XJS & XJ from KWE Cars
Classic Spirit Reborn

KWE Cars Blog - Page 3

Classic car road trip checklist

Nothing beats the thrill of a classic road-trip. Whether it’s winding across the B Roads of England or cruising past the dramatic peninsulas of the French Riviera, your classic Jaguar will be in its element.

Before booking your self-drive holiday, check that your planned route does not include towns or cities that you are not able to drive your classic. Many places like London in the UK have low emission zones, we’ve provided a couple of useful links below to help you:

Once you set off, you shouldn’t have a care in the world. Just you, your car and the road ahead. But to reach this state of classic car nirvana, it’s important to put some preparation in ahead of time.

We’ve put together a useful checklist to prepare for your dream driving holiday:

In car toolkit

  • GB car stickers
  • Spare fuel can
  • Torch
  • Spare headlight bulb kit
  • High viz jackets and warning triangle
  • First aid kit
  • Breathalyser
  • Jump leads or a battery booster. We’ve found these very handy.
  • Currency for any penalties incurred.

Service checks

There are simple things you can do yourself to make sure your car is in good, roadworthy condition such as checking your tyre pressures and tread, topping up your oil, and surveying the engine bay carefully for coolant leaks, power steering leaks and oil level, brake fluid level and gearbox oil level. These simple tasks are vital to keeping your car running smoothly on the road and to stop your engine overheating.

  • Fit headlamp beam deflectors for Continental driving.
  • Oil
  • Screen washer fluid and coolant.
  • Perishables
  • Age of tyres, long distance, fast speed and temperature all affect tyre wear and tear. Don’t forget to check the spare!
  • Working radio – KWE can apply a bluetooth adapter to your original radio so you can stream music from your smartphone.
  • Adjust suspension for heavy loads. Pump rear tyres 38 psi. With a KWE suspension, we can set your car up for a loaded vehicle.
  • Brakes
  • Steering
  • Check the battery is not flat and the car starts in advance of the day of your trip!


  • Valid insurance
  • MOT
  • Breakdown cover
  • Sat Nav with updated routes
  • Driving permits

Our simple checklist can give you peace of mind ahead of your trip; but the most important thing to remember is your sense of adventure! Have an unforgettable holiday and we’ll see you on the other side.

Steering, brake and suspension hints and tips from KWE

To determine if your steering system is worn you can do the following:

  • When you are driving at slow speed (15mph) on a flat road, if when turning the steering wheel to change direction of the car it takes more than ½ inch movement of the steering wheel rim, then it is likely to be worn. Most worn cars will need over 2 inches at the rim to change direction.
  • Listen for a grinding noise from the steering pump when on full lock – if there is, then the system is leaking oil and the pump is running dry.
  • Observe if the car drifts left or right whilst driving. A mild drift to the right is ok on UK roads (i.e. out of the left gutter), but anything significant, or drift to the left can indicate either:

unequal tyre pressures

uneven tyre wear

different tyre types

incorrectly-setup suspension geometry

  • If you notice the direction of the car is unstable, either drifting or pulling left or right depending on road surface, then the toe-in could be badly out.
  • If the tread blocks show feathering on leading or trailing edges then the toe-in could be slightly out.
  • If you notice a wobble when driving at varying speeds (this tends to occur over a narrow speed range of, say, 50 – 60mph), this can indicate an unbalanced or bent wheel rim, or an unevenly worn tyre. Cheap tyres can be very bad from new. Do not confuse this wobble with brake shudder – see below.


To determine if your brakes are faulty do the following:

  • When gently applying the brakes, you notice that the car pulls left or right then:

there could be different brake retardation between left and right brake discs/pads

the tyres could have uneven grip

  •  If the car wobbles when the footbrake is applied then most likely one or both front brake discs is unevenly surfaced or unbalanced.
  • When firmly applying the brakes on a dry road:

on ABS-equipped cars) you should feel the car judder violently as the ABS alternately skids and releases the brakes.

on non-ABS cars, at least one front wheel should lock-up and skid.

If it is not possible to make the wheels skid on a dry road then the overall brake efficiency is down, usually because one or more brake caliper piston is seized.

