Coventry has seen its fair share of new car production over the last 100 years. But a brand-new production facility opened last year that is building new cars unlike pretty much anything attempted in the area before, and last month I was lucky enough to join a private visit for a tour.
This is a new Jaguar facility, it has already been put to good use building three of the company’s newest models: the E-Type, the XK SS and the D-Type… If those names sound suspiciously similar to some famous Jaguar models from about 60 years ago, let me explain. Jaguar Land Rover Classics is building limited-run “continuation” vehicles of some of its most famous models.
New build, old style
The first of these was a run of six lightweight E-Type coupés, followed by nine XK SS roadsters, and now in production are 25 D-Type racing cars. All are brand-new vehicles, but built to exactly the same specifications as the original models from the 1950s and 1960s.
The continuation projects are quite controversial within the classic car world. Every single part of each vehicle is brand new, with nothing left from the original production runs. There is none of the original tooling and no-one involved played any part in the production of the originals.
Essentially the only difference between these cars and other third-party replicas is that they are built by a company owned by Jaguar Land Rover itself. Well, that and the price tags; the six E-Type continuations sold for a million pounds apiece, the XKSS pushed the price up to about £1.5 million and a new D-Types will set you back about £1.8 million.
Oh, and unlike the originals, the new ones are not street-legal as (unsurprisingly) they don’t meet any modern safety or emissions criteria. This is particularly ironic for the XK SS continuation models, which were originally created as road-going versions of the original D-Type racing car. So the XK SS continuation model is a track-only reproduction of a road-going version of a track-only car…
JLR Classic points out that original lightweight E-Type, XK SS and D-Type models have been changing hands for many millions of pounds in recent years, so these continuation models are not competing in the same marketplace.
In any case, all 40 continuation build slots were sold to hand-picked customers before they were even publicly announced, so Jaguar is not especially concerned by anyone’s disapproval.
Fortunately, the workmanship is commensurate with the price tag, and in reality much better than the original racing cars that were knocked up in a far more rapid and roughshod manner. The technicians go about their craft in spotless, brightly-lit and quiet work bays, with each car taking about three months to build.
More than continuation models
If you can’t quite stretch into seven figures for a classic Jaguar, JLR Classics has a range of other projects on the go, with Land Rover Series One restorations starting at about £65K and “reborn” Jaguar E-Type Series One models at about £270K.
There’s also a number of work bays dedicated to maintaining XJ220 supercars from the 1990s, and a programme of one-off bespoke vehicles like Project Dylan, a fully-electric Jaguar E-Type unveiled last year and recently famous as the wheels of choice for Harry and Meghan’s post-wedding escape. If you thought the continuation project was divisive, the electric E-Type was originally referred to within Jaguar as Project Marmite…
Behind the workshop is an immaculately-assembled collection of a few hundred classic cars – mainly but certainly not exclusively JLR models – from the last hundred years or so. We weren’t allowed to take photos in there on my recent visit, but the collection of assembled vehicles is simply mouth-watering. From pre-war (and pre-Jaguar) vehicles through to the C-X75 vehicles hand-built for the last James Bond movie, SPECTRE, there’s something for every genre of car enthusiast.
JLR Classics public factory tours are available from £49, and have proved very popular since the facility opened last June. It’s well worth a visit.