What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 1
Tuesday, 13 November 2018 | Admin
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.
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).
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.