I just thought I’d share an update on all the work the Jag has had in recent months. I’d booked for it to come off the road at the start of April to have all of its bushes replaced as there was some creaking and groaning over bumps and the car wasn’t driving quite as we as it should. But just like when a dog knows its going to the vets and starts playing up, the day before the Jag was due to go into the workshop it started misfiring. As it turned out later the head gasket had blown (a pattern part that wasn’t as good as it needed to be).
I had been hoping to avoid any engine work until passing the 200,000 mile barrier but obviously this development blew any chance of that and simultaneously increased the amount of time the car would be spending in the workshop. The head went away to be skimmed, as did the exhaust manifold, and the other work continued in the meantime. There was a small oil leak to take care of, and the front brake pads were also replaced, and of course all of those bushes needed to be replaced. This all adds up to quite an expensive bill reaching easily into four figures, but all of the work was necessary and none of it is altogether unusual for a car of this age and mileage. With a few parts supplier problems and other issues it was more than a month and a half before J258 was back on the road and I was certainly impatient to have it back by that time.
Getting the car back on the road was very much a mood lifter and though I was being gentle on the old girl it was easy to see just how much a difference all of that work had made. One thing that I’ve found surprises people is just how responsive an XJS is to being hustled down a B-road. They’re certainly not the smallest or lightest cars (or sportiest, for that matter), but they are relatively narrow and they handle well. My XJS is now feeling much tighter with those new bushes really making their presence known.
This engine work also provided an interesting experiment in regards to the fuel economy. I’ve never expected an XJS to be frugal, but this particular car always seemed to have poorer economy than other 4.0 cars (mine was getting between 9-10mpg on average and others seem to reliably get into the low 20s). In the 1,500 miles I covered after all of this work 15mpg was achieved without too much trouble, which is nice for added range if nothing else. It also makes me curious to see what the actual fuel economy of the 6.5l XJ-S is…..and there is only one person to blame with what has become a new obsession in tracking that sort of thing.
There are no other plans for major overhauls in the next few months so hopefully any further updates will just include lots of driving, and maybe even cracking that 200,000 mile barrier too.
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A trip up to Bury to collect a fuel rail and injectors.
So I’ve bought another XJ-S, but this time its the XJ-S that featured in the recent Sky series ‘Curfew’, which stars Sean Bean (who drives this car). It got delivered last night after I purchased it at the H&H auction in Buxton on Wednesday – and its already taken a bit of a battering on certain Internet forums full of grumpy middle aged men (I’m looking at you, PH).
Obviously the car isn’t standard, and amongst the modifications is the addition of a manual gearbox, upgraded suspension (from the brief look I had under the car), a hydraulic handbrake, a tiny race fuel tank, wider arches and wheels and the side exit exhausts. I was a bit curious to see how well the hydraulic handbrake works on the original inboard brakes but it does work reasonably well from what I’ve seen so far. The side exit exhausts aren’t actually connected up and the original exhaust is still in place, but finishes just after the centre muffler under the car and then is directed out to each side. Even just simply removing the back boxes has made this car a lot louder than standard.
I knew the car had no MOT, and in fact no MOT details show up on the online checker, meaning it was off the road at least before 2005 until it was modified for Curfew. I’m expecting some work to get it back on the road and I’m planning a few modifications of my own. We tried starting it this morning and though it was turning over fine, it just wasn’t firing. Fortunately cleaning the spark plugs helped and while it was initially running rough, it soon cleared itself out and started running a lot better, so its safe to assume it might have been sitting for a while.
Whilst moving it around we’ve also discovered that you can’t currently engage first gear or reverse, so the clutch needs some attention at least. The steering is also very heavy and the brakes seem to be pretty weak, even though the hydraulic handbrake works fine (which could suggest that the rear brakes only operate via the hand lever), so I’ll be curious to see how it has been modified once we get it up in the air on Monday.
The paint job actually isn’t too terrible, if you don’t consider they painted over the reversing lights and didn’t mask up properly, so the underside of the car is tinged green. It isn’t a huge issue as the car might end up having a colour change….and this time it will be stripped bare to do so. On another note if anyone knows how I could remove interior paint from leather it might come in useful. I don’t find the green interior particularly offensive and I’m no fan of grey leather which you can see peeking through in places, but it would be nice to have the option.
