Once again we’ve had the pleasure of having Paul Walton of Jaguar World Magazine come to our facilities in Thatcham to test drive one of our latest Jaguar restorations. With the help of Alan, the owner of this awe inspiring machine, Paul has summed up the final product pretty well in the following article that was published in the November 18 issue of Jaguar World. We’re thankful to Alan for giving us the opportunity to restore his beloved XJR-S and wish him many happy adventures in what is now a ‘perfect’ or should I say Purrrfect JaguarSport TWR.
Perfect is an overly used word these days. When a waiter asks how our food is, we sometimes answer, “Perfect,” even if it’s not quite there. And when I go on holiday I’ll probably later describe it as perfect, despite it raining for two weeks and there being a dead rat in the pool. There is something that genuinely deserves the accolade, though, and that’s Alan Richell’s XJR-S. A thorough restoration by model specialist KWE has resulted in one of the best examples out there. From the flawless paint to the spotless alloys, and the immaculate interior to the pristine engine bay, it is… erm… perfect.
Alan, though, wasn’t looking to create perfection when he bought the car. As a Jaguar enthusiast who already owned a rare X100 XKR Carbon Fibre and a limited edition X50 XK Dynamic R, he had been an admirer of the XJ-S for many years and decided in 2016 that it was time to add one to his collection.
He was originally looking for a late post-facelift model from the mid-Nineties, but a 1990 XJR-S advertised in the JEC’s magazine piqued his interest. Not only was it a genuine JaguarSport example that had been produced at TWR’s Kidlington facility, but also the car had been fitted with TWR’s own 6.0-litre V12 – the extra 648cc over the 5.3 obtained from a long-stroke crankshaft, 78.5mm instead of 70mm. Since this was an expensive option (in 1991, the XJR-S 6.0 cost £45,500) only a handful were ordered after it was introduced in August 1989. It’s thought just 682 were built before the introduction of Jaguar’s own 6.0 for the standard XJS killed the model. So, it made a perfect companion for Alan’s other rare Jaguars, and continued his mantra of ‘classics with a twist’. Says Alan, “I called the owner who had kept the car for 18 years and who was the most careful, fastidious man. Every receipt and piece of paper associated with the car was available and, once on the hook, I was an easy fish to reel in. A visit, a short test drive and the deal was done.”
Thanks to the fastidiousness of the previous owner, the car was in reasonably good condition. “I drove it back from Kent to my home in Gloucestershire in the very worst weather and traffic that the M25 could throw at us. Yet it never missed a beat and became easy to fall in love with.”
But, wanting to make sure his new purchase was as good as he thought it was, less than a year after buying the car, Alan took it to model specialist KWE. “It advertises a condition-assessment service, which I booked. These are written up as a red, amber and green sequence of findings, with red being urgent and important, amber useful and green more of a wish list. While there were no actual red items listed – which is very comforting having, in the end, bought the car in good faith – there were several areas of rust that needed sorting.”
That was the start of a year-long and very comprehensive restoration that touched every aspect of the car. “In the end, it became clear that it was preferable to do everything while the car was in as many bits as it could possibly be,” Alan says, “so that the thing which got put back together was much more than the thing that got taken apart.”
The car was soon stripped and the engine rebuilt. Says KWE’s Chris Knowles, “With 80,000 miles, it was a bit rough around the edges. It was under what we recommend for full rebuild, but even though only initially wanting a service, Alan decided to go ahead with one.” KWE fitted larger throttle bodies and Omex’s digital engine management system, the benefits of which Alan remembered reading about somewhere.
All issues with the body were repaired, although, says Chris, the car was in reasonably good condition. “It had the usual areas, but nothing very important.” The worst parts were the shock absorber mounts, which were repaired before everything was protected with underseal.
The car then received KWE’s full suspension package that consists of new springs, bushes and adjustable dampers made by British company Avo, to Chris’ specification. Alan also asked for one of KWE’s newly developed sports exhausts to be added.
“We worked with BTB Exhausts in Northamptonshire,” says Chris “to produce something that is bigger than standard, has less restrictions through the silencers, and has a better thought-out point of where the two branches of the V of the engine join up; the further back you can get them to join up the better it is; you get better flow through from one bank sucking the gas out the other bank.”
