How a childhood love of Jaguars became a lifelong obsession
The timeless appeal of classic Jaguars is one that extends far beyond English soil. And over in Holland one specialist made it his life’s work to keep old E-types, XKs and SS models on the road long before many people realised their value.
Growing up in a car-mad family, Tom Zwakman was helping his father service exotica like Jaguars, Alfa Romeos, Maseratis and Ferraris before he’d even turned 10 years old, inheriting a perfectionist’s eye for mechanical detail along the way.
Jaguars had especially got under his skin and when he set up his own business it was inevitable this would be where his speciality would develop. Tom being a mechanic at heart, bodywork and interior trim was sub-contracted out to local specialists leaving Tom to tinker with the spanners. Any money he made was invested in tools and machinery to help him in this task, Tom buying up a huge stock of Mk2 body and trim through the Dutch Jaguar importer in the mid-70s and adding to this over the years to create a vast inventory of original parts for everything from SS onwards. By 1983 he was in the position to set up Zwakman Motors and concentrate solely on his beloved old Jaguars.
“I have seen too much rubbish and mess from others over the years,” says Zwakman. “This field wasn’t – and still isn’t – wide in Europe as few deliver good quality so it wasn’t too difficult to find customers who really rewarded my passion.”
Engines are a particular speciality, Zwakman being well-versed in SS motors, XK straight-sixes and even Jaguar V12s, the latter adapted into a special alloy-bodied E-Type with an eight-inch wheelbase chop. The in-house tuned 6-litre motors are capable of developing 700bhp-plus, Zwakman saying they are reliable and usable on the road.
“100 per cent accurate” C- and D-type reproductions are another speciality, power upgrades for E-Types and Mk2s also being popular with customers. Collaboration with like-minded firms like RS Panels, trim specialists Suffolk & Turley and Leaping Cats here in the UK and Upper Classics in New Zealand underline the global network of specialists working together to support the increasing demand for classic Jaguars, expertise that Tom is ready to pass on to the next generation, having spent the last decade sharing his knowledge with his team.
SPEAKING TO TOM ZWAKMAN
How doing it for the love eventually reaped rewards for the Dutch Jaguar specialist
I liked fast cars from tuned Mini Coopers to Aston Martins but liked Jaguars above all and regretted seeing the old models being taken off the road and landing in scrapyards. Therefore in the early ’70s I started my first classic Jaguar garage in order to preserve them. In those days the values were totally different as a 3.8 E-Type in reasonable nick was just 2000 guilders, or about £400! People didn’t want to spend much on them so I was working day and night for not much money. But I was convinced this would change and people would appreciate the older cars, that there was a future in the business. Thankfully this was correct and what I had in mind from the beginning has become a reality!