There is nothing quite like driving a ‘new’ car for the first time, and this time the car in question is from a very short list of cars that I haven’t heard my Dad say ‘I’ve driven one of those’ or ‘I used to own one of those’. This is even more impressive given the fact that he used to be a Renault mechanic in his youth and is something of a Renault nut.
We collected this Gordini yesterday afternoon after purchasing it over the phone at Anglia Car Auction’s most recent classic car auction on Saturday. I’d been to view the car the day before the auction and whilst the description listed it as having an MOT, it did look a little sorry for itself, with plenty of surface corrosion all over the body and inner wings. Despite this the car appeared to be quite solid, with only a couple of small holes that I’ve spotted so far. I did the unthinkable at an auction and left without hearing the car run or checking the paperwork, although I already knew that we were interested in buying the car just for the sheer rarity.
This is the second Renault 17 Gordini that we’ve bought, with the first being the green example that we bought at a CCA auction nearly two years ago. When we bought that car it was described as being one of only two known examples of a RHD R17 Gordini left in the UK. That car was a one owner car that hadn’t been on the road since the 90s and was a non running example. It now runs but in the intervening period its been a project that has been tinkered with in between other work and hasn’t been on the road, and we’ve been debating whether to restore it fully or just to tidy it and preserve some of its originality.
This isn’t the first time we’ve bought a car from ACA and risked driving it home, and I can remember plenty of journeys home in a wide variety of cars (although we had usually seen them run through the auction earlier the same day and knew that they were running, driving, and the old man had a good chance to listen how healthily they were running). One of my favourites was probably the BMW 1602 which is one of the most enjoyable cars I have ever driven. Usually the cars have little fuel and we stop at the nearby petrol station to fill up, which also gives us a chance to decide if the car is driving correctly and running well enough to make it home. In this case we had half a tank of fuel and considering how well it started, we decided just to stop at the half way point to home, where we leave the B-roads and join the A11. Fortunately we got there with no issues, and the little Renault appeared to be driving very well.
At this point we swapped over and I got a chance to drive after figuring out the switch arrangement (which makes a great deal of your controls available to your right hand without removing it from the steering wheel). The knob to turn up the dash lights has been snapped off so I would be driving without being able to see the instruments, though luckily I was being followed home and we agreed that he would flash his headlights if I went near 70mph. The steering wheel is large but feels slim (though more solid than some similarly aged cars), and slightly squidgy. The lack of PAS isn’t bothersome and once the car is rolling the steering feels smooth. The pedals are reasonably positioned although the brake pedal is set quite high and requires a little adjustment from the driver for smoother progression. The brakes themselves had more bite than I was expecting, which is a pleasant surprise when driving an old car (especially one that is relatively unknown to you). Though this car is badged as an injection model, it is fitted with a carburettor and the fuel injection set up is in the boot, along with a box of other parts. We’ll investigate this at a later date along with the other restorative works that need to be completed.
Mostly I kept the speed fairly low and stuck with the HGVs during my trip down the M11, and the car quite happily settled down. When pushing on a little more the Renault proved to be happy with motorway speeds, and provided more acceleration than I expected it to. The engine of this car feels very strong and happy to rev, which is always pleasant.
My driving experience was mostly on the M11 and M25, so I didn’t get to fully experience the driving characteristics of the car, but I did leave the motorway a junction early to take the back roads for the last leg of the journey. Whilst not a B-road ‘weapon’, the little R17 proved to be very enjoyable to drive on a country lane. It still needs to be handled with care and corners approached with caution as any old car does, but it is still a car that is capable of being enjoyed fully at reasonable speeds. If I needed any more convincing I’ve spent most of today itching to go out and drive, and that tells me all I need to know about how much I like this car.
As anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram may know, yesterday I had the interesting experience of attending the NCM 135 lot ‘barn find’ classic car auction near Preston, which has received quite a lot of online attention in recent weeks. After a 4 hour plus journey, parking in a field so boggy it could only be in the North (if you think I’m kidding there were whole fields flooded under more than a foot of water less than 2 miles away), and having a little laugh at some other attendees who had pristine white trainers that were totally unsuitable for mud, we finally got to register for the auction and see if the cars were quite as bad as we thought they might be.
