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What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 3

Friday, 30 November 2018  |  Admin

 

Part 3 - The Long Journey Home

I had bought a 1990 Jaguar XJS with a 5.3 litre V12 engine for cash behind a strip club and now had 120 miles to drive in an unknown car. Apart from yearly trips to the local MOT station the car had been standing for over a decade.  In 11 years only 400 miles had been added to the odometer.  We stopped at the first petrol station to check oil, air, petrol and water.  Remarkably, the oil was pristine, the coolant was clean and full and the tyres had air.  I added some fuel injector cleaner to the petrol and set off.

The car smelt and sounded awful:  Petrol fumes mixed with the smell of wet carpets and mould, the exhaust was blowing everywhere, the engine was definitely not running on all cylinders, there was an almighty clanking from the front suspension every time we hit a bump and a knocking from the rear on all but the gentlest acceleration.  I put a brave face on, but I felt as though I had made a big mistake.

It was raining and we were on the M6 with the lorries in lane one, driving gingerly.  Ahead the traffic started to slow. Braking gently, the pedal sank straight to the floor without any retardation whatsoever.  (Un)luckily this has happened to me before, so I realised instantly that one of the brake calipers had seized and overheated, boiling the brake fluid.  I knew that if I just kept pumping the pedal, eventually something would happen.  Happily the left hand front caliper decided to lend a hand and we pulled over to the hard shoulder to let everything cool down.
 

    

 


After a suitable interval, we made our way to the next service station where I assured my passenger that everything would be OK - we only had another 110 miles to go.  

With the exception of the lights, the indicators and wipers, very few other electrical switches seemed to work:  Windows - No, Central Locking - No, Air-Con - No, Rear Demister - No, Instrument Lights - No, Radio - No, Courtesy lights - No, Heated seats - No.  For me, these all seemed minor inconveniences, but for my passenger (my youngest son), they were simply further pointers to the fact that we were doomed.  He had already texted his mother that the car had no brakes and that we were about to die.  I re-iterated my confidence in this marvelous piece of British Leyland engineering and told him not to worry.  After a bite to eat and a coffee to allow for further cooling of the brakes, my confidence was rewarded by brakes that worked(ish).  We pressed on.

Although at first glance the car looked fairly reasonable from the outside, the inside had not been cleaned in many a year.   Yet despite the smell and grime, the soporific character of a Jaguar in cruising mode soon enabled my exhausted son to dift off (we'd had a very early start for a teenager in the middle of school holidays).  As the miles passed and I felt more confident in the car, I was able to up the pace to match the average motorway speeds on a Friday afternoon without him noticing.

There were no further surprises but as we pulled onto the drive at home, the expression on my wife's face said it all:  In her opinion the car was a P.O.S.  Better to sell it now and cut your losses.  It's going to be a money pit.

Of course, I had to justify my purchase:  That would simply be admitting defeat too soon.  Surely it would be better to carefully inspect and assess first.  So began a long list of to-dos.  The first thing was to get the car up on a ramp to see the extent of the problems.

I made an appointment with Vince, our local bodyshop for the following Saturday.  My mood was elevated as the car looked fairly good in the summer sunshine.  Once the car was up on the ramp, Vince and his father carefully probed the areas of corrosion whilst I inspected the exhaust and the subframes.  Vince said they would get back to me with a price.  That call never came...and when I checked, the answer was "We would rather not touch it, thanks".  It was an answer I had expected:  Working on a complicated 28 year old car is very different from their normal diet of Golfs, Focus's and Corsas.  Feeling slightly downhearted, I decided that I needed to get fully up to speed with the model and it's common problems so that I could make an informed decision on what to do next.

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing...and reading the scare stories on internet forums is enough to put you off buying any car, let alone one approaching its 30th birthday with little or no history.  Nevertheless, with many decades tinkering with cars under my belt and having thoroughly read the Haynes manual and numerous blogs, I could see that at one time the car had a very caring owner who obviously knew how to keep the worst ravages of time at bay:  The car had been thoroughly undersealed and and waxoiled, any chassis and suspension component that could be protected by grease had a thick layer of the stuff.  There had been a good quality respray at one point in the past and the car was fitted with an expensive set of wire wheels and Pirelli tyres.  

