Another day, another megabucks resto-mod arrives. [Yesterday it was the Austin-Healey 100 reimagined by Caton. But our fave is still the Volvo P1800 Cyan, driven here. Ed.] This time it comes in the form of a classic Jaguar XK remodelled for the modern era by Thornley Kelham – with the help of the designer of the McLaren P1 hypercar.
The Cotswolds-based firm which previously coachbuilt the glorious Lancia Aurelia Outlaw takes a basket case donor XK and turns it into a £550,000, high-performance lightweight that stays true to Jaguar’s ethos while adding a host of modern features to improve its pace and grace.
Known as the XK European, the design is by Paul Howse, who has a decade of experience at McLaren, and a delightful side hustle in car watercolours. Howse’s goal was to echo the approach Jaguar took to the E-type Lightweight, only with its predecessor. Job one was to lower the roof line which serves to accentuate the car’s proportions and improve aerodynamics. Howse added more sculptural curves to the profile with enlarged wheel arches and a Coke-bottle style wider rear to the aluminium body. Every trace of chrome was removed and, instead, there’s a subtle crease in the bonnet and over the roof. Modern lighting is embedded front and back for a super clean look, while wire wheels help root the car firmly in the 1950s.
The interior is redesigned and updated with a body-coloured aluminium dashboard featuring electronic gauges and luxury touches include electric windows, air conditioning and a choice of high-end in-car entertainment. Most noticeably the seats are significantly lower so that the chopped roof doesn’t impact headroom and the driving position is racier than the original.
Jaguar’s 3.8-litre aluminium straight-six engine remains at the heart of the XK but Thornely Kelham’s in-house experts have used their racing nous to push its performance far beyond what Sir William Lyons could have imagined. Direct injection, rebored cylinders and a bespoke camshaft raise power up to 340bhp. A new five-speed transmission and limited-slip differential deliver drive.
Double-wishbone suspension is installed at each corner with Bilstein shocks and Eibach springs – a major improvement on the car’s original rear leaf springs. The XK120 was a pioneer of disc brakes, but the four-piston vented discs now fitted provide significantly more stopping power.
Simon Thornley, co-founder of Thornley Kelham, said: “With our concours-winning restoration heritage and our years of experience in perfecting our bespoke Lancia Aurelia ‘Outlaw’ project, we have developed a team perfectly placed to design and engineer a car that reimagines automotive icons authentically, in intricate detail and with a fastidious attention to quality. The Jaguar XK European is, to our eyes, the most beautiful car yet in the restomod sector, backed up with expertise and experience in developing cars that aren’t just perfect in their finish, but thrilling to own and drive.”
Thornley Kelham says there’s 5,000 hours of labour in every XK European, with 800 alone going into the paint process, justifying the £550,000 – plus donor car – price tag.
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