J258RFJ: an expensive update

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).

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The blown head gasket

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.

Project Update: MK2 Escort RS2000 X-Pack – It’s home!

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.

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Project Update: MK2 Escort RS2000 X-Pack

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.

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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.

Projects: May Update

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.

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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.

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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: Media Day

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.

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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.

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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.

1983 Porsche 911 SC

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.

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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).

1992 Jaguar XJS 4.0

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Living with the Vantage

I thought it was about time I wrote a little something about my experience of the Vantage, which was a car I had wanted to buy for a few years but had half given up on at this point.

I’ve owned the Vantage for just over a year now after buying it on a bit of a whim at probably the worst time of year to buy a ‘sports’ car. The salesman I had befriended at Grange had been sending me Vantages of varying shades of green and blue, as the only stipulations I had given him were that it had to be a manual car and in an interesting colour. I (and my friends who’d approved of the idea) had mostly given up hope when I couldn’t bring myself to sell my 190e and stick to the plan of buying and selling a car every 3-6 months and building up the fund each time.

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Can you believe it used to be even more yellow….?

After missing a call from the salesman I decided to have a look online and see what car had come into stock that he’d want me to see, and a bright yellow Vantage appeared – which I wasn’t expecting. After taking a drive up to Grange and walking around the car it was obvious that it was a special car, especially among the sea of grey, black and white cars. I was something of an easy target and a few days after driving the car I did the deal, after all when was I going to get a chance to buy a car like this again? Rather stupidly in my excitement I forgot most of my lessons in buying a car and didn’t check the car as thoroughly as I should have – though to be fair the salesman did spot a couple of items and had them corrected without me asking (though they should have been caught by the AM inspection, admittedly). As it turns out that excitement nearly bit me in the behind months later when I discovered that the tyres were all nearing or over a decade old and a discussion ensued as to whether a brand like Aston Martin should really be selling performance cars with tyres well past their best. Luckily the dealer sorted this after some persuasion.

After collecting the car in early December I barely used it for the next few months, being a little too precious about it and ‘saving it for best’. Early on in 2018 the battery failed whilst in the garage and parts of the centre console did too, meaning that the car had to be dragged out onto the back of a lorry and then taken to the dealership for them to diagnose. The centre console was fixed under warranty but apparently the battery was going to cost me well over £300 to replace, which is ludicrous, no matter the brand. I wasn’t best pleased with the dealer’s attitude towards it, though they didn’t consider the battery a serviceable item as I do. After getting the car back I had little faith in it, though I did promise myself to use it more in a hope to stave off more issues.

By the summer I had been using the car more regularly and had a decision to make about whether to take it to the Le Mans Classic or if I should take another car, as I didn’t trust it to make the distance to Le Mans and back with no major issues. I was convinced to take the car and in the end there were no big issues, though the TPMS did throw a fit now and again. The car drove perfectly and proved itself to be quite an accomplished GT car that provided plenty of comfort on the rather lovely roads down to Le Mans. It is a journey I would recommend to any petrolhead, as the calibre of cars that you see is incredibly high, and a highlight for me was coming out of a set of tolls next to a Testarossa which happily blasted off after giving me a thumbs up.

After returning from Le Mans I began using the car daily, and enjoying using it more. The more I drove it the more I realised that the Vantage really isn’t a sports car at all, its more suited to being a GT. It isn’t a slow car by any means, and it does sound good too, but dynamically it just isn’t there. The rear suspension acts like a pogo over a bumpy road and though I’ve heard much praise for the steering feel I’ve never really trusted it enough to give it much of a push down country lanes. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy driving the car, but rather that it isn’t what I expected it to be. The only gripes I have with the car is that the clutch is quite bad, and that the gearing on reverse means that unless you’re on level ground you’d better like the smell of burnt clutch. I’ve heard the twin plate clutch is a great upgrade so that will be planned at the appropriate time and I will just have to live with the lack of feel that comes as standard.

The Vantage is a special car, and is a special colour too. I’m also happy to admit that I quite enjoy the fact that the typical Aston owner is probably going to be displeased that the car is a ‘tasteless’ colour. It also isn’t an unreasonable proposition as a daily driver as the fuel economy happily reaches towards 24 MPG with ease*, and I made a round trip to Huddersfield and back (450 miles) on a single tank of fuel – with no real effort to conserve fuel until the last 20 miles. I haven’t bonded with it like I have with other cars, but I’m giving it a chance and using it plenty to see if I can dispel the idea that it is very much replaceable.

I will add one last point though – even when the dealer has let me down and frustrated me I have always found Andy Palmer incredibly helpful on Twitter. I find it both amazing and fantastic that the CEO of a company like Aston Martin has time to answer tweets from the ordinary customer like me, much less sort out the problems I’ve had. It is those sorts of actions that really do set a brand apart, so thank you Andy.

 

*As pointed out by a friend, I do realise that 24mpg isn’t great fuel economy for the average car but it works for me and I find it reasonable for this type of car!

New Arrival – 1986 Rover 3500 Vitesse 4.6l

Last week my pre-Christmas purchase finally arrived, though it was only held up due to the festivities and luckily the previous owner was as relaxed about it as I was. I’d been had forewarned by the owner that he hadn’t been able to get it running a week before I was due to collect (and pay for) it, though he had been using it previously so I was expecting it when the day finally came (even if my bid had been for a running and driving car), and he was a nice chap to deal with. Sadly no real paperwork came with the car which is a shame especially since it’s modified and I feel it has something of a story to tell – so if anyone knows this car or anything about it please don’t hesitate to drop me a message. I’m going to be digging into more about the engine as it is one of the reasons I bought the car and you don’t see 4.6 litre Rovers all that often. The car was also a rare twin plenum car originally apparently (one of which has been on my list to purchase for a while), though obviously that is something of a moot point now as the original engine is long gone. It’s a little sad that the car didn’t remain a twin plenum car, but at the same time it has ended up as something interesting and thats good enough for me.

The car was described as being solid but the paint being thin in places, and thats accurate though I’ll admit I was hoping for it not to be quite so thin on hard edges that you can see through it, and dull everywhere else. I have little doubt that a good polish will help it look a whole lot better and the other paintwork can be done in time, though it isn’t too much of a worry as this car will be used and not a garage queen. The door cards aren’t fitted and there is no headlining, so those will be on the shortlist to complete to make the car useable, and it could also use a good deep clean inside and out, along with an inspection, service and whatever else we find along the way that needs fixing.

We got around to getting it running a couple of days after the car arrived and I walked into the workshop just in time to see it spitting flames from the exhaust (after hearing the racket from outside). It isn’t the greatest sign for the engine but it did entertain me and as it was the first time I saw the car running I felt it was something of an introduction to what will surely be a big character among our cars. I caught the flames on video and you can see them below along with a few extra images from the original listing and a few I have taken since it arrived.

Specs:

  • 1986 Rover Vitesse Twin Plenum
  • 4.6 litre Serpentine engine
  • T5 gearbox
  • Revolution RFXs
  • Rimmer’s stainless steel exhaust and manifolds
  • Gaz adjustable shocks

 

Renault 17 Gordini – running at last!

Its now been 13 months since I updated this page and the little Renault has been in storage for all of that time and not been touched while other projects have been completed. Since the old man picked up a new Alpine for himself he’s been reinvigorated to get this project started and so the car was brought out of storage early this week. Everything has been gone through and checked to make the starting process as painless as possible, just so we would know how well the car runs and what sort of condition the engine is in.

As it turns out the engine is actually quite sweet and sounds fairly throaty! Looking forward to getting this car back on the road and having a drive, and happy that we’ve finally started it too!