*In the midst of all this I will add that the NCM staff were absolutely great and very friendly. Based on the conversation we had with the gentleman overseeing the parking they are quite new to auctioning (of this type at least) and had had over 1M hits online for this auction. He also spotted us getting stuck in the field on the way out and used a tractor to pull us out, without us having to go looking for someone to help – which truly made a huge difference at the end of the day*
A few of the cars were inside a new built barn with a large amount of seating (listen up other auction houses who are so stingy with chairs!) and the rest of the cars were crammed out back, some with only a few inches between them – not really suitable for inspecting rusty old cars. Rather unsurprisingly, the photos made the cars appear a great deal more presentable than they actually were, with a large proportion of the cars only worth being broken for parts. We had a brief look around and concluded that very few of the cars we had hoped would be ok actually were, and that it was pretty unlikely that we would be bidding.
With a buyer’s premium of 20% plus VAT (and an extra 1% or 2% for online bidders I think), I was curious to see whether there would be little interest or if auction fever would take over. I don’t know the reason for such a high buyer’s premium, but two viable reasons could be that:
1/ The auction house didn’t think that the cars would make much money given their general condition
2/ The single vendor wasn’t paying any commission
The rumoured back story to this auction is that it was a single collection of cars owned by a man and his wife. There was a divorce (around 2010 I think), and the wife got the cars, and there has been legal wrangling since then. This could also explain the deteriorated condition of most of the cars and the fact that not a single one of them had any paperwork with it.
As you can see from my Twitter feed and other various sources online, the bidding went absolutely crazy in a way that is rare to see. At one point near the end of the auction I saw a man up on the rostrum (so I can only assume he was auction staff) laughing and shaking his head in disbelief at the price being achieved on one of the cars. I truly hope that the many online bidders who bought cars from this auction actually went and viewed them beforehand, as they will be in for a few shocks. I cannot see why the prices achieved went as high as they did for a good proportion of cars, but I believe it can be attributed to a few factors, which includes:
Online bidders who didn’t view the cars
Google experts (the ones who find the highest possible price for a particular car ever, so this must be a bargain)
General auction fever
Obviously I could very easily be wrong, and I completely missed what other people were seeing, but I very much doubt it. This auction is also not a sign that the market is on its way back up, it is absolutely an anomaly, and I would still never advise anyone to buy a car for investment purchases.
In relation to buying a barn find car, my simple advice is this…..don’t. Barn find cars are often seen as an easy and cheap way into classic car ownership. They’re not. In this sort of bracket where a classic car is worth under £20k in good condition (and even far in excess of that figure), there is a very strong possibility you will lose a lot of money in restoring it. It is a time intensive process and nothing is truly cheap anymore, especially old car parts and specialist labour. For those people who enjoy working on their cars, there is still a chance to do that with a good condition example, as any old car will require upkeep. If you do decide to restore your own car then please research it as much as you possibly can. Speak to people who have restored their own cars, consider whether you have the time and skills to complete the sort of work needed, and if you don’t, consider if you have the time, money and patience for someone else to restore it for you. Inspecting a car prior to purchase is an incredibly valuable tool, and one that couldn’t be reasonably exercised at this auction.
Below is a short walk around video of the auction and a few of my photos with the prices the cars achieved.
It has been a long time since I’ve seen the Escort in our workshop, and its certainly helping to brighten up the place (especially with the grim weather that has arrived recently). The paintwork has now been completed and it has provided quite the transformation, which can be seen in the earlier posts about this car.
Now we’re going to start building the car back up, which includes plenty of decisions as to how we plan to modify this car just enough to make it stand out from the crowd. The progress from now might seem even slower, but all of the detail work will take time and most of what will go into this car won’t make as large a visual impact as having it painted has.
Progress on the Escort has finally been moving in the right direction and over the past few weeks I’ve been visiting the bodyshop to monitor progress and make a few decisions on detail items about the paintwork.
I had absolutely no hesitation in deciding that the car was to be repainted in Daytona Yellow. Not only am I a big fan of yellow cars, but I thought it would be much more interesting than the pretty horrendous green the car was previously painted with or its original colour of red. I wanted the car to stand out and I’m very pleased to have seen the car progress over recent weeks and I’ve also seen its character change dramatically.
