Staples2Naples, 2006

2: Preparations

25 March

Ahhh that’s more like it. 221bhp and rear wheel drive will prove very handy indeed for those tricky Alpine passes. (Picture: Phil Weeden)

WE don’t yet know in what form our challenges are going to be this year, but knowing the Staples2Naples organisers, there will many and varied tasks to keep us on our toes during the long days of driving.

Last year, we ended up playing car snooker on the first day, picture matching on the second, photographing ourselves next to pump one of too many petrol stations on the third, and orienteering in Lazio on the fourth… This year will probably be more of the same, but probably without the Super Soakers. If you don’t know what I mean by that, take a peek at, day three of last year…

Finding the car was pretty easy this year. after the pain and aggravation of Allegro travel last year, I’d decided we would be going in style this year – and that narrowed our options down to either a Rover Sterling or Jaguar XJ40. When I mentioned my thoughts to my boss at Kelsey Publishing, he immediately favoured the Jag option – simply because we have a Jaguar publication in our portfolio of motoring titles, and the XJ40 is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, so writing about it in Classic Car Weekly, is no problem at all…

With the boss on board, I put the word out I was looking for an XJ40 for the Staples2Naples – and within a few weeks he gave me a call to tell me that one of our advertisers, Jag Breakers, had a suitable car to sell us for £100, and when could I go and pick it up?

Welcome to the new office…

When it was first mentioned to me, I was skeptical – I mean, is it a good idea to buy a car off a vehicle breaker, and expect to go very far in it? I asked what the car was – and the answer came back: a G-registered 3.6-litre manual. All of a sudden, things became more interesting. Up to this point, I’d never driven a manual XJ40, and being an early car meant I’d get the lovely (if troublesome) electronic dashboard.

I still knew little about the car, and as my boss, Phil Weeden, and I travelled up to Manchester, I wondered what I was letting myself in for…

As it happened, we were both most pleasantly surprised – the car is in a colour I’ve never seen before on a ’40, and a quick look round revealed no horrors. The exterior was tidy, the tyres (on late-spec wheels) were pretty meaty and the interior didn’t smell too bad at all. The handover was quick and painless (I’ve never seen so many Jags in one place as in Jag Breakers), and as I drove out of the yard, I felt like I couldn’t believe my luck.

Driving to the Post Office to pick up a tax disc, it became apparent there are one or two problems to sort. The clutch is past its prime and I fear some abuse in the Alps would have it slipping terminally (nothing new there – the last two S2N cars needed clutches), the rear door handles are bust, and the VCM is telling me about all manner of catastrophic electrical maladies that simply aren’t there.

But, trust me – these are niggles.

The drive home proved niggle-free, even in heavy Friday afternoon motorway traffic. At any point the speed rose, I was impressed by the whisper-quiet nature of this car, and even with 94,500 miles on the clock, and rust nibbling away at a structural point of the nearside sill, handling and ride remain absolutely superb.

A quick polish and a spruce up of the interior got it looking good enough to take over as our main family car. If the computer isn’t lying, then it seems to be averaging 24.8mpg. I’m now contemplating taking it to the Techno-Classica at Essen in a couple of weeks for a proper shakedown… Do you reckon that’s a good idea?

The car
1989 Jaguar XJ6 3.6Engine: 3590cc, DOHC, 223bhp
Performance: 137mph, 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds
Fuel consumption: 22-25mpg
Total cost:£100.00 

So, a definite thanks to Jag Breakers, as well as the guys at work for letting me go adventuring yet again.

We don’t have a team yet – Alexander has a new family member on the way, and Declan’s busier than ever, so at the moment, there’s only one person confirmed for the trip: me.

I guess it might be easier finding volunteers this time round, given the wheels that’ll be under us.

28 June

We have a charity!


Keith and his Jaguar XJ6 get ready for the Italian weather – we’ve not confirmed a second driver yet, but we’ll know soon enough…

THIS page may have been quiet to the point of silence recently, but that is not to say that we’re not doing anything about the upcoming Staples2Naples run.

You see, the trouble is – our Jaguar’s been rather disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that it’s been misbehaving or falling apart at the seems. Quite the opposite, in fact. Our Jagbreakers-supplied XJ6 has been delivering quiet unruffled performance, and hasn’t missed a beat while we’ve been running it.

And trust us, we’ve been running it.

Due to my own fluctuating fleet of jalopies and its hopelessness due to CHPD, it has been pressed into commuting duties on and off for the past three months. In that time, it has wafted me on the 70-mile round trip commute time and time again, and in all that time, we’ve so far only suffered a couple of blown bulbs.

As initially reported, the clutch is on its last legs, and the clutch release bearing is on its last legs, but in the spirit of the Staples2Naples event, I’ve decided against fixing any problems that crop up, and simply leave the car as is. Pre-event servicing might be advisable, but it doesn’t half make the outcome of the trip a real certainty.

