Jaguar XJS re-incarnated

What do you get if you cross a lifelong appreciation of Jaguars with a fascination for 1930s cars from the likes of Delage and Delahaye? The answer, if you’re possessed of the skills to realise such a thing, is the Jaguar Royale Special. John Barlow has been designing and building specialist cars since the 1980s. 

He is the ‘B’ in JBA, once one of the most popular kit-form traditional tourers, and has racked up numerous other designs, including the Royale range of kit cars, the Veranti body conversion for the Toyota MR2 Mk2 and the wild Razor three-wheeler. Most recently, he was building traditional wedding cars, until selling that business to retire last year.

John’s favourite era of car design is the 1930s, and he has a preference for two-seater coupés. He built the Royale Special for his own entertainment, rather than with any commercial intent, in 2017. Its chassis is a development of that from the Royale Sabre, with improvements in strength and torsional rigidity, while the mechanical package came from a willing Jaguar XJS donor. “It’s probably the best-driving car I’ve built,” he told us. “It has the supple ride of the Jaguar combined with good handling.”

Those familiar with John’s back catalogue may see some cues from the Sabre in the one-off, but the long flowing tail, quad lights and sharp front wings give it far greater presence. The overall form and dimensions are very well resolved, while it’s backed up with some great details like the split windscreen and rear window, subtle tail lights and well judged brightwork. All those years of experience are paid back here. The car currently for sale with the Real Car Company.

Retirement hasn’t slowed John’s desire to build cars. He’s currently working on a second car of the same style, but this time based on a Riley RME chassis, and has two more XJSs in stock for further conversions. One of them is likely to be a convertible.

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