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Stepping through the doorway of Nick Goozée’s garage, a sprawling, double-fronted Aladdin’s cave of motorsport memorabilia and family portraits, you’re struck by a sense of ancestry rarely seen in today’s fast-paced world.
Few cars embody that spirit better than the Jaguar XK140, a car that was built in the image of its successful forebears, and which basked in the reflected glory of the C-type’s conquering of La Sarthe in 1951 and 1953, and of the XK120’s resounding commercial success at home and abroad.
Fitting, then, that the car so inspired by competition would also serve as inspiration to Goozée, marking the beginnings of the storied motorsport career of this one-time Brabham and Penske Racing great.
The man responsible for kick-starting such a remarkable turn of events was Harold Goozée, a racing enthusiast and lifelong admirer of Coventry-built machinery, and Nick’s grandfather.
An amateur sportsman, he competed in everything from Scottish tours to the RAC Rally, more often than not behind the wheel of a Jaguar SS100.
“He had a whole spectrum of Jaguars including a succession of SS100s,” says Nick. “First 1½ litre SSs, then progressively bigger-engined examples. I have some of his trophies but he was a very austere man. I didn’t ever get to know him really.”
Though a good number of significant cars passed through his grandfather’s hands, Goozée’s earliest memories focus around one in particular: a battleship-grey XK140 fixed-head coupé that had been purchased new from Henleys on 26 October 1956, two years after the updated model had been revealed to the world.
The new car shared much with the outgoing XK120, not least its glorious William Heynes-designed 3442cc straight-six engine that also found a home in the C-type, but a number of discreet differences lurked beneath the surface.
Look closely and you’ll see a subtle tweak to the proportions resulting from the engine, dash and firewall being moved 3in forward, giving more legroom for taller drivers and a bit more storage room behind the seats.
The bumpers were bulkier, while the grille was now formed of one piece and with chunkier slats. Underneath, the antiquated lever-arm shock absorbers were replaced with telescopic dampers, which, combined with sharper rack-and-pinion steering, gave much better feedback.
Though the XK range had undoubtedly changed, it still appealed to the sporting driver.
“I remember my grandfather taking me up to 100mph on the Christchurch bypass and that was a real thrill,” says Goozée.
“In the ’60s that was a significant achievement. Not many road cars were capable of it. The XK lived in a two-car garage, in the rafters of which was an amazing collection of split-cane rods that he used for catching salmon and trout; he was a fantastic fisherman and the sport was his great passion.”
Despite a deep admiration of the marque, and the not inconsiderable expense that the brand-new XK140 would have commanded in 1956, the Jaguar led something of a difficult life, being used predominantly as Harold’s fishing car.
“He didn’t believe in cleaning it at all,” says Goozée. “It was pretty foul because he would lay the salmon and sea trout that he caught in the footwell or behind the seats, and the slime and scales would encrust the carpet.
“Garages in those days were not sanitised, and his was a sort of junkyard of motor parts – it became a kind of fantasy land for me.
“My grandfather gave me his British Automobile Racing Club magazines that he had kept for me, so I would take them to the garage and sit in the XK and have all those schoolboy dreams of becoming a racing driver. I won many a Grand Prix sitting behind the wheel of that car.”
At the age of 11 Nick didn’t care much for motor cars, but that all changed when his grandfather took him to the races at Crystal Palace, where the impressionable youngster was wowed by the cut and thrust of the open-wheeled racers, and of Jack Brabham in particular.
“I became rather besotted with him and with motorsport,” he recalls. “I would save up money from my paper round to buy books on motor racing, and would cycle from our home in Oxted to Brands Hatch and Goodwood to watch the races. I’d set off at dawn and often get home after dark.
“We just so happened to move to West Byfleet, which is where the team was based, and on the first day of my summer holiday in 1963 I cycled down to the workshops, hanging around outside until they said to come in and do something useful.”
“And that was it,” he continues, “I never went back to school. My father went to see Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac and they agreed to give me an apprenticeship in the loosest form, saying: ‘If he’s useful we’ll keep him, if he isn’t we won’t.’ And that was the start of it all.
“I was completely useless, and the people I worked with weren’t slow in telling me on a regular basis just how useless I was.
“But gradually, over time, they taught me different skills. In those days you were involved in everything – all the mechanics had to have the skills to make the cars because when you travelled away there were very few spares, and if the car had an accident it had to be repaired at the track with whatever means were available.
“The first race I attended was Easter Monday at Goodwood, with Dan Gurney, Jack, and Denis Hulme. Jack and Dan each had their own mechanic and there were a couple of people who floated between the two; I was a tea-maker, and would change the tyres and things like that.”
Goozée gradually rose through the ranks at Brabham before being trusted with building the Grand Prix cars, starting with the Tauranac-designed BT26 in 1968.
He would go on to work on cars driven by everyone from Brabham, Gurney and Hulme to Jochen Rindt, Graham Hill and Carlos Reutemann before joining Roger Penske’s outfit in the middle of the following decade.
“Bernie Ecclestone had bought Brabham and at the end of 1972 a convoy of skips was arranged outside the workshop. We had unused and unwanted race cars stacked on top of one another, and he instructed that everything be thrown out.
“Once word got out, privateers jumped into the skips to pull out parts and radiators, fuel tanks and all these other things.”
