Apr 23, 2013 7:00 PM by Jeanette Trompeter
San Luis Obispo is known as the Happiest City in America to a lot of folks. It's also known as a mecca of sorts for people who love classic British cars. That's because there's a business just off Broad Street that has a serious global presence in the world of classic cars and it's More Proof There's No Place Like Home.
You may not even know it's there, but anyone into classic British cars seems to. "I mean we ship to literally every country in the world. We supply both the enthusiast and the wholesaler." says Jason Len, founder and owner of XK Unlimited in San Luis Obispo. "And then we have our restoration and service department, which is still my passion. I love working on cars." he says with a wide smile.
Len started XK Unlimited 40 years ago when he was still a Cal Poly student. His love of them and for San Luis Obispo led to the idea. He was just looking for a job. "The local Jaquar dealer used to send me his jag's to repair, so...."
Today, XK Unlimited is a world wide hub for people wanting to build, fix or restore Jaqs, or any other British born ride of a certain generation. " I mean everything you see here is Jaquar parts. Upstairs, downstairs...." Len explains as we take a tour. " Just in here upstairs and downstairs there's about 15-thousand square feet. But there's also office and showroom, and then there are two more buildings attached, two more sections down below."
It is now one of the top 5 distributors of Jaguar parts in the world, but it's an equal opportunity restoration facility. We even have some Ferrari's, Porches and Corvettes. Mostly cars from the 50's and 60's." Len says.
Requests for parts come from all over the world, so do cars from people wanting Jason and his crew to do the job for them. Nothing is farmed out in the restoration process here. "We have our own upholstery shop, our own body shop, our own paint shop, our own machine shop." They also have the tools to make just about any part of the outside of a vehicle out of metal. Need a fender, they can fabricate it on an old iron case beast he picked up England. "That thing is so old, it built spitfire wings during World War II." Len says as he points to an English wheel he got in England.
And the crew who does the work here also comes from all over the world. "I didn't work on a car for about 2 years...you were put into an apprentice school. Work on engines, not a car because they want to make sure you know what you're doing before give you back the keys." says Chris Gordon who has worked at XK Unlimited for about 10 years. Len says he likes to hang on to people like Gordon. "You know when I started, there used to be a lot of Jag mechanics. Now anyone who has ever worked on an XK 120 or an E-type is long retired, so I basically have to train them, or they've been with me for 10-15 years."
It's one of the reasons the some high-powered people know of this place, and you'll know the names of some of them. Len is modest but will admit to a working with a few celebrities. "Yeah, we've done a car for Whitney Houston, we've done a couple of cars for Jay Leno. Adam Corollla. So yeah we've done a fair amount of celebrity cars over the years.".
There are about 30 employees at XK Unlimited. Len credits them, and his wife who helps him run the business, for his success. You may not have even known about the place, but if you ever had a vision of some English inspired dream wheels, you can can probably find what you need to make it come true on Fiero Lane in San Luis Obispo. Another reason there's No Place Like Home.
XK Unlimited is celebrating its 40th Anniversary by throwing an Open House Party. It's October 3-6. For more information, click here.