Ed was born not too far from where we are sitting, in the nearby port town of Harwich and the house in which he now lives was the family home, but it is a long way from Coventry, and I’m intrigued as to what led a 16-year-old Ed from the east coast to the Midlands. There was no maternal or paternal interest in motorcars or engines, indeed his stepfather had a potato farm, but this did mean there was always some farm machinery about, and Ed, who describes himself as always being fascinated by the way things worked, hadn’t even reached his teen years before he was playing with his first engine; a 150cc two stroke cradled in the frame of his Ambassador field bike.
Fate then perhaps that he should follow a career with engines at the nucleus, but at 16 he was packed off for interviews for apprenticeships at Jaguar and Vauxhall and the selection process that followed. Competition was fierce of course, and weighted towards those that were local to the firms. During his interview however Ed was asked if he maintained his own bicycle, to which he replied ‘yes, and my motorcycle and my van’, and the raised eyebrows at this point suggested that he might be on the right track to be offered a place.
Finally settled into digs in Coventry and now firmly on the Jaguar programme, the young Mr Abbott, with his long hair and hippy jeans, this was the early 70’s after all, was managing to pick up some dream ticket moves within the company. Firstly, building the V12 powerplants on a brand-new production line, that would be integral to the success of the forthcoming XJ-S. This production line represented a big investment for Jaguar, and only a few of the workforce even knew of its existence, let alone worked on it. Whilst the seeds for the XJ-S itself were being nurtured, Ed’s love of engines and engineering that had been cultivated at such a young age was now being given some clear direction. He didn’t know it yet, but this would be integral to his future involvement with motorsport.
At the time Ed was also involved in rallying and was becoming known as ‘mad-Abbott’ around the factory. Perhaps this is what led to another dream move, with a secondment to the top-secret Vehicle Safety dept, for a three month of stint of crash testing cars, specifically the XJ-S, under the project number of XJ27 – known simply as the 27 – at the time and living a very surreptitious life around the factory. An engine was needed for one of the test cars, so that the machine could be crash tested with a power plant of the correct weight inside it, all built from rejected parts. Being fresh from the production line this task went to Ed, as he constructed an engine from bits that didn’t fit and substituted engine oil for lead shot, so as to avoid spillages during the crash tests.