The XK Jaguars
Further to the letter of David Mathers denigrating the Jaguar XK150 in your March issue, it is possible that a psychologist might interpret his choice of a Capri as a “sensible” car—with two non-full-size rear seats together with limited rear headroom, a boot that I am told one cannot stand a briefcase upright in, two doors, a car with sporting pretensions and looks (and possibly a 1300 engine)— as a present-day cheap, easy to run, substitute for an XK150! (I note that Ford have now endowed the Capri with a third door at the rear, presumably to give easier access to the rear seats!)
Fair enough. No one today would buy an XK150 as a “sensible” car. Even the last ones were made 14 years ago, spares are getting very difficult though not impossible, and even some “coachbuilders” refuse to work on such a car because they cannot match the original superb cellulose finish.
So why do I still own a 1959 d/h s.e. XK150 3.4 bought in 1962 with 26,854 miles behind it?
From any angle, it is a superb looking vehicle with lines of a timeless quality. After 12 years of ownership I can still look at it and be supremely content that such a vehicle belongs to me. Judging by the attention it often receives from others, I am not the only one to think this way.
It is a very comfortable car for two adults. My seven-year-old daughter occupies the rear seat space with no qualms. After having driven for 10 hours continuously on one occasion I did have back ache—more support needed in the lumbar region. (My wife, however, was not affected.) Remembering that one sits on 3 in. thick Dunlopillo directly on the wooden floor and with harder suspension given by the Konis I have fitted, I consider the ride very good on all but extremely rough B class roads. At least one can drive by the seat of one’s pants!
I simply cannot agree with Mr. Mathers that road-holding and steering are dangerous at speed. I have never felt so safe in any other car, even my second car, a Maxi. The Konis ensure flat cornering and the highgeared rack and pinion steering is world renowned. The heavy engine ensures basic understeer and one does not corner an XK as one does a Mini. I have always used Avon Turbospeeds, superb tyres, and I have never lost either the front or the back end. Obviously the XK does not corner as well as most front-wheel-drive cars, but even contemporary road-tests pointed out that it was a car that you squirt up the road after the corner. I doubt whether the Capri is any better at cornering. I do not consider that radials suit the car, suspension should be designed to suit radials; possibly Mr. Mathers had radials fitted. On fast straights, the car runs true as a die, unmoved by side winds, and can be virtually driven “hands off”. Before the speed limit of 70 m.p.h. I once touched 110 m.p.h. with the car still accelerating strongly, but the look on my wife’s face caused me to ease up! Top speed does not interest me, but the ability to cruise at 80-90 m.p.h. at about 3,500 r.p.m. does, and was a main criterion in selecting a Max’ as a second general purpose car.
The clutch does need great pressure and is very tiring in town driving. The steering is heavy in parking, but otherwise no bother at speed, the high gearing ensuring the smallest movements to get round any bend. I think Motor Sport said that this was a car for a large-boned Englishman! The handbrake is only useless if one does not constantly adjust it (about 30 seconds work)/ but then the car was one of the first massproduced cars to have disc brakes on all wheels.
I fitted a manual electrical switch to the choke within the first week of ownership. The location of the air filter and batteries Is inconvenient, but hardly affects the soundness of the engine design. The fuel pump ts just under the car, but then I have only looked at it once, about five years ago, as preventative maintenance.
I have had no trouble with the boot lid or petrol filler flap. The door trim is on plywood—surely most cars have only hardboard? The door hinges are, agreed, a b……d, the worst feature of the car for maintenance.
Insurance has been no bother. I was with the Avon for many years, average nett premium £40, and even now only pay £51 with General Accident. I have had no scrapes in the car and live in the Metropolitan Police area. These days it pays to find a small garage which will take an interest in such a car, but then I do all general maintenance myself and have no great need to visit a garage very frequently.
To sum up, the XK, above all, has character. It is probably the desire of many people to own a car that is different, that has contributed to the interest in “classic” cars. Such cars are not “sensible” buys these days, but if one can get enjoyment from owning such a car, one is generally willing to put up with minor inconveniences that are highlighted mainly by advanced engineering practices and experience. I note that the Triumph TR6 has now exactly the same performance as the basic 3.4 150! But it did take some 14 years or so to catch up!
The 120, to the purist, is the best of the bunch, but then have they compared the looks of a 120 and a 150, both with the hoods up? The 150, being the later model, is the better car as such.
My records show that each of the 52,000 miles I have so far travelled in the car, has, until recently, cost about 5p. Its value, discounting devaluation, has appreciated. Petrol consumption has averaged 20 m.p.g. and a set of five Turbospeeds last 18,000 (I might say that, although I am not speed crazy, I do like to get a move on!). Other than for new doors (rusted bottoms) the cellulose is original and oft mistaken for a recent respray. Chrome is original and good except for two re-chromed overriders, Slightly rusty when purchased. The car is not in conconas condition, although I was ushered into that section at the last XK rally at Woburn!
I have said more than enough. Many thanks for a fine magazine, every copy of which I have enjoyed since 1952. It was instrumental in germinating my interest in motoring as something more than a means of getting from A to B.
Croydon Keith W. Mills