‘It really begs to be driven’
Retired trucker and chauffeur Michael Weight has long lusted after old Jaguars so we put him in a MKIX for the day. Man and car formed an instant bond
If it takes a portion of luck to get picked out of the many applications for one of our dream drives, today’s candidate, Michael Weight, can be considered to have bagged an extra helping. He was originally lined up to drive the MGA Roadster that appeared in the April issue, but had to drop out just beforehand due to illness. When another of his top ten came up just three months later, it seemed only fair to call Michael first, and this time he was fighting fit.
Keen too, given how early he arrives for our rendezvous with Bill Riches, the owner of the stunning Jaguar MKIX you see here. Bill has owned the car for nine years, and it has still only covered 39,500 miles, due partly to having been stored for much of the Seventies and Eighties. It was also owned for a while by former Lord Mayor of London, Sir Anthony Jolliffe, who spent a substantial sum bringing the car up to scratch – and several thousands more having a mahogany scale model of the car handmade, which Bill also now owns.
Michael walks round the car beaming broadly. ‘It’s wonderful – my wife would love this. I was a private chauffeur and dreamed of driving one of these since I was a youngster. They’ve got style. Just seeing it takes me back to my early motoring days in a Thirties Jowett Blackbird. We used to go to the grounds of stately homes for picnics and would see cars like this. But then their owners would come to look at the Jowett because it was already quite a rarity even then, which would have been the early Sixties. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel!’
There’s limited scope for driving enjoyment at the busy southern end of Essex, so we point the car north towards Braintree and some more open roads. That allows Bill to give Michael a quick briefing on driving the car, then we find a layby and it’s time for Michael to take the wheel. He doesn’t take long to adapt. ‘I seem to have spent most of my life behind steering wheels, whether it was trucks, limos, towing or running off-road driving courses. I’ve driven a few with separate starter buttons and I do like that in a car,’ he says, smiling as he turns the small key and thumbs the engine back into life. Michael’s inbuilt professionalism is quickly evident as his hands and eyes run over all the controls and you see him become as one with the car. He slips the gear selector into ‘D’, releases the umbrella handbrake and we’re off. After a short while he nods, ‘Very comfortable. I thought I may have to readjust the seat, but just sat in the luxurious big bench and all the controls just fell into my hands. This is some car, it really is. Only the column shift for the automatic feels strange and a bit clumsy at first, but it works well enough and you don’t have to use it much anyway.’
As an aside, Bill pointed out to us earlier that the column shift was the reason these cars were fitted with two small batteries – there is no room under the bonnet for one large one, so they sit either side of the shift mechanism. They were originally six-volt
Michael gets to grips with the instruments, including Intermediate Speed Hold