Jaguar Land Rover's Classic Works Facility is a Treasure Trove of England's Finest
The industrial park that Jaguar Classic Works calls home is as massive as it is modern, contrasting the otherwise quaint countryside that surrounds it.
The area is like a caricature of an English stereotype, with lush rolling hills and cottage-like homes as far as the eye can see. It’s the kind of stuff that makes for the perfect backdrop for the meticulously restored and maintained masterpieces that roll out of the Classic Works facility. By comparison, the brand new behemoth of a building that houses Classic Works seems like a bit of an odd fit to handle the preservation of such a rich automotive history. However, that all changes the moment you step through the front door.
This is the 150,000 sq-ft facility where the remaining nine examples of the famed Jaguar XKSS are being built from scratch. It’s also where owners of the Jaguar XJ220 can have their 25-year-old supercars maintained in a dedicated work space. (Seriously. There were seven of them in the various stages of service when I visited the facility before this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.) Jaguar Land Rover may be late to the classics game compared to some of its adversaries, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the well-oiled machine running inside.
It was the automaker’s German-born CEO, Ralf Speth, who prompted the creation of this classic division, taking a page out of the books of German brands Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. With both experiencing success with similar businesses, Speth decided it was high time that JLR try its hand at the same. And so it was more than three years ago that he set the mandate for Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works, then known as Jaguar Heritage and Land Rover Heritage, to be established. This facility is the roundabout result.
Getting past the building’s main reception area is no easy task, the showroom-like space teeming with cleanly built cars that look better than they did the day they rolled off the assembly line. The infamous E-Type is well-represented here, but so too are a few other models from JLR’s past, including the original Range Rover, as well as the Land Rover Series I.
Comically large windows separate this area from the 54-bay workshop, providing a glimpse into the work that goes into breathing new life into some of the automaker’s more significant models — as well as ones that are less notable. The space beyond the glass is clean and bright, and features all the amenities you’d find in a facility building brand new supercars.
This is where everything from complete restorations to small rebuilds take place, with each project being completed with the utmost attention to detail. Everything from a Jaguar XJ sedan of late 1990s vintage to one of the reborn E-Type Lightweight racers was in the workshop during my visit, while a few of the remaining XKSSs to be built were patiently awaiting their turn.
In the back of the building, away from prying eyes, is a sort of mecca for British metal. The windowless room has space for about 600 cars stacked two high, with something for everyone to be found amongst the maze of cars. Everything from vehicles awaiting restoration to restored ones awaiting a buyer — and others still that are too significant for JLR to part ways with — can be found in this treasure trove.
As you’d expect, it’s mostly Jaguars and Land Rovers parked back here. But there are also a few off-brand vehicles scattered amongst the 400 or so currently in inventory. Most are British makes, like Triumph and Rolls-Royce and MGB, but there are also a few stray Italians and Americans kicking around for good measure.
While this facility in the English countryside is the heart of Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works, the automaker has its sights set on expanding its role in the historic market. The first step is a smaller operation in Germany set to open by the end of this year, but JLR also has eyes on opening a similar space in North America in the near future.
Dan is AutoGuide.com's Road Test Editor, a long-suffering Buffalo Bills fan, and a car guy since childhood. He enjoys long walks on the beach and long drives just about anywhere the road, track or trail will take him. You'll see him driving around evaluating cars and in front of a camera talking about them. Dan is a member of the World Car of the Year jury.
More by Dan Ilika