In­side Jaguar Land Rover Clas­sic

Want your XJ220 or Se­ries 2 do­ing prop­erly?

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Words Mark Wal­ton | Photography Alex Tap­ley

Reborn Se­ries 1 Land Rovers emerge like brand new, and cost in the re­gion of £80,000

IBOUGHT A Se­ries 1 Land Rover re­cently, and it has changed me as a hu­man be­ing. It’s not mint, just a solid, drive­able mon­grel from 1952. I’ve wanted one for­ever, but de­cided to buy be­fore val­ues float off like an un­teth­ered bal­loon.

It’s changed me be­cause I sud­denly found my­self fret­ting about stupid lit­tle de­tails: my car didn’t have the right car­bu­ret­tor, so I put that right. Then the fuel fil­ter was wrong... but which fil­ter do I fit? Early Land Rovers had dif­fer­ent glass sed­i­ment fil­ters, so which ver­sion? I quickly be­came an expert in glass bulb shapes and tap de­signs. Then fuse boxes… steer­ing racks... a cou­ple of months after buy­ing the car I found my­self googling ‘rivet di­am­e­ters for Se­ries 1 Land Rovers’. So it’s me that’s be­come un­teth­ered, in fact.

I never in­tended to ap­proach my car like this, but there’s some­thing about clas­sic Land Rovers that makes you want to put it back to how it was, right down to the last nerdy de­tail. Maybe it’s the sim­plic­ity of the orig­i­nal 1948 de­sign that makes you want to hon­our its pared-back bril­liance. Or maybe it’s be­cause so many cars have be­come mon­grels that own­ers feel an urge to re­store the breed.

What­ever the rea­son, rivet count­ing is a real phe­nom­e­non, and it’s in this con­text that you must un­der­stand the launch of Land Rover’s Reborn project back in April 2016. There is no short­age of Se­ries 1 spe­cial­ists in the world, but Reborn saw Land Rover it­self en­ter­ing the clas­sic mar­ket: sourc­ing, strip­ping and metic­u­lously re­build­ing ‘barn find’ ex­am­ples from around the world. Reborn Se­ries 1s emerge like they’re brand new – cor­rect down to the tini­est de­tail and with an of­fi­cial man­u­fac­turer’s stamp of author­ity, they cost in the re­gion of £80,000. As­ton­ish­ing wedge, but there is a mar­ket – Land Rover ini­tially planned 25 Reborn cars and sold them all with­out fuss; the project is now up to 50 or­ders and ris­ing.

Mean­while, around the same time, Jaguar an­nounced a ‘con­tin­u­a­tion’ of the beau­ti­ful XKSS sportscars from the 1950s. Un­like the Reborn cars, th­ese aren’t restora­tions, they’re scratch-built from new, fill­ing in blanks caused by the fa­mous fire at Jaguar’s Browns Lane fac­tory in 1957. Nine XKSSs were de­stroyed, so nine new XKs are be­ing built by the Clas­sic team. Priced at £1 mil­lion, they fol­low Jaguar’s ‘Con­tin­u­a­tion’ Light­weight E Types, from 2014, which used up orig­i­nal chas­sis num­bers planned in pe­riod but never ex­e­cuted. Brand new, and cor­rect, yes, even down the orig­i­nal rivet po­si­tions, they too cost a mil­lion and sold in no time.

So the Reborn cars and the Con­tin­u­a­tion cars aren’t the same, but they have much in com­mon: first, th­ese pro­grammes in­di­cated that Jaguar and Land Rover (col­lec­tively JLR) were get­ting deep into the lu­cra­tive clas­sic mar­ket; and sec­ond, both ex­hibit the same ob­ses­sive at­ten­tion to de­tail, an al­most patho­log­i­cal com­pul­sion to delve un­der the sur­face, dig out orig­i­nal doc­u­ments, speak to old Jaguar pen­sion­ers who worked on the line in pe­riod. Like talk­ing to Nor­man Dewis, the leg­endary Jaguar test driver, about the mech­a­nism he de­vel­oped for the D Type after the team had prob­lems with gears pop­ping out at Le Mans in the 1950s. This me­chan­i­cal lock sub­se­quently found its way onto the XKSS gear­boxes (the SS was lit­tle more than a road-le­gal D Type racer,4

re­mem­ber); and now, in turn, it’s been re­verse-en­gi­neered for the Con­tin­u­a­tion cars with Dewis’ help (he’s now 97 and has an amaz­ing mem­ory).