Not only have I been doing the work run for me, but it’s even been pressed into duties as the Kelsey Publishing Peterborough office pool-car. Another role it’s effortlessly slipped into.

The team:

AT the moment, I’m the only confirmed team member going, and the way things are going, I could be going alone. That should be fun – I’m hoping Alexander Boucke might be able to make a return to the complement, but this won’t be confirmed until closer to the event.

The charity:

JUST like 2004, we’re donating all our money raised to Cancer Research UK – only this year, there’s no excuse for anyone to avoid putting their hands in their pockets and digging deep as you can now pay online and safely via the JustGiving website. We’re hoping that if everyone who reads this page donates something – no matter how little – we’ll be able to make that all important difference…

We’ve set-up a fund-raising page, and from there, you can donate whatever you see fit. The more you give, the more you’ll be benefiting the needy. See the links below for more information.

Thanks for giving whatever you can!

We’ll keep you posted of any updates as and when they happen.

5 July

We need a theme!


STAPLES2NAPLES is getting closer.

We’ve started booking the hotels, the ferry’s confirmed, and my time off’s booked. Yet, I’m still none the wiser about my team mate, and the Jag is still looking disappointingly standard.

After last year’s rally-styled Allegro, I reckon we need to start thinking about a paint/sticker scheme for the car – and this is where you – our readers – come in. Drop us a line if you’ve got a good idea about how the Jag should look for the event – bearing in mind the company’s sporting heritage, and its irrevocable links with BL there should be plenty to think about.

Also, if there’s a movie car you reckon the Jag should look like, let us know…

If we like your suggestion and end up using it, there’s even a small prize – and your name will go on the car.

So, thinking caps on and get your suggestions in. Time’s running out!

14 July

The team…


AFTER months of deliberation, we’ve finally twisted the arm of Alexander Boucke enough to pursuade him to come along yet again – although we have a Sat/Nav system to call upon this year, it’s always good to have an expert map reader along for the ride. Well, there’s also the slight matter of him supplying cool German food for the trip. Yes, he and his partner have had their first child earlier this year, but there really are some things that are too good to miss…

Joining the team is Phil Weeden – confirmed petrolhead, Jaguar nut, Publishing Editor of Classic Car Weekly and Modern MINI magazines and an all-round good egg as well as an old hand at motoring adventures. Okay, so Staples2Naples is a bit different to the Entente Cordiale, but hey… the principles are the same – especially as we’re running a Jaguar.

The team
Keith Adams Alexander Boucke Phil Weeden

So, we now know who the terrible trio are that will be leaving Calais on September 22 to chase it down to Naples four days later.

We’re hoping the Jaguar will remain as reliable on the trip as it has been over the past few months…

Watch out for an announcement next week – after much deliberation, we’ve chosen the winning paint job, and one lucky reader has won themselves a prize for coming up with the suggestion.

17 July

The paint job…


WELL, after some serious soul searching, we’re going with the paint scheme as previewed by Mark Mastrototaro – although as has been pointed out by several readers, as we’re doing it for Cancer Research UK, we really should be dropping the ‘Silk Cut’ name for something much more fitting. We have that in hand, and hope our alternative is amusing and relevent.

There’s a pair of tickets to the British International Motor Show on their way to Mark…

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. Now, all we have to do is paint the car!

16 August

Disaster approaches…


OH Dear! Looks like my laissez faire attitude to the grumbling clutch could be coming back to bite me in the bottom. Before I left for my holiday, the S2N Jag had been left in darkest Cambrideshire in the yard of Citroen CX Specialist Roger Bradford, after I bought his Xantia Activa off him.

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague, Richard Gunn, went over to pick up the Jaguar from Roger, and was a bit alarmed at the clutch. He drove it home, though, and emailed team mate Phil to alert him of a potential clutch slave cylinder failure – Phil told me, and I kinda shrugged my shoulders, and then went on holiday…

After I returned, I had this waiting in my inbox: “When I came out of the house today, I noticed a big pool of what looked like clutch fluid had formed underneath the Jaguar’s gearbox bellhousing. Both Roger and I noticed that the clutch pedal was getting very light and the gearchanges pretty tricky lately. I suspect it’s going to need some work before it tries to struggle to Naples…”

Looks like our £100 Jag might well need a little bit of money spending on it – oh dear.

Will let you know what happens.

11 September

Not long to go now…


…AND the car is laid up in bits in Nene Specialist Cars right now, with some very big decisions about to be made. I had the pleasure of extracting the XJ40 from Richard’s house last week – and although he had been predicting doom and gloom about the car, I still remain reasonably upbeat about our chances.

