As a young man, Mike Dale had no problem finding blue skies. During his tour as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, he simply pointed the nose of his Vampira jet toward the heavens and pushed on the throttle. In a matter of moments he would break through the clouds into sunshine.

As the head of American operations for Jaguar, Dale has needed all the patience he could muster. The company's climb into sunshine has been slow, with more than a few setbacks along the way.Today Jaguar sales are increasing so rapidly that Dale is wondering just how high is up. Why? He says there are many reasons, but uppermost are improvements in quality, assembly efficiency and, perhaps most important, the many technical improvements in the vehicle itself.

Dale says much of this came about as a direct result of Jaguar's purchase by Ford Motor Co. An infusion of funds helped, says Dale, but perhaps even more important was the brainpower Ford brought.

Ford's ideas helped Jaguar to make major improvements in quality. From far down in the pack just a few yeas ago, Jaguar is now considered, in the latest J.D. Power survey, one of the top 10. In dealer satisfaction, Jaguar ranks fourth, right behind Saturn.

Over the years Jaguar has attracted men and women customers in equal numbers. Dale attributes this to styling that pleases women and technology that pleases men.

First and foremost, Dale says, is a suspension that presents a comfortable ride along with nearly sportscarlike handling. Dale says the secret is the way mechanicals are designed to keep the tires perpendicular to the road as much as possible.

Jaguar sales have taken off not only in the United States, where convertible deliveries are up by 80 percent, but are humming along in Germany, Japan and Canada. Convertible sales, along with the XBS coupe, increased when a less expensive six-cylinder model was made available. The convertible also got a rear seat.

Dale won't say much about the future, but the sedan will undergo some changes for 1995. The only clue Dale will give is to say that if xou liked the 3-series Jaguar, you'll really like the 1995 XJ6 and XJ12.