KWE Jaguar XJS V12
Saturday 19 September 2009
Price: Varies according to the extent of work carried out
Top speed: 150mph 0-60mph 7.5 seconds
Consumption: No official figure
CO2 emissions: No official figure
Best for: sustainable luxury motoring
Also worth considering? Jaguar XK8 (1996), Jaguar XK (new), KWE Jaguar XJ12
Cats have nine lives. As far as I know, there is no scientific proof for this belief, but I have witnessed the process by which some big cats – Jaguars to be precise – come to enjoy at least a second lease of life, so maybe there's something in it. The midwife, if you can call him that, to this process of feline rebirth, is Chris Knowles, whose company KWE has been re-manufacturing Jaguars since 2002.
Chris Knowles has always been a fan of the Series III XJ saloons introduced in 1979, as well as the mechanically similar XJS coupé, and these have been the focus of his work, but KWE is about much more than one enthusiast's passion for his favourite old cars. The XJ and XJS were outstanding products that bear comparison in many respects to modern luxury cars. It stands to reason, therefore, that "good as new" (I suspect better than new) restorations of these models should have wide commercial appeal, even if they can end up costing almost as much as their modern counterparts.
KWE's founder also sees his work as a model for other sustainable businesses. Is it really ecologically and economically more sound to scrap a usable but ordinary 10-year-old in favour of a similar replacement with slightly better fuel economy and CO2 emissions under the Government's scrappage scheme than it is to restore a very nice old one?
That depends, partly on whether the KWE Jags live up to their promise of performing like modern cars while continuing to provide the sort of distinctive British charm traditionally associated with the XJ and XJS. Having had the chance to drive both in KWE form, I would say that they do. Paying customers who have bought a completed car from KWE, or had their own cars worked on by the company, clearly think so too, if the many glowing customer testimonials are anything to go by.
The KWE cars have never quite been straight rebuilds; subtle suspension, wheel and tyre upgrades, as well as trim enhancements, have always been available. But now the company tends to emphasise improvement as opposed to restoration a little more than it did before, so if you need sat-nav you can have it, and there are engine and transmission upgrades aimed at boosting power and economy as well.
Should the supply of XJs and XJSs ever dry up, the overhaul process is in principle extendible to their sister car, the Aston Martin DB7, as well. There are plenty of lives left in these cars.
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