By 26 February 2011 32 Comments Read More →

Daily Express

Steven Ward

Jaguar XJ8

Jaguar XJ8

I was going to title this blog Fat Cat but the car in question has got under my skin somewhat since then. I’ve had various liaisons with the XJ40 since around 1997. This was a car I always wanted to love, but always ended-up loving to hate it – please hum the Pet Shop Boys whilst reading this.

I’ve sold a fair few XJ40s, scrapped a few and ‘blocked (that is sent to auction) equally as many. I began to think it was my inherit socialism that stopped me from loving the Jag, but it wasn’t – I can sup champagne with the best of them. No, my problem with the XJ40 (forget your XJ81, X300, X308 code names, they’re just fancy facelifts) is that it’s just so amateurish as a car.

Take the packaging, my biggest beef. You sit very low in the XJ, which is not to my taste, and not to my comfort. To get under thigh support, I need the seat wound right-up. This makes the incredibly dated, upright and shallow windscreen too low.

While we’re here, just how close is that windscreen? It’s not often you come across a car which makes the Maestro look advanced, but this one does. A peculiarity of the XJ8 is the pedal layout, which makes the pedals fall right in the middle of my feet. Once this odd feeling was pointed out for me, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Moving to the rear of the car, we scramble into the back (there’s no dignified entry or exit here) to find there is no room under the front seats to put you feet.  Headroom is okay and the airy feeling is nice, a by product of terrific visibility. Indeed, the cabin does give a sense of well-being and luxury if not true comfort. However, and call me naive, but there is not a single cup-holder anywhere in the cabin. Actually, there is just no oddments space.

The handbooks fill the small glovebox. This is pretty unforgivable in a car which must double as an office for the busy executive. How did ministers cope? Don’t mention the stretch model as that offends my eyes. Forget your fat Cubans too, the ashtrays are an asthma sufferer’s delight.

Finally, the boot. Criminal, really just criminal. It starts with that awful drooping arse-end, said to be a styling accident from day one. The original XJ40 did, at least, have a deep boot with the upright spare. You could accommodate a reasonably sized body in there pre-rigor mortis.

However, for the X300 facelift, they lay the spare down and placed ill-fitting hardboard over it. The luggage capacity was therefore effectively reduced to the sizr of a suit carrier. The CD multi-changer doesn’t really have a home either. You have absolutely no idea where the boot stops and a bump with the car behind starts either. Parallel park at your peril. This car has inverse packaging.

Ford should have thrown their money at fixing the back of the car instead of fitting those twin round headlamps at the front for X300. Apparently, those round lamps ruined the already poor aerodynamics whilst removing the best bit of the XJ40 – those chunky square lamps. That grille is tacky personified too. The VDP 1500 did this so much better. Oh, and forget the idea that Jaguars are well equipped for the money – I’ve always found them mean in the extreme and I’ve owned a few rival Mercedes.

Driving impressions immediately centre on that pillow soft ride – it makes a lovely change to the under-sprung Germans. Sadly, this translates into a bit of float at speed whilst the decent wheel travel is used-up rather rapidly on the really nasty stuff.

Indeed, while ‘tonning’ the tank (it’s £100 a fill these days) the rear springs compressed the whole time I pumped the sans plomb. How odd!

The steering too hardly screams sports car. There’s precious little feel but, in fairness, I don’t think there’s a lot to tell as the car does grip well. Ideally, for such little feel, the steering isn’t quick and lacks precision – it has a fair old ‘sneeze factor’ built in. I must, at this point, draw attention to the adjustable wheel. One handle adjusts rake, another does reach, old-fashioned or what? On the reach, the wheel was so stiff I thought it was seized or that the handle served another function.  Imagine the name calling when a friend got it to move…

The noise in the cabin is reasonably well suppressed, but I’d love to hear the engine more. I feel this isn’t possible as the wind rustle and tyre roar are noticeable and, if the engine was allowed to intrude, the cabin would lose its hush. Disgracefully, this draught entering the cabin from around the door tops at speeds rapidly cools the cabin on a cold morning run. Body engineering just isn’t good enough whatever way you look at it, from solidarity, to weight, to corrosion. This is a ‘shell that will never make sense.