  • When stationary on a flat road or driveway with engine running, apply the handbrake, engage D (this does not work for manual gearbox cars) and release the footbrake. The car should not move forward. This is particularly relevant to the XJ or XJS with inboard brakes where the handbrake mechanism is feeble and is commonly damaged by drivers leaving the fly-off handbrake applied while driving.


To determine if there are suspension problems:

  • Note any rattles at the front when going over rough roads – this is usually due to worn-out damper mountings, or, less frequently, worn-out anti-roll bar mountings.
  • Push down on the middle of the front bumper firmly with your knee. The car should be difficult to move downwards, and it should not bounce as it rises again. Repeat at the rear. If the car bounces (i.e. more than one movement after releasing the down pressure) then the dampers are worn; if the car is easy to push down then the springs are weak.
  • Look at the car on a level road from the side. The car should be more or less level, with perhaps a mild nose-down attitude. If it is high at the front then the rear springs are weak – this is common.
  • With the car settled on a flat road or driveway, you should be able to insert two fingers between the wheel arch and the top of the tyre. If this is not possible then the:

ride height is incorrect

car has been lowered

wrong tyre profiles have been fitted

There are many more suspension faults that can be identified visually or by ear. Come and see us, we can spot them and correct them for you!

*Please ensure that you if you carry out any of the above, do so in a safe environment and manner.

Classic car shows coming up in 2017

We enjoy to showcase the cars we lovingly build and restore and what better way see restorations in person than attend a classic car show. There are many classic and sports car events and festivals to attend this year, we have handpicked a few of our favourites below.

Ready. Set Go.

To ensure your Jaguar is in pristine condition for this year’s events book it in with us for a spruce up.


Practical Classics Restoration & Classic Car Show

31 March – 2 April – NEC Birmingham

Classic Car Show Logo

Officially the UK’s fastest growing classic car event, over 19,000 enthusiasts attended last year’s show, bringing together all aspects of classic motoring. From barn finds and project cars, to restorations with proud as punch owners. The Restoration and Classic Car Show hosts motoring experts and celebrities, presents live demonstrations and showcases over 1,000 classic cars.

Stratford Festival of Motoring

30 April –  1 May – Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford Festival of Motoring Logo

Running for four years now, this event celebrates the driving of motor vehicles. With over 300 cars taking a run out in the countryside over the bank holiday and finishing in the town centre for a parade it is an experience not to be missed. The main feature at this year’s festival will make a superb display from the local car manufacturer, Jaguar!

Simply Jaguar

9 July – Beaulieu

Beaulieu logo

Shine your XJS and buff up your E-Type… whichever model you drive or admire, it’s a great opportunity to connect with fellow enthusiasts; all are welcome at the 2nd Simply Jaguar event. As well as seeing hundreds of Jaguars you can also enjoy all that Beaulieu has to offer. Entry tickets include admission to all the Beaulieu attractions; The National Motor Museum, World of Top Gear, Palace House, Beaulieu Abbey and more.

Silverstone Classic

28 – 30 July – Towcester

Silverstone Classic logo

The packed weekend of the Silverstone Classic provides;

·       spectacular historic motor racing on the world famous circuit

·       free access to the paddocks and grandstands

·       displays from over 100 car clubs featuring more than 10,000 classic cars

·       interactive driving activities

·       dynamic demonstrations

·       live music

·       air displays

·       a vintage fun fair

·       a shopping village

It’s an event for the whole family.

Goodwood Revival

8 – 10 September – Chichester

Goodwood logo

Every September the Revival recreates the golden era of Goodwood Motor Circuit, between 1948 and 1966. This extraordinary event assembles the most significant racing cars and motorcycles along with legendary drivers and riders from the past and stars of today. The Revival is the only historic race meeting to be staged entirely in period dress. Nowhere else can you see this combination of world-class classic cars and vintage style.

Classic Motor Show

10 – 12 November – NEC Birmingham

Classic Moto Show Logo

With everything from classic to vintage to retro cars, the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show will not disappoint. This event gives you a taste of everything, whether you have a passion for traditional British classics, vintage motors, historic motorsport, European exotica, American muscle or if you prefer, like we do, the more modern retro classics.