I managed to source an original RS2000 bonnet from a car that had just been broken for parts, and it was one that was the same colour as this car originally left the factory in (without the X-pack kit). The bonnet that came with the car when I bought it was fibreglass, which was slightly rippled as well has having NACA duct shaped holes cut in it, so choosing to replace it with a metal bonnet was an easy decision. The grille section of the kit had also been removed previously though fortunately the bodyshop were able to reattach it, and this made a huge step on the journey to making the car look like it should again. There was a lot of work undertaken to ensure the shut lines around the bonnet were correct and the top section of the kit had to be lifted and smoothed so that there wasn’t a large gap between the panels.
The car then underwent more bodywork before being spray filler-ed to achieve the best results for the fibreglass parts, and judging by the final finish this was a very worthy extra expenditure. The interior of the car, engine bay and boot were then painted, and it was nice to visit just after this point and take a couple more photos. I’d seen the car just before any paint was applied and it was the first time that I had seen the car in one colour, but seeing it as it was in the photos above was even more exciting.
Last week an unexpected email arrived in my inbox and it contained these photos of the car in the paint booth, freshly painted and looking even better than I could have hoped. These photos were a confirmation that yellow was the right choice to make, as it will allow it to have a pleasant blend of originality and modification (along with my fascination for yellow cars).
Just yesterday I went to make the final decisions for the bumper and grille surround (which will be painted black). This was the first time I’ve seen the car with the doors, boot lid and bonnet back in place since it has been painted. The car is finally starting to look like a car again and match up expectations I have for it. Next week I should be able to provide photos with the detail work painted.
I thought it was time I posted an update on some of the projects we have in the workshop. Progress has been a little slow up until recently with other work taking priority over our own projects. A couple of new long term projects have also joined the queue in the past few weeks and that means that the Fiesta RS Turbo that we’ve had in storage will soon be going up for sale. It needs work to get it back to its best but it is very solid. We’re just reassembling it and making it run once again so that the new buyer knows exactly what they’re getting. If you’re interested then please email me or contact me through one of our social media channels.
Our other fast Ford project is also making progress, as it was delivered to a paint shop yesterday, so I will be able to post updates shortly. The mk2 RS2000 X-pack has been waiting to be painted for a long time I can’t wait for it to be on the road (for the first time in many years!).
The most recent additions include two 3.6 manual XJ-S. These are fairly rare at this point and both need some work. One has been in our local area for the past twenty five years with the previous owner whose health has been suffering and the car is in something of a sorry state. I was pretty lucky to end up purchasing this one as the owner had had many calls and viewings, with all but one of them wanting to break the car for its gearbox – and one even wanted to convert it into a trike! Luckily the owner entrusted the car to me after I promised that it would remain intact and would be better than ever by the time I finished with it. The second manual XJ-S was in an auction the same weekend that included many car parts from a garage clearance. It was advertised as having been off the road since 2004 and had no keys and the photos showed wiring hanging out of the steering column. It was still something of a bargain and when it arrived I was mostly pleasantly surprised by the condition, as it appears to be fairly solid. As it turns out it does also run and drive, though it does have a misfire and the gearbox is fairly lax. This car won’t be staying standard either, and I’m looking forward to starting it.
Just when you may be thinking that I’ve taken on too many XJ-S projects (and considering that my own 4.0 is still having work done), another arrives! Today I collected this XJ-SC V12 which is currently a non runner. I’ve never been a fan of the cabriolet XJ-S as I find its looks challenging, but this one may be an exception to the rule. It is another car that has been sat due to the owner’s poor health (though I will say he has done everything possible to look after it). It should be back on the road soon and will be going up for sale, ready to be enjoyed all summer long!
Great Escape Cars is a Redditch based company that offers classic car experiences, and I was lucky enough to be invited on their media day yesterday. I’m sure it is abundantly clear to anyone reading this that I am not a member of the media, and therefore I have little reason to be on a media day. However, I’ve been chatting to Graham (one of the gentlemen behind Great Escape Cars) on Twitter for quite some time and I’ve badgered him about XJS many times too, so I made the list.
