The day started off fine from my abode in Essex. My car, a 2005 4.2L XK8 convertible had been cleaned and polished to within an inch of its life the previous week. It looked fantastic, even if I say so myself. I started the journey at 06:30am to the starting point at Greenwich Naval College. Heading for the A12, I put the car into cruise at 70mph and purred on down to the M25 junction. The traffic was extremely light and no hold-ups were experienced, even at the Dartford River Crossing, I sailed through – mind you having a ‘dart tag’ helps!
Arriving at the college at 07:20am I parked up with fellow earlier risers, who were lined up around a square next to the college buildings. An impressive sight, the Jaguars and the Naval College.
Unfortunately, this is when the trouble started for me. I went to lock the car and the car alarm immediately sounded. I heard various clicking sounds coming from the driver’s door lock. I unset immediately, not to wake the local residents. On trying the door handle of my XK8, I found that indeed the driver’s door was locked. Tried the process a couple of times with the same result. It was infuriating, as I had not experienced this before today.
Anyway, as the door was locked, I cantered over to the building and joined fellow Jaguar owners feeding on the bacon butties readily made up for the masses. Cup of tea too. On returning to my XK8 I then discovered that although the driver’s door was locked, the boot and passenger door wasn’t. That left me with a quandary, I could not leave it unattended anywhere on the trip, for obvious reasons.
Unfortunately, Jackie was unable to accompany me on this trip due to a serious back problem that she has experienced for the last eight weeks. Therefore, I was unable to navigate my way along the route. I was fortunate to know the route through to the A2, as my brother lives in Bexleyheath, so I know a number of roads around here. My plan was to follow another participant, who was double manned, in the hope that they knew where they were going! Everything went fine until we got to Paddock Wood, when the driver turned into a hop farm. Thought that was funny at the time so continued south, only to find that there were no other participants in front!
I was now lost. I stopped in a service centre and examined the Route Plan supplied by the organisers as well as to check my big A3 map book. Noting one or two points to head for, I set off again. Something serious went wrong again as I ended up heading north to Tunbridge Wells. I toured round some lovely Kent lanes trying to find my way back to the rest of the participants, with no success. After an hour or so, I gave up and thought I would find a major road and head towards Hastings before turning west to Brighton. Found the A21, almost got it, then found the B2087 to Ticehurst. Went a bit wrong here, by not turning off for Burwash, but realised rather quickly and turned the car around and headed for Ticehurst again. Now I just followed the signs for Lewes and then found some other Jaguar participants and slid in behind them.
The weather all along this journey had been a mixture of heavy rain and showers. Not once could I consider putting the hood down on my convertible and I doubt whether any other owner with a soft top would contemplate the same. Everything again started to go right for me until the owner of a beautiful XJ-S convertible slowed down and waved me by on a long straight just before Lewes. Great, I’m back where I started, no other Jaguars were in front of me. However, once I reached Lewes, I was OK as I have undertaken the London to Brighton before on many occasions and they have run the route through Lewes to Brighton, so I knew now where to go. I reached the outskirts of Brighton and the rain had stopped, although the clouds were pretty dark.
As my car had inevitably been through puddles and mud, I felt that I must find a car wash to hose her down before going over the finishing line and having my photo taken. Can’t do this with a dirty car now can you? Instead of turning right towards Marine Parade, I turned left and drove along the coast road through Seahaven and Peacehaven, eventually arriving at Newhaven. Only there did I find a car wash, one of those manned car washes with two likely lads who will to take my money in 5 minutes for a wash with a small Karcher power washer. Anyway, they did the job and the sun was shining so I put the hood down. What I hadn’t seen was a big black cloud looming my way and I hadn’t gone more than 2 miles, before the heavens opened up. I then found you can’t raise the hood on an XK8 while driving at 15-20 mph. I got soaked until I could find a recessed bus stop to pull over in and stop the car. Raising the hood just as it stopped raining! It could only happen to me!!
So I headed off to Madeira Drive, Brighton to meet up with my fellow enthusiasts. I put the hood down again as I approached the finishing line and was congratulated by one of the stewards as being the first to arrive with my hood down. I can assure you that didn’t last long! Parking up with other XK8’s it was an impressive sight. Due to the locking problem on my XK8, I was unable to leave it and wasn’t able to participate on the Brighton Wheel or visit the Brighton Pavilion.
I watched as one by one more Jaguars arrived and parked. It was again a fantastic sight to see the older cars such as Neville Hamilton’s excellent looking 1950, 3.5L Jaguar Mark V with the newer Jaguars such as Andrew Barnett’s fabulous 2011 XKR-S.
A great day was had by all I am sure, and congratulations goes to Alan Hawthorn for travelling 410.6 miles to attend this event and to Peter Hall and his 1961 Jaguar Mk IX for the car we fellow Jaguar enthusiasts would wish to take home.