Arden modified 1998 Jaguar XK8 Convertible X100

Arden modified 1998 Jaguar XK8 Convertible X100

Now firmly into the realm of collector’s cars, we experience an XK8 fitted with a host of upgrades from the respected German tuning company.


Arden modified 1998 Jaguar XK8 Convertible X100

WE EXAMINE A RARE EXAMPLE FROM THE GERMAN TUNING COMPANY

We sample a car modified by the German tuning company

Arden modified 1998 Jaguar XK8 Convertible X100


ARDENT ADMIRATION

It has taken a while, but the steel bodied XK8, also known as the X100 from its factory project number, has followed it’s XJ-S predecessor into classic status and collectability. In the world of XJ-S desirability, cars modified by recognised tuners such as TWR and Lister, command premium prices. The same follows for the XK8, so when the opportunity arose to sample an example influenced by Arden GmbH in detail, we didn’t hesitate…


Arden modified 1998 Jaguar XK8 Convertible X100


THE ARDEN CONNECTION

A specialist in Jaguars and TVRs, Racing Green Cars is renowned for its upgrades and workmanship. Back in the early 2000s, it enjoyed a close alliance with Arden and became its main distributor in the UK. All of Racing Green’s workshop facilities were on site, making the fitting, fine tuning and testing of the parts Arden provided a seamless process. Jochen Arden formed his company in 1972, specialising in British cars, ten years later, he signed a dealership contract with Jaguar, then created his first modified product, based on a Series 3 XJ12.

From there, he developed a tuning and modification business initially encompassing XJS and XK8 models, carrying on to the present day with the F-TYPE, XE and XF ranges. Back in 1998, reference to the paperwork found within our subjects extensive history file includes the Arden XK8 price list which revealed that: An Arden-crested mirror finish aluminium gear knob (personalised with engraved initials, if required) could be had for £122 – ranging up to £13014 for a full ‘A’ type body kit. In-between, a suspension lowering kit involved a bank account depletion of £550. A performance kit, promising to confer an additional 30bhp and 25Nm of torque would set the beneficiary back £5050 – all prices were plus installation charges. – in the later case, you had to travel to Arden’s own Krefield, Germany workshop, however!


Arden modified 1998 Jaguar XK8 Convertible X100

Taking personalisation to the next level, tended to get expensive, but Arden’s attention to detail was quite incredible. The leaper hood (that’s bonnet to us) ornament as fitted to this car, was affixed using a unique fastening system that allowed the mascot to be easily removed. The £288 cost included a lifetime guarantee against corrosion… but not theft.

“...very few XK8s were Arden-modified for the British market, it is believed the number was in single figures only”

Arden’s body components were manufactured from a premium fibreglass/carbon compound and had their aerodynamic properties-assessed at the Cologne Ford wind tunnel – definite attention to detail! In addition, all Arden products had to meet strict ISO certification requirements set by Germany’s TUV (Technisher Uberwachungsverein, if you are interested, Technical Inspection Association, if you are not), plus the company conducted its testing via simulators and in real life on the challenging North Loop track at the Nürburgring – confidence inspiring!


THE BACKSTORY

The car’s first owner – a scientist local to the Hampshire area – reluctantly gave up the car when he retired and emigrated to America permanently. Previously he had commuted and had this, his sole UK car, kept in a serviceable state to be used on the occasions he popped back to the UK. However, mindful of all that had gone into the creation of this fantastic performance car, and that it was a car that really needed to be driven, he decided it had to be sold.

Purchased new from main dealer H.A.Fox in 1998, the car became familiar to Racing Green after its 30k service in 2001, when it had just come out of its three-year warranty period. The initial visit would precipitate numerous return trips for tweaks and added extras from the company’s extensive range of upgrades. The biggest job, carried out in 2003, comprised a service plus removing and replacing the ECU, lowering the suspension, fitting a revised steering rack and associated activation switch. Installation and painting of the body kit with front and rear mesh grilles and assembly of the wheel spinner kit. An uprated exhaust system completed the menu. The records detailing this work filled two Jaguar embossed leather wallets, the contents of which we irreverently tipped out to artistically photograph. Closer inspection of the evicted invoices revealed some quite staggering sums of expenditure.


Arden modified 1998 Jaguar XK8 Convertible X100

The results, however, spoke for themselves. From a purely visual perspective, the Arden enhancements made their presence known from the wheels up. The possibly aesthetically inappropriate dummy triple-eared spinners had recently been replaced with neater Arden light alloy centre caps – far more in keeping with its new and sportier sensibilities.

Observed under twinkling Racing Green showroom lights, £1k’s worth of wheel refurbishment included new stainless steel bolts to secure the split rims, 40 per wheel, giving the alloys a jewelled look. The effect being neither flashy nor ‘bling’, rather it suited the car’s confident, well groomed stance. If the Arden body kit may be termed ‘car-couture’, then the bolts completed the outfit in the manner of a high quality watch or a discretely rakish pair of cufflinks.