The car I’ve been using had covered just over 47k miles when I got to use it – it’s lead a sheltered live and I’ve known it for several years now. Nothing about the car screams top quality or neat design, no aspect of any XJ has ever done this to me. When working on them, you either conclude a component is old-fashioned, too complex, too cheap, too heavy or just crap.  Seriously, that’s why we’ve disposed of some XJs instead of retailing them.

Compare it to the ruthless well engineered competitors from BMW and Mercedes and you wonder how Jaguar remained even remotely competitive. I can only image the despair at Whitley the first time they got their hands on a Lexus. How did Jaguar survive in the United States?

Maybe if Jaguar hadn’t been so stubborn and embraced BL more and looked to the future rather than backwards to the original XJ6, things could have been a bit different, a bit better from what went before. However, as it stands the XJ to me is a bad bit of BL.

The irony cannot be lost that Jaguar had to resort to a designing a V8 of materials and size similar to the Rover V8 to be competitive into the 2000s. The Montego, designed at pretty much the same time, would wipe the floor with it packaging wise. The irony will not be lost on you either that Spen King’s aluminium construction ideas for the X350 also embraced a packaging solution which owed more to Longbridge than Lyons.

Why, then, am I blogging about such an awful car? A car which I feel is terribly dated all round, even in image. Well, it seems that the Jaguar is still more Daily Telegraph that Daley, Arthur (RIP RB). We had to get from Newcastle to Surrey to see Top Gear being filmed on a wet Wednesday.

We took the Jag. It whisked us there at an indicated 90 (true 87) and coped with awful roadworks. It will go faster than 90mph, but that’s its best cruising speed and that’s fine. It got respect on the road and, in some cases, enthusiasm.

I felt embarrassed, I felt like I’d borrowed my dad’s car and that he should have been a pub landlord. However, it seems that day has passed. A Jag is nearly trendy again. My girlfriend liked it, which doesn’t happen with the usual tat I bring home with enthusiasm. We got out, well, feeling fine(ish) despite over five hours of tough, grotty driving conditions from start to finish.

We stayed in rural Surrey that night and the Jaguar tamed the rough roads. Next day we drove into Chelsea and the Jag made even more sense. You are so, so relaxed despite the awful London traffic and enforcement cameras. People let you in and out. People forgive your navigational mistakes. Hmm… From the Kings Road we went to High Gate to pick-up a Jag owning friend.

My friend adjusted the seat better than me to stop my back ache. From there, we went to Wembley and then Musgrove Hill. The traffic was awful from the minute we entered London, stop, stop start throughout the day – in fact, the traffic congestion didn’t relent until we eased into Toddington Services.

Unconsciously, we were enjoying ourselves in the Jag cab. I eased out of Toddington at precisely 1800 hours and landed home for 2130 hours, despite the ongoing Average Speed ‘Scameras’ which prevent true high-speed intercity travel on our roads. The Jag had got under my skin, especially when the figures were read out.  655 miles, at an average of 44mph given and – I still cannot believe this – precisely 25mpg.

What price Class?

Posted in: AROnline Blogs, Jaguar
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

32 Comments on "Daily Express"

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  1. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    An interesting and revealing perspective. Just as with the Maestro, it took an AWFULLY long time to get the ’40 on the market – if the Maestro was ageing at launch, the Jag was comparatively ancient, as the designers were producing prototypes in the early 1970s, about 15 years previously.

    Reviews at time ignored all the old-fashioned stuff because it had one sensational quality: refinement – the same quality that helped you waft the length of the country. Hence, it was, and is, a matter of choice. How do you choose between the robust charms of BMW and Mercedes finest and the charisma of a Jaguar?

    Jaguar kept going under Leyland precisely because of that distinctiveness.

  2. David Edney says:

    I’m a former X300 owner and I’d agree. Objectively, it’s a bit below par in all the ways as described, but it really, really grows on you and gets under your skin. I’ve never driven anything which left me so relaxed at the other end and that made it easier to ignore the other idiots on the roads.

