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Home/News and Feature Articles/*Featured Cars and Trucks/ Jaguar Featured Cars/

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Keith Turner had started out wanting to build a kit car from scratch, but he found a partially-assembled Autotune Aristocrat which he bought and finished.

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The base car is a 1979 Jaguar XJ6.

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1979 Jaguar XJ6-based Autotune Aristocat kit car - Keith Turner's project is all his own
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By Society Staff – reprint with permission only

In 1999, Keith Turner had an ambition to fulfill before he became too old, and that was to build a kit car. He had always like the traditional roadster shape, and two cars that fitted the bill were the Jaguar XJ-based Aristocat and the Ford Sierra/Granada-based Royale Sabre. He decided to go with whichever donor car became available first.

Keith noticed a pair of Jaguar XJ6's parked in the yard of a local Volkswagen shop, and he asked about them. The answer was that a customer had been unable to pay for some work and gave the two Jags to the shop in partial payment. Keith asked if they were for sale, the answer was yes, and, for £500 (about $800), he became the owner of two somewhat down-at-the-heel 3.4 L XJ6's plus two 4.2 L straight-six engines with attached transmissions.

He sold the non-running XJ plus one of the engines to a friend and stripped the other XJ, officially a 1979 S3 XJ6, for parts. He was about to order a kit from Autotune when a colleague at work told him about a partially-built Autotune Aristocat for sale online for £4,000 ($6,300). It sounded like a bargain, and Keith went to see it. The car was Oxford blue with a fiberglass split screen, galvanized chassis, engine, suspension, and a 4-speed with overdrive. The installed engine had dropped a valve, but a re-bored block, a reground camshaft, and a loads of parts were included in the deal. The seller had started the job but then it stalled due to family problems, so he put the car up for sale. The seller had previously built a kit car and appeared to know what he was doing. His work seemed quite methodical with careful records kept. A price was agreed to, and Keith and friend with a large trailer brought it home.

Once home, Keith took a closer look at the car and soon realized that the previous owner's work quality was, in fact, somewhat lacking as, for example, he had just fitted the suspension from the donor car without taking the opportunity to refurbish it. In the end, Keith pretty much undid the previous owner's work and rebuilt everything with his own parts. He sandblasted and hot zinc-sprayed the sub-frame and rear cage. He sandblasted all the suspension parts and then painted them with black POR15, installed new suspension bushings, and built up the chassis.

As far as the car's engine, Keith gathered up all the engines and parts he had, loaded them into a trailer, and took them to an engine shop in Wales. In exchange for some of the engine parts they did not use in building Keith's, they gave him a 4.2 L at a reduced price.

All of the fuel and brake lines were replaced with Kunifer parts, which are better than copper and only slightly more expensive. Keith ran into a problem aligning the rear fenders with the doors with the fenders sitting about two inches above the chassis mounting plate. In the end, he fabricated an aluminum strip to bridge the gap. The back still sits a bit high, but it is not too noticeable.

Keith lined the interior with a mix of sheet aluminum and thin marine plywood and then installed carpeting. He wanted a folding hood, so he modified an MG Midget hood frame by widening it with parts from a scrap frame and then made a wooden hood rail to fit to the top of the screen. A local trimming company made the hood from scratch and did a good job at very reasonable price.

Other variations from the standard Autotune kit are the fuel tank, which was fabricated from aluminium and sits next to the spare tire, and the battery, which is in the passenger side footwell hidden behind the foot board.

Keith replaced the modified standard XJ dash with a unit he designed himself. The woodwork was done using Keith's 3D CAD drawings by a company in Wales that make harps. The instruments are a 140 mph speedometer and a tachometer that he got at a Jaguar swap meet, plus some smaller gauges, and all have been refurbished.

Keith replaced the finned cam covers with a pair of polished earlier type which he bought on e-bay. These covers cause the engine to ten degrees hotter, so he added louvers to the hood to assist in cooling.

The original build took Keith two years of evenings and weekends, and he considers it a workmanlike build. It's not concours-quality, but the car still attracts a lot of attention. Most people think the car is original and not a kit. Keith and his wife have enjoyed the car thoroughly over the years, having taken it to Brittany (France) a number of times as well as to Ireland, where it has survived the Irish roads relatively well. 

The car is very XK-150 looking from the front.

Keith fabricated the interior panels himself. The dashboard was made to Keith's specifications by a company that makes musical harps.

The speedometer goes to 140 mph.

The engine is 4.2 L straight Six. It was built partially from parts Keith acquired when he bought the partially-finished car.

Keith had to fabricate some aluminum panels to get the rear part of the body to align with the doors. The fit looks great.