Great Escapes Cars offer a few different ways to enjoy a variety of classic cars, and I got to experience one of their taster days, which meant that I was able to drive five different cars over the day with a co-driver. It was also a chance to meet up with a great many people from Twitter and put a few faces to names, so the trip wasn’t only about the cars, but also about chatting to some great people and visiting some great venues.
A 4.45am start saw me arriving in Redditch with plenty of time to spare and a chance to look around at what cars were on offer, and which ones I was set to drive. The cars on my list were an MG B, a Ford Mondeo ST200, a Jaguar XJS 4.0, a Jaguar XK150 and a Jaguar XJS 4.0 Convertible. It’s no secret that I love an XJS, but I was very happy to see the XK150 in my line up, as I have never had the chance to drive one. Other cars available include a Triumph TR6 (which proved to be very popular), a Jaguar XKR, a V12 XJS, a Porsche 911 (996), a Brooklands Capri and a MKII Jaguar among many others.
The cars came equipped with an easy to read guide book that lead us through the directions to each stop, where we got to swap cars and enjoy the views (and food!). Lunch was a stop at Caffeine and Machine, with an impressive array of cars even though it was a weekday. I arrived there in the Mondeo, and was pleasantly surprised at what a fun car it is to drive, with an engine that enjoys being revved and nice handling to boot, it felt good to be in a Ford of this age, and I think they represent a bargain at the moment. I can see why Caffeine and Machine is so popular, with a nice relaxed atmosphere and plenty to see and plenty to eat as well.
It didn’t take long to get back out in the cars though and I was soon enjoying the rather lovely XJS 4.0 coupe on the very pleasant roads surrounding C&M that form part of the route planned for us by Great Escapes. Being able to drive what is a relatively modern grand tourer back to back with a sporty saloon and a classic like an MG B really does help to give you an idea of how incredible the differences between classics in a similar price bracket can be. The Mondeo is certainly incredibly cheap for now, but the MG and the Jag can be had for similar money, and provide incredibly different experiences.
Next up was the XK150, and after a few helpful hints from the previous driver we were soon underway again. I was thrilled to be able to drive one of these, and for me it is exactly what classic motoring is about. It had its own little niggles but you have to learn to drive it, and drive it properly. The sound, the wind rushing past, the view over the bonnet and all the other little details add up to make a raw driving experience that is so often missing now. Coaxing and convincing it to change gear smoothly and do as you asked is an experience more modern drivers could use, and perhaps could reintroduce a little more mechanical sympathy towards cars. The big Jag was the car of the day for me, and I got out with a big grin and feeling a little deaf. The only negative is that all those projects I see will be even more tempting now I know what I’m missing out on…
After what was a fantastic day I can wholeheartedly recommend anyone who wants to try out a classic car visits Great Escape Cars and has a look at the incredibly reasonable rates and packages they offer (Starting from just £39!). I would also recommend that anyone who is thinking of buying a classic should go and hire one too, just so you can get a glimpse of what ownership may be like, and see whether you actually enjoy driving a classic or if you’re perhaps more suited to a modern classic. They’re also hosting their first Classics and Coffee of 2019 tomorrow (Sunday 24th March), so if you’re anywhere near Redditch it could be well worth the trip out.
Finally I would like to say thanks to Graham and his team for inviting me along and for hosting all of us. I am incredibly impressed that you all manage to keep the fleet on the road and working well, as it is no mean feat.
I recently wrote about my experience with the Vantage, and now it is time for its competitor of sorts, my old 911. This post could go on for a lot longer than the one about the Vantage, just because I’ve had it for longer and its a bit more of a story rather than just be being convinced by a shiny yellow thing on a forecourt, but I’ll do my best to keep myself from rambling.
