Prop­erty of a Lady

The cur­va­ceous E-type first set blood rac­ing in the 1960s and for many car lovers around the world to­day, the Jaguar re­mains one of the most glam­orous, sen­sual cars of all time

New Zealand Classic Car - - CONTENTS - Words: Ash­ley Webb Pho­tos: Adam Croy


The E-type’s con­tin­u­ing pop­u­lar­ity is per­haps not at all that sur­pris­ing given this one ve­hi­cle seems to top the ma­jor­ity of opin­ion polls list­ing the world’s most beau­ti­ful cars. And de­spite the buck­et­loads of clichés ap­plied at the time of the E-type’s fa­mous launch at Geneva in 1961 (and ever since) about re­defin­ing the way in which we all viewed sports cars, this car re­ally did re­write the rule­book.

But it wasn’t just the looks of the coupé and road­sters alone that caused a sen­sa­tion when it was first un­veiled — the E-type also pos­sessed power, ex­treme en­gi­neer­ing and rac­ing pedi­gree com­bined with qual­ity, and per­haps most im­por­tantly, af­ford­abil­ity at a time when ri­val sports cars from mak­ers such as Fer­rari, Porsche and As­ton Martin car­ried much higher price tags. In­evitably, on its ini­tial re­lease de­mand for the new Bri­tish sports car sky­rock­eted — with film and pop stars of the day lining up to place their or­ders.

To­day, over five decades later, the E-type still has an al­most siren-like power to lure and cap­ti­vate mo­tor­ing en­thu­si­asts.

Au­to­mo­tive Pas­sion

Chris Wil­son was cer­tainly not im­mune to the Jaguar’s fa­tal at­trac­tion, de­spite grow­ing up on a farm in Cen­tral Hawke’s Bay. Chris’ fa­ther was a true blue-blooded Ford man and, as such, >

changed his ve­hi­cles on a regular ba­sis. They in­cluded ev­ery­thing from Fal­con utes and sa­loons to more lux­u­ri­ously-ap­pointed Fair­monts and Fair­lanes.

Chris’ fa­ther also had one other au­to­mo­tive pas­sion — Jaguars. The two Mk2s and the S-type he owned un­doubt­edly pro­vided the im­pe­tus for Chris’ ap­pre­ci­a­tion of th­ese qual­ity-built Bri­tish cars. As well as th­ese big cats, his fa­ther owned an As­ton Martin V8, one of the few in the coun­try at the time — and if the Jaguars were enough to tan­ta­lize Chris in his early years, it was the As­ton that proved to the ul­ti­mate cat­a­lyst for his life­long pas­sion for English-built cars. Un­for­tu­nately the As­ton was sold the year Chris left school so, apart from clean­ing it on regular oc­ca­sions, he never had the op­por­tu­nity to get be­hind the wheel and feel what it was like to drive one of th­ese be­spoke ma­chines.

When it came time to own his own wheels, at 18 years old Chris’ lik­ing for English clas­sics could only be in­dulged on more bud­get-priced cars and, af­ter trav­el­ling and work­ing his way through Europe and the US, he even­tu­ally set­tled in Australia where he pur­chased an MGB road­ster. Whilst there he also met his wife, Kerry, be­fore head­ing back to New Zealand a few years later. Sadly, the MG was sold prior to de­part­ing Australia, although Chris had toyed with the idea of bring­ing it back to New Zealand.

Once re­turned to New Zealand Chris and Kerry went farm­ing in the Hawke’s Bay area, and sub­se­quently he picked up a later, rub­ber-bumper MGB road­ster for a rea­son­able price, a car he kept for around 12 months. Also at this time — in the mid ’90s — Chris came to the con­clu­sion that he was go­ing to make his for­tune by im­port­ing clas­sic cars from the US, do­ing them up and re­selling them, an ex­er­cise that can be fraught with dan­ger, as many of us can at­test to.

Some on­line re­search led Chris to an ex-pat Kiwi — Nick Cle­ments from Euro­pean Col­lecta­bles — who was then living in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, and spe­cial­ized mainly in Porsche 356s and E-type Jaguars.

Amer­i­can Odyssey

Hav­ing made con­tact with Nick, and with his mind made up, Chris told Kerry — “Honey, I’m go­ing to Amer­ica to buy a car!” Kerry’s re­sponse was, “Umm, okay, have fun. The girls and I will be fine and Andy [their shep­herd] and I will look af­ter the farm.”

Now fully ap­proved, Chris trav­elled to the US to spend time >

with Nick, who over the next 10 days showed Chris sev­eral clas­sic cars that he may like to con­sider ship­ping back to New Zealand. The first was a metal­lic green Dino 246GT. At US$45,000 Chris de­cided to pass it up — he ad­mits that was a bad blun­der given the prices th­ese cars fetch on to­day’s mar­ket. What made it worse is that he reck­ons the only rea­son he didn’t buy the Dino, a mint-con­di­tion RHD car, was be­cause he dis­liked the colour — a non-orig­i­nal shade.

He also checked out an E-type, and slowly fell in love with it de­spite the fact that he would have pre­ferred an XK140 or 150, un­til he was talked out of it. At that time, Nick was also in touch with a car finder who alerted him to a De To­maso Pan­tera, a car he thought was def­i­nitely worth look­ing at.

