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BROTHERLY LOVE
NOSTALGIA CLASSIC 140


Impressed by Nostalgia's XK120 replica when we drove it in 2000, Which Kit? jumped at the chance of sampling its brother, the Classic 140. There's little doubt that we have the Americans to thank for Jaguar's more glitzy 1954 XK140. After the ultra clean lines of the 120, the United States' demand for better crash protection resulted in more substantial bumpers and, in order to limit their visual impact, more sparkling chrome trinkets to offset the damage. The purists will no doubt look down their long noses at the newer car in the same way that E-Type die-hards can't abide the flared arches, sparkly bits and generally improved levels of comfort of the later V12 models or, indeed, anything other than an original Mk1. But their loss is our gain.

When Nostalgia Cars built its first Jaguar XK replica it was logical to start at the beginning with a 120 lookalike, but there were always plans for the later XK140 variant and the car you see here is merely the latest example to roll out of the company's Somerset-based works. Over thirty cars and kits have been supplied over the last three years and, where factory-built examples were the mainstay of Nostalgia's early business, customers are now increasingly opting to build their own examples.

That said, there is nearly always an in-house build in progress, alongside the assembly of basic kits and rolling chassis examples all of which give potential customers a good feeling of confidence when they come and look around the small workshops. This latest in-house build is the second Classic 140 the company has assembled, and it has been completed to an extremely high spec for an ex-WW2 RAF navigator now living life to the full in his eighties.

Always a Jaguar fan, he has moved onto the Classic 140 from an SS100 replica, the increased practicality of the new car being a boon when it comes to the classic rallies he regularly enters, alongside the occasional hillclimb and more general blasting about. Built to what Nostalgia can rightly claim is an ultimate specification (air-conditioning being one of the few options not included), this car comes complete with such idiosyncrasies as a CD player under the dash and bespoke wine-glass holder neatly attached to the driver's seat. No plastic pop-out cup holders here!

Even a cursory glance around this car quickly establishes the standards to which Nostalgia can work. The leather interior is beautifully crafted, the walnut dash meticulously finished, the bodywork shutlines are millimetre perfect and a ready supply of remanufactured Jaguar XK140 brightwork (ironically sourced from the States) ensures the exterior has all the right finishing touches. And while the customer has obviously wanted to make the car as authentic as possible (even down to dummy brake drums to conceal the discs behind) he's not been worried about a few modern switches down on the centre tunnel or sensible safety measures such as Nostalgia's inertia reel seat belts. It's a compromise we fully endorse.

Since we last drove the Classic 120 in 2000, there have been a myriad of small developments all over the kit package, but most notable are changes to the cockpit and engine bay specification. On that first test drive we found the cockpit was a little tight in terms of being able to get enough rearward adjustment of the seat. The company's co-director Malcolm Rolf had explained Nostalgia's plans to modify the rear bodywork to allow for such additional adjustment and virtually all cars since then have featured the subsequent change. Despite this car's seat runners having been set for its relatively short owner, there's plenty of adjustment, which should see 6'-plus drivers accommodated in comfort.

Open the bonnet and the other big development is immediately apparent in the form of a modern Jaguar AJ6 engine (this car being the first Nostalgia to feature its fitment). The replacement for the ageing XJ6 unit we're so used to seeing in period replicas, the AJ6 unit came into being with the Jaguar XJ40 in 1987 and ran through until 1994. With an aluminium block (instead of cast iron), the newer engine is some 40 kilos lighter than the old unit while, in 4-litre guise, it also develops a healthy 235bhp. Although it has much the same dimensions as the older unit, installing the AJ6 engine has required some subtle reworking of the Classic's ladder chassis, while the inevitable complexity of the wiring loom has provided its own problems.

Slightly odd, considering this car's potential competition use, is the customer's retention of the AJ6's standard 4-speed automatic gearbox where a manual would have been more logical. Still, here's another bonus of the later power plant, since the earlier engines used a 3-speed auto.

The comparatively short doors of the 140 feel substantial and open with a weight and precision that hint at well engineered hinges and internal door frames. The generously padded seats have an old-world feel, lacking the side support we all take for granted in even the most mundane of shopping runabouts. Even though the company has gradually reduced the amount of padding in the base, we still feel we're sitting quite high in the car and looking through the upper section of the windscreen.

That sense of elevation is amplified by the surprisingly low waistline of the Classic, which makes you feel as though you're on the car rather than in it. That's good news when it comes to negotiating the steering wheel, a monster 16" affair which makes comparatively light work of the Nostalgia's unassisted rack. With elbows flying in all directions, the lack of significant side bodywork and generous cockpit space between the driver and passenger are a definite plus.

The auto 'box means that selection is largely a fit-and-forget function select Drive and sit back and enjoy. While the AJ6's 4-speed auto has a semi-manual option (unlike earlier Jag autos), we doubt it'll get a great deal of use. The big 4-litre six sounds suitably throaty when fired up but is, surprisingly, well within SVA limits. It works with typical big cat sophistication when pottering through town towards the larger A-roads which will allow it to stretch its legs...