So, fo­cus on the de­tails, de­tails, de­tails… now fast-for­ward 15 months to sum­mer 2017, when JLR’s grand plan is re­vealed in all its glory. Those dis­parate-but-con­nected clas­sic pro­grammes, once spread across 10 dif­fer­ent sites around the West Mid­lands, have come to­gether un­der one roof. Rep­re­sent­ing an in­vest­ment of £7 mil­lion, this brand new ‘Clas­sic Works’ on the out­skirts of Coven­try is a ded­i­cated nerd fac­tory, the epi­cen­tre of all part-num­ber anx­i­eties, the HQ of rivet count­ing. Shortly after it opened, CAR was in­vited along for a deep dive. My palms were sweaty with an­tic­i­pa­tion.

Em­bar­rass­ingly, I imag­ined an ac­tual work­shop, pos­si­bly un­der some rail­way arches, with mugs of tea and a lathe. Any­way, I pull up out­side this huge, gleam­ing in­dus­trial unit, the size of an in­ter­na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre, and think, ‘Ah, of course, duh.’ At 14,000 square me­tres, JLR claims it’s the big­gest fa­cil­ity of its type any­where in the world. It is gi­gan­tic.

Walk­ing in through the front door you ar­rive in the Clas­sic show­room, lofty and silent ex­cept for the hiss of the air con­di­tion­ing. It’s like walk­ing into a mod­ern art gallery, with around ten ‘ob­jects’ art­fully dis­played (parked) on the pol­ished con­crete floor. It feels plush, pre­mium and hal­lowed.

We wan­der round, ogling in si­lence. One of the cars is a 1978 two-door Range Rover in Ba­hama Gold. It’s be­yond mint, it just looks brand new – it’s the lat­est car to re­ceive the Reborn treat­ment. I stare at it. Funny, not long ago early Range Rovers were junk – unloved, rot­ting in hedgerows; sud­denly, in this en­vi­ron­ment, I can’t help but see it with new nd eyes. That graphic boxy shape, the mad-dog head­lights star­ing through the black grille, those ver­ti­cal door han­dles… it’s sud­denly so cool. I re­alise right here that I’m pas­sion­ately in love with early Range Rovers and need to own one im­me­di­ately. Some chance, I’m al­ready too late – the Reborn Range Rovers were an­nounced in Fe­bru­ary, priced £135,000, but that an­nounce­ment changed the mar­ket. JLR Clas­sic has put the Reborn price up to £140,000 in the last few weeks, to take ac­count of the rise in prices for good donor cars.

So is JLR cyn­i­cally tap­ping into th­ese sky-rock­et­ing val­ues, or are they just an ac­ci­den­tal by-prod­uct? It’s a ques­tion I put to the di­rec­tor of Jaguar Land Rover Clas­sic, Tim Han­nig. The an­tithe­sis of a cor­po­rate bean-counter, Han­nig is an af­fa­ble, Ger­man-born, 39-year-old-kid-in-a-sweet­shop, a life­long en­thu­si­ast who bought his first clas­sic Jaguar (ac­tu­ally a Daim­ler V8) when he was just 19. Work­ing in the fork-lift truck in­dus­try, he moved to China in 2009 and was struck by the pas­sion (and money) he found there for old Jaguars. ‘I wrote to JLR,’ he tells me, ‘ask­ing if they might be in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing some kind of clas­sic busi­ness out there. I wrote up a con­cept. Noth­ing came of it at the time, but a year later I was con­tacted by John Ed­wards (MD of Jaguar Special Op­er­a­tions). He in­vited me to join Jaguar Land Rover and help cre­ate a new Clas­sic di­vi­sion.’

