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XK60, that’s not half a Jaguar XK120

mardi 6 janvier 2009, par C&SC

It’s been 60 years that the XK120 has been introduced at the London Motor Show and it was obvious this anniversary would be the root of a big event like british car clubs are used to.

I’ve got a XK120 and when, last year, I saw that the club organized this kind of event for this summer of 2008, I thought that it was a good opportunity to do what these cars were made for : drive and lead people from one point to another in a sporty « Grand Tourisme » way.

My XK120 is a 54 Fixed Head Coupé.
It’s not my first, nor the only classic car I owned. A 64 Jaguar Mk2 3.8 was the first, a series 1 3.8 E undergoes a total restoration (after a quick passing by of a series 2 2+2) and a series 1 XJ6 is overhauled to become the daily driver. This 120 FHC has a tremendous line, more than the OTS in my opinion with the advantage that the line in untouched when the weather is changing. An OTS is perfect without its soft top, but it looks rather clumsy (IMO again) with the top on. At least, the FHC keeps always the same line and this is truly one of the most beautiful coupés I know.

XK120 Coupé 1954, châssis 681467,
Delivered new to Delecroix Paris in may 54 (according to the Jaguar Heritage Trust certificate). The first owner was the Société des Stylos Bic. One can think this sports car wasn’t used to deliver ball point pens and that it was Baron Bich’s own car. It belonged then to Pierre Bardinon, french private racer and owner of the Mas-du-Clos Circuit, then to Philippe Renault founder and president of the French Jaguar Drivers’ Club, both of them raced the car and she still has racing papers. During that period the car was fitted with a Type-C head. The car left France during a decade, for Italy first in an automuseum and « back » to Britain where I found her and bought her.

The car was originally Battleship Grey with grey trim. It has been restored at some point and it’s now black with red trim. Except for the Type-C head the car is all matching numbers.

Planning the trip

End of 2007, early 2008
I made up my mind, I’m going to XK60. I got the green light from SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) who, for once is OK for the trip and a great week-end in this little sportscar. This was not obvious because she is accustomed to have plenty of luggages and the 120 is far from a saloon as far as room is concerned. Bookings (hotel and circuit) are done with the help of the club staff and I plan my trip via Dieppe and Newhaven.

One month before the leave,
I have a look at the car. It’s regularly driven and doesn’t need a full work to be put back on the road. Tyres are new, brakes are balanced, the fuel pump is a recent Facet, speedometer and tachymeter bounce a bit but I decide to leave them alone for the moment. I do an oil change and the car is used daily. This period was supposed to test the effectiveness of the car. And it did. The carburation showed some troubles. There was rust in the fuel line and the filter had to be cleaned, as well as the fuel tank which was rinsed and drained two or three times. The car did fine afterwards.

One week before the trip,
I checked the bookings and the route. I sent a declaration for the trip : this procedure has to be followed in France so far for cars registered as classic cars when driven outside the region. This procedure won’t be valid any longer from 1st january 2009 on.
Another appraisal of the car is done : oil and cooling fluid levels, battery charge, wheels etc…
I prepare the vital minimum of roadside breakdown repair (and not only a cell phone and a tow rope). I’m not a mechanic but I can do two or three things.

My emergency tool set is as folllows : a five litres (one gallon) fuel can, two litres of oil and two litres of cooling fluid, a bottle of brake fluid, the car’s tool kit with some new tools, wire, adhesive tape, lead substitute (once every other time I fill up the tank), two cans of tyre weld, the jack and hammer (wire wheels), gloves and mops. And last but not least fire extinguisher, a safety waistcoat and triangle.
And the big question for Mrs is : « what for the clothes ? what will be the weather there ? because there’s no room in your car. »

The trip

We leave on thursday 7th of august morning in the Paris traffic.
We have 240 Kms (150 miles) to drive. The car is doing perfectly. Speedometre and rev counter have been disconnected, the hands were really too bouncy, a modern GPS (shame on me) is used as navigator and speedometer, but it takes lot less room than a classic road map in the tiny cockpit. Every other gauges work well and show no problem. After 3 hours of driving, (50 mph including loo stops and parisian traffic jams) it’s the arrival at Dieppe at the same time that a small italian caravan going to Goodwood too (one 120 OTS, one 150 FHC and a series 1 E-type). We get onboard and the maneuvers are a bit difficult in this small ship without a power steering.

