By John Quilter
The editors would like to thank John for sharing this article which was originally written for the national Jaguar Club magazine in North America, the Jaguar Journal.
In the United Kingdom Jaguar is a provider of limousines via a separate company that does the conversion to stretched six door cars which accommodate up to eight passengers including the driver. This speciality business is now outsourced after the end of production of the long running Daimler DS420 limousines. Unlike American stretch limos these cars are conveniently fitted with six doors for easy and graceful entry and egress. The company that produced these conversions, Wilcox Limousines, has been in business since 1948. They take a brand new Jaguar XJ, place it on an armature and literally saw it apart after removal of all the interior trim and other components. Then they add an additional door to fit between the front and rear doors. Of course this work entails a longer roof, cutting and splicing the complex wiring harness and a myriad of other changes to make it all work. The current product is based on the X351 Jaguar XJ although previous products have been made on the circa 2009 Daimler Super Eight known internally by Jaguar as the X358 which was the first of the aluminum bodied cars. Still earlier, they did a six door conversion of the circa 1997-2003 XJ sedan known internally as the X308 bodied cars made from 1994 to 2003 which were the last of the steel bodied cars. For those interested in seeing a short video on the construction of these special Jaguars see the following YouTube clips. On the current limo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWQXzTRsPMs and on the hearse conversion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBnCaGHOx68 And full details of the Wilcox operation can be seen on their website at: http://limousines.co.uk/
In the You Tube videos it is quite amazing to see them literally take a Sawzall to a brand new $80,000 car all accompanied by nice classical music such as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. As part of the conversion on the air suspended X358, the first of Jaguar’s air suspension cars, the suspension system has been recalibrated to increase the ride height slightly. On the X351 the front springs are uprated and the rear is air suspended and modified to activate at start up and to raise the car on startup not at 20 MPH as standard. Cars begin as short wheel base versions but long wheel base doors are used in the construction process and the displaced short wheel base rear door are modified to be center doors. Of course all these panels are aluminum. The hearse’s expansive roof section and the very large rear quarter panels are fabricated of GRP, glass reinforced plastic, or in US speak, fiberglass. Since all these cars are rear wheel drive this necessitates extending the propshafts by 1.2 meters. Additional wiring is purchased from Jaguar so the wiring looms can be extended and knowing the complexity of Jaguar wiring that must be a considerable amount of splicing. Both the current limo and hearse are powered by either the 3.0 liter gasoline V6 or the diesel 3.0 liter V6 with 340 or 275 horsepower respectively.
In addition to the subject Jaguars, Wilcox also produce vehicles based on Volvos and Vauxhalls if a customer wants a somewhat less prestigious name plate. William and May Wilcox began after his war service by landing the contract to supply cars and drivers to a UK movie studio. They later progressed from renting the these vehicles to owning them himself and he found that his customers were also looking for hearses. This led by 1948 of him having hearse bodies build on the largest of the Austin cars, the Austin Princess. By 1968 with the launch of the Daimler DS420 limousines from Jaguar he obtained the franchise for these vehicles. In 1970 the business moved to large showrooms in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. Bill retired in 1974 due for health reasons but his two sons, Peter and Paul begin to run the business. By 1992 Jaguar had given them an exclusive contract to build their limousines and hearses as by this time the in-house Daimler DS420 limousine had ceased production. With the launch of the aluminum bodied cars Wilcox built a new modern factory facility to convert these cars which was located in Northampton.
A gallery of John’s photographs follows below. Click on the gallery and then you may page through the photographs shown.
Now in the prolific world of 43rd scale models, a Chinese based company Great Lighting Models (GLM) have produced four resin replicas of previous and current Wilcox products. The earliest being based on the X308 sedan, progressing to the next generation car, the first of the aluminum cars, the X358 and finally the current XJ in two versions, the six door limo and the hearse with its exaggeratedly raised roof. All these models come in clear plastic display boxes mounted on a black plinth with a small plaque showing which number the item is in the limited production of 299 items. To enable the proliferation of varieties of models these days, most of the Chinese makers have moved to casting these in resin as it does not entail very costly tooling as would be necessary for more traditional pot metal diecast modeling. The down side of the resin modeling process is the mold has a limited life and so the models made from it are limited in number, thus from the maker’s viewpoint making them more desirable to collectors and much more exclusive. Short of the heft of the model, there is really nothing to choose between a resin replica, a diecast, or traditional white metal model. The accuracy and detail can still be exquisite as it is with these GLM miniatures.
Taking a close look at the 2016 XJ limousine we find it is a left hand drive version, in a medium metallic grey but which Jaguar calls Ultimate Black and the interior Ivory as shown in their brochure. The wheels are the 20 inch Kasuga high gloss silver. There is a photoetched leaper on the boot lid and black photo etched wipers just below the windscreen. Chassis detail is minimal with only a twin exhaust system shown.
Moving to the hearse version of this car we find an amazingly raised roof line and a massive rear side window showing the burled wood platform for a coffin. This car is right hand drive using the same wheels and extended wheelbase. There is very fine pinstripe from the front wing to the rear quarter panel. Instead of the six side doors of the limo this one has two large side doors at the forward end of the rear compartment. For some reason the car is equipped with a chrome roof rack on top of what appears to be a vinyl roof covering. I’m sure Wilcox would produce any of these elongated cars in any color you would like but this hearse is in the traditional nonmetallic black.
The earliest limousine model is based on the X308 the body produced from 1997 to 2003. A common complaint with this body shell was there was limited headroom so Wilcox has subtly raised the roof ever so slightly and squared off the rear back light area to make interior accommodation better. Jaguar realized this shortcoming and addressed it in the next generation of vehicle, the first all-aluminum car, the X358 but then some said that car was too bulky (dare I say Ford Crown Victoria like) so it goes to show you cannot please all the people all the time!
So with these unusual versions of Jaguars you have a window into a Jaguar product not likely to be seen in North America where Jaguars are often only two or four passenger motor cars. And for one’s last ride the hearse is top drawer.
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