Back when I was nowt more than a kid, I promised myself that before I was 30, I’d own a Jaguar. At the time, the XJ40 was the dawn of Jaguar’s brave new world, the company was owned by Ford and I’d fallen deeply in love with my next-door neighbour’s F-reg 3.6-litre Sovereign.
Fourteen years later, in late 2003 and at the age of 26, I managed to achieve my goal early. Well, sort of. The car in question wasn’t a Jag, but a Daimler Sovereign on a D-plate, finished in dark metallic red with riveted-on rear wheelarches, almost bald tyres and a fondness for oil. I paid the princely sum of £300 for it on eBay, and turning a blind eye to the crusty windscreen pillars and filler-riddled boot lid, drove it home from Manchester to Peterborough with immense pride.
I owned it for eight gleeful weeks, before taking it to Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground for an Auto Express photo shoot, where the majestic old Daim reached 130mph on the mile straight for what would undoubtedly be the final time.
I wasn’t quite expecting it to be so final, though. Driving home through the Leicestershire back roads, the ominous words ‘Coolant Temperature Warning’ flashed up in the dot matrix display to the right of the steering wheel. As erroneous warnings from said display were a common occurrence, at least two or three per journey, I’d taken to ignoring it completely. You know the rest…
So, with the sorry Sovereign laid to rest (I gave it to an XJ40-owning friend as a spares car), I’d ticked the Jag owning before 30 thing off my bucket list. My next Jaguar, I promised myself, would be a ‘proper’ one.
That wasn’t quite true. I had a gold G-plate XJ40 for a short while (featured here many moons ago, under the subsequent custody of Keith Adams and Brian Gunn) but the car I really wanted by this stage was the Jaguar that had completely beguiled me after the XJ40.
And so for another time-jump… It’s the Autumn of 1994, and it’s my 17th birthday. It’s also the press day of the Paris Motor Show, and that night on the BBC News (for it’s so hard to imagine the days before such news was instant and online), I caught my first sight of the new big Jaguar. The X300 was, to my eyes, beautiful – and it still is. Back then I loved the way it encapsulated ’90s modernity with Jaguar’s traditional values. Today, I love the way both the ‘modern’ and the old bits have a hint of retro about them. Sure, the cabin’s cramped, some of the switchgear is a bit flaky and it’s more or less an XJ40 underneath, but it’s bloody lovely so none of that matters.
The downside, of course, was that by the time X300s got to the point where I could afford to run or insure one, I had no need for one at all. I still don’t truth be told, but as a young-ish dad with a new family, rushing out to buy a thirsty old Jag that was largely superfluous due to the presence of a company Zafira was not a great idea.
Then last year happened, and I was made redundant. A new job was on the horizon already, but I knew for three months I’d be between jobs that both came with company cars. Time to indulge… albeit with a limited budget of just a grand.
I started looking towards the back end of February, assuming it’d take me a while to find a car I considered good enough (of course, I could have just used my Rover 827 for this limbo period, but I’ll buy a car for the most spurious of reasons and I’d identified a need…). In the end, though, I threw the rulebook out of the window and bought the first car I saw.
Stupidity? On paper, maybe, especially as it hadn’t had an MoT for 18 months – but sometimes a car just feels right. M357MHM was in the custody of a classic car dealer local to me who had, unfortunately, been suffering from ill-health. He’d had the car in stock before he was poorly and had never got round to doing anything with it, so it had a couple of minor bodywork imperfections that needed sorting – one tiny rust bubble on the nearside rear arch, some lacquer peel and a creased back bumper blade. It passed the 10 paces test brilliantly though, and had every MoT from new along with a fair whack of history to back up the 117k on the clock.
In addition, it was Turquoise, and the relatively sensible to run 3.2-litre Sport model. Love it or loathe it, it was the very same colour as that X300 I’d seen on the TV 18 years earlier. There was an element of fate at play…
On the premise it had no MoT, I handed over £700 for it. Shabby X300 money for a car that was far from shabby. A quick fluid and tyre check and a call to pre-book my MoT test and I was away. Did it pass the MoT? Of course not, but a cracked rear coil spring and a blowing exhaust box weren’t what you’d call an epic failure.
A friend of mine in Cheshire recommended I contact JoJags (www.jojags.co.uk) in Liverpool for the parts I needed, and I have to say they were excellent. Fifty quid and 48 hours later, I had the bits I needed to get the Jag through the test – 3,000 miles later, the old girl hasn’t missed a beat and has returned a highly respectable average of 26.9mpg, though it does have one slightly random fault where the interior light relay clicks and the light flashes on and off every time I open just the driver’s door. All suggestions as to how to mend that one gratefully received, as I’m flummoxed by it.
So, after a summer of X300 motoring and a new company motor imminent, is it time to say goodbye to the Jag? No. Categorically not. I may be at a stage where I seriously need to reduce the fleet, but I’ve wanted one of these since the day I very first drove a car, and I’m not ready to give it up just yet! It can, though, retire to being something for the weekend, especially as the incoming company car is German, diesel and not worthy of inclusion amid these pages…