The gearbox ‘problem’ regarding gear selection amounted to little more than a slight weep in the clutch slave cylinder, and although the engine has also leaked out a little oil, I’m not going to be crying to mummy about that one. Getting it started was funny – the battery was as flat as Holland after a hurricane and the stater motor had gone for a burton. Jumping it was out of question, and a push start was laughable on a 1700kg car. I called out the AA, and duly got it tow started and drove it gingerly (after topping up all the fluids) round to Nene Jags.

However, Clive at Nene did break some bad news to me. Yes, the starter was shot, and he’d replaced it with a used one – and it looked like one of the rear wheel bearings was deader than Julius Caesar. Did I want it fixing? Of course…

The clutch release bearing he reckoned was on its knees, but he wouldn’t pronounce sentence until he’d done the wheel bearing. So it looks like we need to wait just a little longer.

But with ten days to go, and time most definitely running out, the prospect of a gearbox out job on the release bearing does not sound so enticing. Perhaps I should have listened to all that advice earlier in the year.

Oy yes, and if anyone wants to donate a service pack (‘cos we still haven’t done that!) then please drop me a line at,

12 September

Ten days to go!


…WELL, our ‘forty is still in Nene Specialist Cars and it looks like it will be for a wee while yet. After the main man there, Clive, got round to stripping the rear wheel bearing, he found that it had done so much damage, it had chewed up the entire hub assembly, so now we’re waiting for a secondhand one of those to turn up.

Clive commented that he’d not dare drive our Jag out of the County let alone to Italy, and that in his opinion, the gearbox needs sorting out, and a the very least, it needs a new clutch release bearing putting on it. Team mate Phil tends to agree, but my own gung-ho feeling is that we get the hub assembly back on (for safety), change our dead battery (so we can start in the morning), and leave it at that…

Having said that, Clive reckons that to get the clutch release bearing sorted, it’s going to take a ‘few days’ as it’s a gearbox-off job. With time running out, it looks like we have some major decisions to take.

If we make it to Calais, I’ll be packing plenty of gaffer tape, and a sleeping bag…

13 September

Chancing it…


Better times…

WE had the dreaded call from Nene Jags this afternoon, and the prognosis wasn’t great – and potentially scary on the cost side… So far the wheel beraing and starter motor is going to cost us £350, and that’s before they even looked at the gearbox.

When I mentioned this to my mate Brian, he said, “F’ck me. What are they doing to it? Fitting a rear hub/carrier that’s made out of solid gold?” He had a valid point – especially as the call informed us that the labour for the clutch release bearing was going to be £350 plus VAT, plus the price of the part…

After getting off the floor I referred them to team mate Phil. In the meantime, Alexander and I had a conflab, and the result of the conversation was – to paraphrase: “we’ll drive it as is… and it’ll be fine.” Too right. I’ve driven worse…

Phil was of the same opinion: “£900 – that’s a lot of readies. Let’s chance it. I’ll pay him for what he’s already done and go from there. Who needs five forward gears. Just second and top will do fine…” Hooray, he’s finally seeing it the S2N way!

So that’s it… we’re on our way – dodgy clutch and all. Let’s hope I get a chance to paint up the bugger before we leave!

19 September

It’s all go…


WE had a bit of a bombshell this morning… Due to his work commitments, and the fact that Kelsey’s magazine empire is growning faster than a Leylandi bush in a wet summer, Phil Weeden has pulled out of the team.

That leaves Alexander and me to go it alone on our trip to Naples – and more worryingly, it means we have one less person to push the Jag when it turns to crap somewhere in Switzerland. Of course, things aren’t that bad really – and although Nene Jags have got the car under control, it’s obvious that they aren’t confident about our chances, saying, “I hope you’ve got breakdown cover”…

No comment.

However, I haven’t got the car home yet, and now I’m feeling horrbly under-prepared. And we go on Thursday!

20 September

Jaguar RIP


WELL, we’ve had the final icing on the cake today. After the work on the Jaguar’s wheelbearing and starter had been completed, we went over to Nene Specialist Jags to pick up our ‘Forty.

As expected, there’s little life in the clutch pedal, and the release bearing is as noisy as ever. No problems – really, as Alexander and I had both prepared ourselves for 1500 miles of clutchless driving (something we’re both pretty accomplished at), and turning up the radio to drown out the noise of that errant bearing.

However as I pulled out of Nene’s yard and into the fast-moving Peterborough traffic, my heart sank – the clutch, which previously had felt fine, was now slipping terminally. Okay, gentle massage of the throttle got it all going, and once out of the city, the shlep up the motorway was as pleasurable as it always was – 70mph was held with a wafty whisper…

As I pulled off the A14 and towards my house, a delicate balancing act of clutchless changing and deft throttlework was needed to get us underway…

…Time to face facts – the Naples in a Jaguar dream is now well and truly over.

However, mine and Alexander’s participation in the event isn’t over. All I have to do is find a suitable car tomorrow, and get myself on the 17.40 Speed Ferry out of Dover. A piece of cake.

Boo hoo…

Keith Adams

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