On the down side, there was a goodly amount of filler in the top of the wheel arches (a standard form of repair if you read the contemporary Haynes manual published in 1992).  Both sills needed work, the bottom of the rear quarters needed repair and the front quarters were quiety rusting away.  Unfortunately nearly every panel with the exception of the roof had some bubbling paint pointing to more extensive problems lurking below the surface.  However, for me, the big issue was the front subframe:  Perfect in every way except the area above the spring seat on one side, as I discovered as my fingers sank through the surface crust into thin air.  I knew that all rubber bushes suspension bushes would need to be replaced, but I had not counted removing this very large and heavy component to do so.

Pushing all this bad news to the back of my mind, I decided to concentrate on a the large part that was easily accessible: The massive V12 engine.  If this was sound, I would feel better about tackling the body.  Happily, my eldest son, with a penchant for all things mechanical, decided this was too great a challenge to miss.  We set about tracking down the misfire and the source of the petrol fumes.

More in part 4.

All the best,
Curtis.

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What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 2

Wednesday, 28 November 2018  |  Admin



Part 2:  Finding the Ideal Car?


The Jaguar XJS has been on the cusp of classicdom for years.  Classic car pundits have been speculating that it is the next big thing for longer than I care to remember, but the reality of rusty British Leyland era bodywork and massively complex mechanical and electrical systems seem to have always suppressed prices.

Naturally, just as I have come round to the idea of finding a Jaguar XJS, prices for good examples have been climbing steadily out of my budget range...so the hunt began for a suitable project vehicle.  As we all know, Ebay holds an ever revolving repository of cars better suited to the junkyard than cruising intercontinental highways, but I was convinced there was a car out there waiting for me.  The problem was that money burning a hole in my pocket, urging me on, like a little devil on my left shoulder.  The little angel on the right shoulder knew this whole escapade was a bad idea, but then a promising advertisement appeared: 

A 1990 V12 coupe with issues but crucially holding nearly a year's MOT.  Unfortunately, it was on the other side of the country with just a day left of the sale and there was simply no time to go to see the car before the end of the auction.  Nevertheless I made a note to check the final selling price to give me a guide for the future.  The auction got the heady heights of £2000 but had not reached the reserve price and remained unsold.  I contacted the seller to ask if he was going to relist the car - he answered in the affirmative, also mentioning that he would be reducing the reserve.  True to his word, the car was relisted and I kept a watching eye on the auction, not ready to take the plunge (the angel was doing a good job).  A few days later my mobile phone pinged to remind me that the auction was ending...I just had to take a look. 

Mouldy and sagging head lining -Yuk!  Rusty Sill....Just the start!  Broken Wood Veneer on Centre Console

Again, the price had got to £2000 and stuck.  With just a few seconds left, it was now or never.  I took the plunge and placed a bid.  I was certain not to win the auction, but there was a certain frisson in taking part.  I still had not been to see the car, so I wasn't that serious- there would always be another one.  I resolved to get on with my day.

My 'phone pinged a few seconds later.  A message from Ebay:  Congratulations on winning the auction.  No! That wasn't meant to happen.  Oh well, it must be fate.  I convinced myself that it was worth a punt, and in any case, I was bound by the auction rules.  Things were about to get a little odd.  I contacted the seller who requested payment in cash. I arranged to pick up the car in a few days.  On the way, the seller contacted me to say he could no longer meet me,  but a friend of his would be there.  "There" was at a drinking den, next door to a strip club on the wrong side of town.  The car would be in a yard behind the building.  True to his word, the friend was there, the car was there, locked in a yard bounded by a high steel fence.

