XJS & XJ from KWE Cars
Classic Spirit Reborn

KWE Cars Blog - Page 4

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.

7 tips for preventing fuel system failures

As one of the UK’s leading restorers of luxury classic cars, we come across all sorts of common problems that require the attention of our specialist engineers.

At KWE our aim has always been to ensure our customers receive a ‘better than new’ restoration service for their Jaguar XJS, XJ, XK and Aston Martin DB7 vehicles. So, we believe it’s important to share information that will ensure these vehicles maintain their reliability and roadworthiness.

We’ve noticed an increase in the number of classic cars being delivered to us for restoration with fuel system failures. Here we offer 7 preventative tips that will keep your vehicle in good condition and help avoid expensive remedial repairs.

Rust and sludge

The primary problem is due to the accumulation of rust and sludge in the fuel tank.

Even though high quality fuel filters are used in the fuel system, fuel pump damage and clogging of the injectors can occur.


An internally seized fuel pump caused by rust and sludge

An internally seized fuel pump caused by rust and sludge

Rust forms when moisture and air come into contact with unprotected steel. To prevent your fuel system from being attacked by rust it’s important to eliminate at least one of these materials.

The inside of a fuel tank showing heavy contamination with rust and sludge

The inside of a fuel tank showing heavy contamination with rust and sludge

  1. Keep the fuel tank topped right up so that air (oxygen) is largely excluded, unless the car is used at least weekly
  2. Try to avoid high ethanol petrol since it absorbs water from the atmosphere. You can ask the fuel company or forecourt manager about the ethanol percentage of the fuel it uses. Ideally, you should try and avoid fuels with ethanol content greater than 5%. On the continent, especially France, high ethanol percentages are common. If you drive overseas, try to burn off all the fuel that was purchased while abroad and then replenish with British fuel. Fuel with high ethanol content will affect the performance of your classic car and lead to the corrosion and deterioration of the fuel system and other engine parts.
A container of fuel removed from a car that had inexplicably broken down in France. After a local garage had misdiagnosed the fault, the vehicle was sent to KWE for further investigation. Particles of dissolved rubber hose were found in the French fuel caused by the high ethanol content. This in turn led to clogging and the eventual seizure of the fuel pump

A container of fuel removed from a car that had inexplicably broken down in France. After a local garage had misdiagnosed the fault, the vehicle was sent to KWE for further investigation. Particles of dissolved rubber hose were found in the French fuel caused by the high ethanol content. This in turn led to clogging and the eventual seizure of the fuel pump

3. Help protect the injectors by adding a petrol additive such as Forté Specialist Injector cleaner. For long term use Forté Advanced Gas Treatment (search eBay)

4. Avoid filling up at a petrol station if a forecourt tanker has recently visited to refill the underground storage tanks as this process can stir up the water in them which then ends up in your own vehicle’s tank

5. Have your tank and swirl tank emptied and cleaned out at least every ten years. Ideally have the tank treated internally so that the normally bare steel is coated

6. If your vehicle isn’t driven regularly then run your engine once a week for at least 15 minutes to keep the injectors working properly. Ideally, drive the car for a few miles to keep the brakes working and tyres exercised, while avoiding wet or salty conditions

7. The slow evaporation of the volatile elements of fuel results in a sticky and non-combustible residue. This can clog fuel injectors and prevent the car from starting and running smoothly. It’s therefore important to drain and replenish with fresh fuel if the vehicle is left for any length of time

Additional tips for preventing classic car rust can be found here. Happy motoring!

Powertrain differential – you are the weakest link!

While external crash damage to a vehicle is clearly noticeable, other parts are less so and therefore require thorough checks and repairs before a car is deemed roadworthy and safe to drive.

A car’s powertrain comprises several important components that are prone to serious damage if a vehicle is unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident.

In most modern vehicles the powertrain includes the engine, transmission, drive shaft, differential and the final drive. Together, these components transmit the engine’s power through to the road surface.

Jaguar XJS differential

Our workshop technicians have been kept particularly busy recently with two Jaguars XJSs that were both involved in serious accidents. In each vehicle, part of the powertrain (namely the differential), had suffered serious internal damage.

