While the direction of Jaguar sedans undoubtedly rests with bold, modern designs like the spectacular C-XF Concept, there isn't much wrong with the look of sporting Jaguars like the new XK and its predecessor. Now the values of pre-owned old-shape XK8s and the supercharged XKRs are tumbling, many who lusted after one of these suave coupes in their heyday now find them affordable. A well-cared-for early XKR coupe could have an asking price on the right side of $25,000, which is a lot of style for less than a new Camry.
With its wide rear haunches, the new XK has a purposeful stance that the older, more classically-proportioned model, does not. While it was in production, none of the German tuners, like Arden, went as far as fleshing out the bodywork enough to change this. Enter Zeemax, premier British body styling house. Founded in the mid-1990s by Barry Perman, an ex-fashion industry guru, Zeemax made its name pumping up desirable sports cars like the Porsche 911 into eye-catching dream machines. ince then, Perman has created his own interpretations of popular cars from the classic Mini to the R129 Mercedes SL. In between, he has also done kits for the new MINI, two generations of BMW M3, the BMW 8 Series and the Nissan 300ZX.
In late 2005, Perman realized the about-to-be-replaced Jaguar XK had huge potential, as its basic proportions (long bonnet, fastback roofline and short tail) were ideal for the Zeemax treatment. "If you look at any American muscle car, part of its visual draw is the upswept line over its rear wheel arches, and often the wider rear arches and track," says Perman. "These are things the new XK has that the old one lacks." Perman knew they were needed to make the Zeemax ZMR (as he has dubbed his latest creation) a real head-turner.
To fit the wider rear quarter panels and provide clearance for the much wider rear rubber that fills them, the stock sheetmetal is cut out. Then the inner and outer parts are drawn together and welded, which makes for a strong support structure. After rust-proofing, new GRP arches are bonded to the rear bodywork and the labor-intensive blending and finishing begins. By comparison, swapping the old fenders for the new wider GRP units (with twin mesh grilles) is a breeze, just unbolt the originals and bolt on the Zeemax replacements. The new front and rear arches set the form for the new front and rear bumpers and the wider side sills, all of which are secured by factory attachment points and additional fixings on the wider arches.
"One styling dilemma of the stock design is the area under the rear bumper," says Perman. "As with the Porsche 944, the rear valance of the early XK8/R sweeps upwards to reveal messy underpinnings like the exhaust and spare wheel well. All the aftermarket body styling additions address this unresolved area in the same way by adding a bolt-on rear valance, but they look like an afterthought, as well as making the rear end look too deep."
The Zeemax approach is to design a whole new rear bumper with a mesh grille section built into its lower center area. Apart from freshening up the tail end, this also helps to vent the airflow departing from the rear floorpan. Speaking of airflow, the small air splitter under the front spoiler actually extends rearward to form a flat-bottomed undertray below the motor. This has the effect of reducing turbulence in the engine bay, thus improving aerodynamics and high-speed stability. The final bodywork additions are the three-piece flush trunk lid wing, rooftop window spoiler and new taillight clusters that use individual round lights set into color-coded modules.
The wider alloy wheels are massive 10x20 and 13x20 (front and rear respectively) Zeemax alloys, with offsets calibrated to work without spacers. The car sits on 255/35ZR20 and 345/25ZR20 Pirelli P Zero tires, with ride height lowered by 35mm, using H&R springs with the factory CATS active damper system.
All Zeemax cars feature bespoke leather interiors trimmed by Perman personally. In this case, bright red leather covers almost every surface, with a quilted pattern used on the seat centers and along the transmission tunnel. The headlining is in red Alcantara, and the only relief in this burning hot interior is from the black carpets and the black piano lacquered wood on the dashboard and console. Aluminum highlights are the pedal set, gearshift surround and knob and trim rings for the instruments.
A look this aggressive needs the right aural accompaniment, and the supercharged V8 exhales manfully through the bespoke stainless steel rear mufflers. Zeemax can even raise the volume for markets with less noise restrictions. Since 370 hp is adequate for the UK, the 4.0-liter motor in this car is stock, but it is not difficult to turn the wick up. An ECU upgrade will match the 400-hp output of the facelifted 4.2-liter XKR from 2002.
The ZMR is probably the best looking Zeemax car so far. It occupies that intriguing middle ground between the mature elegance of the standard XK and the extrovert British muscle car that TVR had become in its latter days.
*LayoutLongitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
4.0-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve, supercharged intercooled, Zeemax mufflers and software
Zeemax/Brembo six-piston calipers (f), four-piston rear calipers (r), cross-drilled rotors
*Wheels and Tires
Zeemax ZM8, 10x20 (f), 13x20 (r)Pirelli P Zero, 255/35 (f), 345/25 (r)
Zeemax front bumper, rear bumper, side skirts, bonded rear arches,bolt-on front fenders, bootlid spoiler, rooftop spoiler, taillight pods
Custom leather and Alcantara re-trim, black piano lacquer wood dashboard and console trim, aluminum detailing
Peak Power: 400 hpPeak Torque: 399 lb-ft0-60 mph: 5.1 sec.Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)