Rusty lower front grill  Rusty wire wheel with peeling chrome  The engine bay untouched for 10 years

So here I was buying a car I had not inspected, behind a strip club on an industrial estate with a wad of cash in my pocket.  Was I mad?    The car started, but boy, was it rough.  Running on about 7 cylinders, a blowing exhaust and a mouldy headlining that I had to keep up with my head.  VIN numbers checked, the paperwork looked fine, so I signed, handed over the cash and made my escape feeling that I might have bought a load of trouble.   The driver's window did not work, the door mirrors were frozen and it sounded like a bucket of bones.  Nevertheless, as it was running, I decided to head for home, 120 miles away. 

Would I make it?  More in Part 3.

All the best,
Curtis.

 

 

 

 

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What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 1

Tuesday, 13 November 2018  |  Admin



Part 1:  The First Stepping Stone.
 

It started with a conversation about rallying historic cars and ended with cash changing hands behind a strip club in the West Midlands.

For some months my good friend and navigator, Graham, and I had been trying to find an affordable but challenging form of historic car rallying.  In this search we came across a European car rally called Monte Carlo or Bust.  It looked like a lot of fun driving across Europe, raising money for your chosen charity, and ending in Monte Carlo where you had the option of seeing your car crushed!  The only entry criteria was that the car should cost less than £500 (and by the way, there is no technical backup on the trip for your banger).  With this in the back of my mind, I took to Ebay and lo and behold, an advertisement jumped out at me:  An early 2000s Jaguar saloon that had reached the dizzying heights of £200 with just a few hours left of the auction.  Not only that, but I recognised the house in the background of the photograph as just a few minutes walk away.  I had to take a look.

The car had corrosion worthy of an MOT failure, but under the grime I knew there was a great car, if only I could devote some time to it.  The main problem was a potentially life threatening problem with the accelerator:  Once pushed down, it was very reluctant to come back up...which caused consternation on the test drive.  Nevertheless, a deal was struck and I was the proud owner of a long wheelbase Jaguar XJ 4.0L V8 saloon.  Honestly, Darling, I hadn't meant to buy it....it just felt like the right thing to do.

I should mention that I am a life-long Jaguar fan and have owned a few models over the years.  In fact I learnt to drive on my father's Jaguar XJ6 Series 3.  Can you imagine the insurance cost for L-Plates on a Jaguar XJ these days?  My father had a fear of flying, so business trips and holidays to continental Europe were undertaken by car.  This meant his XJ6s were well exercised on Autoroutes, Autobahns and Autostradas right across Europe:  Travelling as far East as Austria and the Czech Republic, as far North as Sweden, West to Spain and South to Italy and all points in between instilled in me the virtues of travelling by Jaguar.  People are always pleased to see a Jag!

As you will know if you've spent any time around old cars, there are always a few surprises, but luckily nothing that could not be fixed relatively easily.  Once back from Vince the welder, (and now knowing the rear suspension was not going detach itself from the chassis), work on the interior and exterior started in earnest.  Bumper scuffs removed, chipped paintwork rectified, a small dent or two filled and the car began to look much better.  Small but vital bits of missing trim were tracked down and ordered, tyres replaced and nearly two decades of grime removed.  After three months work and now mechanically sound, the car looked as new inside and out.  It was a remarkable transformation from a neglected commuter car into a sparkling Jaguar limousine.

Jaguar X308 Ready for Sale

 

Feeling very proud of my handiwork, my navigator and I decided we needed a couple of shakedown events to test both us and the car.  A local navigational rally was despatched with ease and some longer trips (needing to ferry my eldest to view universities)  confirmed this was indeed a wonderful vehicle.  In fact, so good we decided to change plans and head for Le Mans in the Jaguar for the bi-annual Le Mans Classic, a celebration of historic racing cars.  The car fulfilled the Jaguar promise of grace, space and pace taking the Route Nationals across France in great comfort despite the heatwave.  Naturally, my hands were kept cool and dry in a pair of Tom Dick and Harry driving gloves.  My fearless navigator, Graham, expressed his delight that this was the most comfortable vehicle he had ever sat in,  (Mind you he is used sitting in noisy, bumpy rally cars).

