the day to move elsewhere, which would be to their political advantage but not for Jaguar. Lyons was not keen to do this and looked closer to home. “My recollection is that he was under heavy pressure from the Government of the day to move to one of the so-called underdeveloped areas. He was completely opposed to it for the very reasons that have proved so true subsequently, that the effect of manufacturing costs was so huge that he was not prepared to contemplate it and despite the pressure and the incentives, he was resolute that that was not the right way to go” stated Bob Berry.
For some years the BSA-owned Daimler Car Company had suffered from mis-management and lack of investment. Daimler was Britain’s oldest surviving car maker – BSA already owned Lanchester, which was the older company, but was now a badge engineered Daimler. The Company was just hanging on; in 1959 they had launched an unusual sports car, the SP250, and had an ageing saloon/limousine, but lacked the funds to capitalise on the name. Consequently, Lyons talked to Jack Sangster of BSA and on 26 May 1960, he announced the news to the Board of Directors of Jaguar that he had bought Daimler. They had no idea what he had been doing and this was the first they had heard about it.
The deal, with Sangster, was concluded at 11 am on 18 June 1960. Sir William commented that, “I do not recall a more amicable deal with anyone.” Jaguar paid £3,110,000 plus the excess of Daimler’s current assets over current liabilities. They now owned Daimler, and with it acquired the factory of one million square feet (92,903 sq/m) at nearby Radford. Jaguar had the space they needed for the expansion of the range and also to carry on with the Daimler models that would ensue.
Launch of the Jaguar E-type
By 1961 Bob Berry was Public Relations Manager and together with Bill Rankin were in charge of PR for the launch of the E-type at Geneva. On 15 March 1961, the Gunmetal Grey Jaguar E-type fixed-head coupe, registered 9600 HP, was unveiled to the press at the Parc des Eaux Vives in Geneva.
As one of the few prototypes 9600 HP had helped development of the E-type and after being designated the Press Car Berry and Rankin had organised a number of road tests by the main magazines and journalists before its launch. Sir William had a keen interest in magazine road tests, especially those of the two yardstick British weeklies, The Autocar and The Motor. Berry normally arranged for these magazines to drive new vehicles before anyone else and Lyons would then ring the Editor for an opinion even before the test was published.
Because of its very busy life 9600 HP left Browns Lane for the trip to Geneva, later than originally planned. Rather than transport it, Berry drove it all the way from Coventry to Geneva, catching the midnight ferry from Dover. Being delayed by fog between Calais and Reims he arrived with 20 minutes to spare after the drive of his life, “good God, Berry, I thought you weren’t going to get here” Sir William said, as the car was quickly getting wiped clean for the big reveal. Berry recalled, “it was the only car I actually drove flat out from one end to the other of a journey, simply to get there on time. It was the most incredible journey and I’ve never forgotten it.”
The gathering at the Parc des Eaux Vives was actually the SMMT meeting in Geneva with all the world’s motoring press present, so Lyons managed to stage a fantastic press launch and not pay a penny for the privilege.
Berry then proceeded to give journalists demonstration runs up a nearby hillclimb course, but demand was high, Berry hadn’t had a break, and he said to Lyons: “I can’t keep this up all week, it’s killing me”. Sir William rang back to Coventry and told Dewis to drop everything, and bring the open-top E-type over. Dewis completed the journey with the E-type 77 RW from Coventry in 11 hours, at an average speed of 68 mph recalling: “As soon as Bob Berry saw me, he came over, and said: ‘Thank God you’ve made it. Look at the size of these queues.”
Ferrari and Mercedes were also driving potential customers and reporters round the same route and a competitive element entered into the press drives with some passengers finding the experience quite harrowing.
By the end of Geneva Motor Show the Company had taken orders for 500 E-types and 9600 HP and 77 RW were returned to Coventry by which time they had covered a total of 3,400 miles.
Looking back some years later Berry said “There’s no doubt about it. Certainly no E-type I drove subsequently was as quick as 9600 HP, or indeed 77 RW”.