The differential allows the outside wheels of a vehicle to rotate faster than those on the inside while still transmitting power to both. This is necessary when a vehicle is required to turn, allowing the wheel that is traveling around the outside of the turning curve to roll farther and faster than the inside one.

(This fascinating video from the 1930s explains the principles of the differential gear)

How differential gears work

In one vehicle, part of the gearing teeth on the differential had broken off causing a terrible noise as they were caught up in the mechanism; the other caused the limited slip clutches to fail resulting in one of the rear wheels to skid on every corner – unnerving to say the least!

Differential damage can be caused when a car is struck head-on or from the rear. When this happens, and the gearbox is in Park, the only thing stopping the car from moving away is the ‘tyre-wheel-halfshaft-differential-propshaft-gearbox’ chain. Surprisingly, the differential is the weakest link in this chain.

If the gearbox is not in Park, there’s usually enough inertia in the chain to result in damage caused by a strong collision, even before the wheels begin to roll forwards or backwards.

Our advice to you is that if you are aware that an unavoidable rear end shunt is about to happen, apply as much braking as possible while obviously paying due attention to your own personal safety, and to the safety of any passengers. This will, to a certain extent, protect the differential.

If you know, or suspect that your Jaguar XJS has been involved in a collision then it’s essential to have a thorough safety inspection carried out by expert technicians.

For all used classic Jaguar and Aston Martin cars, we carry out a comprehensive two-hour, on-site condition assessment. For more information, visit our website here.


Differing differentials

Unsure of your differential differences? We list the various specifications below, courtesy of jag-lovers.org.

Salisbury 4HU Powr-Lok

From 1976-1985, the differential was a Salisbury 4HU Powr-Lok that came with either 3.07:1, 3.31:1 (1976-1982), or 2.88:1 (1982-1985) ratios.


From 1985-1987, a 2.88:1 DANA unit was used for the V12. This unit can be distinguished in that the bearings on the output shafts are held in place with three bolts; the differentials both before and after these years have five bolts. It also has no drain plug.

GKN Power Lock

Beginning in 1987, there was a differential referred to as the GKN Power Lock with a 2.88:1 ratio.

Brexit and classic cars: favourable exchange rates for international buyers

Why now’s a better time than ever to source and restore a classic car in the UK


The classic car industry is international, and so are KWE – we’re wherever our clients are. Over the past few years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of international clients. We’re thrilled that our hard work and dedication has resulted in KWE developing its international profile. The secret is out!


The current favourable exchange rates are particularly good news for international customers, whether sourcing a car in the UK or shipping one over for restoration. Post-Brexit, it makes smart financial sense to take advantage of the weaker pound. As Classic & Performance Car reported in July 2016, British classic cars are currently much more appealing on the international market. They’re now approximately 15% more affordable in the U.S. – plus, the exchange rate will effectively pay the cost of shipping the vehicle.


One U.S. customer has already benefitted by at least £1000 due to the pound falling against the dollar. His car was shipped over from New York for a total KWE restoration, before being shipped back for him to enjoy. A second U.S. customer from Chicago requested that we source and build a US-compliant, beefed-up XJS for export to the U.S. – a very exciting project which has had us amping up the power of a classic Jaguar! And a Texan customer has shipped over their Jaguar XJS and Aston Martin DB7 to be restored side by side.


Further afield, we have received an XJS from Australia for a full restoration, and imported several classic Jaguars from Japan. In Japan, they don’t use road salt, and therefore rusting is rare. In addition, the MoT equivalent is much more rigorous than in the UK, resulting in Japanese cars having a virtually perfect body and structure. They therefore make great starting points for creating KWE-upgraded classics.


The Jaguar brand is revered around the globe for the quality of its British engineering and design, so it’s hardly a challenge to sell the virtues of a classic Jaguar abroad – and even less so with the current cost savings! America, Australia, Japan… next stop China?


So, if you’re based outside the UK, now is a very good time to buy a UK classic car!


Contact KWE today to discuss your requirements – whether that’s sourcing a classic car, shipping, or restoration.