My other half is Sarah, and the Big Blue Cat in the heading relates to our 1990 XJ-S 5.3 litre convertible, in Solent Blue with Saville Grey interior. It’s actually Sarah’s baby, bought for her after many, many patient years of waiting.
Jags are in her family, with her brother owning an E-type and various uncles having Mark Xs and Mark 2s throughout life, but the XJ-S was always her personal desire. She’s had to put up for many years with my love for Land Rovers of all shapes and sizes, from Series 1, 2 and 3 through to Discovery 2s and 4s, Range Rovers Series 1s and P38s plus off-roaders and finally our White Witch, a white Discovery Sport 2.2 litre with the registration W1 CHH. Sarah has dabbled with imports, via a Chevy Astro 4.0 day van, a lifted and overboard 3.2 XXS Toyota surf, a Mitsubishi Delica 3.0 litre petrol and her latest, which we still have, a 260bhp Nissan Elgrand. All these came after turning down the chance to buy her first XJ-S convertible in wine metallic for £4000 many years ago. In those days though there was no place for the two kids and the two dogs.
“We have an XJ-S Plus, all the car anyone could want from a Jaguar and then some.”
So after many years of waiting, we bought the cat in late February this year, in nice condition as it was, but then decided to hand it over it to Chris Knowles at KWE so he could, as he put it, “Make it the car what it SHOULD have been in the first place”.
KWE Suspension Upgrades
For the first of their upgrades we plumped for their S1 suspension upgrade, which includes a suspension, steering and brake upgrade, note they say upgrade, not replacement as this makes the car better than when it was new in their opinion.
This included the complete stripping of the suspension, brakes and steering unit from the car, then each individual section stripped down, all those old BL bushes, shocks, joints, dampers, discs, springs and joints as well, basically thrown away. Each major section is then shot blasted and powder coated in zinc and then finished in black or another colour should you ask for it, and all wearing, perishable and moving parts renewed with OE or if they are not available, KWE manufactured parts. It’s then all put back together by a single person, only one mechanic to a car, and refitted with a full geometry steering set up done.
The suspension is then adjusted to how you like it, (Sarah went for sporty!) and road tested until they are sure all is perfect.
Engine & Cooling System
The next decision for us was what to do with the engine, so we opted for their V12 30,000 mile perishable service, with full cooling system renewal, in Chris’s words “The cooling system renewal is so important for V12s because cooling was marginal when new, let alone with clogged old pipes and failing pumps”. There were other options, but as the car had only done 56,000 miles and only 6,000 since 2007 it was thought the engine wouldn’t warrant any more.
What is included in their V12 30,000 mile perishable service, is anything perishable being removed and in place a new radiator, hoses, drive belts, new plug leads and plugs, thermostats, water pump, new electric fan and fan couplings. This is followed by a full chemical flush of the engine coolant system and all oilways, followed by a full 30,000 mile service to body and engine, with any engine tuning needed to get it to the top notch performance you’d expect. Also the gearbox and differential oils are changed and in our case, gearbox mounting bushes changed, see the picture for what came out and what went back!
The Interior & Exterior
Next the cabin, and it wasn’t so difficult to sort this one, as the carpets, leather and wood were already in very good condition and in the way KWE do things, “Not really something we need to touch,” Chris advised us. Still it just needed something to finish it off and then with the options Chris suggested we saw what it was. We then dumped that dodgy 1990 black plastic steering wheel in favour of a gorgeous Motalita Mk5 flat spoke holed steering wheel with polished centre horn push and a change to the T-bar on the gear selector from black plastic to wood matching the dash and surrounds. It finished it to a tee. As a finale KWE gave the paint a machine polish and wax to the interior valet including the seats getting a proper clean and a leather feed, making them just so.
The Finishing Touch
The dashboard instruments had all the illumination of a Victorian candle in a hurricane, so we went for a full interior lighting and instrument panel LED upgrade, and just to make life difficult for KWE, we requested that they do an experimental LED upgrade (never done before on an XJS) of all the control switches on the dash and centre console. This included the heater controls as well. They came through on that task with flying colours.
We got the car back in June, after a much anticipated wait and well !!!!!, was Chris right, it corners on rails, glides along on its new running gear like it is on air. You can see at night, like a modern car. The engine purrs and even after a half hour sit in traffic in recent very hot weather it sat rock solid normal in the temp zone. We’re also averaging 18mpg around town and on a recent long run 23.5mpg.
Was it worth the cost? Well, we’ve spent quite a bit more than the value of the car but what a car it is now!
Worth it ? Oh yes without a doubt, we have an XJ-S Plus, all the car anyone could want from a Jaguar and then some.
With thanks to Dave and Sarah Ash.
Also to Jaguar enthusiast Magazine for publishing the article.