  3. Ianto says:

    I always thought that the square headlights were the best part of the XJ40 design.

  4. Simon Woodward says:

    I had a XJ40 with square lights and I thought it looked better than the twins. I loved the big bonnet on my Jag and all the leather but it has to be the ride and seats that make it stand out the most in my memory.

    I had a ‘G’ plate 3.6 and I found it pretty cheap to run. I was lucky as mine didn’t cost me a penny and I sold it a year later for a profit. I even anticipated the dodgy door handles and bought a spare set from an autojumble but never used them! Mine also had the original built in telephone into the arm rest!

    I still have a little burning desire to own a V12 XJ40 but really good ones sell for huge amounts of money.

    My mate has a XJ6 ‘X300’ which he bought for £1k about 2 years ago and which has been 100% reliable as well. It must be that we both bought cars where the previous owner has paid for all the heartache rather than us.

    Like Alfas, every self-confessed ‘Petrolhead’ needs to have owned, loved and loathed a Jag at least once, if not twice, in their motoring back catalogue.

  5. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Having sacrificed the C6 on the altar of common sense and got an eco-miser C3 instead, thoughts of my “missing luxury car” do keep turning to the XJ8s – around a grand for a banger and double seems to get nicer machinery.

    The only problem is that my miserly C3 also cruises fantastically well at 90mph (3000rpm), has a funky huge windscreen that makes it feel a bit futuristic and very airy inside (almost as good as a Sera) and is comfortable. It also returns 58mpg+ despite the motorway madness.

    I therefore end up questioning why I’d want the XJ8, other than having driven loads of Jaguars but never owned one. I think the solution is that I’m going to skip the J and have an XK8 in summer – and, if I hate it, go running back to the R129 32v 500SLs that I know I love.

  6. Simon Woodward says:

    @Richard Kilpatrick
    Have you seen how cheap X-TYPEs are? A couple of grand will get you a nice one, all wheel drive, 2.5 V6, lots of leather and reliable Ford bits underneath! A bargain!

  7. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    I know, but it’s an X-TYPE! Mind you, an X-TYPE AWD Estate would be a very practical thing indeed…

    The closest I’ve come to Jags in the past:

    2.9 LWB with CLOTH?! A manual XJ40, used to belong to Lord Steele, in a hateful blue. Couldn’t stand it to drive and bought an XM instead.

    XJ-S V12. Rough. Common sense kicked in.

    XJ6 SIII. Looked promising until I found it had a hole in the sill I could fit my entire forearm into.

    Random XJ40 – just too rotten to take on. It was red, that’s all I remember.

    The only Jaguars I really, genuinely like are the XK120, the E-Type (both out of my price range a touch!), the SS100 (ahem), XJ-C and XJ-S Cabriolet (I forget which is the one with the proper roof, but that one, not the earlier dog’s dinner approach). I want to like the X300, I like the new XJ and XF (which I should have had instead of a C6) and I reckon I’d like an XK8. Maybe.

    I have, at least, owned an Alfa.

  8. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    It’s funny how big, flawed hunks of scrot can get under your skin. For all Jaguar’s faults, especially of old – including paint quality that even a pre=1980 Lada can beat – and an overall build quality and robustness of a cassette box, the XJs are a snug, cozy car which, nevertheless, rewards you with ability to soak up the miles in a way few other cars can.

    With Jaguar, it’s not about the arrival or the departure – like Concorde, it’s a British institution which puts you in a different world of time and distance awareness – it’s all about the journey and experience. Even when you hurry and rush, everything passes by in slow motion with no extra effort required. Indeed, regardless of age, providing the condition is passable, even a 25 year old XJ will still make you look twice and turn heads.

  9. Simon Woodward says:

    @Mike Humble
    That’s true, I forgot about that bit in the last paragraph – it’s a car you don’t need to speed in, it’s just a nice place to be, piloting an old Jag! That’s until Mr. Lucas rears his ugly head.

