As you may already know, the first car I ever owned was a Carmen Red 1958 Jaguar 3.4 Litre Sedan with wire wheels and Lucas Flamethrower fog lamps, otherwise known as a MK1. I had seen this particular car many years earlier when I was on my paper route. I was so struck by its beauty that I pedaled after it and saw which driveway it turned into. The owner wasn’t one of my customers so I didn’t know who he was. Many years later in 1969 a friend of mine showed me a picture of a Jaguar XK, and the look of the car brought back the memories of that chance encounter so many years before. I knocked on the owner’s door and asked if he still had the Jag. He did, and said it was for sale, so I bought it with $600 of saved paper route money. It was a beautiful car, with lots of power and a luxurious leather and walnut interior. That started me on a long path of Jaguar ownership.
Later that year I went off to college in Massachusetts, but unfortunately freshmen were not allowed to have cars there. That didn’t keep me from noticing other cars, though. One day I saw, in a driveway across the street from my dorm, a beautiful car that I later learned was a Carmen Red 1958 Jaguar XK150 Fixed Head Coupe. It looked like a 2-door version of my own car, since it was the same year and the same color. I was familiar with the famous E-Type, but I was not familiar with older Jaguars, since my sedan was the first one I had ever seen. I went over to look at it, and the owner noticed my interest and came out to talk to me about it.
The story he told was that nine years earlier in 1960 he had bought an XK120 (whatever that was) that needed some work. He parked it in a rented garage, stripped the paint and removed the cylinder head. That’s when he noticed that the engine had a broken piston ring, which had scratched a cylinder wall. That sent him off looking for a parts car from which to source a donor engine. One of the cars he found was the beautiful red XK150, and reasoning that it would be better to have a nice running car right away rather than dealing with a long-term repair project, he bought the XK150 to drive and stopped work on the XK120. The XK120 sat there neglected, and by the time we met he had been paying rent on the storage garage for the previous nine years. Sensing a potential buyer, he invited me to go to the garage and look at it.
The two swinging garage doors creaked open for the first time in who-knows-how-long, and there it sat. The bonnet was up, the cylinder head was sitting on the front wing where it had been abandoned so many years before, and the entire car was covered with a decade of accumulated dust. The layers of dirt and grime caused the chrome and the glass and the body to appear indistinguishable from each other. I had never seen anything like it, but the shape had a resemblance to my new sedan, and the engine was the same. It had obviously had a hard life. Although the car had only been driven for 10 years before it had been put away, in that time it had received a new vinyl interior, which itself was now completely deteriorated. It was also impossible to tell what its color originally was, since the owner had carefully removed all traces of paint. It had a patina of oxidation everywhere on the bare metal, but no rust, and it appeared to be complete. The owner named a price, but since I had just spent all my paper route savings on my 3.4 Litre Sedan and knew nothing about restoring or even repairing cars, I was not in a position to do anything besides nod appreciatively and walk away. However, during the next few months I spent some time learning about the lonely car that sat in that garage.
To be continued…