From Ebay Wreck to Limo

 

    

 

Nevertheless, this lovely car did not fulfill the requirements for a historic rally car, so reluctantly it was put up for sale and was quickly snapped up by a Polish enthusiast who was more than delighted with his purchase.  With the money burning a hole in my (virtual) pocket, I set about identifying a suitable replacement.  Whilst my navigator friend is keen on 1980s hatchbacks, they are now surprisingly expensive, so I started looking at another 1980s icon, the Jaguar XJS....a road that led me to a strip club in the West Midlands. 

Read more in Part 2.

All the best,
Curtis.

 

 

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Why Choose Driving Gloves?

Friday, 10 February 2017  |  Admin

Men's Carpincho Leather Driving Gloves

 

 

 

Why Choose Driving Gloves?

 

Driving gloves are a great combination of form and function:  Not only do they look good in and out of the car, but they do provide functional improvement at the wheel.

The key advantage of using gloves for driving is comfort:  They keep your hands warm in Winter and keep your hands dry in the Summer.

That is the logical reason, but there are also the intangible advantages:  They give a greater feeling of control at the wheel, if you will, a more heroic feeling of man and machine in harmony against the elements.  They hark back to the earliest days of the motor car, when the driver was at the mercy of the weather (ask any Morgan or Caterham driver for a contemporary account).  A pair of driving gloves makes driving an event once more.  

The very act of slipping them on can be part of your mental preparation to for the road.  We asked a journalist at on-line motoring magazine MotoVerso to let us have his comments on two different pairs of gloves.  One pair made him feel as though he was driving a classic Ferrari through the Alps, and another pair evoked US muscle-cars...it's amazing what a pair of gloves can do!

As with anything slightly unfamiliar, more experience will help you find your favourite.  Deerskin or Cabretta leather, perforated palms or not, full gloves or delta cut-aways, full finger or fingerless.  There are quite a few permutations to bear in mind.

If you want them to match the upholstery in the car, that's fine too, and normally the best reason!  Our most popular driving gloves are a classic 1960s design with a delta cut out on the back of the hand, together with knuckle holes and perforations to aid breathability.  In our opinion driving gloves should be unlined on all but the very coldest days.

If you prefer a full glove, the Dents Officer's gloves is very popular with professional drivers as it doesn't look "Sporty" (which might convey the wrong impression in a funeral cortege).  A stylish alternative are the Dents Skyfall driving gloves:  Hand made in the UK, they were created for Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall, when driving the famous silver Aston Martin DB5.

Gloves should be snug to start with as they will naturally stretch across as they accommodate the shape of your hand.  Well made gloves will not stretch in length, so as long as the fingers fit well, do not be concerned if at first the gloves feel tight.  Take a look at our gloves sizing guide for more information.

For whatever reason you try a pair of driving gloves, we're sure they'll become a firm favourite. 

After all, they are why the glovebox in your car exists.

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Is it a Trilby or a Fedora?

Saturday, 4 February 2017  |  Admin

 

 

 

Is it a Trilby or a Fedora?

 

Some items in one’s ideal wardrobe are so ubiquitous that we don't consider their origins. Hats are one of those objects and in particular the Trilby and Fedora.

 

Generally made of wool felt or fur felt with the crown creased and pinched, with a narrow brim, the Trilby could be termed a subset of the broader brimmed Fedora.

 

Both were originally styles for women, but which came first…the Trilby or the Fedora?

 

The Trilby stems from a 1895 stage adaptation of George Du Maurier's novel of the same name.  The eponymous heroine wore wore a newly shaped hat with a narrow brim, promptly named the Trilby.

 

As men rejected the over-formal attire of the 19th century, and with it, the top hat, fashionable men sought a new type of headwear.  HRH Prince Edward, always a style setter, adopted the Fedora in the mid 1920s.  We like to think it was a political statement too: The Fedora was previously much favoured by women's rights activists.  Could HRH’s approval have been tacit support for the movement?

 

HRH Edward-1.jpg

 

The Fedora quickly gained the upper hand when it was subsequently adopted by Hollywood, in a strange twist of fate, as shorthand for virile manliness (think Humphrey Bogart).  The Fedora was worn de rigueur by every tough guy.  Only the feistiest female characters ever wore a Fedora on the silver screen.