Race results – Jaguar Related
Car / Co-driver
Entrant / Team
|1954||27 March||Goodwood, BARC||3rd||Jaguar XK120 (MWK 120)|
|10 April||British Empire Trophy, Oulton Park||DNQ||Jaguar XK120||R. E. Berry|
|19 April||Goodwood, Easter Meeting||6th||Jaguar XK120||R. E. Berry|
|1 May||Goodwood, BARC||4th||Jaguar XK120|
|29 May||Aintree, International||9th||Jaguar XK120||R. E. Berry|
|10 July||National, Oulton Park||Jaguar XK120|
|24 July||AMOC Silverstone, National||3rd||Jaguar XK120|
|14 August||Snetterton, International||3rd||Jaguar XK120|
|21 August||Goodwood, BARC (Over 3 litre )||DNA||Jaguar XK120|
|21 August||Goodwood, BARC (Over 3.5 litre)||DNA||Jaguar XK120|
|28 August||Wakefield Trophy, Curragh, Ireland||2nd||Jaguar XK120|
|18 September||Sunbac, Silverstone||2nd||Jaguar XK120|
|25 September||Goodwood, International||Raced||Jaguar XK120||R. E. Berry|
|2 October||Aintree, International||DNA||Jaguar XK120||R. E. Berry|
|9 October||Silverstone International (Formula Libre)||1st||Jaguar XK120|
|9 October||Silverstone International (Racing Handicap)||9th||Jaguar XK120|
|9 October||Silverstone International (Unlimited)||1st||Jaguar XK120|
|1955||2 April||British Empire Trophy, Oulton Park||DNQ||Jaguar XK120||R. E. Berry|
|12 April||Goodwood, Easter Meeting||8th||Jaguar XK120||R. E. Berry|
|30 April||National, Oulton Park (Sports Unlimited)||2nd||Jaguar XK120|
|14 May||Silverstone, National (Sports Unlimited)||2nd||Jaguar XK120|
|14 May||Silverstone, National (Formula Libre)||1st||Jaguar XK120|
|30 May||Goodwood, Whitsun (Sports Unlimited)||2nd||Jaguar D-Type (OKV 2)||Jack Broadhead|
|30 May||Goodwood, Whitsun (Over 2 litre)||2nd||Jaguar D-Type||Jack Broadhead|
|26 June||Circuito do Porto, Portugal Grand Prix||5th||Jaguar D-Type||Jack Broadhead|
|16 July||Aintree, British Grand Prix||7th||Jaguar D-Type||Jack Broadhead|
|20 August||Goodwood, 9 hours||5th||Jaguar D-Type with Norman Dewis||Jack Broadhead|
|27 August||Oulton Park, 250 mile International||5th||Jaguar D-Type||Jack Broadhead|
|18 September||Tourist Trophy, Dundrod, Northern Ireland||DNF||Jaguar D-Type with
|1956||2 April||Goodwood, Easter Meeting||3rd||Jaguar D-Type||Jack Broadhead|
|14 April||Oulton Park, British Empire Trophy||8th||Jaguar D-type||Jack Broadhead|
|21 April||Aintree 200||5th||Jaguar D-type||Jack Broadhead|
|5 May||Silverstone, Daily Express Meeting||3rd||Jaguar D-type||Jack Broadhead|
|21 May||Goodwood, Whitsun (Over 1.5 litre )||1st||Jaguar D-type||Jack Broadhead|
|21 May||Goodwood, Whitsun (Racing & Sports 2000)||DNF||Jaguar D-type||Jack Broadhead|
|8 September||Goodwood, Trophy (2nd Handicap)||Raced||Jaguar D-type||Jack Broadhead|
|8 September||Goodwood, Trophy (Over 1.5 litre)||8th||Jaguar D-type||Jack Broadhead|
|22 September||Oulton Park (GT & T)||DNA||Jaguar D-type||Jack Broadhead|
|7 October||Snetterton, National||5th||Jaguar D-type|
|13 October||Oulton Park, National (Handicap)||1st||Jaguar D-type||Jack Broadhead|
|13 October||Oulton Park, National (Unlimited)||4th||Jaguar D-type||Jack Broadhead|
|1957||25 May||Oulton Park, National (Racing Handicap)||5th||Jaguar D-type|
|25 May||Oulton Park, National (Over 3 litre )||2nd||Jaguar D-type|
|25 May||Oulton Park, National (Handicap)||5th||Jaguar D-type|
|26 May||Nurburgring, 1,000 km||Entry list only||Jaguar D-type|
|12 October||Oulton Park, National (Unlimited)||1st||Jaguar D-type|
Jaguar Mark X
Berry, working with Rankin oversaw the launch of the 4.2 litre XK engine in both the Mark X saloon and the E-type in October 1964. Journalist Denis Jenkinson was very critical of the Moss gearbox on early E-types and said the bucket seats were dreadful. Berry told ‘Jenks’ to try the new seats in the 4.2 E-type – saying they would be OK for 1,000 miles on the trot.
At the London Motor Show in October, American and Canadian distributors placed orders for the Mark X worth $63m, representing a doubling of demand in North America. Berry who had sat in on the morning meeting saw a publicity opportunity, “I went along to Sir William and I said, ‘How anxious are you to publicise this morning’s meeting? I think we can make a good story out of it in the financial papers by actually talking about the sheer dollar value’. He said, ‘If you think it’s good publicity you’d better go and do it but let me see the draft’”.