  10. Ken Strachan says:

    I am fascinated by your socio-economic insight, particularly the remark that XJ’s were used by “busty executives”. What did lady directors with small boobs drive??

  11. @Ken Strachan
    You must have spotted that typographical error before the article was sub-edited by me!

  12. Two R8s says:

    I have a 2005 XJ and it’s lovely. I’m just back from a family holiday to Arran and it’s the perfect car for such a trip.

  13. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Isn’t the 2005 model a rather different beast to the optimistically restyled X300s?

  14. Simon Woodward says:

    @Two R8s
    I just miss read that – I thought you meant Iran! Is there a pill I could take for Dyslexia?

  15. Ross A says:

    I’ve still got my X300. The door mirrors still work :).

  16. Andrew Elphick says:

    Richard Kilpatrick :
    I know, but it’s an X-TYPE! Mind you, an X-TYPE AWD Estate would be a very practical thing indeed…

    The closest I’ve come to Jags in the past:

    2.9 LWB with CLOTH?! A manual XJ40, used to belong to Lord Steele, in a hateful blue. Couldn’t stand it to drive and bought an XM instead.
    XJ-S V12. Rough. Common sense kicked in.
    XJ6 SIII. Looked promising until I found it had a hole in the sill I could fit my entire forearm into.
    Random XJ40 – just too rotten to take on. It was red, that’s all I remember.

    The only Jaguars I really, genuinely like are the XK120, the E-Type (both out of my price range a touch!), the SS100 (ahem), XJ-C and XJ-S Cabriolet (I forget which is the one with the proper roof, but that one, not the earlier dog’s dinner approach). I want to like the X300, I like the new XJ and XF (which I should have had instead of a C6) and I reckon I’d like an XK8. Maybe.

    I have, at least, owned an Alfa.

    Richard, who cares about that Northern lout’s ‘Jagwahr’ blog; where is the Richard Kilpatrick C6 tale of woe blog????

  17. Lord Sward says:

    @Andrew Elphick
    ‘Northern lout’? How dare you?

  18. Will says:

    I’ve always fancied a Jag.

    A “wheeler dealer” down the road has a horrible little 316i Compact and an elegant X-TYPE, both with a windscreen price of around £3.5k and yet it is the Bavarian that seems to have people stopping and having a look in the windows.

    I mentioned to the prettier half that I wouldn’t mind the Jag myself, and she said “Is it not an old man’s car?”. The X-TYPE seems to have that perception. Mind you, she also said that about an XM I was looking at, so maybe it’s just big(ish) lazy cars that are perceived as “old”.

    I’m in my late 20s and drive a 406 but don’t want Germanic “stiff suspension = sporty”, especially on the horrible potholed, speedcamera’d roads on which such that “sporty” driving is discouraged. (I did my time a couple years ago with an Alfa GTV 🙂 )

    The X300 still looks fairly fresh, as old Jags (and Saabs too) don’t seem to age. Maybe this is because the design (until recently) was evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

    Enjoy it while you can. The way oil is going it will be impossible for non-millionaires to run a V8 soon enough.

  19. RoastBeef says:

    I have previously owned several XJ40s, XJ6 S2/3s and now own two X300s and so read the author’s musings with interest. I must admit, from early on, I started to feel that he was a fool and a philistine, but, the more I read, I actually started to look at my previous/current cars differently.

    The article really made me think and ponder on my love for 1980s and 1990s Jaguars. I had not noticed some of the faults you mention but, on reflection, you have a point. By the time I read the last paragraph, where you seam upbeat about the Jag, I had wondered why I was such a fan – it was, indeed, thought provoking.

    However, in the end, any XJ, be it a S2/3, XJ40 or X300, IS A WONDERFUL CAR. That’s partly because they are so cheap for what they are, partly because the JEC is a wonderful club, partly because they, as you finally alluded too, inspire such respect from fellow road users and partly because they are beautiful and remind us all, in some small way, of a happier time.

    Your really great article at first got my hackles up but, as I read, I learnt to take off the ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ and see your point of view. I still love my Jags though and I think you do also. That is what Jags do to us all :-).

