SOUNDS OF THE SIX­TIES

Three throb­bing Brits cel­e­brate fifty years in 2018. We take them on the ul­ti­mate home­land road trip

Practical Classics (UK) - - TEAM ADVENTURE - WORDS JAMES WAL­SHE PHO­TOS MATT HOWELL

Hey Jude and Jumpin’ Jack Flash were blar­ing loud on ra­dios across the na­tion in 1968 – a year when men were men and en­gines were en­gines. In­tent on coax­ing cash out of the thrust­ing, am­bi­tious gents of the era, Jaguar, Re­liant and Tri­umph un­veiled new mod­els burst­ing with brawny horses and al­lur­ing six-cylin­der sound­tracks, con­se­quently re­sult­ing in three of the best-loved clas­sics of all time. Scroll for­ward to the heat­wave of sum­mer 2018 and we’ve brought these stars of ’68 to­gether to make some mem­o­rable sounds in the English coun­try­side. Start­ing at the site of the Re­liant factory in Tam­worth, the trip will take us to Coven­try – home­town of Jaguar and Tri­umph – and, via the Cotswolds, to Thrux­ton cir­cuit, also 50 years old in 2018. As Slade once sang: ‘Cum On Feel the Noize!’

8.00am Tam­worth

The day be­gins early in the morn­ing on a petrol sta­tion fore­court where – as if to con­firm their mak­ers’ in­tent – some burly road workers in a pass­ing truck give us the thumbs-up and a toot. Viewed in iso­la­tion, all three cars are hand­some but they look par­tic­u­larly well-pro­por­tioned when sur­rounded by frumpy, over­weight mod­ern metal. While the TR6 is fa­mously butch and the XJ el­e­gantly mus­cu­lar, I find my­self im­me­di­ately drawn to the Re­liant. The bold frontal frown, slim­line flanks and up­right tail are ex­tremely pleas­ing to the eye whilst the lusty Essex V6 de­lights at the flick of the key. How­ever, for Re­liant at least, the ma­cho ap­ple­cart was up­set by a princess in 1970, when the Queen and the Duke of Ed­in­burgh fa­mously bought daugh­ter Anne an SE5 for her 20th birth­day. She liked it enough to buy a fur­ther eight GTES, giv­ing the Scim­i­tar not only a Royal seal of ap­proval but a dose of dig­ni­fied fem­i­nine sass to its sta­tus.

It’s hard to imag­ine HRH be­ing any­where near the site of the Re­liant factory in Tam­worth – nowa­days a neat but generic hous­ing es­tate. Aside from the street names – named af­ter the Robin, Re­gal, Fox and com­pany founder Tom Wil­liams – we could have been any­where. Owner of our Scim­i­tar, Mal­colm Went­worth remembers the site well. He came here in 1974 to chase up the or­der he placed for his car. ‘I placed my de­posit at a deal­er­ship in Derby and waited for a year. I re­mem­ber the foyer in Tam­worth with all the pic­tures of Princess Anne on the wall. She had just bought a new one so de­mand was high, hence the de­lay for my car!’ He was nev­er­the­less as­sured the car was on its way. ‘They wouldn’t let me look around the factory floor though – I wasn’t al­lowed fur­ther than re­cep­tion. I sup­pose I was just a small cur­rant in a big bun!’ Six weeks later, the car ar­rived and was pressed into ser­vice straight away as his daily trans­port. ‘We had four boys, a car­a­van be­hind and off we went! It was a bril­liant car for the fam­ily.’

The Shet­land Blue hue of Mal­colm’s Scim­i­tar re­ally stands out. Up un­til two years ago, the orig­i­nal body­work had be­come scruffy so the car was re­stored to a bet­ter-than-factory fin­ish. ‘I did all the prep and it proved to be much harder than work­ing with steel pan­els.’ These days, the car not only drives like new, it looks re­splen­dent on the mean streets of down­town Tam­worth as we head off to our next stop, just a few miles down the road…

9.30am Browns Lane

It’s a short cross-coun­try zip down to Browns Lane, where we turn off the main strip and pull into the car park of the Jaguar Sports and So­cial Club. It was here where workers once supped their pints af­ter a long day at the Jaguar plant. These days, it serves as a more so­phis­ti­cated sports, leisure and con­fer­ence cen­tre with rooms such as ‘The XJ Suite’. Peer­ing through the perime­ter fence at clumps of waste­ground we spy the new hous­ing in the dis­tance. Hard to be­lieve that this was the scene of Jaguar’s ups and downs over the years. From dozens of suc­cess­ful

James says ‘It’s great when own­ers join us for our road trips. We’re never any­thing less than in­spired by their sto­ries and love they have for their clas­sics.’

launches in­volv­ing iconic mod­els to re­ces­sion in the early Nineties, the fi­nal link to the Wil­liam Lyons-era Jaguar came when XJS pro­duc­tion ended in 1996.

Op­er­a­tions at the site were com­pletely wrapped up by 2005, the assem­bly halls were de­mol­ished three years af­ter that and the mu­seum build­ing dis­ap­peared in 2012. There’s lit­tle doubt Gay­don is home to a vastly su­pe­rior mu­seum fa­cil­ity nowa­days but the sight of our XJ in front of the old so­cial club here on Browns Lane is an emo­tional one – es­pe­cially given the poignancy of this par­tic­u­lar ex­am­ple, owned by Adrian Massey. It’s a pre­pro­duc­tion XJ hand­built by a team un­der the then 22 year-old De­vel­op­ment En­gi­neer Jonathan Heynes, whom Adrian re­cently met. ‘Jonathan not only built my car with his own bare hands, but his father Bill worked closely with Wil­liam Lyons on any­thing from the pre-war SS100 to the XK120.’

Ex­cited to see the car again, Adrian says Heynes re­mem­bered it very well, down to the last de­tail. ‘The car shouldn’t re­ally have been reg­is­tered for the road but it was test driven by Nor­man Dewis be­fore be­com­ing a press car and later a gift from Wil­liam Lyons to his mate, the Chair­man of the West Mid­lands Pas­sen­ger Trans­port Au­thor­ity.’

Eight years ago, Adrian was in the process of buy­ing a Mk2 when he spot­ted this XJ for sale. He reck­ons it was meant to be. ‘I too was born in Coven­try and the build date was June 10th – my birth­day. Our paths kept cross­ing, as I stud­ied on the south coast, where the car ended up in a unit just 300 me­tres from where I work.’ Adrian was warned not to do an ag­gres­sive restora­tion, given its his­tory. ‘The patina is part of its ap­peal and Heynes agreed. When he was look­ing around it, he was re­ally pleased the car hadn’t been painted and re­tained

‘‘It’s the kind of coun­try­side you’d see in any pe­riod Six­ties brochure’

Re­liant pro­duc­tion in Tam­worth ended in 1998. Factory was bull­dozed shortly af­ter.

Here was once the Re­liant factory.

Da­gen­ham-sourced Essex dishes up 128bhp of grunt.

Jaguar re­turns to its Browns Lane birth­place.

2.8 no fire­cracker but very smooth.

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