Share your experiences

If you have been to a show that you have really enjoyed, we’d love for you to share your experiences and pictures with us.


Arrive in style

Arrive in style to all the classic car shows in a fully restored Jaguar XJS. Whether it’s rebuilding, repairing or upgrading, we can help you design the specification for your classic Jaguar XJS, just drop us an email or give us a call.

Super suspension – the ride of your life!

Over the years, Jaguar has maintained its position as a leader in suspension sophistication and the launch of the E-type in 1961 was where it all began.

At the time, most production cars were still using live axles. This, of course, impacted ride quality and made cornering a fickle affair. Designed by Bob Knight, Jaguar’s first generation of independent rear suspension (IRS) took five years to develop and was a game changer in ride comfort.

While its first production application was in the E-Type, the Jaguar IRS assembly was refined and used continuously until production of the XJS ended in 1996. Even then it carried on in modified form into the XK8, XJ300 and XJ308. The smooth ride and excellent roadholding offered by Jaguar’s IRS assembly played a significant role in making the XJs the highly-desirable classics that they are today.

But even the best designs need a little helping hand. Unless professionally restored within the past few years, all E-type XJ-based suspension assemblies – including the DB7s – will likely be very loose. This is mostly due to key rubber components which have perished over the passage of time. This is not a design fault; it is simply the nature of rubber. Joints and bearings will also wear, and springs and dampers will have weakened.

These wear-related and perishable problems accumulate, resulting in poor steering precision, degraded handling and unbalanced braking.

KWE offers a fixed-price suspension, brakes and steering package. This includes removal and full strip of both front and rear suspension assemblies. Each individual component is then shot blasted and powder coated, first in zinc and then in black – or any paint colour of your choosing!

The components are then re-assembled with new bushes, bearings, springs, dampers, brakes, earth straps, steering pump, brake pads and shoes. At KWE, we do more than restore – we uprate, and so several components will be upgraded to KWE specification, ensuring your smooth ride is extra-safe and lasts well into the future.

The result? Precision steering, superb handling, and the same (or better) ride comfort that you’d expect if you’d just bought your XJ fresh off the production line.


Take a look at this walk-around body and suspension restoration video.

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A steer in the right direction

It’s one of those things you may not have given much thought to but it’s quite literally right under your nose. We’re talking about your classic Jaguar car’s steering wheel.

A 15” Mk9 steering wheel with drilled alloy spokes and plastic horn push, mounted on a Series 3 XJ

A 15” Mk9 steering wheel with drilled alloy spokes and plastic horn push, mounted on a Series 3 XJ

If you’re a little on the tall side then you may have experienced that getting in and out of your classic Series 3 Jaguar XJ and XJS can be tricky. This is due to the size of the original 16” diameter steering wheels fitted. At KWE we prefer 15” or 14” inch wheels, which makes things a bit easier and we find gives a much-improved feel for the road.

Here are a few more useful pointers that will keep you on the right track when choosing your steering wheel from KWE.

  • Our preferred aftermarket type of steering wheel is the Moto-Lita range which offers handcrafted wood and leather rimmed wheels; perfect for any classic cars such as the Jaguar XJS.
  • Our leather re-trim service will match the colour of your original Jaguar steering wheel with your car’s bodywork.
  • For safety and liability reasons we do not modify or remove steering wheels in Jaguar cars manufactured after 1993 as these models have airbags fitted.
  • Momo wheels can be fitted, but not all of the range has suitable adaptors

Take a closer look at the range of steering wheels KWE has fitted and re-trimmed recently here.

Modern music systems for classic cars

At KWE, we find that most classic car owners prefer the features of modern in-car audio systems, but not many customers are satisfied with the way modern head units look once fitted.

In cars built in the 90s onwards it is common to have non-standard single DIN units whose apertures, when removed, will not suit standalone aftermarket units. This Jaguar XK8 is a good example of a modern headunit that can’t be retro-fitted with an aftermarket Bluetooth unit.