I’ve owned the 911 for nearly three years now, though originally it was purchased in as stock at the H&H Chateau Impney Auction in December 2015. It was at the same auction that we bought the little 944 S2 Cabrio, which I then drove home (after someone told the old man that the roof was electric rather than manual, rather than let him struggle to figure it out like I did). That 944 was the first Porsche I had driven, and I was impressed. It felt incredibly quick going down the M40 late in the evening and I fell in love with the pop up lights. It is a fantastic little car and an affordable classic that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
I didn’t get to drive the 911 until the end of January next year, in the middle of rush hour traffic at junction 29 of the M25. It’s safe to say my first experience driving a 911 didn’t overly endear the car to me, though that is to do with the driver and driving situation rather than the car. The next month the car officially became mine, and on the very same day a we undertook a trip to the H&H Auction at Donington Park, where there was a rather special little Hillman Imp that I didn’t end up buying because of the Porsche. A 250 mile round trip in the first day of my ownership certainly helped to teach me about the car and I’ve never looked back. It is one of those cars that you can place a lot of trust in, which can be a struggle with some classics (in terms of reliability). It is a car that doesn’t overheat and doesn’t make me uncomfortable (which is fairly rare), and I have no qualms about taking it anywhere, so it is easy for me to see why so many people choose Porsche.
Three years isn’t really a long time in terms of car ownership, but it is the longest I’ve owned a car for. I can’t say that the whole time has been spent completely enamoured with the car, as there was a point where the car lost some of its shine and I didn’t drive it quite so much. Getting past that was easy enough though, I went for a drive and it reminded me just how much the car meant to me, and how much it makes me love driving. The car felt angry at having been left sat up for so long and I had forgotten just how ferocious and alive it can feel, it truly is one of those cars that has huge character. For me, this is one of very few cars that I can’t consider selling, as it feels like an old friend (and yes, I do talk to it).
People who know me (or follow me on Twitter) probably know that I like an XJS more than most people do, and this is one of the cars that helped me to realise that. I’ve owned this particular XJS since September 2017, after buying it at auction. I spotted the car among the listings of an ECCA auction and one of the main reasons that it caught my eye was because it had a black interior, which is pretty rare for one of these. Before I bought the car I was convinced that I was going to swap out the auto gearbox for a manual one as I’d never kept an auto of my own and didn’t find them involving enough, but after living with it for a while I realised its quite well suited to an XJS (at least in standard form).
Another of the big selling points for this particular car was that it was previously owned by a Jaguar club judge and had also just been featured in ‘Jaguar World’ magazine for seven months, which resulted in a rather healthy amount of invoices and a car that had been treated very well and cherished. I’ll happily admit that I love going through paperwork for cars at auctions, as you really do never know what you will find, and it tells you a lot about a car’s own personal story. This car came with the magazines that it was featured in and much more to display that it has quite a rich history.
I bought the car for just under £3,500, which I think is something of a bargain for a well kept XJS with plenty of paperwork, even if it did have over 180,000 miles on the clock at the time. After that point I used it as a daily driver with no real issues until the MOT, which it failed on a few small items. The car was then sat up for a few months until I couldn’t bear looking at it sat forlornly in the corner of the yard. The work needed to pass the MOT wasn’t major, and mainly related to the diff seeping oil.
On paper a straight six, auto XJS wouldn’t usually be something that really appeal to me, but this car has plenty of character and does everything I ask of it with minimal fuss. The 4.0 doesn’t have masses of power, but with the gearbox in sports mode it does allow you to wring its neck a little and explore the upper reaches of the rev range, and also allows the Jag to be a reasonably fast car that is plenty of fun down a country lane. The suspension is very compliant and never uncomfortable or harsh (even when it bottoms out over a big bump) and the tall tyres help to provide a real GT quality that most modern cars now miss. It is one of those cars that you could easily spend all day driving and feel no worse for it. The handling is relaxed and enjoyable and that long bonnet stretches out in front of you in a rather lovely way. The XJS is still narrow enough that you don’t have to worry on country lanes, either, and that is one of the things I love about it. If there is a bug bear that I do have with the straight six Jag engine it is that it really isn’t all that economical. That isn’t something that usually bothers me but the Vantage is more economical and a V12 XJS wouldn’t be too much worse to run, and that is always a temptation.
As a final note I will include that after a few spots of oil were found repeatedly and growing bored of listening to creaking bushes means that the Jag now does have a short list of jobs to be completed, so I will update with a final cost in a later instalment. On the list currently is a full service, a lot of new bushes front and rear as they are quite perished (and I’m considering sports anti-roll bars), a new oil pressure switch, front brake pads and also sealing the bottom of the dipstick. I’m also considering a new set of tyres which may wait for a later date at the moment.