 

As the 20th Century progressed, the Trilby once again surged ahead in the 1960s as fashions changed again (think Frank Sinatra).  The Fedora wasn’t finished and made a comeback in the 1980s with a certain Dr Indiana Jones.

 

In our opinion the Trilby spawned the Fedora, however, it is the vagaries of fashion that have changed their relative fortunes.  After a century, both are in good health, even though they are no longer mainstream attire.

 

The sartorial significance of a hat and gloves is sorely underestimated in 2010s.  The old advertising slogan (whose origin is claimed by many) “Get Ahead, Get a Hat” still has merit:  Wearing a hat gives you added confidence, swagger and style.  A good hat marks you out as a man or woman of independence and good taste.  

  
Fine Fur Felt Fedoras and Trilbys
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Best of Britannia - Review

Friday, 7 October 2016  |  Admin

Best of Britannia - 100% Futureproof

 

We were delighted to take part in the October 2016 London edition of Best of Britannia - a showcase for up and coming British brands.

Tom Dick and Harry were exhibiting as part of The Grey Fox', curated selection, commissioned by the show's organisers.  The Grey Fox is one of the UK's leading arbiters of men's style, and his blog is followed closely by the trade as well as consumers.  We were favoured with a premier position at the entrance of Victoria House in Holborn, central London, alongside some long established brands such as the cashmere knitters, Johnsons of Elgin, as well as newcomers The Northampton Sneaker Company and British Boxers.

 

The show demonstrated the amazingly diverse nature of British manufacturing:  Bicycle makers, Shoemakers, Jewellers, Skincare, Artists, Clothing designers and Distillers. to name just a few of the disciplines on view.  The opening day was a chance to meet the press, bloggers, TV crews and trade buyers.  The following two days were open to the public, with a chance to buy the products on display.

We were pleased to meet existing and potential customers at the fair, and for those unable to attend, we are pleased to have found a way of bring you some of the other products on offer through the Tom Dick and Harry website.  During October, November and December Tom Dick and Harry will be showcasing designs from half-a-dozen or so British designers and manufacturers:  Not only men's accessories, but great gifts for ladies too.

Make sure you have signed up to receive our emails (we send no more than one email per week, and often less than that!), so that you can explore these hand-picked products.

We are indebted to our friends at the English Mineral Makeup Company for the following  interview recorded at Best of Britannia.

 

 

The lovely Curtis from Tom Dick & Harry. @BestBritannia @BuyBritBrands @puriskin #BOBevent #BuyBritishDay #proud #luxury #mensaccessories #hats #gloves #belts #londonislovingit TomDickandHarry

Posted by The English Mineral Makeup Company on Sunday, 2 October 2016
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Page 1 of 2    (10 Posts)
Friday, 30 November 2018  |  Admin

What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 3

My Wife's Not Impressed - Part 3 - The Journey Home

Wednesday, 28 November 2018  |  Admin

What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 2

This is what they tell you NOT to do!   Part 2 - Temptation

Tuesday, 13 November 2018  |  Admin

What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 1

A cautionary tale of enthusiasm, rusty cars and hope. Part 1 - The Preamble.

Friday, 10 February 2017  |  Admin

Why Choose Driving Gloves?

Driving Gloves are a great combination of form and function...find out more here.

Saturday, 4 February 2017  |  Admin

Is it a Trilby or a Fedora?

Ever wondered which came first, the Trilby or the Fedora. Find out the origins of the modern hat here.

Friday, 7 October 2016  |  Admin

Best of Britannia - Review

Tom Dick and Harry featured in the curated section of the recent Best of Britannia show in central London.

Tom Dick and Harry were exhibiting as part of The Grey Fox', curated selection, commissioned by the show's organisers.  The Grey Fox is one of the UK's leading arbiters of men's style, and his blog is followed closely by the trade as well as consumers.  We were favoured with a premier position at the entrance of Victoria House in Holborn, central London, alongside some long established brands such as the cashmere knitters, Johnsons of Elgin, as well as newcomers The Northampton Sneaker Company and British Boxers.




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