In My Father’s Words
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
Jaguar: A Love Requited
Maybe I was a slow developer, but I was not aware of Jaguars until the middle 1950’s, when I was at school. In those heady days, C and D Types were regularly winning Le Mans, and my interest, and pride stemmed not from the fact that they were Jaguars, but that Jaguar was British. In truth, I was unable to reconcile the racing Jags with the fairly big beasts seen occasionally on the roads. I cannot ever remember seeing an XK in those days. This all changed in 1961 when I saw the E Type, and fell in love, madly, truly, deeply. It has been a love affair that has lasted forty-three years now. I was not made an honest man until 1997.
From the depths of my folk memory, I first saw the E Type at the Motor Show at Earls Court, and it seemed to be priced just under £2000. A nearby Mercedes-Benz SL something or other was about two and a half times as much. At the time, the E struck me as just the most beautiful car I had ever seen, and my opinion has not changed in all the succeeding years. It was love at first sight, but from afar as far as I was concerned, as I had no ability to buy a used Ford Anglia, let alone this fabulous creature.
My next close encounter, sometimes not very close, with Jaguars was when I was a Police Officer in the Met, and our big, black Wolseleys, 6/99’s and 6/110’s were routinely left trailing in the wake of the Mark II’s driven by a variety of villains and ne’erdowell’s. On one occasion, three young men killed themselves when they lost control of a 3.8 we were chasing. A high price to pay for ‘taking and driving away’,
Like many young people, especially in the early ‘60’s, making a living was more about clothing and feeding the children, and paying the rent, than owing any type of car, let alone a Jaguar. My first car was a 1938 Wolseley 14, a splendid chariot, for which I paid £20. On its inevitable death, it was replaced by a 1953 4/50. I was much taken with the Flying W in those days, though this example would not have delighted the great Herbert Austin, who had designed for Wolseleys at one stage.
As a family, we lived in Australia for twelve years, and began to move up the vehicular ladder, starting with a Zephyr Mark III, a truly awful car. This was followed by a succession of Peugeots, starting with the delightfully eccentric 203. Big sister, the wonderfully robust 403 was around for a couple of years. Great car! Then came the quatre cent quatre, an elegant and very reliable car. My son would not necessarily have agreed, as I slammed the 404’s door on his eight-year-old fingers. C’est la vie, as the Australians say.
As I was working for General Motors Holden at the time, my management took a dim view of one of their managers, albeit a lowly one, driving the competition, even though the 404 was not Ford, and I was added to the car plan. For half a dozen happy years I drove a succession of mostly very good company cars, especially the little sports coupés called Toranas in Oz. Jaguars had not left my mind, but like Bridget Bardot and Audrey Hepburn then, and Claudia Schiffer and Gwyneth Paltrow now, they were desirable but distant and unattainable dreams.
We all returned to UK in 1977 and I was employed by an oil company, an excellent employer, who insisted on my joining their car plan. I allowed my arm to be twisted and embarked on twenty years behind the wheel of someone else’s vehicle. Two Capri’s 1.6 opened the batting, both very good, to be followed by two big Rovers, 2300’s, one excellent, the other less so. The next two were also BL or whatever they called themselves at the time, MG Montegos, an under rated car, in my view. I lost my patriotism for three years with a BMW 320i, a splendid car, before returning to Rover with a 220GTI, a great little beast.
In 1997, the Company changed the plan and decided to pay an allowance, in lieu of a car, and left it up to the individual to buy what he or she liked, if at all. Ken Clarke/Gordon Brown still took his whack, but I was free to buy my own car. At that time fate intervened. As the 220 and I were driving past the TVR dealership in Chessington, in Surrey, I saw a red Jaguar on the forecourt. I knew that any car I bought, Jag or no, had to be my seven days a week transport. I could not afford the luxury of a vehicle for high days and holidays, while I went to Tesco’s in the Metro.
The red one was a G registered XJS 3.6. I had long known in my heart that the beloved fantasy of my dreams, the E Type Roadster, was not practical. Sorry, Claudia, adieu Gwyneth, but stopping in a straight line is important. I had a trial drive in the XJS and before I had gone five miles, I knew. I wanted this car. I was reminded of the story of Frank Sinatra seeing the E Type in a showroom in New York. “I want that car,” says Francis Albert. “I’ll order one for you, Mr Sinatra,” replies the happy salesman. “You’re not listening,” growls Frankie, “I want that car, and I want it now.” He got it.
On reflection, Frank also sang much better than I could.
I had been warned about Jaguars by all my ‘friends’ who drove Sierras and Mondeos, about needing a fuel tanker to follow me, about needing a spare Jag when the first one was in the workshop. Yes, I was worried, and it would be idle to pretend that owning a Jaguar, especially an older one, is a cheap option. But if price were to be the only criterion, then we’d be on bicycles, or worse, driving the hideous Smart car. (Just my opinion, guys, if you’re into Smart cars.)
My 3.6 had about 75,000 miles on board when I bought it, and I brought it to just over 100,000 in eighteen months. There were no real problems, apart from the A/C, seemingly the Achilles heel for the model. Do I hear groaning? I also found that Jaguar main dealers were less than interested in me, or my ageing XJS. I began to get it serviced at Arun, then in Billingshurst, now in Pulborough in West Sussex, and before long, the smooth talking Dominic had sold me a K registered four litre, post face lift XJS coupé in black. This, too, was splendid, although I felt that the 4.0 litre engine delivered less oomph than the 3.6.
This magnificent creature did some 28,000 miles in eighteen months, and it was then back to Mr de Grouchy again for the present love of my life, an M registered four-litre convertible, in kingfisher. I have now owned this car, back with a favoured K plate, for nearly four years, and completed nearly 60,000 miles since I bought it. .
My Jaguar provides me with my daily transport, to France, Germany and Poland, as well as Tesco’s. I have long dispensed with the fuel tanker following me, and 26-27 mpg on the motorway or AutoRoute is satisfactory. There have been costs for repairs and replacements, though these costs are manageable. Not one of my three XJS’s has ever let me down, touch wood, mahogany veneer, of course, and their style, performance and handling have repaid me many times. In particular, in la belle France, where they make a very decent car themselves, it is magic to see les Français gather round to check out la Jag waur.
It has been a long love affair, from 1961 at Earls Court, to today, and it took me a long time to get my love to the altar, as it were. But we’re together now, and, insh’Allah, that’s how it will be till death us do part.
Written by my Father B.M
Ironically, my Dad has this exact model scaled down of course to collector’s size in his house and whatever you read about him loving women – nope na uh! Don’t believe a word, here is his absolute love!
Strangely enough, l too have one in a drawer here that belonged to Suze’s Father, another enthusiast.