Want to get behind the scenes at Jaguar's Classic works? And jump in the driving seat of some iconic Jaguars? And poke around Jaguar Land Rover’s massive car collection?
Silly questions, we know.
Well, now you can, with the Jaguar Classic Tour & Track Experience. This new full- or half-day adventure doesn't come cheap, but it does come with the chance to drive some truly legendary cars including, potentially, a D-type. And it's open to all.
We were lucky enough to try it out last week, so here's a taste of what’s in store if you sign up.
Our day starts at the Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works facility at Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire, which opened a year ago.
“It’s a showroom, not a museum,” Tony O’Keeffe, our guide, is keen to tell us. And yes, the clusters of chic leather seating illuminated by Arco lamps do suggest 'showroom' – or high-end hotel – more than they do 'museum'.
Then again, the fact that there's a revolving XKSS at the heart of this impressive space, and that it also contains a pair of XJ220s, does rather confuse the issue; you half expect the cars to be roped off, each next to a neatly printed and informative plaque and accompanied by ‘do not touch’ signs.
But, no, this is a showroom. These cars are for sale.
This entire venture is about “futuring our heritage”, to borrow O’Keeffe’s phrase. Jaguar Land Rover Classic is working with owners’ clubs to reintroduce parts for classic Jaguars, Land Rovers and Range Rovers, so these can be supplied by JLR dealerships worldwide, supporting owners.
The ‘reborn’ projects are part of this. You’ll have doubtless heard of the reborn XKSS and D-type projects, and E-types are also receiving this treatment, which is why our tour of this 14,000 sq m building starts alongside a tired-looking example of the latter classic.
Long-time Jaguar man O’Keeffe’s extensive knowledge, effortlessly delivered, alone makes the trip more than worthwhile. He takes us through the E-type ‘reborn’ process, explaining that for customers it’s like buying a new model – the Classic works establishes a relationship with the buyer and involves them in the process. Prices start at £295,000, in case you’re interested – and there’s a two-year waiting list at present.
Wandering around this stylish showroom (-cum-museum – we’re sorry, but it has that aura) receiving interesting titbits about each car from our guide doesn’t prepare us for the view that greets us when the door is opened to reveal the workshop.
Our jaws drop at the sight of four (more) XJ220s in various states of undress. O’Keeffe smiles at our reaction: “We once had 14 in here together, that was impressive!”
It’s here in this vast, bright and meticulously organised area that owners’ beloved vehicles are restored and serviced, and the ‘reborn’ cars come to life.
Take this tour and your guide will give you a candid and comprehensive walk around this workshop, which is much more than that name suggests; no oily fingerprints here.
On our visit, we saw everything from grimy Range Rover engines being brought back to best, to the exquisite, riveted aluminium bodies of ‘reborn’ D-types.
Elsewhere sit freshly-painted E-type shells, stripped-back Landies and gleaming XKs.
For obvious reasons, you’d not want to enter the room dedicated to asbestos removal, but otherwise it’s an all-access tour. Only the door to the experimental department remains closed…
Your final stop is another jaw-dropper: JLR’s collection.
Some 220 ramps host this expansive and eclectic line-up that dates from the likes of a 1930 Austin Seven Swallow, a brace of SS1s and the chassis number seven Land-Rover to the last Defender, an original Velar, the chassis zero XKSS and a C-X75 as seen in James Bond film Spectre.
Film cars, show cars, specials, one-offs, pint-sized kiddies’ cars, they’re all here, and then some.
And that’s just half of your day. After a (booze-free) pub lunch, it’s on to JLR’s Fen End Proving Ground, previously owned by Prodrive.
This is your chance to bring the classic Jaguar experience to life – and enjoy a (once-in-a-lifetime?) drive of some fabulous classics.
How fabulous? How about an XK140, an XK150, a V12 XJC, a MkII and an E-type? Of course, the precise vehicles available can vary from day-to-day, but one-on-one driving tuition from JLR’s experts in these lovingly maintained classics on a private track is a very special experience indeed.
And we should know, because we were lucky enough to take to the wheel of an E-type, an XK140 and – oh yes – one of the 'reborn' D-types.
Sound like your cup of tea? If you’d like to book your place on a Jaguar Classic Tour & Track Experience, it’ll cost you £650. We did warn you it was on the pricey side.
Each Experience is run for up to 18 people, with the group split in two so that nine visit the works before lunch and Fen End afterwards, while the other nine do the driving experience in the morning and the tour in the afternoon.
Half-day experiences are available, too, also priced at £650 – and with the added bonus that you’ll get time behind the wheel of a C-type and a D-type, Jaguar’s ‘tool-room recreation’ car. Sorry, but these are not included in the full-day experience.
To find out more and book, head online. It’s not cheap, but it’s a day out you’ll never forget.