A good nose for a bargain?
It was a sad day for me when I decided to wave goodbye to my Rover 45. Bought as a cheap stop-gap car to replace a car that had been written off, I ended up keeping it for three years. I became surprisingly attached to the Rover, which – fragile door handles apart – turned out to be supremely reliable and was a very likeable car. However, I needed something with more space, so the Rover had to go.
I wanted an estate car – diesel-powered, for the fuel economy, but something without a Diesel Particulate Filter. I’m sure they’re fine on fairly new cars, but given the amount of money I wanted to spend (ie, not very much), I thought there would be a good chance of expensive trouble down the line if I bought an older car with a DPF. That meant I needed a car from roughly 2009 or earlier.
I considered the Rover 75/MG ZT-T. Nice cars, but it’s getting hard to find a good one at a reasonable price and I didn’t fancy the hassle of having to rod the plenum drains frequently to avoid a submerged ECU – I’d be worrying every time there was a downpour. Why did they put the ECU in such a stupid place? I considered the Audi A4 Avant. Again, nice cars, but a touch expensive. The Ford Mondeo and the VW Passat? Great cars, but rather dull. After that, I got a bit stuck, so I searched AutoTrader for diesel estates of any make within my price range, hoping for inspiration to strike.
I’d never considered a Jaguar X-Type before…
And strike it did: my searches turned up a few Jaguar X-Type estates. I’d never considered an X-Type before, but I was intrigued, so I did some research. I decided I rather liked the look of them: driving the Rover 45 had given me a taste for the deeply unfashionable.
A few weeks later, there I was making my way over to view a 12-year-old X-Type 2.0d Sport Estate. It was being sold privately. It was a two-owner car – Jaguar for the first six months, then the current owner. It had a low mileage. I could tell from the photographs on AutoTrader that it wasn’t perfect, but it sounded as if it had been maintained very well and it was cheap.
When I sell a car, I go to great lengths to make it clean, tidy and presentable. When I arrived at this seller’s house, I was surprised to find that the Jaguar looked as if it hadn’t even been washed. Then I met the owner and found that the same could have been said about him. First impressions – of the car and of the owner – were not good.
Taking it for a test drive…
Despite this, I gave the car a good going-over and took it for a long test drive. Although it was a little rough around the edges, with a few bits of missing or broken trim and non-working reversing sensors, it basically seemed to be in good condition and there was nothing that wasn’t easily fixable.
It had obviously been well-maintained mechanically, with recent new clutch, flywheel, springs, brakes and sills, a recent service and a full MoT with no advisories. It drove beautifully. It just needed a bloody good clean, inside and out. It was odd to see a car that had been so well-maintained mechanically, but so neglected when it came to cleanliness.
I ummed and ahhed. It didn’t feel right, somehow, to be replacing a car that looked to be in pristine condition (my Rover) with one that, well… didn’t. But I told myself that mechanically this seemed to be a good buy, that underneath all that grime, there was a good car lurking underneath and that it was cheap – what could I expect for that much money? In the end, we agreed a price that took account of the issues I had found and I bought the car. I drove it away hoping that I had done the right thing.
What the family thought of Mark’s X-Type
When I got home in the Jaguar, my wife and daughter came out to have a look at it.
‘It’s not perfect,’ I said as I opened the doors for them to get in, ‘but it’s not too bad.’
My wife stuck her head inside the car.
‘Ugh! That stinks!’ she said.
‘That really smells! I’m not getting in there!’
My daughter stuck her head in, gave a big sniff and concurred. And with that, they walked back into the house.
I have always known that I don’t have the best sense of smell, but I didn’t realise it was that bad. I had thought when I got into the Jaguar that it didn’t smell too fresh, but it didn’t seem bad enough to worry me. I was genuinely surprised at my wife’s reaction.
Getting a second opinion – no, it stinks!
I wanted a second opinion, so I asked a neighbour to stick their nose into the car and have a sniff. The verdict? It really did stink. ‘Oh no,’ I thought, ‘what have I done? I’ve bought a car that my wife and daughter refuse to get into!’
As it turned out, my neighbour was a mine of information on how to deal with stinky cars. She told me that she and her partner had bought quite a few smelly old cars in the past and assured me that this car wasn’t beyond redemption. And so began a period of intensive deep-cleaning and odour elimination, under her guidance.
I shampooed the seats, carpets, headlining and boot, and was amazed and appalled at how much greasy brown gunk came off onto the cloths I used. I shampooed the dashboard and the door cards. I shampooed the leather. I sprayed Febreze liberally all over the interior. I left the car outside with its doors and boot open from dawn until dusk. When the interior had dried out, I did it all again. And then I did it a third time. I used a whole bottle of shampoo.
