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AUTOCAR DROPS IN TO OUR SPECIAL VEHICLE OPERATIONS

Being a motoring journalist comes with a number of enviable perks, whether it’s getting behind the wheel of a car that most of us can only dream of driving, or putting a high performance vehicle through its paces on a race track. Autocar journalist Steve Cropley recently enjoyed one such perk when we invited him for a private tour of our Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, just outside Coventry.

Cropley’s first impression of the £20 million facility was a feeling of having arrived in the foyer of an F1 team’s headquarters, with its modern, industrial architecture and an atmosphere of efficiency and intent. The difference here is that rather than just a handful of cars being produced by an F1 team (without the engine), the SVO handles thousands of vehicles. Its role, says managing director Michael van der Sande, is to take Jaguar’s already exceptional and luxurious models and “amplify” their characteristics, at times “turning them up to 11”.

THE BUSINESS OF BESPOKE CARS

Touring the facility, Cropley discovered the business of SVO is in building several different kinds of bespoke cars. It might be as involved as the wholesale re-engineering of a vehicle, with complex painting, lengthening and armouring for a high net worth customer. Or more simply a special paint job, with SVO undertaking around 5000 of these a year using an innovative robotised plant with smart ovens. While production-line SVR models aren’t produced on-site at SVO, van der Sande and his engineering director, Jamal Hameedi, do decide what these popular models will be like and then set about developing them.

EXPERIENTIAL LUXURY

Customers wanting a bespoke car are ushered into a luxurious design suite where they can view, touch, feel and smell samples of paint and trim materials, fascia textures and badgework. A giant digital configurator mocks up the customer’s desired vehicle. The luxury continues beyond the design studio in an elegantly decorated, curtained meeting room where clients can relax, chat with SVO experts and indulge in food prepared by in-house chef Graham Edwards, a former protégé of Raymond Blanc. When the curtains are rolled back, they reveal the floor-to-ceiling glass walls and the vast 20,000 square metre Technical Centre’s car creation bays.

In another example of the exclusive privileges sometimes granted to motoring journalists, Cropley’s visit took him past the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 super-saloons, the most powerful road-legal Jaguar in history, and the perfect demonstration in van der Sande’s view that SVO is just as well equipped for complex engineering as for incredible trim and paint makeovers.

While most of us won’t be taken behind the scenes of Jaguar’s impressive SVO facility like Steve Cropley was, or enjoy the bespoke service as a customer, you can get a taste of the experience by building your own Jaguar online that suits your lifestyle, driving style and personal tastes.

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