  20. RoastBeef says:

    Will :
    I’ve always fancied a Jag.

    A “wheeler dealer” down the road has a horrible little 316i Compact and an elegant X-TYPE, both with a windscreen price of around £3.5k and yet it is the Bavarian that seems to have people stopping and having a look in the windows.

    I mentioned to the prettier half that I wouldn’t mind the Jag myself, and she said “Is it not an old man’s car?”. The X-TYPE seems to have that perception. Mind you, she also said that about an XM I was looking at, so maybe it’s just big(ish) lazy cars that are perceived as “old”.

    I’m in my late 20s and drive a 406 but don’t want Germanic “stiff suspension = sporty”, especially on the horrible potholed, speedcamera’d roads on which such that “sporty” driving is discouraged. (I did my time a couple years ago with an Alfa GTV)

    The X300 still looks fairly fresh, as old Jags (and Saabs too) don’t seem to age. Maybe this is because the design (until recently) was evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

    Enjoy it while you can. The way oil is going it will be impossible for non-millionaires to run a V8 soon enough.

    There is nothing ‘horrible’ about a BMW Compact – it is actually a very good car and you sound rather foolish and ill-informed making such comments. However, leaving that aside, you are also ill-informed about the Jaguar X300. It was only available as a straight 6, NOT a V8. The later model X308 had a V8 engine and it was quite problematic, until around 2003/4, when Jaguar finally sorted the issues out. This is the reason why many Jaguar lovers go for the much more reliable X300 over the newer, V8-engined X308.

  21. RoastBeef says:

    Mike Humble :
    It’s funny how big, flawed hunks of scrot can get under your skin. For all Jaguar’s faults, especially of old – including paint quality that even a pre=1980 Lada can beat – and an overall build quality and robustness of a cassette box, the XJs are a snug, cozy car which, nevertheless, rewards you with ability to soak up the miles in a way few other cars can…
    A 25 year old XJ will still make you look twice and turn heads.

    There is a lot of truth in what you say. I think that, once you have owned a few XJs and lived with them over a period of time, they prove to have an allure which other cars don’t have.

    I have owned S-Class Mercs, BMW 7s and all sorts, but a Jaguar makes you feel like you are part of something rather exclusive. It’s re-assuring when on the way to an important meeting, it’s calming when you feel stress and it makes you feel like you have a great car for very little money.

    Neighbours or colleagues, in their new and expensive cars bought probably on finance, still look and admire any Jaguar – often, I suspect, secretly wishing that they could break away from the rather sad “keeping up with the Joneses and buying a new car” and enjoy an old Jaguar with real class and style. I’ve never found them to be unreliable and they are unique – nothing else has the same image as a Jag. They are loved by nearly all deep down – it’s a ‘heart’ thing.

  22. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Clive Goldthorp
    Something is going on here…

  23. @Paul T
    I believe that Richard Moss has now dealt with a similar point elsewhere…

  24. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Clive Goldthorp
    I’ll take your word for it. I’ve stopped reading the blogs now as it seems there are some who just want to stir things up. They go on about ‘honesty’ but that’s just a by-word for rudeness.

    It’s a shame but I’m sure it will pick up interest again.

  25. @Paul T
    Well, as one who subscribes to Sir Jackie Stewart’s definition of intelligence as being “the ability to learn by experience”, I have learned that “diplomacy is the art of letting other people have your way.” Incidentally, that’s from the back of an “England’s Glory” matchbox!

  26. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Clive Goldthorp
    Nice, I will need to remember that one! I obviously need some practice..! Unfortunately we got “Scottish Bluebell” matches from Bryant & May up here, so that is a new one to me.

    I remember a similar comment by someone years ago when talking about the Scotland football team. They said “you always learn from your mistakes – if that’s the case we must be the most knowledgeable team in the world.”

  27. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Andrew Elphick :
    Richard, who cares about that Northern lout’s ‘Jagwahr’ blog; where is the Richard Kilpatrick C6 tale of woe blog????