Eradicating the odours
When the car had dried out from its third intensive shampooing, I sprinkled bicarbonate of soda liberally all over the carpets and the fabric part of the half-leather seats, and scrubbed it in with a brush. I then left it for two days before vacuuming it out. This worked a treat. Vacuuming bicarb out of black carpets is not a lot of fun, but I’m glad I did it: it made a huge difference. If you have a carpet that pongs, I can recommend the bicarb treatment wholeheartedly.
As a finishing touch I placed cut onions and tubs of charcoal around the car and left them there for a week – they’re both supposed to absorb odours. Whether that made much difference, I don’t know. If nothing else, at least the charcoal might have absorbed the odours of the onions…
After all this work – and it was a lot of work – I finally had a car with an interior that was clean and that smelled fresh. My wife and daughter finally deigned to set foot inside the car. Result!
Getting the Jaguar shipshape and Bristol fashion
While all this interior cleaning was going on, I was also busy cleaning the exterior and glass, and sourcing bits of missing and broken trim. Luckily, there is a Jaguar scrapyard just round the corner from where I work, so I spent a happy hour crawling over X-Types in various states of disrepair. I managed to find everything I needed, while also managing to avoid treading in the heaps of **** that had been left lying around by the guard dog.
I didn’t meet the guard dog, but I could tell that it was a big one. Well, either that, or a small one with a big appetite. I also got the reversing sensors fixed by a local auto electrician and had the wheels balanced and the tracking adjusted, which often makes a big difference to how a car drives.
One other bizarre little task that needed doing was to use a knife to root around in the gap between the bottom of the windscreen and the back of the dashboard, to extract the large number of old parking tickets that had fallen down there and got stuck. I couldn’t believe how many I managed to get out, and how old and faded some of them were. There are still some in there that I can’t get to: if the sun hits the windscreen at a certain angle, I can see them reflected in the very bottom of the screen. I can only think that the previous owner left his tickets on the dashboard until they fell down the back.
Starting to bond with the X-Type
Feeling happier about the Jaguar now that it didn’t smell terrible – and now that I knew the interior wasn’t coated in twelve years’ worth of somebody else’s grime – I took it in to my trusted mechanic, Terry, for him to give it the once-over. He was on holiday, but his son Paul put it up on the ramps and gave it a thorough inspection.
Apart from what looked like a leaking rubber hose and an air intake that needed realigning, he gave it the thumbs-up. In fact, he was impressed with its condition. It obviously had been well-maintained. I booked it in to get the hose and the air intake seen to the following week.
When I turned up at the garage the next week, Terry and Paul were standing having an early morning cup of tea.
‘Oh, here he comes,’ said Terry to Paul, ‘he’s bought a Jag, you know.’
‘I know,’ replied Paul, ‘I’ve seen it.’
‘Is it a good’un?’
‘Naah,’ replied Paul with a grin, ‘it’s a heap of… Oh, hello Mark!’
They make a great double-act.
Getting the thumbs up
I collected the car later that day. It turned out that the leaking hose had been caused by a metal clip that needed replacing – the hose itself was fine. The cost was minimal.
‘Ah,’ said Terry, with a twinkle in his eye as he sat down to write out the invoice for me, ‘I forgot to say mate, now you’ve got a Jag, labour rates have gone up. Labour rates are higher for Jag owners, I’m afraid… ‘cause they can afford it.’
‘You wouldn’t get spoken to like this if you went to a Jag dealer,’ said Paul, smiling.
Terry told me that he’d taken the car for a spin earlier in the day – ‘It isn’t every day you get to drive a Jag’ – and that he’d been very impressed.
‘It drives really nicely. I think you’ve got a good one there,’ was his verdict.
I hope he’s right…
Conclusions: all good so far – time to enjoy
Now that it’s cleaned up and everything’s working, it’s a genuinely nice car to drive. It’s not what you’d call quick off the mark, but there’s a huge amount of torque, which makes for easy overtaking. It has the most comfortable seats of any car I’ve ever driven, and it’s a very relaxing car to drive. I like it a lot. Amazingly, some of the switchgear feels a little low-rent when compared to the Honda-derived items in my Rover 45 (I’m thinking particularly of the column stalks and the ashtray cover, which creaks open in a very cheap-sounding way), but on the whole I’m impressed with the car.
People’s reactions have also surprised me. Although car enthusiasts know that it’s based on a Ford, most people don’t seem to have a clue and the typical reaction is ‘Ooh, you’ve bought a Jaguar! That’s posh!’. I’m not sure that I would call a 12-year old Jaguar (which is still a little rough around the edges) ‘posh’, but there you go…
Only time will tell how reliable it will be. But I’m feeling quietly confident.