A few years ago I contributed to Practical Classics magazine’s Staff Sagas and shall be sending further updates in the coming months. Fleet News on this site is a more detailed account, reporting on the same four cars plus a pair of contrasting newcomers.
Jaguar Mark VIIM
Any XK engined Jag saloon is a thing of joy, but the king of them all is the Mark VII. For me, not only does the VII (and the VIII/IX) represent the first of a long line of great saloons, it has something more than the usual package of style, comfort and performance. A Rolls/Bentley like presence coupled with an aggressive feline stance gives the VII an inimitable cool grandeur and subsequent Jag saloons of more progressive design missed out on this. Unlike a Rolls/Bentley however, the Jag is equipped with the masterpiece that is the XK engine – fundamentally this is a 100mph club room. Sink into that armchair and watch the world rush towards you over a vast acreage of beautifully sculptured wood veneer. Between the VII, VIII and IX, the earliest vehicle is the most aesthetically pleasing – full spats, a split screen and no fussy chrome strips down the flanks.
The car we’re concerned with here is a Mark VIIM, distinguishable by its flashing indicators, wrap around bumpers, built in horn grilles and fitted fog lamps. Power was also up to 190bhp, a 30bhp increase on the VII. This car needs quite a lot of work to bring it up to a decent usable standard.
It seems that it was first registered in South Africa – clues are the non-leather seats and the Star Radiators of Bloemfontein sticker. However, structurally the car is sound so the plan is to achieve possession of an MOT certificate and then use and improve thereafter. However, before work commences on things that make it go, stop and steer, some glaring irritations: for the next pictures of the car, it will have proper black and white number plates and the correct spats. Also, the striking bonnet mascot needs to be sorted – there are currently two curious holes in it, was one mascot not enough? It will also be wearing some new tyres. The knowledgeable Dougall Cawley at Longstone Classic Tyres has presented me with a monster dilemma. Either Avon Turbosteel or Michelin X are the radial options. Alternatively I can stick to the Dunlop RS5 crossplies as originally fitted. We shall see…
I have been intrigued by the Austin A30/35 for decades but never thought I would ever own one. However, an acquaintance of mine in the classic motorcycle business took an original but slightly tatty, low mileage ‘55 A30 in part exchange for some bikes (because it was small enough to take up little space in his shed) and suggested that I should have it for a reasonable amount of blue folding. So in this era of austerity, which looks like it will hang around for some time yet, I suddenly have the perfect car. After a brake overhaul, Piglet was awarded a crisp new MOT and off we went.
Interestingly the car came with 135/70R13 radials, and given that an A30 is something of a buzz box anyway (this ‘55 car has a diff ratio of 4.87), the small tyres contributed to even lower gearing. The new budget 155/80R13 radials make the car look much better and 45mph cruising is acceptable. However, at 50mph plus I tend to feel a tad uncomfortable with the frantic rate at which the innards of the little 803cc A series are moving.
I am aware that there are a few more ways of raising the gearing (get an A35) and indeed the power (get an A35). However, I think I am happy to keep Piglet original and enjoy her in all her trafficatory splendour as an ultra local hack. Next on the cards will be some wax oiling and attention to that interior.
Of course a popular way of upping the gearing of an A30 is to change to a 3.7 diff from a Wolseley 1500. Well, just now I am happy to leave the 3.7 Wolseley 1500 diff attached to the Wolseley 1500, because I am 90% certain that Wolseley is but a battery charge and a leak free radiator away from returning to the front line on those short medium haul duties it does so admirably. The 1500 has also been earmarked for the odd rally this year so all systems will need to be working well.
The TR2 hasn’t been out to play since it took part in PC Magazine’s TR fest which saw 11 TR’s roar up to North Wales via what remains of the former Triumph factory at Canley. Although this is now a hideous fast food and retail park or some such, it was quite a special experience to stand with TiaRa outside the social club (the only remaining original building) and consider that when (Great) Britain was a proper country, these wonderful motor cars were built right here on this site. For bringing her ‘home’, TiaRa rewarded me with 400 miles of impeccable behaviour. I did get rather wet, but that was my fault for not bringing any side screens. The ‘2’ has been treated to a wash and a short blast around the lanes. All seems to be okay, but in the coming weeks she will receive a well deserved full service.
Unlike the A30, the 4.2 litre Jaguar XJ6 is not an ideal hack for these austere times. Having said that, it shall be rolled out for duty on occasional long distance express runs, the type of journey it does rather better than just about anything else. Recently, on a couple of occasions it has manifested a reluctance to start when warm. I shall be monitoring this closely in the coming weeks.
There is no doubt about it, the MGBGT has been neglected. As it is a heritage body shell car built in the early 21st Century I tend not to feel too guilty about making it last priority. However, it remains in the plan and will be re-commissioned as a fun, everyday, mainly winter hack. Carbs and some fairly important but irritating issues like temperature gauge and heater controls need sorting.