‘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

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents - Words RUSS SMITH Pho­tog­ra­phy DEAN SMITH

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

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