Lunaz might not be a household name, but it certainly works with some stars. Not only is David Beckham heavily invested in the company, but the firm focuses on other British icons including the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Range Rover and this: the Jaguar XK120. But far from simply 'restomodding' these cars with sympathetic interiors and some new brakes, Lunaz performs heart surgery on its vehicles, swapping the old petrol engines with shiny new electric motors. The result is a selection of gorgeous electric cars Lunaz says you can use every day, but are these classics worthy of their enormous price tags?
In the metal
For many, the idea of stripping a classic such as the Jaguar XK120 of its straight-six engine and replacing it with an electric motor is abhorrent. And Lunaz accepts that purists with an eye for matching-numbers cars that come with buckets of provenance will hate what the company is doing. But when you peel back the layers of this car, you realise it isn't really an eco-warrior's assault on the classic car.
In fact, CEO David Lorenz says Lunaz exists to future-proof classic cars, and ensure they can be seen and enjoyed by the drivers of tomorrow. Who's to say what will happen in the future, but Lorenz can envisage a world where petrol engines may one day be banned from public roads. And even if there's an exemption for cool classics such as the XK120, they are hardly the easiest things to drive and maintain, and that means they rarely see the light of day. With a Lunaz, you can use your 1950s Jaguar pretty much every day without worrying about sitting at the roadside in a cloud of steam.
There's more to Lorenz's company than just the Lunaz Design electric conversions. Its site, which is opposite the Silverstone F1 circuit in the UK, also includes a huge facility for converting commercial vehicles to electric power. Recycling trucks and airport ground support equipment are prime candidates for conversion, and Lorenz freely admits the classic conversions are, at least in part, halo products to advertise the company's technical expertise. But they're only 10 per cent of the business.
Nevertheless, Lunaz doesn't cut any corners with these old cars. After receiving a commission and sourcing a donor vehicle - the company doesn't really care whether they work or not - and stripping them down, a nut-and-bolt restoration begins. The company tries to keep as much originality as possible, while also ensuring the cars are safe and protected from the elements. Every car gets the same treatment, whether it's an Aston Martin DB6 that's won concours prizes or a tatty Range Rover with a seized engine. Lorenz says it's the only way to guarantee quality.
The other way of keeping quality high is to stick with what you know, and Lunaz currently offers only a few conversions. The aforementioned DB6 (Lunaz thought the DB5 was too culturally significant to tamper with) is joined by classic Range Rovers, Rolls-Royce Phantoms, Bentley Continentals and, of course, the Jaguar XK120/140 models. Apparently, the company gets a fair few requests for Focus and Qashqai conversions, but it politely declines such commissions.
Once the car is fully fixed up, Lunaz sets to work on the design. Externally, the changes are subtle, with customers encouraged to work with the company's small design team in order to create a tasteful product that suits their needs, but there are limits. While colour schemes and the like are all freely discussed, modifications such as wings and flared wheel arches are dismissed out of hand. Lunaz wants people to believe these cars are true classics, rather than something from Max Power magazine.
As a result, every car is unique, but they all look more or less in keeping with the original. The XK120 we drove came in a gorgeous shade of dark metallic blue, complete with wire wheels and chrome exterior trim. At a glance, it could have been a pristine, completely original XK120. At least from a distance. Look closely, though, and you would spot the subtle Lunaz logos designed to look like club or rally badges, and the modern disc brakes lurking behind the wheels.
The interior design is more radically different, but the Jaguar still feels a little like a 1950s car - albeit a brand new one. The customer who specified this car wanted a fully vegan cabin, so there is no leather on show, but there is plenty of satin-finish walnut and all the controls (aside from the pedals) look like period fittings. Even the gauges are in roughly the right place, although naturally they have been altered to suit the electric powertrain. Lunaz has also fitted a touchscreen infotainment system complete with smartphone connectivity, allowing the customer to access media and navigation on the move.
It's immediately obvious that Lunaz has an eye for quality - the trim and switchgear in our test car was first-rate - and the details are sublime, yet still sympathetic to the car's age. If Jaguar built an XK120 now, this is how it would feel.
