Full disclosure time: during the course of 40 years of driving, I can recall the occasion a car crashed into the back of my Astra at traffic lights and, later, another into my Mondeo. Then when I drove my Renault 5 into the back of the Mini I could have sworn had pulled away ahead of me at a roundabout.
Each time, I left the decision about who should repair my car in the hands of my insurer. Even my Mazda Eunos, for heaven’s sake – a sweet little thing that had been shunted by one car into the path of another. How I loved its precision steering, at least before its rack was shattered. The insurer-approved repairer to which it was sent operated out of a tin shack beside a bomb-site dealership.
All my cars were reasonably cheap, the most expensive being the Mondeo that cost me £7000. With the exception of the Eunos, the damage they suffered was light and all repairs were carried out largely to my satisfaction.
However, I like to think that had they been more valuable and their damage more serious, I would have rejected my insurers’ approved bodyshops and instead insisted my cars were repaired by manufacturer-approved ones that use genuine OE parts and who are trained to remanufacture a damaged car rather than simply repair it. I would certainly have the right to do so, although the insurer could refuse and pay me a cash settlement in lieu.
But there are rights and there’s the gentle art of persuasion, where the insurer speaks softly in your ear about picking up the pieces after an accident while you ease yourself into its free hire car and go about your business. Hold out for a repairer of your choice and it starts sounding rather less friendly. No wonder most of us take the easy option and go with the approved repairer.
Not the owner of the one-year-old Jaguar XJ 3.0d I’m looking at, though. The category S write-off – meaning it has suffered structural damage – has been in one almighty front-end smash. The insurer wanted to write it off, but since by some miracle the cost of repairing it won’t exceed its pre-accident value, the owner has chosen to have it repaired. Not only that but he has insisted it is repaired by a manufacturer-approved bodyshop.
What’s left of the Jag is supported on a chassis jig at Castle Coachworks in Northampton. Autocar was here only a few weeks ago when Brian Lennon, co-founder and director, sparked our interest in manufacturer-approved bodyshops such as his with warnings about lesser bodyshops fitting recycled parts that can compromise a car’s safety. It sounded like the thing you’d expect an expensive bodyshop to say about its less expensive rivals, so we returned to see what Castle Coachworks, which is approved by JLR, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Audi, Volvo and Kia, does that is so different.
And where better to start than with this battered Jag? Its engine and eight-speed gearbox have been removed and lie behind a plastic screen. With its bonnet and wings also removed to expose its A-pillar reinforcement beams and chassis rails, the car looks like a giant stag beetle. Panel technician Steve Johnson is preparing to replace one of the A-pillars and its reinforcement structure and straighten a chassis leg. Later, he’ll check the alignment to make sure everything’s true.