Blog 24 November 2020

Off PisteOff_Piste.html

This Off Piste  blog is a nostalgic trip remembering a classic rally done in my  trusty XK150  twenty years ago.


All Change at the Learmonth Spread

It’s been a miserable year. And one of intended massive change that never happened. Our impending sale collapsed when it was discovered that the intended buyer was not what he claimed and indeed not even who he claimed to be. For various reason I’ll have to draw a veil over the affair but the upshot was that we didn’t sell and so we didn’t move.

Preparations went on however and having decided that I would be the only one who could pack up my workshop, I purchased nearly one hundred large plastic boxes with covers and made a start. Eight months later, sixty still sit at one end of the barn, packed and labelled while another twenty, filled with spare parts, have found their way back onto the workshop shelves.

For the time being we’re off the market but planning to resume the sale process in the spring. The car collection has been seriously reduced and my beloved Auburn and Lagonda have found new homes. Around October time, with all old car activity curtained, I felt pretty low. My birthday came and went and with little prospect at the end of the tunnel I decided to throw good sense to the wind and indulge my fancy. Money in the bank was doing me no favours so I decided to try my hand at acquiring either a XK 120 fixed head coupe (probably part of an old age crisis, I had a fixed head as my first Jaguar sport car when I was nineteen) or a Series 1 E Type.

I started looking around for an E Type, particularly a 4.2 roadster and was surprised by what I found. The market was awash with Es, I counted over 350 for sale on one site alone. Only six of them were 4.2 S1 roadsters. I went to see a local car that was frankly pretty awful and spoke with a dealer offering another two. Close questioning revealed that they both needed a substantial outlay in order to get them to a decent standard

I went to look at a ‘120 with a London dealer and found the XK, described as excellent, quite appalling. Another in Hampshire was very nice, apart from the rather odd colour. It had all the mod-cons like rack and pinion, a five-speed box, servo discs and a racing pedal box. The downside was that it was a leftie but as there were only around 192 right handers made, I suppose it was to be expected. Frankly, I was ready to do a deal but Kathleen and I were on our way down to Blandford Forum to look at another car for sale privately so we decided to hold fire on the Hampshire ‘120 until we’d seen the one in Somerset.

The Blandford XK was lovely, if an odd metallic green colour, but without the desirable modifications of the earlier ‘120. Quick calculations on the back of my hand suggested that I would come out financially better off by buying the Blandford car at a keen price and having the work done. So, I made an offer and did the deal. The car is now with Brian Stevens Classics having some of the modifications done. The dread Corvid has slowed progress but this isn’t the time of year to swan around in classics anyway, so getting my car back after Christmas, ready to get on with my part of the project suits me well enough.

So that should have been that, an XK 120 fixed head instead of a E Type – end of story – well, not quite. Left alone for a few hours while the family went off somewhere, I idled my time by trawling the Internet and accidentally came upon, what looked like a very nice S1 E. I called the dealer only to find that the car was less then ten miles from me. “What’s it like?” I asked him. “It’s a lovely motor”, he told me, “have a really good look, you won’t be able to fault it in anyway”. I did and I couldn’t. So I’m now the proud owner of a near perfect 4.2 S1 E roadster, acquired, I might say, for a very reasonable price.

Buying another two cars was never part of the plan but there you are, it has cheered me and, even if I say so myself, I have managed to find a couple of really terrific examples so my clutch of Jaguar sports cars grows, with examples from 1938 to ’74.

The latest XK poses with some of her new found stable mates

A good starting point for the ‘120 fixed head project

I don’t think the E Type will need much work apart from                          correcting spongy brakes