It would have been easy, given the nature of Lunaz's belt-and-braces restoration process, for the company to have gone overboard with modern suspension and steering. But for the most part, the Lunaz still feels very much like a classic Jaguar, albeit with a few obvious differences.
Naturally, the motor noise is somewhat altered, with the original throaty petrol engine replaced with an electric motor. It isn't quiet, though, and the car is still pretty noisy, even at relatively low speeds. Lunaz says it has added some soundproofing, but there's still plenty of road noise and quite a bit of air rush over the bits of bodywork that stick out into the air flow. Combine that with the whine of the motor and the XK120's cabin might be plush, but it's still a loud environment.
Similarly, Lunaz has done little with the XK120's suspension - you still get leaf springs at the back - so the ride is more or less unaltered and body control remains much the same. There's quite a bit of lean in corners, and with such skinny, high-profile tyres wrapped around the wire wheels, the Jaguar still moves about a bit. By the standards of the 1950s, when the XK120 was in its heyday, the Lunaz remains a great car to drive, but it's much floppier than a modern Jaguar F-Type. In the words of Lunaz's engineers, they have taken a 1950s car into the 1970s, rather than into the present day.
All that said, the XK120 is more comfortable than many modern sports cars, if only by dint of its less rigid structure. Some bumps - particularly severe potholes - feel quite abusive, partly because of the car's age, but most of the less awkward surfaces are ironed out fairly agreeably.
Combine that with steering that's a bit vague around the dead-ahead, yet oddly heavy elsewhere, and you really feel as though you're getting the classic experience, despite the clean powertrain and the automatic transmission. It might be a restomod, but it still has a bit of the original XK120's character.
But it's noticeably faster than the original XK120. When the Jaguar was launched, it was the fastest car on the road, but it still had nothing on the sports cars of today. This Lunaz produces around 280hp, so although the weight has increased, the car still has a striking turn of pace.
With the immediacy of the electric motor and no gearbox (you get forward and reverse, but both are fixed ratios), the XK120 leaps down the road in a way the original car couldn't really muster, particularly from low speeds. It's quite nippy in urban environments, and it's quick enough to overtake cyclists and tractors with ease on country lanes. It's no speed demon, but it's faster than a standard car of this era.
To help deal with that power, Lunaz has fitted a much more modern braking system, although you might not notice that the moment you press the pedal. As with the steering and suspension, the company has tried to keep some of the classic car character, so the first few centimetres of pedal travel have little impact. Press the surprisingly stiff pedal harder, though, and the brakes begin to bite in a much more modern way.
Of course, like so many other electric vehicles, the Lunaz has to balance the need to stop the car quickly with the need to keep the battery charged. Customers can work with the company to arrange how their car will feel when you lift off the accelerator, choosing how severe they would like the regenerative braking effect to be. And you can switch the mode to suit the prevailing conditions.
That helps to make the most of the car's 80kWh battery, which lives under the bonnet. Lunaz says the car can only really use 90 per cent of that capacity, but that's still enough for a respectable range. Without being beholden to the official WLTP economy test, Lunaz has had to create its own range figure, but it has calculated that in a sensible way, assuming a cruise speed of 105km/h on a flat road. Given electric motors are often at their least efficient during motorway cruising, the quoted range of around 280km should be achievable for most owners.
What you get for your money
It's no surprise that Lunaz conversions don't come cheap. You're looking at almost €500,000 before you even buy the donor car, which Lunaz will help you source. Then the price will increase more dramatically the more options you specify. And Lunaz will let you do almost anything you want, as long as the car's exterior looks more or less as it did when it left the factory. New paint jobs and interiors are fine, but bold rear wings are not quite so welcome.
Lunaz has unquestionably created something interesting and different with this XK120, but while the company's approach may be exciting, the finished product won't be everyone's cup of tea. Those who would prefer the original engine to remain will never go near this car anyway, but some potential customers might prefer a more modern driving experience to sit alongside the modern powertrain. For those who dig the idea of a proper classic car with a few creature comforts and a clean propulsion system, however, the Lunaz products will tick an awful lot of boxes.