As I write, it’s coming round to that time of year again when men of all ages, races, and knitwear preferences converge on Birmingham for the chrome-and-leather-fest known as the Classic Motor Show. About a year ago, in the run up to the 2015 event, I whipped the dust cover off my 4.0L Jaguar XJS Coupe and rubbed some Autoglym over its not-quite-flawless Flamenco Red bodywork, preparing to participate in the “Dream Rides” event held annually at the show.
The Jag had been under wraps in the Scottish Highlands for the best part of a year while I lived down in the West Midlands. Once it was polished up, looking like new, it just needed to sail through its MOT and the car and I would be on our way South to the NEC to raise money for the charities supported by the Sporting Bears Motor Club.
The MOT centre was as far as it reached. Brakes, suspension bits and door-locks had all warped, broke or otherwise stopped working during its motionless year in hibernation and the local garage was simply too overwhelmed with winter work to carry out the repairs.
Thus, while I made it to the show myself, the Sporting Bears’ extraordinary Dream Rides paddock was missing a Jag XJS Coupe. If it was going to make the 2016 show, drastic action would have to be taken.
The Classic Motor Show can easily take a day, maybe two, to fully appreciate everything that’s there. Owners’ clubs, manufacturers, auction houses, artists, sellers of every automotive accessory you can imagine, clothing, workshop demonstrations, a live stage with him-off-the-telly-and-that-other-guy, food halls, passenger rides and simulators all spread over five halls of the massive National Exhibition Centre.
Among the exhibitors, I came across a stand for “Jaguar Land-Rover Heritage”. I learned that this was a new division of JLR which had been set up to care for, and lovingly rejuvenate, older Jags and Landies to keep them on the road. These are the guys who built the “missing six” Lightweight E-Types and the newly revealed XKSS “continuation” model, proving that no request would be too difficult to handle.
This sounded like the place to send the XJS so in December I made contact with the company (now re-branded Jaguar Classic) to discuss booking the car in for repairs and some overdue TLC. Unlike your local garage, the booking-in process wasn’t a terribly quick affair. In fact, demand is so high for the team based at the Brown’s Lane site in Coventry, that it took half a year just to pin down a date for booking the car in. At the end of August I strapped the car onto a trailer and towed it down to the factory.
The XJS had arrived home. Built at Brown’s Lane from 1976-1996, the grand-tourer was the controversial replacement for the legendary E-Type and has since gone on to achieve classic status in its own right. I acquired my 1994 straight-six example, with just 53,000 miles on the clock, from a family in N. Ireland in 2013. Since then I’ve added around another 10k miles, including a Tour of Europe in which it performed (almost) without fault. It has been in and out of specialists a few times, trying to resolve a few minor issues, but despite spending an awful lot of money, the same issues seemed to still exist. Sending it back to the factory, I concluded, would be the best way to ensure all these little faults are finally corrected.
Arriving at the Classic Workshop within the huge industrial complex – on the site where William Lyons established the Jaguar brand – I was given an insight into the calibre of car these guys are used to dealing with. I expected to see an E-Type or two and wasn’t disappointed, but when you can’t move for customers’ XJ220’s, XK120’s and a Series 1 Land Rover that looked like it had just come out the wrapper, you know your car is in very good hands.
A month or two after delivering the car, I received the first set of quotes for the MOT work. Then came the bodywork quote. A few deep breaths and a call to the insurance company later, and the team were given the go ahead to begin work on the car. It won’t all be done in one go, but hopefully the car can be driven away under its own steam the next time I see it. Sadly, it won’t be ready for Dream Rides at the NEC this November, but I have plenty adventures planned for it in 2017.