The converters : Banham XJSS/FHC

Banham’s reworking of the XJ-S ranged from providing it with a more conventional roofline to completely rebodying the car…

Banham appears to have ceased trading in 2004, although we have yet to find out the full details…

To find out more, contact Kit Car magazine.

Jaguar XJ-S fixed-head coupe

FROM the day it was first launched, the most controversial aspect of the XJ-S must surely have been the distinctive “buttresses” which ran in a gentle curve from the rear of the roof down to the tail lights. For owners who loved the car but couldn’t live with the roofline, Banham offered this elegantly executed remodelling. It’s an idea that Jaguar themselves tried in the mid-1980s for the badge-engineered Daimler XJ-S proposal, but if you wanted to own such a car, then it had to be the Banham.

This fairly subtle wide-bodied conversion, seen here applied to the fixed-head coupe, was another Banham speciality.

Jaguar XJSS

WHEN the XJSS was first introduced in 1994, the 19-year-old XJ-S was looking decidedly long-in-the-tooth and its replacement, the XK8, was still around two years off. Here was a way for existing owners to give their cars a complete makeover, with the aid of Corsa headlamps and Mondeo rear light clusters. Banham initially carried out the conversion work as part of their coachbuilding activities, but in 1996 the XJSS became available in kit form for customers who wanted to undertake the work themselves; today it is only sold that way, providing a useful and cost-effective lifeline for XJ-S owners whose ageing cars have less-than-pristine bodywork.

The long, slender front and rear wings of the XJSS are somehow redolent of the 1989 William Towns-designed Railton Fairmile which, along with its Claremont counterpart, was also based on the XJ-S.

Banham later added this alternative twin-headlight version to its portfolio. Makes for an interesting comparison with the more muscular lines of a rival XJ-S-based conversion offered by Paul Bailey Design.

Information and images used with the kind permission of Paul Banham Conversions.

Keith Adams


  1. Corsa headlights and Mondeo rearlights shouldn’t work on an XJS, but it looks quite TVR-like. Not as elegant as an XK (or, indeed, an original XJS – they have aged well) but not bad.
    There was another supercar that used Mondeo rear lights back in the 90s, was it a Noble?
    (The McLaren F1 used humble Metro rear view mirrors!)

  2. Hmm, much though I dislike the butresses, this hard-top doesn’t really sit right, and the more muscular rear flanks do little to aid elegance.

    Some of Banham’s designs were good, others were dreadful. He did a particularly odd Audi TT kit, which I think was Metro based.

    I think the best kits/conversions tend to be those that aren’t trying to ape another existing vehicle, but others will disagree- which is fine by me as it takes all sorts to make the world go round.

  3. Some things are best left well alone,including flying butresses,these car above would make me feel like a early eighties under endowed drug dealer,instead of just under endowed!

  4. @Francis – agreed – personally I love the shape of the XJ-S – especially the pure, 1975 vintage model (may be nostalgia – I loved Return of The Saint, and still have the Corgi model!) – to me, the shape, although derided as being inelegant at the time of launch has got better and better. I finally got to sit in one – an ’89 HE model, a couple of months ago, and it didn’t disappoint. The silky smooth straight-6 sounded wonderfully smooth, and I loved the way the long bonnet stretched out in front of the car. If only I’d been able to drive it! One day, but it’d have to be a mk1 V12, with LPG!!

  5. @4,i Bought an 89 model 3.6 and it was in a unit for about five years,anyway i got talking about it at work and one of customers begged to buy it from me,i agreed but didnt mention a price-he said would 3 grand cover it?(like a lottery win when he offered that much!)i said yes,put two small patches of plate on inner wings-beautifully done,i like welding cars,serviced and MoT’d-i still look after it to this day.

    I was left disappointed by it,it didnt drive great or seem powerful,even with a brand new autobox fitted just before i bought it.It was a stunning car,i still love them,and i used to watch the saint with ian ogilvey every sunday when i was a kid.I must try a V12 though, i really must.

  6. When you see how much room the V12 takes up, you understand why the bonnet is about the size of a premier league football pitch! Truly an awe-inpiring sight.

    Wouldn’t fancy having a go at servicing one, let alone keeping it fuelled…

  7. Interesting section about the XJSS’s borrowed lights from other cars. There’s probably a good article to be written about borrowed components in cars, as I recall the Reliant Robin used Fiesta headlights at one point!

  8. @8, when you know how the rear brake pads are dead easy! last time I had to do them was on an S1 2.6 XJ-6, took 20 mins most of that was getting the pins out, unless you are talking the handbrake ones, but never needed to do much more than adjust those, again easy with the right tools (a home made 3 foot screw driver!)

  9. I have owned a 1989 model 3.6 XJS for 20 yrs. It was just 4 yrs old having done 54K miles when purchased. It was a retirement indulgence and has been used as my daily driver since. Never garaged and always kept on the drive and only ever let me down once with a faulty ignition amplifier caused by myself when I did an under bonnet clean. Over the years you name where they rot my has done so including the front sub frame, but has always been repaired correctly and I sometimes have to think how much of the original body shell exists (about 40%) They are well known as a rusty tin to keep your engine in but I have always enjoyed it and am not about to part with it. They do cost a lot of money to maintain them correctly and whenever admired by a young man I always say if you have a family and a mortgage you can’t afford one.

  10. I’ve had my XJ-S since I bought it off the show room floor in 1990.

    If I paid someone to do the work on it, it would have been the most expensive car I’ve owned. Doing all the work myself, except body work, it’s the cheapest car I’ve ever owned.

    As for gas mileage, the older pre-HE engines were lucky to get double digit miles per gallon but the HE (High Efficiency) engines, were much better.

    I’ve done a bit of tweaking on mine having blue-printed and balanced the engine along with making the bore-to-stroke ratio square and I get about 22mpg average. Prior to touching the engine and only doing routine maintenance, I got about 18.

    People often say they are not reliable cars but I think the bigger problem is unreliable owners.

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