After his time with Brabham, Goozée continued his career with Roger Penske, becoming the team’s general manager in 1983 and going on to be managing director just five years later.
From the firm’s Poole base, Goozée oversaw the construction of countless Indycars for drivers including Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi, contributing to an incredible 115 IndyCar victories, 14 Indy 500s and 11 championship titles.
“There was a point when it would not be unreasonable to suggest that the cars produced by Penske were probably the finest open-wheeled racers in the world,” reckons Goozée.
During his time at Penske, Goozée travelled back and forth to the United States as many as 15 times per year, and for much of that period he lost touch with his grandfather’s car.
The XK140 eventually passed to his father, Peter, who ran the Jaguar for around 10 years but did very little to it; still finished in its factory grey paint, the old campaigner was battered and bruised – but not unbowed.
In 1988,TRU 911 finally came to the home of its biggest admirer.
“It had been painted so many times by so many different people that it was various shades of grey,” he explains.“It wasn’t quite 50 shades, but it wasn’t far off it.”
By that point the car was in need of attention, and Goozée knew just the man.
“I met Peter Smith, of Smith & Cave in Blandford, back in 1983 or ’84. We would ship Penske cars in raw, unpainted condition straight to Phoenix or Laguna Seca for testing, and I felt it would be nice if we could send them painted.
“I found Pete, who had a proper paintshop: if we needed some heat-shielding or other bodywork he could do that, too, because he had a wheel.”
What began as the relatively small task of respraying the car quickly snowballed into something much more in-depth.
“I took the XK in to get the different shades of grey touched up and they came back to me after a week suggesting they take everything apart and do the whole thing, so that’s what we decided to do.
“The chassis was in good shape and was taken away to be shot-blasted and stove-enamelled – I don’t think it had ever really been wet and my grandfather had got thick underseal plastered all over the underside.
“He was very pragmatic about his cars, but it was a revolting job scraping it all off. When the paint was removed we found no rust on the bodywork, which was really good.”
He continues: “The brief was that everything that could be redone or reused and was original should stay on the car, because I really wanted to keep it almost exactly as my grandfather purchased it.
“He was a frugal man so the only extra he bought was a wing mirror – it doesn’t have a C-type head or disc brakes.
“Everything was deliberately kept original, apart from the carpets. My father had tried to scrape the worst of the fish debris off but we had to put new carpet in the footwells, they were just too far gone.”
Work began on the XK in 1993 and continued until September of the following year, and even though Goozée was preoccupied with work and race meetings he visited the workshops and rolled up his sleeves every time he was back in Blandford.
“Pete gave me tasks such as rubbing down the paintwork,” he says. “I didn’t want to interfere, but equally I was keen to get involved because when I became the general manager of Penske I stopped working with my hands.
“They didn’t really need any input from me but it was great fun working with a small group of people dedicated to restoring beautiful cars. Pete in particular was able to replicate any panel.”
Mechanically, the car was restored to its original factory specification, with the 3.4-litre straight-six fully rebuilt to how it was when it left Coventry, the ultimate aim being to create a car that drove as it did when it was new.
“Braking requires some forward planning,” admits Goozée. “I resisted upgrading the brakes from the original drums to discs, but my bicycle probably has more stopping power.
“There is no power steering so it requires a bit of effort at low speeds, but once you’re on open, smooth roads it really comes into its own.
“You can hear the suck from the SU carburettors as you put your foot down, and because the windscreen is narrow and the bonnet long I often feel, rather romantically, as though I’m in the cockpit of a Spitfire.”
“The Moss gearbox lacks synchromesh so changing gear is a matter of feeling the cogs engage before committing,” he adds. “Double-declutching has become a useful habit.”
Remarkably, after collecting the XK and taking his first test drive, a bill for the work never materialised.
“Peter never charged me a penny. I eventually sat down and said: ‘Look, I’ve got to pay you for the hours of the mechanic and the painter,’ but he said no, I think because the work was spread over such a long period. He was a very, very good friend. He left us too early.
“Looking back, the only thing I regret is the colour change. If I could do it all again I would have kept it grey so it was completely original and as my grandfather knew it.
“But he was very unsentimental about his cars – they were for a purpose and nothing else. He would be horrified by how shiny the car is today!”
Gleaming in the early summer sun, Goozée’s beautiful XK looks just as immaculate as the day it rolled out of Smith & Cave’s workshops in 1994, despite some of our photoshoot marking the first time rain – and even hail – has touched its paintwork in almost three decades.
But the motorsport man is unapologetic for his car’s cosseted life, spirited drives being confined to local lanes rather than long-distance rallies.
“I’m unlike most owners because I’m just preserving it in every respect,” Goozée says. “It means so much to me, being the catalyst to an extremely fortunate career that took me from Crystal Palace, where I first saw Jack Brabham, to the British Racing Drivers’Club, where I delivered the eulogy at his memorial.”
For Goozée, his beloved Jaguar XK140 serves not only as a source of Sunday-morning thrills and an objet d’art, but as a touchstone to his past and a way of connecting with his grandfather, preserved and protected like a precious memory.
Yet that isn’t to say it’s hidden away, and it’s easy to imagine that sleek maroon bodywork and mysterious Le Mans winner’s badge inspiring another 11-year-old, as they peer through the window and ask their own grandad what the letters ‘BRDC’ stand for.
Images: Luc Lacey
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