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A schooling in Jaguar: a lifetime fan speaks

Thu, 08 Jul 2010 00:00:00 -0700

My Jaguar story starts in 1978. I started at secondary school which entailed a train journey each morning and then a five-minute walk. Almost every day on that walk I was passed by a beautiful Squadron Blue 4.2 XJ6 with a black vinyl roof, chrome plated wheels and a private registration number. It turned out that this stunning car belonged to the dad of a fellow student in my year and I sought him out. Thirty-two years later we’re still good mates.

Back to 1978. My Dad had been through a succession of second-hand British cars in the 60s and early 70s: a Ford Anglia, Vauxhall Victor FB and FC and a Hillman Minx. Then in 1975 he bought his first brand new car – a Datsun Bluebird 160B saloon. A couple of years later, and coincidentally about the same time I spotted that XJ6 on the way to secondary school, the local Datsun dealer took a 1968 Jaguar 420G saloon in part exchange. It went on the forecourt at £850. White with a red leather interior it looked fabulous. Dad umm-ed and ahh-ed about it for a while (and I did my best to try and persuade him that it was a good buy) but a car-dealer neighbour took a look and pronounced that it was several different shades of Old English White. That was the end of that.

Brown Daimler ahoy!

Fast forward a few years. Dad had been through another Datsun Bluebird, a Fiat 132 (the less said, the better) and a Mazda 626 but then all my prayers were answered when he bought a lovely 1978 4.2-litre Daimler Sovereign. It was beautiful in Carriage Brown with a biscuit leather interior (but had a rather unfortunate registration number for a brown car starting ‘SHT…’)

At the same time my older brother was bitten by the Jag bug too and swapped his Datsun 280C for a British Racing Green 3.4-litre Daimler Sovereign. It had a slightly dodgy green leather interior, poverty-spec wind-up windows and plenty of filler in the rear wheel arches but on the plus side the Webasto fabric sunroof was brilliant, the car looked amazing and drove brilliantly.

My turn to get the Jag bug

So, eventually it was my turn. My first car was a 1958 Wolseley 15/50 inherited from my brother which I learned to drive in and used to pass my test. When I was 18 I moved on to a brand new Fiat Panda (why??) but sold it quickly and bought a 1972 MG Midget which was a hoot. By then I was earning enough to think of buying something bigger and I looked at a wonderful Jaguar XJ12 Series III saloon. British Racing Green with all the options and looked after by Creamer of Kensington I was smitten. Sadly as a 20-year-old the £1500 insurance outweighed the £4000 purchase price.

Eventually I bought a Series III 4.2 litre Jaguar XJ6. It was great and as I was able to keep my MG too I had what I thought was the perfect stable of British cars. All was good until I left home, moved out of London and found that the Jaguar’s fuel bills were more than I could afford. In a brief moment of what I thought was sensibility I traded the Jaguar in against a Citroen BX GTi. It was at a local dealer and I knew as soon as I saw my beloved Jaguar for sale in the showroom once I’d traded it in (for somewhat more than I got for it) I’d made a huge mistake.

Fast forward again and after a while with a company car (a MkIII Golf GTi) I took up a new job which meant commuting by train. I took this opportunity to buy what turned out to be the best car I have ever owned, a 1989 Daimler Double Six Series III in Gunmetal Grey with grey leather interior and Kent alloy wheels. It was superb and despite the fact that the train was by far the most sensible way to commute from Tonbridge in Kent to Brentford in Middlesex, I ended up driving the two-hour each way journey each day just to savour the experience of that fabulous 5.3-litre V12 engine. Not being a football fan I was able to complete my journey home on the traffic-free roads from work during one of England’s games in Euro ’96 at indecent (and admittedly excessive but hugely satisfying) speeds and the car performed impeccably.

Eventually the Daimler had to go and I endured another period of sensibleness with a VW Passat. A Rover 75 company car followed with a change of job and then an Audi A6. All worthy and capable cars but none of them were a patch on the character of a Jaguar.

Owning an X-type

In 2009 I was made redundant and was able to keep my company car – an Audi A4 Avant – as compensation. It was soon exchanged for a 2004 Jaguar 2.5 litre X-type Spirit plus £3000 in cash which has helped me to start my own business.

Okay, the X-type isn’t in the same league as my Daimler Double-Six but it is a Jaguar and imparts that special Jaguar feeling when you drive it. The Audis were good cars (although their reputation for build-quality is not borne out by my experience) and the Rover had the wood and leather but there really is nothing quite like a Jaguar.

My current neighbour was one of the first to take delivery of an XF and I had a good look at the new XJ at a preview day at Brands Hatch prior to its launch. Both are worthy successors to the tradition of style, innovation, value and sheer Jaguarishness of their illustrious predecessors.

I wish Jaguar every success.

 

 


By Peter Wass