1959 JAGUAR XK150

SOUTH­ERN STAR

New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Words: Quin­ton Tay­lor Pho­tos: Quin­ton Tay­lor & Neil Lewis

Seventy years old this year, the im­pres­sivelook­ing Jaguar XK engine, with its pol­ished al­loy camshaft cov­ers, still pro­vides sat­is­fy­ing per­for­mance and re­li­a­bil­ity in its many guises and sizes. Around 20 XK mod­els were present at the pub­lic dis­play in Queens Park dur­ing the NZ Jaguar Na­tional Rally 2018 in In­ver­cargill — a small-but-en­thu­si­as­tic num­ber, all beau­ti­fully pre­pared. The rally is held once ev­ery three years.

It seemed only fit­ting that the Best in Class and Con­cours d’el­e­gance tro­phies awarded at this year’s rally should go to a stun­ning ve­hi­cle pow­ered by the XK engine. Neil and Cyn­thia Lewis of In­ver­cargill, mem­bers of the Southland Jaguar Drivers Club, took the award with their carmine red 1959 Jaguar XK150 drop­head coupé, in a fit­ting ac­knowl­edge­ment of the com­ple­tion of a restora­tion pro­ject that re­ally started more than 20 years ago in Nel­son.

The restora­tion has been chal­leng­ing for the Lewis fam­ily, in­volv­ing much re­search and search­ing for parts — not an easy task, es­pe­cially when it needed to fit in with the com­mit­ments of a busy busi­ness. How­ever, the fam­ily was given a fair bit of help by Jaguar club mem­bers, lo­cal crafts­men, and Jaguar en­thu­si­asts from all quar­ters.

“I bought the Jaguar in 2012, then it spent two-and­half years in the work­shop,” Neil says. “I was do­ing it in a re­laxed style, but there wouldn’t have been a day with­out [my] do­ing some re­search on a part or some work on a few nuts and bolts, just so ev­ery­thing was con­tin­u­ing. It was steady progress, but, over­all, it worked quite well.”

We ask Neil what made him choose an XK150. His re­ply is a lit­tle sur­pris­ing.

“I was look­ing for a 140, but was very happy to find

a 150. I was look­ing around the North and South Is­lands for a suit­able car, and con­sid­ered a few. I even­tu­ally de­cided I needed a pro­ject — some­thing that was com­plete but able to be re­stored,” he says.

Bet­ter than a barn find

In 2012, Neil heard through the Jaguar club of an XK150 pos­si­bly com­ing up for sale in Nel­son. The owner, Bob Peters, was a lo­cal club mem­ber.

“I phoned him and he was in the throes of sell­ing it, so I was very quickly on a plane to Nel­son to do a deal with him,” Neil ex­plains.

The car was in bits when Neil first viewed it, with a lot of it in boxes. “It was 90 per cent there. Some of the bits were ei­ther al­ready re­done, or Bob and his wife had done a lot of the work,” he re­calls.

The car, a 1959 model, had en­dured some six own­ers fol­low­ing its im­por­ta­tion into New Zealand in 1966, be­fore be­ing com­pletely dis­man­tled in 1992. Built at Jaguar’s Browns Lane fac­tory, the car went first to agents Henlys of Lon­don and then to Wal­ters Garage in Bournemouth, be­fore go­ing to its first owner, a C F Fenn of Bournemouth.

“The Nel­son cou­ple per­formed a lot of work on the car them­selves, but she un­for­tu­nately took ill with mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease and died be­fore the car could be fin­ished,” says Neil.

Neil has pho­tos of the cou­ple work­ing on the car, one show­ing them strip­ping it down. For­tu­nately, Nel­son Jaguar club mem­bers came to the res­cue to help to pre­serve the pro­ject.

“The Jaguar club in Nel­son packed it all up and cat­a­logued it. It was then put in a shed where it stayed for many years. It was off the road for at least 20 years, and the owner never looked at it again,” Neil tells us.

Neil was keen to ver­ify that as much as pos­si­ble of the car had been saved and boxed up, and Bob helped him check that all the parts to com­plete the restora­tion were there. There was, how­ever, one very im­por­tant omis­sion — that mag­nif­i­cent XK engine: “I looked at the car, but it had no engine. Bob ex­plained that the engine was stored on the other side of town. I thought, this doesn’t look so good; hav­ing the engine on the other side of town doesn’t work when you are buy­ing an old car.”

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