Purpose-built at the historic Browns Lane site in Coventry, Jaguar Land Rover's Classic Works is a 150,000 square-foot dream garage filled with some of Britain's greatest hits from the last eight decades. Here, anything is possible, from a nut-and-bolt restoration to restomodding, or building historic race cars from scratch. What's more, the place is open to the public.
Vintage is a huge business nowadays, and JLR knows how heritage sales can help bolster its brands. Fortunately, quite a few iconic vehicles have left Jaguar's assembly lines since 1935 and Land Rover's since 1948. The British shall never run out of objects worthy of our lust for chrome, rivets and moody electronics.
That's why JLR's Classic Works is the largest facility of its kind, with a showroom up front filled with all shapes and colors of automotive perfection, available for purchase complete with a 12-month warranty, and ready to enjoy after a cup of Darjeeling.
Sit down on the right sofa in the showroom, though, and you'll be able to peer through a tantalizingly transparent wall. Behind it, the Classic Works has 54 individual workshop bays and teardown areas, as well as the dedicated engine shop and space for over 500 vehicles. Jaguar Land Rover needs all that space to store its not-so-secret car collection, a rotating fleet that contains parts cars and heritage collection museum pieces alike.
Classic Works employs more than 120 specialists, and the workshop in the British Midlands now also has a sister facility at Essen in Germany. The deal is fairly simple: JLR will find, restore and maintain the historic vehicle you desire, as long as it's been out of production for at least a decade.
Their perfect Land Rover Series 1s start around $90,000. Range Rover Classics done the same way begin at $193,000, while Reborn Jaguar E-Types will set you back at least $400,000. If that's not enough to tickle your fancy, the hand-built XKSS and Lightweight E-Type continuation cars cost millions, or you can cook up a unique request to challenge how far down the restomodding line JLR will go. According to them, "there isn't really a limit, per se."
Ten years is not a long time—you see late XK8s and XJs parked at the facility alongside Reborn Series Land Rovers. Who wouldn't want to turn one of those into a sleeper SVR beater?
Next to them are majestic straight-six sedans of various vintages, roadsters from the 1950s, and E-Types from Series 1s to twelve-cylinders. While wandering across this vast building, one needs to be careful not to touch any of the hand-formed XKSS and Lightweight body panels on their stands. They are as delicate today as they were in period, even if Goodwood's Lord March doesn't approve of their zero-mile history.
Since a nut-and-bolt restoration means many original parts get replaced instead of refurbished, Jaguar Land Rover is constantly busy expanding its OEM replacement part catalogue. It's a long-term investment requiring them to recast tooling and work with a number of suppliers not involved with the current range. But all that is necessary in order for the classics department to move beyond the roughly 30,000 items it offers today. Initially, JLR is focusing on parts that are extremely difficult to obtain, in order to help clients keep their vehicles on and off-road.
They'll build to demand and need, and needless to say, to a much higher standard than ever under Ford, British Leyland, BMC, or their years of independence. That's the beauty of the advanced technologies at hand today.
The beauty of Jaguar's advanced technologies from yesterday is represented by a row of XJ220s. And yes, seeing these cars back at Jag can raise eyebrows, given how the brand sold off all its XJ220-related assets more than a decade ago. Of course back then, dealing with up to 275 individual XJ220 owners was seen as just another expense bringing no benefit to the table, at a time when Ford couldn't get rid of its European premium brands fast enough.
Jaguar certainly did not want to talk about the commercial failure that was the XJ220. These 217.1mph (Nardo, Martin Brundle) supercars were designed and built by Jaguar Sport anyway, a joint-venture with Tom Walkinshaw Racing helmed by some of the best motorsport experts in the business. The XJ220s' Le Mans-influenced origins become obvious after a single peek at the car, which is built around a lightweight aluminum honeycomb chassis with inboard dampers, an aerodynamic body, and an insane turbocharged V6 in the middle, sourced from British Leyland's Group B program.
For a while, one family ended up caring for these cast-off beasts. Don Law started racing XJ220s in 1997, developing them continuously while picking up clients passed on from Jaguar. The team's racing success also helped Jaguar sell their last remaining cars, which had been gathering dust at their dealerships since 1994.
Due to the lack of support after 1998, Don Law Racing started manufacturing its own XJ220 replacement parts. Jaguar whispered that, once its legally-binding obligation to provide service expired after 10 years, it would sell the entire XJ220 business to Law. Fast forward to 2007, and that's exactly what happened. All remaining parts, tooling, molds, blueprints, and everything else Jaguar had on the XJ220 was bought by Don Law Racing. Even the XJ220-engined Ford Transit van.
But another decade has passed since, and that partnership is long gone. The value of XJ220s finally started to climb. Jaguar became strong again under Tata's ownership, and means the XJ220 will remain Jaguar's last proper halo car for quite some time. Which means now, Jaguar will embrace it all day long.
Don Law Racing says that's ironic, since Jaguar still has to source some parts from Law's stock. Jaguar's response is that the automaker has "always offered servicing programs to XJ220 owners, and now, [we] also have greater resources at Classic Works."
What's for sure is that if you take your XJ220 to the Laws for some new tires, you'll get it back with a set of uniquely-designed Bridgestones. They were developed last year by Don Law Racing with the original engineering team from Bridgestone, using the same test cars as in the 1990s. Meanwhile, Jaguar works with Pirelli now, which makes the automaker's official stance on tires go like this:
"The J-rated Pirelli P-Zero available exclusively from Jaguar Land Rover Classic is the only Jaguar-approved tire in the world for the XJ220. We cannot vouch for the safety standards offered by any other tire."
But that's just another episode from the tales of the British motor industry. With 275 cars produced, there should be enough work for both involved parties, and Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works sure wouldn't be the same without having a small fleet of these supercars in one corner.
The number of cars at service also suggests more and more people are starting to drive their XJ220s again, a long-overdue development given how long these cars were basically ignored by the world. Though perhaps I'm way too optimistic, and these cars are only getting prepped for the next international auction of garage queens.
On the other end of the velocity spectrum are the Series Land Rovers, kings of the mud. Of course if somebody wants a Reborn version, JLR will source a donor vehicle with a solid body and matching numbers. The vintage shop's collection contains quite a few early Series 1s already, and when stocks start to run low, all they need to do is hunt for rust deep in the foggy Welsh countryside.
Apparently, Welsh fields can still hold such treasures, like Land Rover's recently rediscovered show truck from 1948, as well as less significant, yet equally battered workhorses, like this Series II. Luckily, sympathetic restoration is always an option.
Humidity shall be damned! The Jaguars and Land Rovers we all love are not rotting away. Not anymore.