Han­nig in­sists the Clas­sic Works is all about the love of cars, not dol­lar signs. ‘It’s about mem­o­ries,’ he tells me. ‘We had one cus­tomer whose neigh­bour bought an early Range Rover back when he was just 16, and he used to see the neigh­bour’s beau­ti­ful wife driv­ing around in it. He had wanted one ever since. Most buy­ers are en­thu­si­asts. That’s why we don’t want val­ues over­heat­ing – we want them to be achiev­able.’

Clas­sic an­nounced an ini­tial run of 10 Reborn Range Rovers – all are sold, so that fig­ure is cer­tain to grow. ‘We’re con­cen­trat­ing on the early two-door cars, made be­tween 1970 and 1979,’ Han­nig ex­plains. ‘They were made in big quan­ti­ties so there’s a rea­son­able pool of them. It seems th­ese cars were never scrapped – they were owned by farm­ers or es­tate own­ers, and if they broke down they were sim­ply parked up.’

The other sig­nif­i­cant car in the show­room is a stun­ning grey E Type – it too is perfect, an­other Reborn car, be­cause the ul­tra-restora­tion idea has now crossed over to Land Rover’s sis­ter brand. In­ter­est­ingly, nearby is a typ­i­cal Reborn donor car, an as-yet un­re­stored left-hand-drive E Type coupe, with cracked, sun-baked paint­work, an in­te­rior that smells of wet dog, and stick­ers that record a North Amer­i­can his­tory.

‘We bought it in Ne­vada, though it spent most of its life in Mex­ico,’ ex­plains Phil Reynolds, a sales spe­cial­ist who looks after the Clas­sic show­room.

Desert-bleached E Types, Se­ries 1 Land Rovers with match­ing num­bers – I ask him, where the hell is JLR find­ing th­ese cars? ‘We spend ev­ery hour of the day on eBay,’ he says, dead­pan. Is he jok­ing? Then he adds, ‘No, we used to do that, now we have a ded­i­cated pro­cure­ment team. Their goal is to source 16 base ve­hi­cles a month.’ Six­teen a month! No won­der they couldn’t re­lo­cate to a cou­ple of rail­way arches.

Any­way, it’s time to tear our­selves away from the show­room and head to the work­shop it­self. It’s a huge, brightly lit, han­gar-like space. There’s lots of ac­tiv­ity (Clas­sic Works em­ploys around 120 peo­ple) but it’s not buzzing – the pace feels quiet, con­sid­ered, de­lib­er­ate, hand made. And the cars are far from packed in tight. Sukhi Clark, en­gi­neer­ing op­er­a­tions man­ager, ex­plains this roomi­ness was de­lib­er­ate. ‘When you’re work­ing on a car worth a mil­lion pounds, you need space. So we have 54 bays, giv­ing each car plenty of room to have the doors open.’ An elec­tron­ics en­gi­neer who’s been with

An in­vest­ment of £7m, Clas­sic Works cov­ers 14,000 square me­tres. It is gi­gan­tic

Jaguar 28 years (her first job was XJS wiring), Sukhi be­came project man­ager in charge of build­ing up the Works fa­cil­ity in 2016, when the site was still mud. Now it’s com­plete, she’s re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing re­builds on track, and that means a steady flow of spare parts. ‘The first car we do, ‘car zero’, is a trial and can take 12 months,’ she ex­plains. ‘The aim is to re­duce that to nine months for cus­tomer cars. We’re learn­ing con­stantly – no one’s ever done this on this scale be­fore.’

The parts sup­ply is fas­ci­nat­ing, be­cause it pits the might of JLR against the likes of me in late-night eBay bat­tles. ‘You’re right,’ agrees Sukhi. ‘But it’s only by en­ter­ing the mar­ket for parts that we can learn what’s in short sup­ply, and there­fore what needs re­man­u­fac­tur­ing.’

If a part is im­pos­si­ble to find, the Reborn team can use orig­i­nal draw­ings to re­man­u­fac­ture it; if draw­ings don’t ex­ist, they turn to a ‘da­tum’ car – a to­tally orig­i­nal, cor­rect-in­ev­ery-way ex­am­ple – and 3D-scan the part. The da­tum Se­ries 1, by the way, is a paint-scoured but com­pletely un­mo­lested car in the show­room, that spent its life on an Aus­tralian farm.

