When in 1962 a road-test E-type Jaguar was available for going to the Monaco Grand Prix we saw it as a very reasonable substitute for the hired aeroplanes we had used for previous such trips.
I began by taking it home from the Motor Sport offices, being warned that this was a 150mph car. But I found it quite docile in the London traffic — for which torture car owners were not then charged! Indeed, when passing opposite the Albert Hall a pedestrian stepped too suddenly into the wet road, but it was a little Ford saloon that spun round in avoidance, while the E-type stopped impeccably.
Next day I picked up Michael Tee and his cameras, and we set off for the Côte d’Azur. The prospect of the long Continental run in such a fast motor car (priced then at £1480, plus Purchase Tax) was only marginally blighted by finding that the exhaust fumes were penetrating into the boot to an extent that food left therein had to be thrown away and one’s clothes smelled of petrol.
Having had such good service from the Channel Air Bridge, now alas defunct, which flew 5-6 cars and 23 passengers across the sea in rebuilt Bristol-engined Douglas DC-4s, renamed Carvairs, we used its new Southend-Basle route. Capt Tootill, who had been a reader of Motor Sport since discovering it in wartime RAF messes, got us there in 2hr 20min, for the 450 miles. Quickly through Customs, we drove on to Besançon, to stay the night at the Grand Hotel.
The next day we stopped for fuel and oil at Bourge, after cruising at 122mph and reaching 138mph (at 5500rpm) in 9699RW. Masses of Citroën 2CVs and the newer Ami 6s, Renaults 4s and Simca 1000s were overtaken. We lunched at Corpse before entering rally country at Gap and Sisteron.
Wanting to enjoy France’s back roads, we then followed signposts for Nice and the Col de Restfond, trying to disregard its unguarded drops to the rocky valley far below and the increasingly rough road surface. Eventually, a snowdrift (in June!) made us turn back. I drove very slowly but a rock made a slight crack in the Jaguar’s sump, from which Shell X-100 began to seep. The low exhaust pipes had also suffered.
The sun had now waned and instead of the beaker full of the sunny South, it was full of rain water as we threaded our way over the Col de la Cayolle and descended into Monaco amid heavy traffic.
In Monte Carlo, British Motors Ltd were repairing exhausts and dents of other Jaguars engaged on a Jaguar Drivers Club rally, but they then looked at ours, drained away all the new oil we had just put into it, put Holt’s cement into the sump crack, and told us to ignore a tap from the twin overhead camshafts. They were also able to locate for Bruce McLaren, who was victorious in the Monaco GP, a new UJ for his E-type.
I met Edward Eves, who’d flown from Bagington to Cannes in his pre-war Miles Whitney Straight; he had then hitched a lift to the station and come on by train. We shared a room in the Hotel de Palmiers with Jenks. From the hotel window we saw Princess Grace get into a Rolls-Royce after a Red Cross reception.
Monaco practice took place from 5am on Friday, and I got soaked in the unexpected rain. The next sessions took place in the day.
Jenks, who had no time for mixing with the yacht-owning fraternity, insisted on trying the Jaguar up La Turbie and on over the Turini and Col de Braus. It was the first time that I had felt sick in a car! He said that the E-type was heavy and wide compared to his Porsche but later, when Motor Sport refused to buy him a Carrera, he was full of praise for the couple of E-types he had in succession, as substitutes.
Sunday’s race offered much, with so many top drivers and cars competing. The famous road circuit had dried out as the grid formed — Jim Clark (Lotus), Graham Hill (BRM) and McLaren (Cooper) on the front row.
A very interesting race resulted, Hill’s engine giving up of lap 93 of 100, and McLaren taking the win. Bruce held a 5sec lead going into the last lap, but this was reduced to 1.3sec by Phil Hill’s Ferrari 120-V6 — Italians going wild and the British spectators waving the green Cooper-Climax on. Lorenzo Bandini was third in another Ferrari, ahead of John Surtees’ Lola and Jo Bonnier’s Porsche.
At a grisly 4am on Monday we started for home, leaving DSJ to do his very detailed four-page report. First, we gave Philip Turner a lift to Nice Airport, as he was flying with his race copy to The Motor‘s office in London. Then the E-type was pointed towards the Nice Autoroute (toll 10/-). I’m reminded that Willie Green has done Le Touquet to Monaco in a Ford GT40 in eight hours. We were simply getting home quickly, in what we thought was a very acceptable British car.
It was up the N7 to Lyon, N6 to Chalon, and the N44 to St Quentin, cruising at 115mph, doing 135mph only once. Michael did the 778 miles to Calais in 12hr 41min, the running time 12hr 20min, with 70 miles in our best hour.
There were three pauses for petrol, the Jag’s tank holding only 14 gallons (17.6mpg), whereas Gran Turismo cars like the Aston Martin DB4GT took 30 gallons, and the Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta and the GT Maserati each had 22-gallon tanks.
Our progress was slow in the dark from Monaco to Nice on the N7. We got lost once, lorries on two-way roads impeded us, as did traffic lights and the rail-like trams in Cambrai, where there was a detour — and it was market day in Villefranche. Nor was it all motorway; once a level-crossing bar fell but rose again as the E-type was seen approaching fast! A further stop was made to shut the boot lid, which had a habit of opening itself.
All told, a satisfactory dash to and from Monte Carlo.