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.”
– Alan Richell, XJR-S Owner
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