In the end, Chris im­ported three cars into New Zealand with the hope of mak­ing his for­tune. One was an MGB, which cost a small for­tune to con­vert to right-hand drive and took 10 years to sell. Of course, he lost money in the process. The sec­ond was the 1972½ De To­maso Pan­tera that he still owns to­day (and fea­tured on the cover of Nzclassiccar, Fe­bru­ary 2014), while Kerry owns the last car he im­ported, the E-type.

Kerry’s Cat

Kerry was brought up in Mel­bourne, where her fa­ther raced go-karts and speed­boats be­fore mov­ing on to ski boats. He also had a keen in­ter­est in cars. Among other ve­hi­cles, Kerry says, “We had one of those clas­sic 1970s GT 351 red/or­ange Fords com­plete with black side stripes, a crank-han­dled sun-roof and a hole in the bon­net for the spoiler.” She con­tin­ued, “I then mar­ried a guy who goes 200 per cent into any­thing he sets his mind to,” and that, she says, is why the one in­tended car from his trip to Cal­i­for­nia turned into three, “and I be­came the owner of a Jaguar con­vert­ible.”

Kerry re­calls that when the con­tainer ar­rived in Christchurch from the US stuffed with cars, it also had some pretty cool toys for their young girls, pro­cured dur­ing Chris’ visit to Toys’r’us.

A road trip later, and the E-type Jaguar was trail­ered home to Hawke’s Bay where it soon took up res­i­dence in a farm shed. Other bits and pieces ar­rived from the US and found their way into the at­tic, and Kerry reck­ons there is still a steer­ing wheel stashed away in a wardrobe.

The E-type was driv­able but not able to be reg­is­tered in New Zealand, and oc­ca­sion­ally Kerry would start it up and take it for a drive down a lo­cal coun­try road.

“I then mar­ried a guy who goes 200 per cent into any­thing he sets his mind to,” and that, she says, is why the one in­tended car from his trip to Cal­i­for­nia turned into three, “and I be­came the owner of a Jaguar con­vert­ible”

“Less than im­pres­sive with no bon­net, she gave me an im­age of Chitty-chitty Bang-bang — sorry, guys!” she says.

The car was sub­se­quently con­verted to right-hand drive by Trevor Crowe, in Christchurch.

The Doc­tor’s Pre­scrip­tion

A few years later, ac­cord­ing to Kerry, “This ma­roon, less-than- at­trac­tive ve­hi­cle gets the big­gest treat. A to­tal re­furb at Beacham in Have­lock North. Not that I had a clue un­til the good doc­tor phoned, and said that the money spent would be worth it.”

Once a fi­nal price had been ne­go­ti­ated, a two-and-a-half-year nu­tand-bolt restora­tion com­menced, with Beacham Jaguar com­pletely strip­ping the E-type down to a bare shell. Once the build-up of old paint, primer and body filler had been re­moved, the ex­tent of the project ahead was re­vealed. The dreaded tin worm, along with shoddy re­pair work dur­ing its pre­vi­ous life in the US, meant that much skilled fab­ri­ca­tion work was re­quired, es­pe­cially with re­gard to large por­tions of the body shell. Spe­cial­ized work in­cluded ex­ten­sive re­pairs to a big sec­tion of the one-piece bon­net. Work was also re­quired around the trans­mis­sion tun­nel, where a size­able open­ing had ap­par­ently been made with a cold chisel to carry out a past gear­box re­pair.

Once com­plete, the body was treated to a tra­di­tional Bri­tish Rac­ing Green paint scheme high­lighted by the in­clu­sion of a metal­lic base.

The front sub-frame also re­quired se­ri­ous work, and was painted in the body colour when fin­ished. The fully ad­justable front and rear sus­pen­sion was com­pletely re­built, and up­graded Cooper Craft brakes were in­stalled us­ing all new and re­con­di­tioned parts. >

The heart of this big cat — Jaguar’s iconic 3.8-litre straight six — was re­built to orig­i­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions with the in­clu­sion of many new parts, while the car’s match­ing four-speed man­ual Moss gear­box was also com­pletely over­hauled. An en­tire new stain­less-steel ex­haust sys­tem was also fab­ri­cated and fit­ted.

A com­plete red in­te­rior kit was im­ported — in­clud­ing English leather seat cov­ers, door cards and car­pets — and in­stalled into the E-type along with a re­fur­bished dash pad. The steer­ing wheel was re­placed with a gen­uine Jaguar item, and all gauges were re­fur­bished and re­fit­ted. A new, match­ing green con­vert­ible top was in­stalled to com­ple­ment the Bri­tish Green ex­te­rior paint fin­ish, whilst 15-inch chrome wire wheels added the fin­ish­ing touch.

Need­less to say, the end re­sult is truly beau­ti­ful and, Kerry says, “I love be­ing in this car.”

She re­mem­bers that her first drive in the re­built Jaguar was a ter­ri­fy­ing, white-knuck­led ex­pe­ri­ence but now she takes im­mense plea­sure in driv­ing this gor­geous ma­chine. She has also learned to be pa­tient with first gear, and not to get it mixed up with re­verse (oops), and dis­cov­ered first-hand why all those women in ’60s movies wore head­scarves when driv­ing their con­vert­ibles.

“This car not only looks amaz­ing, we also get lots of cool com­ments and ap­pre­cia­tive nods — but, wow, what pick-up in the over­tak­ing lanes!”

Kerry’s fa­ther al­ways said that Jags were a me­chanic’s night­mare, maybe, but she’s adamant that this very gor­geous fam­ily mem­ber will not be leav­ing the nest any time soon!

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