    I’m probably more Northern 😀

    I could write about the C6, but who would actually care? I think it’s sufficient to say “in six years they’ve still to crack the 1000 sales, the earliest ones are causing woe for the owners and I stand by my assertion that it’s not a 21st Century CX, but the contemporary equivalent of a Talbot Tagora.”

    I remain so optimistic about cars that I am still turning over the idea of an Avantime in my head. There are so many conflicting desires: never had a Jag, love big, airy cars. I miss my L400 Delica – I hate FWD normally but it’s such a mad vehicle… I do miss CX/XM ride quality so many I should have another one of those…

    However, then I remember that Bentley Eights are under £10K so why waste time – just go for the maddest one of all!

  28. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    @Richard Kilpatrick
    I’m with Andrew.

    Would love a nice, long, blog on the highs and lows of Citroen C6 ownership.

    /K

  29. Simon Woodward says:

    @Will
    I get that about old Jaguars and Saabs – I hate articles like this because the first thing I do is go on AutoTrader or eBay but this time I resisted temptation, a marriage break up and the risk of starting the next banking crisis.

    All was going well until I needed fuel for my van last night and stopped at the local petrol station. It’s the old-fashioned type where you can get fuel and pay for it in less than 5 minutes rather than wait in a queue waiting for some one to finish their weekly shop!!! Anyway, there is a workshop on the site and the owner always has something old and interesting for sale and, guess what? This time it was a very clean XJ6 on an N plate for just over a grand. Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn!! I have never smoked, so I don’t know what it’s like to kick the habit but I know what a craving must feel like as I now have a craving to own a big old Jag again!

    Oh, and as for Saab, I’ve had a few in the past. The old 9-3s (GM 900 type) have aged really well and are so cheap. I know there are a few glitches with them but I think these are really smart cars and a lot more interesting than some of the more common best sellers of that period.

    Back to that X300 XJ, I like it – always have, always will – but I will resist!

  30. Dr Bobby Love says:

    Did you mean, please hum Erasure?

  31. Will says:

    @Simon Woodward
    GM Saab 900/9-3s have aged well and are remarkably practical with their hatchbacks.

    I ended up looking at a C5 with more warning lights than the Star Ship Enterprise and was also looking at a 900 Convertible he had parked up beside it.
    That’s one of the few Cabrios men can drive without being accused of being hairdressers :).

    @RoastBeef
    This was a horrible car “in my opinion” – it was a 316i base model with the truncated boot “Compact” look and those ugly GTV-gone-wrong headlights.

    However, it got all the attention while the elegant Jaguar X-TYPE beside it just got overlooked by the prospective customers parked up in the knackered Peugeots and Vauxhall Corsas which they were hoping to trade in for the Beemer.

    Oh, and you got me on the X300 re: no V8 so touche! 🙂

  32. RoastBeef says:

    @Will
    I am sad that you have such a low opinion of the BMW Compact. I’ve owned one and other BMWs of the same era – they are great cars as long as you maintain the cooling system very well (upgrade water pump and, at least, annual coolant changes). Every car has its achilles heal doesn’t it?

    However, I believe that the benefits of fine handling and good build quality outweigh any easily fixed cooling issues. They drive well and can be a lovely car to own – perhaps the image is not to be desired, but I care little about that, I just like good cars.

    I have also owned a few Saabs (even though I admit to being quite predudiced against FWD on cars that are bigger than a Focus). I think that the GM 900 is really underrated. They can be bought on eBay for under £500 and they really are good cars which rarely rust, handle okay and offer a lot for the money. They also have a good image re insurance and are cheap to run – a very sound buy really, like the first generation Saab 9-5, if it is serviced correctly.

    Anyway, as for the Jaguar X300, I have no idea why they are so cheap at the moment. They are superb cars but, perhaps. they do not have quite the feeling of a ‘true Jaguar’ like the S3 or even the XJ40, but they are a wonderful car to own and one which is such an intelligent buy. Okay petrol is very, very expensive in the UK, due to the obscene tax, but still, when great examples are only £2000, why buy any other car?!

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