A notable Jaguar XJ-S V12 Cabriolet with royal connections will be one of a record number of stunning retro cars from the halcyon heydays of motoring appearing at this weekend’s London Classic Car Show at Excel London (15-18 February).
While many of the 700+ wonderful automotive icons on display will have their own incredible histories, few if any will have better stories to tell than this totally one-off 150mph Jaguar – a sportscar which was fashioned especially for Diana, Princess of Wales.
The model first being released in 1983, this famous 1987 XJ-SC was not only one of the most photographed cars of its era but was also totally unique, built to the Princess’ own bespoke specification.
The V12 powered regal cabriolet features 2 rear seats and an individually made, permanently fixed, rear hard top to ensure that the two Princes could not strike their heads on the solid targa roof bar in the event of an accident.
Also, unlike any other XJS, the once royal roadster is fitted with personalised leather and Harris Tweed seat trims, chosen by Princess Diana. What’s more the exterior bodywork came with the US spec quad highlights and was finished in British Racing Green to match the Aston Martin that husband Prince Charles had acquired around the same time.
The Princess was regularly seen driving this majestic model from 1987 to 1991. Her and Sarah, the Duchess of York who also owned an XJS V12, except a convertible model would often enjoy driving their Jaguars together. Sarah’s car was later restored by KWE in 2007. Then, when the two Princes outgrew their small rear seats, Diana sold it to the Jaguar Heritage Trust, an educational charity established to preserve the legacy of Jaguar for the nation, in exchange for a contribution to one of her own charitable causes.
First came the coupe (1975), then the cabriolet (1983), and finally the convertible (1988). The XJS was not ready to have the top removed entirely, since omitting the roof would tend to make the XJ6-based monocoque sag in the middle. A great deal of engineering work and a lot of time was needed to produce an open car, even one with some of the roof in place. The compromise arrangement recalled the roof bracing of the late Triumph stag. The framework was kept in place but there were removable close-fitting panels, resulting in a pleasantly proportioned car from which Malcolm Sayer’s well-intentioned, but controversial “flying buttresses” were eliminated.
More significantly the XJ-S was available for the first time with a 6-cylinder engine, the AJ6 being tried out first in a low production volume model where its weaknesses would be exposed, but not to too many customers. It was a sensible move which breathed a new life into the model. The delightfully smooth and perfectly adequate 3.6 was offered on the cabriolet with the option of a 5 speed Getrag manual gearbox. Although, the 12-cylinder XJS was still a popular choice.
In 1985, Jaguar released the 5.3 V12 Cabriolet. This model had the option of rear seats, whereas the earlier model had a storage box, much like the early convertibles which were released later in 1988.
Sales of the XJ-S were on the turn. Improved reliability was the principal reason for an increase to 4,808 cars in 1983 and 6,028 in 1984. In 1985 sales received a boost with the V12 Cabriolet for which the production process was streamlined, and the HE badge was dropped in favour of a “V12”. When Jaguar released the fully convertible electric soft top, the cabriolet was discontinued after a production run of 5,013 cars.
Here we have our most recent restoration, a fully restored XJ-SC finished in Solent blue with luxurious magnolia leather and burr walnut trim. Click here to view the full write up and images in our showcase.
If you would like your own XJS built to your bespoke specification, please contact us to discuss our restoration services.
We also currently have a very original 4-seater 1988 XJ-SC Cabriolet with 25000-miles for sale, click here to see the full listing and images.
As of 13th January 2018 a law has come into force requiring companies who accept credit card payments to absorb the charge that the credit companies levy on such transactions. This levy is typically between 2.5% and 3% (more for American Express). With high value transactions such as ours, this levy is very significant and can be many hundreds of pounds which previously was passed on to the customer since credit cards are a convenience for the client, not the supplier.
KWE now regrets that it can no longer as of 23rd January 2018 accept credit cards as a means of payment. We are happy to accept debit cards, cheques and internet bank transfers.
This change has been made in our Terms of Business
We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause.
Knowles-Wilkins Engineering (KWE) Ltd has reached its 15th Anniversary. From being very much new kids on the block back on 2002, we have become well known at home and abroad for our Jaguar XJS restoration and modernisation work. Owners Chris and Theresa Knowles started the company from their home and, perhaps surprisingly, took three major orders in the first two months, appeared on Top Gear twice and turned over around £100,000 before moving the business (and home) to Newbury, Berkshire in 2004. Since then we have restored over 300 cars, most with our admired full suspension/brakes/steering upgrade package.
We currently employ 10 staff and occupy three very busy premises on Greenham Business Park, and are currently recruiting. We would like to thank all of our past and present customers for their continued support and love for the Jaguar.
We have expanded our works to include XK, all XJ saloons, E Types and Aston Martin DB7s. We are continuing to develop, improve and revitalise these astounding classic and future classic cars.
KWE are now offering servicing for Jaguar X300, X308, X-Type, S-Type, XK8/R.
Tim Hannig, Director, Jaguar Land Rover Classic
The Jaguar E-type Zero not only drives and looks like an E-type, it also offers outstanding performance. It’s quicker than an original E-type: 0-100km/h (62mph) takes only 5.5sec, about one second quicker than a Series 1 E-type.
Tim Hannig, Director, Jaguar Land Rover Classic
The E-type Zero vehicle, displayed at Tech Fest, is a restored Series 1.5 Roadster. It’s totally original in specification, apart from its 21st century state-of-the-art powertrain and modified instrumentation and fascia – although these are also inspired by the original E-type. LED headlights are also used to achieve energy efficiency. Again, they adopt the styling theme of the original Series 1 E-type.