And what legs! While not hugely quick, the comparatively large Nostalgia proves dramatically light on its feet. Ours may have been a brief drive (Nostalgia was keen to keep mileage to a limit with the car being picked up by its owner just days later), but the Classic 140 is quickly up to motorway speeds without any hint of effort and in surprising comfort. Additional wind deflectors on the sides of the 'screen ensure the cockpit remains almost draught free at these speeds something the new owner will no doubt appreciate as he whips across the continent on one of his classic rallies.

The auto gearbox won't be to everyone's taste in something with such obvious sporting credentials. The typical vagaries of the kick-down certainly encourage more genteel motoring and, for our money, we'd go for the 5-speed Getrag manual box which would be the normal fitment with the AJ6 lump.

While the ride of the 140 was suitably accomplished (largely standard front Jaguar suspension with a shortened rear suspension package that will be familiar to anyone considering a Cobra replica), the handling was more difficult to assess from our brief sortie. Nostalgia was still running the car in and the suspension was set a fraction high in expectation that it would soon settle after a few hundred miles of further bedding in. However, what was instantly apparent was the integrity of the whole car in terms of its rigidity and body control.

Central to the Nostalgia Classic's accomplished solidity is a specially fabricated bulkhead structure which bolts down onto the ladder chassis. Fabricated from spot welded folded sheet steel, it's an extraordinarily complex structure which not only helps to locate the main bodytub and steering assembly but also houses the door and bonnet hinges. It's clearly a critical element in establishing the Classic's credentials, giving the doors a suitably solid feel and negating virtually any evidence of scuttle shake when on the move. On such a large car, that's an impressive feat.

Indeed, there's not a great deal to criticise on this car. The level of detail finish is very high, while the fit and presentation of the larger panels is also impeccable. Of course, such attention to detail comes at a cost and the owner of this particularly high-spec example will not have seen much change from 40,000. In contrast, a more standard specification car can be assembled at the factory from 32,000, and the company's Malcolm Rolf tells us that homebuilders will be looking at around 15,000 for a well finished example complete with weather gear or nearer 20,000 for something approaching the test car. Those are competitive prices for something of this standard, putting it well on a par with a nicely finished Cobra replica.

But if the company's XK range looks a little tame for you, Nostalgia's latest project may inject the necessary adrenalin rush. Already well into its development period is a brand new replica, this time of Jaguar's mighty C-Type racer. Contrary to what you might expect, this is not simply a rebodying exercise of the existing chassis, but a completely new car with a spaceframe replica chassis and the option of aluminium or fibreglass bodywork.

Development of the chassis is now complete, although the company estimates it won't be until August 2003 before kits will be available. With the first order for a chassis taken at the Exeter show last November, it's a deadline that Nostalgia is keen to keep, while prices are expected to be in-line with the existing Classic range. We can't wait.

As for the Classic 120 and 140, it's clear that Nostalgia has settled into a smooth production schedule that sees a steady flow of kits and complete cars leaving the works. Standards of production are well up to scratch, while the regular in-house builds should give kit builders confidence that the product will bolt together comparatively easily and that everything to finish the car has been carefully sourced and is readily available.

Indeed, Nostalgia is perhaps typical of the current crop of top-flight kit car manufacturers, balancing regular in-house builds with a steady flow of home-assembled examples all invariably built by those with a budget to produce something a bit special. Numbers will never be terribly high but, when the finish is this good, they can only do the industry good.

For more information contact Nostalgia Cars, Richmond House, 14 Healys Meadow, Cotford St Luke, Taunton, Somerset TA4 1PB. Tel: 01823 432140 or 01823 331639.

www.nostalgiacars.co.uk

FACTFILE
Nostalgia 140

Engine: Jaguar AJ6 straight six producing 235bhp.
Engine options: Any Jaguar straight six from 1948 to 1994.
Chassis: Steel ladderframe with steel bulkhead.
Body: GRP with separate doors, bootlid, bonnet.
Front suspension: Jaguar independent, double wishbones with adjustable damping on coil-over shocks.
Rear suspension: Jaguar independent single wishbone with adjustable damping on coil-over shocks.
Weight: 1220kgs.
Kit prices start at: 5250 plus VAT.
Budget build cost: From 15,000.

Further details from:
Nostalgia Cars, Richmond House, 14 Healys Meadow, Cotford St Luke, Taunton, Somerset TA4 1PB. Tel: 01823 432140 or 01823 331639. E-mail: theteam@nostalgiacars.co.uk
VERDICT
Typical Jaguar refinements all wrapped up in a wonderfully evocative shape and finished to a meticulous standard. XK design is impressively practical (with a good boot and weather gear). It's good value, too.

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