The car was still being run-in when tested earlier this year, so it wasn’t possible to get an exact power output, but Chris has the same system fitted to his XJ-S V12 and reckons it produces another 40 percent torque at 1,500rpm.
Although his XJR-S was originally in Arctic Blue, after Alan saw KWE’s newly restored XJ-S V12 convertible [see JW, February 2018, p44] at the 2017 NEC Classic Motor Show, which had been resprayed in the slightly darker Crystal Blue from the X150 XK, he wanted the same. The XJR-S’ original Speedline alloys were refurbished and shod with four Falken Ziex tyres.
Like the exterior, the interior was in reasonable shape. New burr walnut veneer for the fascia and ‘ski jump’ around the gearlever were renewed, along with replacement door cards, but the original leather on the seats was deemed good enough to be kept and repainted in original magnolia. Alan then specified new blue carpets with the woven-in JaguarSport logo at the footwell.
Add in a new DAB radio, rear parking sensors and an LED bulb conversion using the original headlights and this very thorough recommission resulted in a unique vehicle.
It took almost a year to complete, and the restoration wasn’t cheap. I won’t embarrass Alan by revealing the final figure, but it outweighed the current value of the car. Yet Alan never set out to spend so much. “Each step was a considered investment on its own, and the eventual total only arose because it was the sum of its gradually accruing parts.” He admits, “and the fact it took 11 months to complete the job was a good thing.”
Yet, more than pleased by the final result, Alan is unrepentant of the cost. “I need a machine that is reliable and safe for an owner like me to enjoy and look after. Importantly, all the effort is rewarded every time I get behind the wheel.”
It is an unseasonably warm October morning when I visit KWE’s Thatcham-based workshop to view the car. It’s already parked outside, and the sun lights up the XJR-S’ rich, new paintwork to make it luminescent.
The large rear wing, deeper chin spoiler and side skirts of the XJR-S’ body kit lend the car a muscular appearance so it will stand out from the many standard cars; a bit like Usain Bolt alongside mere mortals like you and me. Even though the car has been finished for six months, it remains free from any imperfections and is easily the best-looking XJ-S I’ve seen.
It’s the same story inside. The veneer on the fascia shines like a mirror, while the repainted – but still original – magnolia leather on the seats looks like it’s brand new rather than close to 30 years old. I’m not totally convinced by Alan’s replacement bright-blue carpets, feeling they detract from the XJ-S’ old-fashioned charm but, like everything else with this car, they are finished to a high standard.
It takes a second after twisting the key for that huge V12 to churn into life, but it sounds smooth and refined. The threespeed ’box slots down smoothly into drive and, after gripping the leather-wrapped TWR four-spoke steering wheel, I slowly squeeze the throttle pedal.
The resultant acceleration isn’t as hard as I’d imagine from a 6.0 V12 that when new had 318bhp, lacking the urgency of Jaguar’s later V8 models, but, thanks to the KWE exhaust, it does offer a little more grunt than the final XJS I drove in the November 2018 issue that has Jaguar’s own 6.0. The Omex digital management system keeps the engine running like clockwork and no matter how hard or soft I press the throttle; the power delivery is consistent and unsurprising.
Thanks to a thorough service during the restoration, the three-speed GM gearbox is smooth and fast, and stepping hard on the accelerator results in the ’box instantly kicking down, unleashing more of the car’s phenomenal torque.
However, that’s not the only joy of this car – there is the way the big GT handles. Thanks to the XJR-S’ stiffened dampers compared to the standard model, corners can be taken with a confidence often missing from most XJ-Ss that are baggier than an old couch, yet following KWE’s suspension upgrades there’s still enough suppleness to avoid any banging and crashing over road imperfections. The steering is sports car precise, with just enough resistance to transform turning into corners to be something to savour.
Some might question the sense in investing so much money into a car that’s worth £25k-£30k, but money was never the point of the project. Alan wanted an XJR-S he could use now, while preserving it for the future. Thanks to its usual eye for details plus a series of sensible modifications, KWE has achieved that goal… perfectly. PW
Words & Photography by: Paul Walton, Editor of Jaguar World Magazine
We love a good review here at KWE, it’s very encouraging to know we are doing right by these wonderful cars and their owners. This is a recent review from a new customer that decided he wanted to upgrade the handling, ride and all round reliability of his XJ-S Convertible. This work included our full suspension/brakes and steering package, V12 perishable engine service, AC revamp, new convertible hood and also taking care of it’s underside rust and bodywork imperfections, plus other minor issues that needed addressing.