Bespoke electric powertrain
An electric powertrain developing 220kW has been specially designed for the E-type Zero. Its lithium-ion battery pack has the same dimensions, and similar weight, to the XK six-cylinder engine used in the original E-type. The experts responsible for developing the electric powertrain have ensured it will be placed in precisely the same location as the XK engine. The electric motor (and reduction gear) lies just behind the battery pack, in the same location as the E-type’s gearbox. A new propshaft sends power to a carry-over differential and final drive. Total weight is 46kg lower than the original E-type.
Using an electric powertrain with similar weight and dimensions to the outgoing petrol engine and transmission means the car’s structure, including suspension and brakes, has not changed, simplifying the conversion and homologation. It drives, handles, rides and brakes like an original E-type. Front-rear weight distribution is unchanged.
The E-type, launched in 1961, has regularly been voted the best-looking car of all time. Even Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful car ever made”.
E-type Zero’s unique electric powertrain was developed by an electric powertrain specialist in conjunction with Jaguar Land Rover engineers and to a specific brief from Jaguar Land Rover Classic. It uses some technology and components borrowed from the upcoming I-PACE, Jaguar Land Rover’s first production all-electric vehicle.
The E-type Zero has a ‘real world’ range of 270km (about 170 miles), helped by the low weight and good aerodynamics. It uses a 40kWh battery, which can be recharged from home overnight (typically in six to seven hours, depending on power source).
This is an extremely interesting development from Jaguar Classics, one that we at KWE like very much, having put thought into a similar project for the XJS… now that would be an exciting prospect, a fully electric Jaguar XJS. It would make these beautiful, comfortable classics timeless and clean.
We received this XJS just under a year ago, now after hundreds of man hours, this fine looking 6 litre convertible XJS has been completely restored. Currently the car is in safe transit back to our eager client in New York.
We were all very excited about this unique project, the client wanted the car restored to a very high specification, keeping to the original, charismatic styling.
Almost every part has been upgraded and restored including but not limited to a Full respray in the original colour, Brooklands green. Topped with a brand new convertible hood in beige mohair with beige lining. The 5 spoke wheels have been refurbished in polished alloy with golden in fills and an emerald green growler centre cap. The elegant exterior is matched by the luxurious camel coloured Connolly Vaumol hide leather interior with bottle green piping and stitching, matched with biscuit wool carpets with the same green edging. The internal refurbishment was completed with new burr walnut wood veneers. The little touches of gold really set this car off.
The engine has been completely re-built and detailed to a very high standard. We have even added an extra 15hp to the engine to give it more grunt. From a driveability point of view there are big gains in low-end torque and power – about 30% & 35% respectively which is huge at 2800rpm – just where you want it. A power increase of 35% at overtaking speeds is like a supercharger. On the road it feels fabulous!
In summary, we have thoroughly enjoyed this whole project, it’s a beautifully styled car and we hope the owner will be able to enjoy it for many many years to come.
Take a look at the walkaround video and full image gallery of the finished car in our showcase.
Full restoration process in pictures, see our off-site build gallery.
There is nothing quite like the thrill of taking your classic on a road trip. Whether it’s Amalfi Coast in Italy, the Grande Corniche in France or the Ring of Kerry in Ireland, some of the world’s most majestic scenery and stunning roads are on our back-door step; and with the Spring firmly upon us, there is no better time to hit the road.
But before you grab your passport and make a mad dash for the White Cliffs of Dover, it’s a good idea to spend some time making sure your car is ready for the trip ahead.
The Jaguar XJS has a fantastic V12 engine that can withstand a great deal of spirited driving; but you shouldn’t let this lull you into a false sense of security. Having your engine seize in the Highlands of Scotland is not going to be a pleasant experience.
Perishables, perishables, perishables
Regular maintenance is the key to longevity when it comes to classics, and only you will know how well the vehicle has been maintained. Assuming that the vehicle has been regularly serviced and that your tyres are in good condition, getting ready for a big road trip shouldn’t be too painful an experience.
One of the most common causes of break downs on a road trip is the failure of perishables such as coolant hoses and drive belts. People often forget that rubber is affected by the passage of time, not by mileage. Therefore, you should check the condition of all engine perishables on any classic that is not subject to routine maintenance – particularly your hoses, which can harden and crack over time. Leaving them unrepaired can lead to a seized engine, which can cost many thousands of pounds to rectify.
Be prepared for the unexpected
Chris Knowles, KWE Cars MD and Jaguar XKS specialist shares one of his holiday experiences:
“We were driving to France for our summer holiday, departing from Portsmouth.” Chris explains. “Whilst boarding the ferry a radiator hose burst resulting in us limping onto the ferry. We had to persuade the ferry crew to let us onto the secure car deck to repair it. Once we’d carried out a ‘ferryside’ repair at sea, the car was ok to drive however, the holiday was fraught with worry that we could breakdown at anytime. Lesson learned, always prepare before your trip and always be prepared. Even the experts get caught out sometimes!”
KWE offer a perishable service package, comprising:
along with minor tuning if necessary and a full service of the car.
This is usually enough to get your car ready for a big road trip, but the service can be upgraded to address all the most common areas of failure in a classic engine. The upgraded service returns a high level of reliability without carrying out any major restoration work on the engine.
It’s worth noting that this is not a drop-in service, and has to be booked in advance.
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
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.
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.