Jaguar XK8 modern headunit

A Jaguar XK8 modern headunit

While the FM radio facility has not changed much in the last 40 years, the sources of recorded music have. We started with 8 track cartridges followed by cassettes. The digital age produced CDs and devices such as the Apple iPod and MP3 music files capable of being stored on a USB memory stick. Advances in technology now allow drivers to stream directly from a smartphone to the headunit via Bluetooth.

But what if you want to keep the original headunit but have modern music sources, perhaps with mobile phone/Bluetooth connectivity? Below shows an image of an early (pre-HE) XJS. Although it’s possible to fit a new headunit, there’s no direct connection capability and must therefore use a FM signal via its aerial.

An early (pre-HE) XJS headunit

I have experimented with solutions for many years on my own cars, and KWE has delivered a variety of solutions for our clients. I have come to the conclusion that the best overall solution is to store all your favourite music on a smartphone. This can then be streamed to a Bluetooth module, which in turn either transmits to the original car radio’s FM tuner, or can be electronically mixed with a CD changer input.

For a long time I persevered with using USB sticks plugged into either a (modern) headunit’s front panel, or via a lead hidden in the armrest connected to the back of the headunit. However, this presents problems if you’re the owner of more than one car with several memory sticks to keep updated as new music is added to your collection. I ended up then having to carry around a single memory stick and plug it into whichever car I intended to drive.

Another problem is that most head units have quite small displays, and it is difficult and extremely dangerous to attempt to locate a particular track while on the move – not to mention fishing for one’s reading glasses for those of us over a certain age!

An iPod left in the car isn’t particularly useful as the device’s battery tends to run down quickly. What then happens is that the first five minutes of a journey are spent waiting for the iPod to charge up. Further time is then spent selecting an alternative song from the first tune that is automatically selected from your library each time the device is turned on. Leaving the iPod connected to the car’s battery in some way doesn’t offer a viable option either as it simply discharges the car’s battery.

A cassette to audio input adaptor will work surprisingly well with older cars that have cassette headunits. However, this isn’t necessarily the tidiest option as it will leave trailing wires, produce a whirring noise from the adaptor and result in poor audio quality.

Bluetooth streaming gets round all of this by allowing anything with Bluetooth capability to connect wirelessly to your audio system – unfortunately classic Jaguar cars don’t have Bluetooth capability built into the audio units.

The final solution for keeping an original headunit is to fit a Bluetooth adaptor. Most of these older headunits do not have an audio-in jack socket so the only easy way to inject the audio signal is via the aerial.

There are many Bluetooth adaptors around with FM transmitters, and some can be clipped straight onto an iPod’s main connector. However, the quality is often poor so further research is required.

Fortunately the adaptors aren’t expensive – typically £10 – £30 for simple units. Normally there will be a small control unit to allow tuning the device to one of the radio’s pre-set channels, to answer mobile phone calls and to set up the Bluetooth link to your phone or iPod.

With Bluetooth capability, you now have the huge advantage of having all of your music to hand in a smartphone, providing a large screen to make music selection easier. I always use a good quality screen mount for my phone, located near the steering wheel rim.

With smartphone satellite navigation apps being so good these days (Google, Wayz, Sygic) there is usually no need for a standalone satnav unit to be fitted. Furthermore, a satnav app will interrupt your music to announce direction changes, without any extra wiring.

For an even neater installation and perfect audio quality KWE can fit a tiny mixer module into the CD changer input (if present) allowing you to select CD input and listen to either a CD if one is loaded up, or the smartphone if not (or indeed both)!

However, most smartphones don’t have enough memory as standard built-in to house a medium or large music collection, so it may be necessary to purchase a premium phone with a micro SD card such as the Motorola X Force for example.

Finally, here’s a tip on how to update your phone with new music. I have my master collection on a laptop, and use a synchronising programme called GoodSync which will just update new additions to the phone rather than dumping the whole library each time which can take hours.

Stay tuned. Next up we share our thoughts on loud speakers.

As well as upgrading audio systems, KWE provides many additional upgrade options. Check out some of our options here.