Finding the Cat

At one of the last club meets, Richard Gibby and I were discussing what made us choose our cars. We figured this would make a good article for the Newsletter, and one which may spur on other members to contribute their experiences.

They say that the car chooses you – well at least Vaughn High does! So how did I end up with the 420?

It started for me when, as a young boy, my father bought me my first Dinky Toy – a white Jag XK120, which I still possess. Moving many years on probably around ‘79, still fired by that first interest in the margue, I set about scouring the local paper for a suitable car. This I found in the shape of a Mark II which resided in Balby, a district on the outskirts of Doncaster, not too far from where we lived. Full of back to back terrace houses and corner shops, the place doesn’t have a lot going for it – except that “Open All Hours” was filmed there, using the local hairdressers shop dressed up as Arkwright’s Grocers.

The car was a light metallic blue 1966 3.8 MKII, manual with overdrive, being offered by a local youth. Within minutes it was mine for the princely sum of £250. Though in need of some TLC, it did go rather well, leaving many a boy racer Mini or such like languishing in clouds of blue smoke as the Jag and I accelerated away. Within a month or two of ownership, I decided to restore it – big mistake.

Neil with Mk2
Neil Shanley with his Mark II in the 1970’s

Having bought all the necessary panels, I let a local garage loose on the sills and some other bits when I got it back the doors wouldn’t fit over the sills properly, although other parts weren’t too bad. Despite all my efforts circumstance in the form of children, house moves (southwards), job changes and such like, the car sat in my garage for far too long with no more work done….. that is until I sold it to Vicarage Cars for £1800. Not a bad deal and the car is still around! Anybody seen GOX 6D recently?

Flush with cash and thinking I may have made a big mistake, I hunted around for a replacement classic. Well, it had to be another Jag. Picking up some old editions of Jaguar Driver, I saw that Mark II’s were becoming out of my league price-wise. I’d been to see a couple of S-Types, but the tin worm had taken a strong hold. Looking more closely at Jaguar prices, I found that the 420 was probably the most affordable – but where to find one? They didn’t seem to come up that often. Not surprisingly since they only made about 15,000 420’s and Daimler Sovereigns. Back to the old magazines again. One fell open at the classifieds and there it was, a ’68 420, two owners from new for £1500. No doubt halfway across the country. Not so. To my surprise, when I called, the vendor said that it was still for sale (the magazine was a year old). The icing was then liberally spread across the cake when he told me it was in Margaretting – just four or so miles away.

Barn
RGB43G as found in (or under) a barn

Some of you may know the history from a previous article, but when I arrived, I found it stored in a barn of a farm owned by the vendor’s family. It had been there since the mid / late seventies and it was now September 1989! At some stage in the gales a couple of years before, part of the barn had collapsed on the car. Luckily, most of the impact was absorbed by a caravan which was, by chance, parked next to the Jag. The barn was drafty, but dry, so chassis – wise, there was practically no rust. The body was going in the usual places, but was easily do-able. It oozed charm, you could still smell the leather and the doors ‘thunked’ satisfactorily. (it didn’t run, however). I was in Love! £1000 changed hands, and the following weekend, RGB 43G was towed over to Writtle by the former keeper to its new, and still present, owner. Good job I kept that old magazine!

Six months later, I decided to restore it, heard this one before? Well, this time I did it, but not before years of struggle, but that’s another story.

Neil Shanley