Arden’s heraldic crest appear at the centre of each wheel, depicting a prowling jaguar (cat) silhouetted against a turreted stronghold (Jochen Arden began his automotive career in an old building located in the grounds of Castle Zelem – the premises went on to be the home of Arden Classic Centre) adding a touch of colour to the convertibles otherwise classily Kelly Hoppenesque palette of beige and taupe.


Arden modified 1998 Jaguar XK8 Convertible X100

Perfectly colour matched to its metallic champagne body, the XK8’s Arden side skirts incorporating rear brake air ducting, flare out slightly from its lower flanks. At the front, the re-styled faring minimises aerodynamic lift on the front axle and sweep into a natural looking lower air intake. An XKR mesh grille optimises the engine and front brake cooling and completes the look, smartening up the nose and adding necessary gravitas to balance out the car’s powerful haunches.

Despite the lowered suspension (approximately 25mm, delivered via Arden custom springs) and ground hugging faring, styling at the back is not so heavy-set as to overwhelm the car’s original contouring. Emerging from the deeper Arden rear apron, the stainless steel tailpipes in the RGC exhaust system are a dichotomy of style and substance: beautifully designed for the gruelling task of dispelling the 4.0 V8’s after-burn. Another RGC supplied XKR inspired grille completes the sportive look.


THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE

Inside, the interior is standard bar for a centre console mounted Racing Green switch to activate the steering rack upgrade and a polished aluminium Arden pedal set. Whilst the boot space is ample on the XK8 convertible, the token rear passenger seats serve as a useful shelf on which to deposit paraphernalia while I adjusted the driving seat to suit my needs. In day to day driving I prefer manual transmission, but in this instance, I can appreciate the advantage of an automatic: when you have less to do in an environment that has so much more to take in – initially, that throaty V8 engine note! Endeavouring to find a route that allowed the car to stretch its legs without taking us too far afield resulted, initially, in strictly speed-controlled driving conditions. A slightly discordant (to my ears) tone provided gently insistent proof that the car was eager to demonstrate what it could really do. Power, when given the scope to be unleashed, is indubitably ready and waiting under the bonnet.

Roundabout approaches – ever so slightly fraught when you are used to the pace and limitations of a 1-litre hatchback – are a revelation. Finely tuned with its engine management upgrade, acceleration is effortless and whisks the car away with a speed that gives me the confidence to seize gaps I would never normally attempt. I’m initially stunned, then start to relish outpacing the big saloons that usually leave me in the dust. From an idling start, the pseudo experience of a spot of drag racing (having reached more suitable stretches of road) is an incredible thrill. The deep leather seats seem to hug you that bit tighter as the car joyously surges forward and the aural experience becomes magnificently mellifluous – akin to having the soundtrack of a Formula 1 racing program piped directly into the cabin.

Had we strayed far enough to need the SatNav, there is one further aspect of customisation I would recommend: some form of programme to reverently mute any spoken instructions when the V8 starts to sound really good! Why spend so much money enhancing the efficiency of the engine, only to haveits harmonious operation clash with a toneless automaton ordering you to take the third exit and then bear left?


AGAINST THE ELEMENTS

Despite increasingly heavy rainfall, the car handled perfectly on slippery roads and the steering rack upgrade, had we opportunity to fully test it, would no doubt have supplied the additional feel and feedback enjoyable in less restricted conditions. The brakes were pleasingly responsive and progressive in the wet. A firm tap on the wide, nobbly pedal is all it takes to cease terrorising the Hampshire locals and bring the car under control. Scouting for locations to shoot the XK8 in a variety of rain-swept poses entailed, inevitably, a bit of doubling back and a couple of unorthodox U-turns. I was surprised at how nimble the car was to manoeuvre though, and especially impressed with its tight turning circle outside the Farnborough Air Sciences Museum. Aligning the Jaguar with another quintessential piece of British engineering – an English Electric Lightening, we think the car held its own alongside the iconic aircraft.

Hopping in and out to check positioning and picture composition also makes one mindful of the lowered suspension, wherein you rise up and out from a very deep-seated driving position. It’s a sportier and involved ride when in motion, but a very comfortable one too. The swell of acceleration becomes an enjoyable full-body experience, yet I felt reassuringly cossetted despite being in such close proximity to the ground. Obviously, the raison d’etre of a convertible is to facilitate open-air motoring. While we appreciated the hood keeping out the inhospitable weather on a dismal June day, the incessant beating of raindrops on the roof did slightly liken the experience to being in a tent – albeit one with a very comfortable, climate-controlled interior. I relished the warmth, meaning poor photographer Ray positively steamed when he jumped back in to dry off!

Returning, reluctantly (at least, the one of us not in need of a towel) to the Racing Green premises, afforded one last opportunity for a burst of speed and a fond farewell to that deliciously ebullient engine. Dried off, hood back down and slotted back in amongst its showroom companions of the day – a host of colourful TVRs and modern and classic Jaguars – the XK8 graced the floor once more with its classic yet edgy good looks.

Given the expense involved, very few XK8s were Arden-modified for the British market, it is believed the number was in single figures only – making these rare and highly collectable. The example we tested has found a new custodian — happy hunting!

THANKS Racing Green Cars 01421 511118 racinggreencars.com

Article type:
Review
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Joel Kerman 4 months ago #
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