After a three hours journey across the channel, disambarcation was not what I expected. At the go of the ship boys the car starts OK when I hit the starter button, rolls a bit and stops like in a fuel breakdown (but I refueled in Dieppe).
No way to start again, even when pushed down the ramp by the sailors. Once on the port, and despite the continuous noise of the cars and traffic it becomes obvious I don’t hear the tic-tic of the fuel pump. She’s unresponsive to any sollicitation, even when knocking on it (well known maneuver of us british classic cars owners) and I checked no fuel was arriving at the carbs. My wife is getting nervous, the port is getting desert and we’re pushed outside the port premises. I call for help (you see the cell phone…). After one hour wait, the car is towed in the charming (calm, quiet and third aged) seaside town of Eastbourne where we spent the night. Thanks to my smartphone and the internet I manage to find a classic cars workshop near the place : David Jentree’s Classic Cars (post code), rather specialised in MGs and TRs, but it should do the trick. The guys there confirm my suspicions : the wiring is not guilty, it’s the pump itself. Another pump is tried and connected (a small Facet) and the engine roars again. This is Britain, a classic cars specialist can (nearly) always be found in a 10 miles radius and the parts are so common among those post WWII cars that replacements are not a big deal.

We eventually made to Goodwood
... a few hours later than scheduled, but we did it. On the road, old Jaguars already in growing number, XKs of course, but some others too, from Britain aun elsewhere, even three americans. The well known entrance of Goodwood, the WWII airfield in the middle and XKS everywhere : nearly 500 XKs, more the 150 E-Types, let alone the other types of Jaguars and even very old models, race cars and replicas.


Inside the circuit
Four parking places were necessary to put all those cars. One for each kind of XKs (that makes three), and another one for the other cars, Jaguar or else. Nearly nobody was there with a « modern ».

The mood is at the garden party, typically british and rather queer for a continental. Club blazers, ties and Panama hat for the men (a cap might be tolerated), cocktail dress and hat for the women. That’s far away from the sausage and chips atmosphere we’re used to see in Europe. However this would have been very shocking in this quiet corner of Surrey close to the Rolls-Royce building.

Even the small commercial village is classy, the XK club being at the center (organizing institution oblige), restauration stands with their cars, some spare parts and automobilia providers as well as matching chic cloths sellers. Friday evening a club come-together informal paella allowed many members to meet. And you know what ? the weather was fine. As far as foreign (non british) participation is concerned some are better than others. The Swiss lead the race, they are impressive with organization and coordination. They were more than fourty cars. We (french), the closest neighbours, were only five or six cars, but some overseas exotic countries were plenty. Such a meeting gathered driving cars, not trailer queens, cars able to come from all other Europe by their own means, of all models, early and late cars, plain or exceptional, stock or modified cars. There were some others too from a C registered Aston Martin DB6 to a 1928 Bentley 4.5 litres.

Saturday the 9th

The magnificent weather of the morning turned progressively in a more british summer one : cool, windy and wet. This didn’t discourage visitors and the crowd is still bigger. Thanks heaven, the ground is mostly out of concrete and there’s no mud. That’s a true difference with what I knew in Montlhéry when it was raining.
This was the great day, the one of the main events. Track driving for those who signed in, track laps as passengers for the rookies. Four luky ones won track laps with Sir Sterling (Moss), always sharp and able. Sterling Moss who wrote glorious pages with a XK120 FHC, but LWK 707, the 120 of the 1952 Montlhéry records is not there. But NUB 120, the most famous of the 120s is there from her garage at JDHT’s. Impressive to have it there, right under the hand.

And in the stands C types and D types by tens, the Ecurie Ecosse nearly complete with its caravan truck (4.2 litres, 1960 Commer) able to transport three cars, and some other perls and rarities. There were two swiss 150S coupés with aftermarket special coachwork, one as a quick fastback (to have more room on the back seats for the children) with a specially tuned engine that needed a 200 mph speedometer ; and a shooting break that usually served as a tow car for a race driver.
In the Jaguar family, non XK, two of the very first E-types with outside latch were there, including 9600 HP, the very first E unveiled at the Geneva motorshow in 1961, totally restaured.

That was a great event, perfectly and professionnally organized by the club and well attended by numerous members. This is a sign of a classic car culture we unfortunately have not in France, not to mention convenient structures that were preserved in UK for such manifestations. As a froggy i can only regret we were so few and so little involved. We’re the nearest and we were the fewest.

Breaking news : The way back was uneventful after nearly 450 miles and 120 litres fuel (17 mpg). The XK engine did well and this 54 years old car behaved like it ought to do in nowadays traffic.

And now, let’s get ready for E-Type 50. Sure my E (885944) will be ready.

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