Puts on smoking jacket, and gets into fireside chat mode…..
I’ve hinted at this in recent posts, but I thought I’d write it down here for the record:
There was a time when I very nearly bought a Jaguar.
I was a very traditional kid from a very traditional family. My Dad was, as we Australians like to say, very English. He adored the royals. He used to paint the house with marching band music playing in the background. He loved English comedies on the telly and I’m pretty sure that whenever they were here, he was more fixated on the English cricket team than the Aussies. I’m sure I remember him telling me that he once had a Sunbeam convertible. Or maybe it was that he always wanted one?
Anyway, he was very English. Very traditional. And he tried to pass that appreciation for all things English along to me.
When I was around 13 years of age, Dad bought me a book about Jaguar cars. The XJ6 Series III was only a few years old at the time and I fell in love with it’s long lines, the pepperpot wheels and the intoxicating blend of leather and wood that seemed to leap off the page and fill your nostrils. Never underestimate the allure of dual fuel tank fillers to a 13 year old. If it needed two of those, it must have been special!
Even the factory sounded special. The cars seemed to be built exclusively by a bunch of wise, caring, grey-haired men in nicely pressed coats at a factory on a wonderful sounding street called Browns Lane. Brown was the color of leather, and chocolate, and recently installed shagpile carpet from the 1970s, so that had to be good, too.
I had my head in that book for hours at a time. I loved it. It wasn’t much more than a brochure, really. It had around 60 pages, but it wasn’t an historical document, that’s for sure. This was all about the Jaguars of today and I got know more about the XJ6 and other early 80s Jags than any 13 year old had a right to.
I used to sit in school and sketch the front end of the XJ in my notebook. Those who’ve seen me draw know that I tend to stuff up stick figures, but I could draw an XJ6, like the one to the right, in vivid detail (well, that’s my memory of it, at least).
Fast forward to late 1994 and the tragic passing of my aged grandmother. She had left her six grandchildren a modest endowment each and of course, I proceeded to do something I’ve been given to doing nearly every time I’ve got some spare cash – before and since – I went car shopping!
The one that caught my eye took me back to my Jaguar book and the memory of my father, who had passed away 9 years before. From memory, it was a 1978 Series II XJ6, finished in very patchy dark blue paint with equally patchy biscuit leather on the inside.
I was 24. I had very few job prospects and would have needed to borrow around $3,000 to complete the transaction. Doesn’t sound too tempting or too smart, does it?
The tempting part – and I should add, the very non-English part – was that this particular Jaguar XJ6 had recently undergone a transplant that was quite common back in the 1990s. It had a 350 cubic inch Chevy engine installed where the old Jaguar 4.2 straight six used to be. If you were a young 24 year old Aussie back in the 1990s, that was tempting. At least it was to me.
I took the car for a test drive, and loved it. It had power, noise, comfort and the promise of class (if I could just get it re-painted at low cost). It was theatre on wheels.
As you can probably guess, I didn’t end up buying the car. The need to get some direction in my life eventually won the day and I used the money left to me by my Nan to move to Tasmania and support myself through my first year of university. I’ve been here ever since and the degree I earned through the latter half of the 1990s has me in a position to shop for one of those modified Jags again one day.
Of course, my motoring interests shifted east from Britain, too. I got more interested in Saabs and that interest led to a whole new world of possibilities, one that I could never have imagined back when I was 24. My move to Tasmania led me to meeting my wife, too, which was the best thing of all.
As an aside, a quick look tells me there are currently two XJ6′s with V8 conversions for sale at the moment. I’d still like to get one of those, one day. Unfortunately, neither of them are dark blue. They’re not tasteful or pure, either, but I can live with that
One of the interesting side trips I’ve done, thanks to my association with Saab and the friendship of a wonderful bloke (and Jaguar driver) in England, is a visit to Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich factory in Birmingham and a trip to their heritage museum, which was still located in Coventry at the time.
As a side trip to our museum visit, we went and took a look at the site of the old factory in Browns Lane – the one I’d had such wonderful visions of as a teenager. Let’s just say that Browns Lane itself isn’t quite what I’d imagined it to be and the old factory had been flattened. It’s probably full of new housing by now. See the pic below (with Dave’s Jaguar XF-R included).