Friday, 30 November 2007

A fascinating visit to KWE near Newbury

A very interesting outing today to Jaguar restorers KWE who are based in a small industrial estate on the grounds of the former Greenham Common base.

Chris Knowles - the 'K' in KWE - showed me around the company's facility, which specialises in particular in XJs, especially the post 1979 Series 3, and the mechanically very similar XJS. Chris thinks that what he calls the 'third market' for cars is going to get a lot more important in future; let me explain that term because I think it represents an interesting idea that we may hear a lot more about in the future. The first and second markets for cars are the new and mainstream second-hand car markets respectively. What Chris calls the third market is that for substantially remanufactured 'as new' cars that aren't just enthusiasts' occasional play-things, but vehicles that are a practical alternative to new cars for everyday use on modern roads.

The third market will probably be driven by eco considerations as much as anything else - while these old Jags don't normally have modern environmental kit like cats, the use of a restored car saves the energy and other costs involved in building a new car.

This visit also provided an unexpected treat; Chris let me sample his V12-engined demonstrator, and I think I would have to agree with him that it really is a viable alternative to a modern prestige car for someone who wants something a bit different. I'd never had the chance to try the famous Jag V12 engine before, a fact I'd long regarded as a huge gap in my experience, so it was great to be able to put a big fat satisfying tick in that particular box.

The photo above from KWE's workshop shows the XJ's rear suspension assembly (actually it's upside down) - the famous inboard disc brakes and half-shafts that double as suspension wishbones in this sophisticated set-up can be clearly seen.

Anyway, more on this in my piece in the Indy in the new year; Chris tells me it may be possible for us to borrow a KWE car for the Verdict as well, which should be a lot of fun.

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