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|Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:00|
Twenty years ago Jaguar developed a long wheelbase version of its XJ40 into a limousine, naming it the Majestic. Produced for just two years, finding one of these cars to drive today was a rare pleasure
Words Rebecca Gibbs
How much head and legroom do you actually need, and when does ‘spacious’ become ‘luxurious’? The difference is apparently five inches – this is the amount Jaguar lengthened the XJ40’s wheelbase by in 1992. The purpose of this stretching and lifting – the car’s roof was also raised: ¾in at the front pillars, rising to 2in at the rear – was to relieve the now elderly Daimler DS420 limousine of its chauffeuring duties, and quickly and economically create a suitable car to fill the breach.
In service since 1967 and built by Jaguar’s Special Vehcile Operations (SVO), 4,116 cars later, the grandiose DS420 was too expensive to continue with and other marques were closing the gap in terms of comfort and refinement. In modifying its already stately XJ40 saloon, Jaguar saw a thrifty way to reassert its position as a luxury carmaker, dubbing the resultant prototype car the Majestic.
The name is significant; the Daimler Majestic and Majestic Major of the late 1950s and 1960s gave Jaguar a reputable moniker when it bought The Daimler Company in 1960. Almost thirty years later Jaguar did just this, sending off batches of standard wheelbase, left-handdrive ‘Vanden Plas Majestic’ XJ40s to America in 1989 and 1990. It is believed that only 527 of the 1990 Majestics were made, with a one-off RHD lengthened, armoured version hurriedly created for British Prime Minister John Major. This car would go on to spearhead production of the Europe-only long wheelbase Majestic announced at the 1992 British Motor Show.
To turn the XJ40 into a credible limousine, Jaguar sent the bodyshells of standard production saloons to Project Aerospace in Coventry, who specialised in low production work. The job began with decapitation: the XJ’s roof was removed; then the car was sliced in two about the line of the rear heelboard. An extra piece was let into the floor, along with extensions to the sills and transmission tunnel, moving the whole rear of the car back by 5in. To facilitate the extra height required, elongated B, C, and D pillars were all hand welded to the bottom half of the shell, with doors and window glass altered/ replaced to fit their larger surrounds. The ‘doctored’ bodyshell was then sent back to Browns Lane for fitting out by Jaguar SVO.
To read more about this guide see the June 2013 issue of Jaguar World.