Here’s what David had to say:
“First – thank you for the very professional job that KWE have done on my XJ-S. I feel much more confident about driving it (and stopping it!) after the suspension and braking upgrades.
Similarly I am very happy with all the remedial work you did to the sub-frame which was clearly in rather poor condition judging from the photos you sent me.
Now for the really important bit – the drive experience itself. To be perfectly frank, on the initial drive back to London, I thought – ok, this is an improvement on what went before, but didn’t get the ‘big cat grin’ that maybe I had been expecting.
However, later that week I drove from London to our house in Perthshire – a distance of 450 miles, and there I really began to appreciate the remarkable difference the work had made.
First, on the motorway – I drove up the A1 – the car was much tighter, the suspension firm but supportive and with very little if any ‘shake’. Overtaking was a pleasure and the car cruised effortlessly at 80mph.
However the real joy was leaving the A1 after Scotch Corner and taking the A68 up through the Kielder National Park, and then through the Scottish Borders – Jedburgh etc and around Edinburgh. Here the improvement in handling was very evident – tight around the corners, no scuttle shake and almost light into and out of the bends – for such a big car. Yet the steering remains responsive and you can ‘feel’ the car unlike modern power steering which gives the driver no connection to the road.
The car was greatly admired when I stopped at a petrol station in Jedburgh as it was looking in tip top condition so well done to KWE.
Next up – the upgraded exhaust as we discussed so I’ll be in touch in the New Year to arrange to bring it in!
With very best wishes”
Thank you David for giving KWE the opportunity to upgrade your XJ-S and providing your wonderful review, we look forward to seeing you again.
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.
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”.
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.
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!
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 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.
With thanks to Dave and Sarah Ash.
Also to Jaguar enthusiast Magazine for publishing the article.
Get involved in this XJS Convertible restoration project – what will you choose?
We’ve been busy beginning restoration on this XJS V12 Convertible, offered for sale. Hailing from Liverpool, it has very low mileage, and will be an affordable and cost-efficient classic car once our work is finished.
All we need now is you! Would you like to play a part in the car’s restoration specification – and perhaps become its new owner? We’re inviting our readers to suggest improvements, such as the colour scheme for the body paint and interior. This is a chance to build the classic car you’ve always wanted!
You can find some photos of the work so far here. As we go through the process of dealing properly with typical rust issues, we’re relishing transforming this convertible into a very strong and reliable XJS.
If you’ve got some great ideas for this Jaguar, we want to hear them – contact email@example.com
It can be difficult to distinguish between some of our favourite XJS restoration and upgrade projects. Each one gives the KWE team immense satisfaction. However, one recent project does stand out.
At the request of a famous TV and music industry celebrity, this 6-litre, V12 convertible has been fully restored and upgraded with some unique styling features.
We’ve stripped the original aubergine paintwork and resprayed it black, with the addition of unique, colour-keyed bumper tops. The V12 was then given the full KWE treatment with a suspension/brakes/steering renewal and upgrade. You’ll definitely see this Jaguar coming with its quad headlamp fittings. The smart exterior is matched by the luxurious cream leather interior with black piping and the addition of perforated centre sections. The internal refurbishment was completed with new European walnut wood veneers.
This XJS has undergone extensive restoration and upgrade work and we think it looks stunning. However, we’ll let you be the judge of that. Take a look at our restoration images here.
We currently have two further low-mileage, convertible Jaguar XJS cars for sale.
Why not take a look at these, and all of our cars for sale here.
Our Jaguar XJS restoration skills were fully utilised during one of our latest projects, which features as our ‘Car of the month’ for March 2016.
The new owner of this stunning example of a fully restored XJS V12 coupé requested that we first find and purchase the donor car. (more…)
Our latest commission is to bring a very good example up to top condition with KWE suspension/brakes/steering, power enhancement, mid-level engine overhaul and a range of restoration and rust-preventative measures.