1997 Jaguar XK8 4.0 Convertible X100
This 1997 Jaguar XK8 4.0 Convertible was first owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Now back in the UK, its royal heritage has resulted in a very low-mileage, immaculate example.
Fit for a king
In 1996, the Sultan of Brunei ordered 50 special X100 XK8 4.0 convertibles to gift; his brother stored one in his massive private collection where it was barely used. This immaculate low-mileage example is now back in the UK
In the April 2017 issue, when I said of a 14,000-mile XK8 X100, “If you own an example that’s covered fewer miles, we’d love to know,” I never thought there would be one. But I was wrong. Not only has Paul Valentine’s 1997 convertible covered a mere 10k miles, but it also has connections with the Brunei royal family. That and its perfect condition make it a unique and fascinating example.
Not long after the XK8 X100 went on sale in late 1996, the Sultan of Brunei ordered 50 identical convertibles. All were painted in Titanium Grey with Charcoal leather and Grey Maple veneer, a unique and handsome specification.
The Sultan gave away the cars as presents to guests at a lavish event he hosted. This included his younger brother Prince Jefri Bolkiah (the country’s finance minister), who received the 50th. My own brother is lucky if I send him a birthday card, but that’s the difference between mere mortals and billionaires Jefri’s car – chassis number SAJJGAFD3AR010299, a right-hand-drive example built for the Singapore market – left the Browns Lane production line on 17 February 1997 and was exported to Brunei, via Jaguar’s New Zealand importer, a few days later.
The grey car joined the Brunei royal family’s extensive collection of more than 5,000 cars, which includes hundreds of Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and Rolls-Royces, many of them with bespoke, one-off bodywork. As well as several XJ220s (including at least one that was redesigned by Pininfarina), the brothers had a penchant for the X100, supposedly owning more than 50 XK8s. A picture of the Sultan’s extensive garage, taken around this time, shows two long rows of immaculate examples.
Unsurprisingly, with so many other cars to choose from, the Titanium Grey XK8 convertible was barely used. It was not registered in Brunei until May 2005, and in eight years it covered a mere 122km (76 miles).
Not long after Jefri was gifted the car, he was investigated by the Brunei Government for fraud and was found guilty of embezzling $14.8 billion. Although he denied the charges, in 2000, the prince agreed to turn over his personal holdings to the Government to avoid criminal prosecution. His assets – which included 2,000 cars – were eventually sold to repay the debt. On 15 June 2005, Guy Priestley, chief executive officer of HSBC Brunei, bought the grey XK8 convertible for $70,350. Lack of use had had a negative impact on the car, and Priestley needed to have the hydraulic roof oil replaced and discover why the engine was surging.
Priestley also initially used the Jaguar sparingly. He returned to the UK in early 2007, the XK8 arriving later the same year, when he had the car’s original km/h speedo changed to mph by Jaguar main dealer HA Fox of Cheltenham. The odometer had read just 707km (439 miles) before it was reset to zero during the change. The car was finally registered in the UK in October 2007.
Priestley kept the XK8 until 2014. It was advertised for sale through an Oxfordshire dealer for £16,500, with still only 8,096 miles on the clock. Its immaculate condition and links to the Brunei royal family caught the attention of former police officer Paul Valentine. Before he retired in 2000, he’d been part of the Metropolitan Police’s royalty and specialist protection unit and had occasionally worked with members of the Brunei royal family when they visited the UK.
“After driving the saloons for work, I’d always wanted a Jaguar,” Paul tells me, “and I was especially attracted to this one because it was a former royal car.” Although Paul paid a little less than the asking price, it was still big money at a time when XK8s could be picked up for less than £3k. “I looked at what it was, and what it represented, and I thought it was worth it. Plus, the car definitely had investment potential.”
Cosmetically, the car has needed nothing, but, because it has an original and untouched XK8 4.0-litre, Paul has had all the model’s notorious weak spots sorted – replacing the timing chain tensioners, thermostat housing, water pump and belts.
“Even if someone offered me more money than it’s worth, it’s not going anywhere,” Paul asserts. “What am I going to replace it with? In my budget, the car is as good as it’s going to get for me.”
And from where I’m standing, that’s not a bad thing: firstly, the dark exterior and dark interior combination is unusual and results in a handsome, head-turning car; secondly, from top to bottom the XK8 is perfect – the 17in Flute alloys appear brand new, while the black canvas roof is remarkably uncreased and unfaded. The paint is immaculate with barely a mark anywhere, including the nose, which is prone to stone chips, while the front lights aren’t suffering from another typical X100 problem, condensation in the headlights. Inside, the Charcoal upholstery shows little sign of wear, the maple veneer as shiny as one of the Sultan of Brunei’s many gold Rolls-Royces, while the switchgear still has the oily appearance of new plastic. It is, quite simply, the closest you’ll get to a new X100 XK8 without inventing a time machine.
I check the odometer, which currently reads 9,916 miles. If you include the miles the car covered in Brunei before the speedo was changed, it brings the mileage to 10,355; a yearly average of just 450. I did more than that walking from the sofa to the fridge during lockdown. It also means the car has covered more miles at sea during its transportation to and from Brunei than it has on the road. I would say it’s doubtful there’s an XK8 with even less mileage, but I’ve been wrong before…
The only change Paul made has been to remove the back boxes of the exhaust system, leaving the V8 with a deeper, more melodic growl than standard. But, even at full throttle, it’s not obtrusive and still matches the XK8’s discreet image.
I first drove an XK8 way back in 1998, a red coupe that belonged to the publisher I worked for. I remember being struck by the smoothness of its power delivery and the suppleness of the suspension. Now, 22 years later, Paul’s grey convertible reminds me so much of that red car, especially as it doesn’t have my own 2000 XK8’s feeling of wanting to break down. When I squeeze the throttle, the five-speed gearbox changes down and the engine responds instantly with a sudden burst of acceleration. The steering is tight and accurate and, despite Paul telling me the car still sits on the original suspension bushes, it rides perfectly.
Prince Jefri had thousands of more exotic cars at his disposal, but he missed out by not driving this beautiful XK8. Yet it’s fortunate that he did, because his lack of interest has resulted in one of the cleanest and best presented examples of an early X100 convertible. It might have left the Brunei royal family, but it remains fit for a king.
This image of the Sultan’s garage, taken in the late. Nineties, shows two long rows of Jaguar XK8s.
Thanks to: The car’s owner, Paul Valentine