Something a bit different! Following up on my recent driving day experience in three modern supercars, today I travelled with Helen to Upton Warren in Worcestershire to drive a Jaguar Mk 2. This was a present for my 50th Birthday from our dear friends Sarah, Lewis, Martha, Freya and Joe and much appreciated – thanks guys. We had an unhurried drive up from our home in Wiltshire and the weather stayed clement, a good start. We arrived at ‘Great Driving Days’ which was situated on an agricultural yard next to a field of Highland cattle. We spotted ‘our’ car on the yard and eagle-eyed Helen spotted that one front corner was pushed in. The guy explained that the car had been ‘bent’ when out on loan earlier in the week, ending up in a ditch. Oh dear. We were offered a swop, but my heart was set on the Mk2. We had a quick overview of the controls and pressed the starter button. Amazingly, it fired instantly, which was impressive. Later my Dad would relate that a friend of his had a Mk2, back when he was a young man, and they always reckoned that his car started before your finger reached the button! I gingerly blipped the heavy throttle, selected first and eased out the clutch. With a whine from the gearbox, the old Jag pulled smoothly away. We rumbled along the track to the main road and with Helen in charge of navigation, turned left onto the main road.
First impressions: Pick up was lively, but I was having some trouble initially with negotiating the gear change from 2nd to 3 via quite a wide gate while smoothly feeding in the throttle. Compared to my daily diesel SUV, the throttle response was really crisp so blipping the throttle when changing down was a real pleasure. The other first impression was of the slow steering, which although it had been converted to power steering had a slow initial turn in with it needing a good quarter turn on even the slighest bend. I was having to recallibrate against modern cars – the slow steering, crisp throttle response, the long throw and wide gate of the gearbox. So I was concentrating quite hard at this point, but appreciating the sound effects of the straight six up front.
After a few minutes I was starting to get to grips with the controls and starting to just enjoy the experience – the view down that lovely bonnet with the leaping Jaguar. Feeling more confident, as the first straight bit of road appeared, I tentatively pushed the throttle all the way in third and allowed it to build revs. This was fantastic, over a certain RPM, the engine note changes and becomes a deep-throated roar accompanied by a decent shove in the back. I looked down at the speedo and we were only doing about 45mph! The beautiful large rev counter was unfortunately not working, so I changed gear ‘by ear’ and I was respectful of the age of the vehicle. All the gauges were reading well – temperature was steady (it had a later electric fan), oil pressure held up, although it dropped at idle and the voltmeter stayed put. The dash is all wood, with great big old gauges with retro script and a row of toggle switches, it really is iconic.
The route we were following had a really good mix of roads, from quiet country lanes to open B-roads and a little bit of A-roads. During the drive, I was starting to discover a dual character to this old Jag. Its first character is all about burbling around in the big squishy seats, enjoying the view and using the torque of the engine to pull you along with minimal changing gear. As we pottered through a narrow country late, I pulled over to let some cyclists come through – the lead cyclist mouthed ‘nice car’ and waved. I agreed! The other character of the car is when you have room to give it some welly in second, snick it up into third, give it some more welly, attain a pretty good turn of speed and then fling it into forth. For an old car, the acceleration is brilliant and the gearchange is really slick once you’ve got the feel of it. In this mode, the Jag is a racing machine, apparently lapping up this kind of treatment. It has to said, with open throttles, at higher revs, it was very noisy, with induction roar, exhaust blare, gear whine and wind noise all contributing to a glorious din. In addition, heat was wafting up the gearlever gaiter from the gearbox – a multi sensory experience!
With my amateur mechanic hat on, I would say that the Jag was idling at too high revs – I wondered if they had set it this way to help people to avoid stalling. Also, the particular car had a few defects which it would have been to rectify, like loose door capping and a stiff throttle pedal which could have done with being eased to make it drive smoother, but I’m being a bit picky.
We stopped for the obligitary photo shoot with Helen taking her usual high standard of still photos and video on her iPhone, including her jumping out of the car and energetically running up the road to film the Jag driving through a ford.
All too soon it was time to return the Jaguar to its home and we arrived back safely to the farm with Jag in one piece. A really enjoyable experience – now to the pictures!
So thanks to the Boddy family, Helen and to ‘Great Driving Days’ a small business based in Upton Warren. I would highly recommend them based on this experience. For anyone else doing one of these, you need to set your expectations. These cars are in working order – don’t expect concours condition – and being classics, they are noisy, smelly and antiquainted. That’s the appeal and it was an unforgettable, and repeatable experience!