‘Then we have to make a de­ci­sion,’ ex­plains Sukhi. ‘If I think we need 15 ex­am­ples of that part for the Reborn cars, I make the busi­ness case for that and we use an in­terim sup­plier to make them. But we might de­cide the part is needed in the wider mar­ket, in which case we might or­der 5000. We’re build­ing up a port­fo­lio of parts, and the plan is to launch an ‘Orig­i­nal Parts’ web­site next year.’

Me­chan­ics work­ing on the Se­ries 1 came from the De­fender pro­duc­tion line

A first ex­am­ple of this new com­mit­ment to parts is the cre­ation of Pirelli tyres for the XJ220. Jaguar ad­mits its 1992 su­per­car has been sadly over­looked (by Jaguar it­self, at least – spe­cial­ist Don Law has been a global author­ity for years). Now JLR is tak­ing the car back un­der its wing, and there are five XJ220s lined up in the ded­i­cated area within Clas­sic Works. At nearly five me­tres long but not much more that a me­tre high, th­ese are still ex­tra­or­di­nary su­per­cars to see in the metal.

We wan­der fur­ther, past XKSS num­ber three, which is be­ing painstak­ingly hand-as­sem­bled. Be­side it is a brand new Jaguar D Type en­gine and gear­box, built from scratch by his­toric mo­tor­sport spe­cial­ists, Crosth­waite and Gar­diner. The XKSS looks wildly cur­va­ceous and mus­cu­lar – all the new cars’ al­loy pan­els are hand rolled, just as the orig­i­nals were.

We walk through the Se­ries 1 Reborn line, with about six cars in build, and one com­plete. I talk to some of the me­chan­ics, most of whom came from the De­fender pro­duc­tion line that closed just as Reborn was an­nounced. What’s clear is that many Reborn own­ers are go­ing be­yond ‘cor­rect’ – the lovely grey car that’s com­pleted has tan leather seats (rather than vinyl) and a mod­ern im­mo­biliser. Still, I guess if you’re pay­ing this much you can have what­ever you please.

My favourite bit is the ar­rivals bay. A Reborn car starts its jour­ney here, with ev­ery part stripped, cat­a­logued, pho­tographed and placed in a plas­tic crate. The next in line is a scrappy Se­ries 1 that spent its life in Canada. De­spite in­cor­rect spot­lights and side­lights, and a gi­gan­ti­cally in­cor­rect nudge bar (used to push ve­hi­cles stuck in snow), me­chan­i­cally it’s 100 per cent orig­i­nal. And just when I think I’ve seen ev­ery­thing, I’m taken through a door to the enor­mous Clas­sic stor­age area. Row upon row of cars line up, double-stacked on car lifts. Here are the donor cars for the Reborn Range Rover project; the E Type once owned by racer Mike Hail­wood; a barn find XK150, a mint early Dis­cov­ery, a 1920s Austin Seven Swal­low (fore­run­ner of the Jaguar brand). Eclec­tic and un­cu­rated, this trea­sure trove is wor­thy of an en­trance ticket alone (in­deed, JLR is plan­ning to start tours of the Clas­sic Works im­mi­nently).

None of the cars at Clas­sic Works are like mine. It’s like buy­ing an oil paint­ing – prove­nance is ev­ery­thing, and each of the cars here has a doc­u­mented story, even if it’s just ‘65 years on the same sheep farm’. Lit­tle mi­cro-his­to­ries are ev­ery­where, bring­ing cars to life, adding he­lium to their val­ues. Rivet count­ing, I have learned, is just the start. I think my nerdi­ness has found a whole new level.

Sukhi Clark project man­aged the build of Clas­sic Works, now keeps re­builds on track. She was not late for CAR

Mark Wal­ton’s garage quickly grew out of con­trol

Built-from-scratch E Type Light­weight was a toe in clas­sic wa­ter for JLR. This is a ‘Reborn’, a re­stored orig­i­nal

Re­stored Se­ries 1s. Some own­ers go be­yond orig­i­nal, such as leather seats re­plac­ing vinyl

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