Falling in love with the most unloved Jaguar

| 20 Sep 2011

Theme of the weekend was the red XJ-S which I’m steeling myself not to start warming to over-much because I should really sell it. But now it’s running, it’s so smooth and fast and suave that it’s difficult not to start looking around for reasons to keep it.

I was keen to meet up with my pal Jon Giacobi because he has a 1976 manual XJ-S in signal red so we got together in a lay-by just outside Marlborough.

That sounds like the prelude to a dogging anecdote but all we did was compare trim details (his being 76 has the very rare chrome trim on the ‘B’ pillar), but Jon has not yet managed to rid the car of the pub landlord spec ‘Leaper’ on the bonnet that all early XJ-Ss seem to have if they have gone through a series of owners who wanted people to think they had a HE XJ-S rather than a ‘pure’ early one.

We swished off to Bath to a reunion at Jon’s old school, a huge country pile that was a cross between Hogwarts and Brideshead Revisited. With matching Jags in the car park, it occurred to me that we must have looked like publicans on tour after a day out at the cash and carry, but perhaps these early XJ-Ss are now more ‘GT’ than G and T.

A cute, horsey mum at the school (I believe they call them MILF’s these days) even complimented the two vehicles, but to be honest I was just relieved I’d made it from Cirencester to Bath without incident. Jon hadn’t – he was late because his Jag was reeking of fuel (normally my problem) and he’d sent his girlfriend off in search of a fire extinguisher.

We motored into the centre of Bath in search of food then got back to Cirencester without a problem. Next morning, feeling bullish, I took my children Sean and Caitlin to a Cheltenham car boot sale. They love the XJ-S, although Sean is so tall now that he doesn’t get into it very elegantly.

The car gets loads of attention, which I’m surprised about because I'd considered them to be relatively routine cars in classic terms, but they are getting rather rare now and obviously have captured something in the popular imagination.

I returned to the car at the boot sale (having bought nothing more exciting them some files for my unruly collection of loose road tests) to find two gentlemen of a certain age looking admiringly at the Jaguar.

It turned out that one of them had worked at ‘The Jag’ building them and he told me: "They were the safest car on the road with huge bars in the sills. You could run head on into a tank in that!"

I won’t be trying it out, but it’s nice to know it’s there.