On the silver screen in 1981 Major Eaton reassured Indiana Jones that the Arc of the Covenant would be looked after by “top men”. At this point it was wheeled away, imprisoned in a wooden crate, into a vast warehouse stocked to the gunnels with identical boxes, the implication being that one could get lost in this huge ‘Cave of Wonders’-esque space which is piled high with magical, exquisite and immensely powerful relics. This was the same sense that I got when I entered the Jaguar Classics Facility at the Jaguar Land Rover HQ in Ryton on Dunsmore, near Coventry. The complex is huge and every which way you turn you’re surrounded by a sumptuous relic of a glamorous past personified by a car, or a vehicle which looks so unutterably streamline and fierce that it practically oozes contemporary sex appeal. The overwhelming sensation though is that, as you stand gazing around you in a sort of slack-jawed, hypnotic trance, you’re in the absolute epicenter of something tremendously special and remarkably timeless.
The Jaguar Classics Works Facility is like a giant pick n’ mix stand for a sugar fuelled child, it is a brand new purpose built facility and is proudly the largest of its kind in the entire world. This is truly hallowed ground for car enthusiasts and Jaguar Land Rover lovers, as it is where reverence for the past and ambitious visions for the future are merged. The facility is a whopping 14,000 metres squared and represents a consolidation of all of the company’s classic operations in a one-stop-shop state of the art location.
There are 54 individual workshop bays and space for nearly half a thousand vehicles. A ‘classic’ car, as it is judged to be by Jaguar, is a vehicle which has been out of commission for at least ten years, meaning that the range and breadth of cars which are meticulously presented in the facility have a tremendous age range. The personal stand out, for reasons of shameless Bond-o-mania, was the dark orange Jaguar C-X75 in the Classics catalogue. This was famously driven by the Spectre villain ‘Mr Hinx’, as played by Dave Bautista in the 2015 Bond movie ‘Spectre’ during the Rome car chase which saw the Jag pitted against an Aston DB10 as both vehicles joust along the banks of the river Tiber.
The Classic Works Facility covers all the bases, it is staffed by a small army of expert technicians and highly specialised and experienced engineers who spend their days restoring age old relics to their former, roaring glory, or recreating this magnificently British brand’s finest offerings from scratch. History remembers iconic cars from Jaguar’s past, for example the 1956 D-Type race car with its inimitable curvaceous body, or the 1961 E-Type with its long, elegant bonnet and streamline, slanted headlights. However, whilst these greats surrounded me, in various stages of construction, or painting, there is one car on my lips.
The tour of the Classics Facility had ‘wet the whistle’ of all of the lucky car-crazed journalists in attendance, ultimately the true thrill of the day was not to be found in the dusty echelons of the past, no matter how glamorous or sumptuous they may have been. Rather, we were more focused on Jaguar’s future, and a fundamentally key player in that exciting narrative is their F-Type offering.
The F-Type was first launched in 2013 as a strictly two door convertible vehicle, since then this concept has been face-lifted and clients of JLR can now purchase it in its original soft top aesthetic format or as a devastatingly handsome coupé. The new shape of the Jaguar F-Type is breathtakingly aerodynamic, with its pixel LED headlights which merge seamlessly with the car’s sleek body shape. From the outside the car perfectly straddles the fine line between poised refinement and visceral muscularity. Officially, Jaguar describes this car as having a ‘flair for the dramatic’. Whilst I wouldn’t disagree with this, having pushed pedal to metal in the F-Type, I still maintain that the overarching sentiment attached to this vehicle is understated elegance.
In terms of performance the F-Type Coupé certainly doesn’t pull its punches. It is capable of a fiery top speed of 250 km/h, with an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.7 seconds. The dials and electronics inside the car are designed to be as intuitive and easy to use as possible to ensure maximum comfort; ranging from the 12-way seat adjustment to the colour choices on the 10 inch touchscreen main dial to suit your mood. The F-Type also benefits from some splendid entertainment features like its Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The experience didn’t stop there, we fortunate few were treated to a presentation from both the Jaguar Design team, and from the globally adored Jaguar brand ambassador David Gandy. David, arguably the world’s most famous male model, spoke to us about his own love story with Jaguar and how that took him to undertake a remarkable journey whereby he embarked on the restoration of a 1954 XK120 Jaguar, now in flawless, shimmering black. David explained that having driven this model of Jaguar at the Mille Miglia in 2013 he knew that he needed to own one himself. Consequently, he embarked on a painstaking process of bespoke restoration, culminating in one of the most exquisite cars I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. His own particular model was sourced from the West Coast of the U.S., then it was stripped back to basics to undo the neglect which had befallen it. Eventually, after a mere 2,700 man hours had been poured into the restoration, the car was complete with its 225bhp, fully adjustable suspension and a fast shift gear box.
The final, and most thrilling, part of the day with Jaguar was to revolve around the adrenaline fuelled dynamic activities using a Jaguar F-Type at the test centre at Fen End, just 20 minutes from the Classics Facility. The track facilities there come in many different shapes and forms; not just the traditional time trials on the High Speed Circuit but also the Handling City Circuit for quick slalom driving, the Dynamic Wet Grip area to simulate driving through snow and ice, and the quick reaction arena of the Smart Cone platform to really put the handling of the F-Type through its paces. All of these activities allowed us to truly experience the singular performance of the F-Type, be it at top speed as it attacks the oval circuit or through rapid turns as the wheels revolve like spinning tops on ice.
Jaguar are known for their commitment to excellence, this much was perfectly clear as I saw the pinpoint detail that goes into the recreation of some of their most beloved vehicles in the Classics Facility. The F-Type paves the way for a whole new generation of Jaguar converts, owners and obsessives, but it is the passion for Jaguar which stands out above all of their other extraordinary accolades and awards. At the heart of Jaguar is more than just a love of brilliant, luxury cars; it is a reverence for the passion that makes Jaguar truly world class.