Berry focused the draft on the dollar value and with Sir William’s suggestions of adding quotes from the US importers, Hornburg and Qvale, he sent it through to all the papers. To Berry’s surprise, the papers embellished the story and instead of putting it on the financial pages made it front page news, “I went into the motor show and Sir William said, ‘Mm, not bad this morning, was it, Berry? All we’ve got to do now is make them’ and with that he walked off”.
British Motor Holdings and British Leyland
It wasn’t just speeches and the Annual Reports that Berry wrote for Sir William. During 1966 Sir William started worrying about the future of the company, as Pressed Steel, their body supplier had been bought by British Motor Corporation (BMC) and he feared Jaguar’s requirements may take lower priority. After negotiating with Sir George Harriman, chairman of BMC, they agreed to merge and form British Motor Holdings with Jaguar remaining autonomous. Berry was one of the few Jaguar people who had been involved in the merger discussions as he wrote a rationale on the merger on behalf of Sir William, which Sir George accepted.
Bill Rankin died in March 1966 and Berry taking over in charge of PR.
During 1966 the question of returning to motor racing was discussed and Bob Knight recalled a conversation along the lines that Heynes could build a Le Mans contender and Sir William could have a new Limousine.
Berry put together the arguments for and against returning to racing. Jaguar owed its fame to racing and a return would certainly boost their image and increase employee morale. Against that, he also acknowledged that competition was now far greater and any return to racing would have to be much better planned, resourced and more professional than before. He also said that advertising any success would cost as much as the racing programme itself, due to the British success in Formula 1. He came to the conclusion that the greater priority was to concentrate the engineering staff on creating the next generation of production cars.
Work did start on what was to become the XJ13 mid-engined sports car although development overran and a rule change meant it couldn’t be run with its 5 litre V12 engine – so it never raced. Berry recommended Sir William to keep it under wraps, Sir William wrote to Heynes, “until a definite policy is decided regarding the XJ13, will you please ensure that in no circumstances does it leave the shop”. However, the car did leave the shop to get tested by Dewis at MIRA, who was subsequently reprimanded by Lyons, who went on to ask how it had performed!
During 1967 Berry, by then Executive Director of Group Publicity, was involved in an unusual publicity stunt organised by the Daily Telegraph to produce a ‘dream car’ for the Earls Court Motor Show in October. The Telegraph, using Italian design firm Bertone, designed a two-seater grand tourer that could be built using existing stock parts. An E-type 2+2 was used as the basis for the vehicle utilising the 4.2 litre engine and transmission. The Bertone Pirana was born and shown at Earls Court and then Turin (in November) before heading for New York (where the spelling became ‘Piranha’) and then on to Montreal in Canada.
Sir William’s desired limousine did appear, the Daimler DS420 was launched in 1968 to replace the Daimler Majestic Major. This was based on an extended Jaguar Mark X floorpan and powered by the 4.2 litre XK engine. Interestingly this was the first new vehicle to come out of the newly formed British Leyland.
After the merger of BMH and Leyland in 1968 to form British Leyland, Berry was appointed Marketing Director – International (Specialist Cars) and by 1976 was Sales Operations Director for Leyland Cars. This put him in charge of the task of helping to sell more than 500,000 cars in the UK market.
When Sir William retired in 1972 he wanted to go quietly but Berry told him that it wouldn’t do Jaguar any good if he “were just to fade out” and he had Sir William complete a whole series of interviews about his life’s work.
On 25th August 1976 Bob Berry presented a paper to the San Francisco chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers at the Monterrey Historic Races at Laguna Seca. The overall theme was ‘Salute to Jaguar’ and his paper was on ‘Jaguar – Motor Racing and the Manufacturer’. During that race meeting, five D-types competed in a race for over 2 litre racing cars 1948-1955, finishing first, second and third.
Among his audience were three other Jaguar drivers whose experience between them covered 40 years of racing: 1953 Le Mans winner Tony Rolt; Bob Tullius 1975 SCCA champion with the E-type V12 and XJ-S and Martin Morris who won the Monterrey historic race in a 1954 D-type.
When John Egan was tasked with returning Jaguar to independence in 1980 he brought Berry back into the fold but Berry felt uncomfortable with the British Leyland / Jaguar situation. Towards the end of 1980 he was head hunted by Alfa Romeo where he remained for two years before moving into the retail motor trade in 1982.
Bob Berry died peacefully at his home in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire on 1st January 2021 after a long illness.
Author: Shihanki Elpitiya and Tony Merrygold
Race results from www.RacingSportsCars.com
© Text and Images – Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust