Any reader who follows the world of UK football will probably know that the 2016/2017 season was a monumental year for Huddersfield Town FC, as it saw them promoted to the Premier league against the odds. I for one am not a follower of the game, but a certain Sir Patrick Stewart is a huge fan, and devoted Huddersfield Town supporter. It was during one of the games running up to Christmas, that Sir Patrick was enjoying the game from one of the Directors boxes at the ground, when talk turned to his Jaguar XJS. A gentleman involved in the conversation was a work colleague of JEC Champion race driver Tom Butterfield. Word soon got to Tom that the Hollywood actor was looking to have his XJS recommissioned for use in the UK when he is in the country. Tom kindly recommended our services at XjRestorations, and Sir Patrick was soon on the phone.
Whilst not a football fan, I am a film lover, and huge fan of the Marvel works and Sir Patrick’s portrayal of Professor Xavier in the X-Men franchise. To say the phone conversation was a little surreal is an understatement, but the affection held for this XJS was clear from the start. Sir Patrick outlined a little history, explaining how the car, a 1989 5.3ltr Convertible, was bought in California in 1990 when the original owner hit Bankruptcy months after buying new at the dealership. Despite his substantial earning power today, Sir Patrick remains a Yorkshireman at heart, and felt uneasy about buying anything too costly or ostentatious. An almost new XJS certainly satisfied his longing desire to own a Jaguar sports car, without the flash of buying new. The car provided great pleasure, and was used throughout the actors time in California for both business and pleasure. Whilst the Film Companies provide chauffeurs for their stars, Sir Patrick opted almost without exception to use his XJS. Bought with a little under 15,000 miles on the clock, the car now shows 84,000 – all of which were enjoyed by Sir Patrick.
In 2004, Sir Patrick felt the time was right to move back to the UK. During the process of relocating, his manger had suggested selling the XJS. Sir Patrick simply could not part with the car, so had it shipped back to his Oxfordshire residence. Such a bond was formed, that Sir Patrick is on record as stating it is named in his Will to be left to his son, and talks with pride about the car in an interview on Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson in 2004. Once in the UK, the car remained in storage until 2007. Since then, it has been rarely used due to pressing film schedules, but it was becoming clear that some recommissioning work was going to be needed.
Following our phone conversation in early January 2017, the car arrived at our workshop in late January. The Californian climate had done wonders for the body – with just the tiniest pinhole of rust starting to come through on one wheelarch. Beyond that – not a blemish of corrosion. Each panel had suffered some minor damage though, from stone chips, to a small knock on two wheelarches, and a dent to the lower quarter under the rear bumper. It was decided that the body was to be made perfect – all minor blemishes taken out and a full outer repaint in the factory British Racing green.
Being a full Californian spec car, the bumpers where oversized, big federal side repeaters, high level stop light, and quad lamps were standard, along with the left hand drive steering of course. An option taken by the owner from new, was to have bolt on wire wheels fitted. Whilst not to all tastes, I feel they suit the US spec, and Sir Patrick loves them. The only alteration made to the US spec has been the removal of the air injection system. This is simply a case of removing the pipework, sealing the inlet ports, and replacing the air pump with a standard UK spec idler pulley.
Underneath, the front and rear suspension was removed completely. The dry air was evident in every component being very dry bleached in colour. The suspension and brakes were stripped to component parts, shot blasted, powder coated, and rebuilt with all genuine parts, with the exception of Superflex top and bottom wishbone bushes, and uprated steering rack bushes. The requirement was for an as new feel, with the added positivity offered by the Superflex components applied with restraint. New brake discs and calipers were also fitted.
Another area found to highlight the Californian conditions was the cooling system. When running, the engine would pressurise quite quickly. A cylinder leak test quickly cleared the head gasket suspicions, but the two man lift required on the radiator removal confirmed the fault lay within! A new aluminium unit was beautifully crafted and installed. Problem solved.
The final area to be addressed was the hood. Again, the heat of California is not kind to fabrics, and whilst in very presentable leak free condition, the corners of the hood had started to stretch and weaken around the rear screen fittings. A new hood was supplied by BAS Trimmings, and fitted in house.
With the works complete, our good friend Jim Patten popped by for a drive and a photo shoot with the car along the Beachy Head back drop of Eastbourne, ahead of the cars collection.
Sir Patrick had been a superb customer throughout, with a genuine interest in all the images and details of progress with the car – across many different time zones, with a few interesting anecdotes along the way! When it came to having the car returned to his care, he casually jumped on a train in London and arrived at Eastbourne station, where my wife Michelle collected him from the platform. Once at the workshop, Sir Patrick took a good 4 hours to chat with our staff, talk over the many projects on site – including his, and give Jim an interview for an upcoming feature in Jaguar World magazine. A highlight for us personally was the time spent with our 3 boys on lunch break from school, in full Professor Xavier mode!
With a quick adjustment to the driving position, and easing his flat cap down, Sir Patrick eased off into the traffic back to London in the car. An email later confirmed that the car drove perfectly all the way home. The only snag being the often temperamental 1980’s central locking system deciding to not let him back in the car through the drivers side after a brief pitstop for late lunch! The account left images of Sir Patrick Stewart in a motorway services, climbing across the passenger side of a left hand drive Classic Jaguar – seemingly escaping any fans/photographers catching the embarrassment on film.
A big thank you goes to Tom Butterfield for his recommendation.
Text and pictures supplied by XJ Restorations