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Out of Africa

The following article appeared in the January 2007 issue of the XK Gazette:

"After a lapse of 40 years I need to enjoy a Jaguar XK once again. I should confess that the last timewe had an XK in the family, I was just four years old and the car was Father`s XK150. I assumed the co-pilot`s role in the passenger seat of the lovely deep maroon car, enjoying the growl of the 3.4-litre engine and the old Moss `box, whilst savouring the wonderful aroma of the 150`s leather interior. Unfortunately, after a few years and 90,000 miles, Father replaced the 150 with a `crumpet catching` Series I 3.8-litre E-type roadster. But the XK was the car I miss most.

My first motoring recollections of this XK150 are when the family set off on a road trip through southern Africa. We drove from Cape Town, up through the Wild Coast, the Transkei, Zululand and the sugar fields of Natal, ending up in Lorenzo Marques (now Maputo) in Mozambique. Then back through the Transvaal and Orange Free State; the journey was over 2000 miles, many on dirt roads. I loved that Jaguar and now as a member of the , I am hoping that David Bentley`s piece might throw up a lead on Father`s 150. Dr Michael Coucher of Cape Town owned the XK150 for about four years in the mid-1960s and the registration was CA 2949. We don`t have any other information so chances of tracing the car must be slim.

As Editor of Octane magazine, I do get to drive a number of very interesting cars where many automotive myths can beput to the test. In the past I have been fortunate enough to have owned small,precision machines including Lancias, Alfa Romeos and Porsches. But over the last four years has road-tested a number of Jaguars and I soon realised what really special machines they are. I looked at a few E-types, but the memory of the 150 pushed me in the XK direction and with the help of Paul Abadjian and Jeremy Wade I came across MNJ 812.

This 1955 XK 140 FHC was owned by the delightful Oliver Suffield, who sadly succumbed to cancer. Jeremy then took the car on to sell for Oliver`s widow and the minute I saw it at his lovely house in Market Drayton, I knew I would buy it. Certainly it is bigger and heavier than the sports cars I have owned in the past. Being a 140, it does not quite have the grace of the 120, but with desirable improvements like rack-and-pinion steering and decent interior space, it suits me as a practical daily driver. On the road it proves to be surprisingly refined, gentle and torquey, belying its considerable age.

My previous small and nimble buzzboxes were great fun flat-out through various European mountain passes on such events as the Tour Auto and Liège-Rome-Liège historic rallies. No doubt, with a few sympathetic upgrades, the Jaguar will be equal to the task. I am soon to find out. In real world conditions, where we do have to drive on monotonous motorways a lot of the time, the XK is far superior to diminutive sports cars with engines of 1600cc.

In a strange way, motoring in modern Britain is now more pleasant than it was, say, 18 years ago. When I first arrived in London off the banana boat in 1988, I brought along a pair of veldskoen shoes and a 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint. In those days, I would be bombing along at 80mph in the slow lane while Jaguar XJ-Ss and BMW 5-Series would come steaming past at anything approaching 120mph. Now that average speeds have dropped in Britain, at a relaxed 80mph the Jaguar is right in midst of the flow of the traffic. The only problems remain kamikaze white van man and modern car tailgaters, but that`s another story.

So far MNJ has proved a joy. Naturally there are a few niggles that need sorting out. This is my only car and so it has to be ready to embark on a run to Le Mans, Rome or Nice, at the push of the starter button. I have already exacted a few improvements which include the correct size MWS wire wheels shod with performance Blockley 600-16 crossply tyres and Spax adjustable dampers. I have enjoyed driving the Jaguar thorough the last of our long Indian summer and look forward to getting involved in the XK Club.

If anyone has any information on father`s ex-150 or MNJ 812, I would love to know.

CA 2949 (Cape Town)

My records are blank on this one. David Bentley

Unfortunately, I have drawn a blank on CA2949 – it was a long time ago. My South African XK register is very comprehensive so I would bet with nearly 100% certainty that this car has left our country – as so many others have done. Peter Fielding

MNJ 812 (UK)

Chassis S804529 manufactured during December 1955. Eng G6431-8S, reg MNJ 812, an East Sussex reg issued from April to July 1957, so the car may have been re-registered very early on in life. It would be very interesting to know the original reg. I spotted MNJ 812 on 7 April 1962 and recorded the colour as blue.

It is listed in the 1969-70 original XK Club Register, owner D B Roberts-Malpass, Carres Felin, 28 Grantley Crescent, Kingswinford, Staffordshire – 1957(!) XK 140 reg MNJ 812, colour blue, eng. G6431-8S. It passed through Jeremy Broad`s hands some time between 1984 and 1991. Jeremy recorded the colour as black and its delivery or original registration date as 1 February 1957!

I saw it at Donington in 1992.

Jaguar Driver Feb 93 page 27, colour photo of car at Donington 1992, looks BRG with cww.

It appears in Duncan Wherrett`s book Jaguar XK (1993) pp87-91; it appears to be BRG with red wire wheels.

Jaguar Enthusiast July 1995 p13; I do not have a copy!

It attended XK 50 in 1998. JEC XK Magazine October 1998 p15, colour photo of XK 50, just see this car in background!

XK Gazette Aug 00 p17, offered for sale by Jeremy Wade, now with overdrive, BRG with tan hide.

XK Gazette Sep 00 p11, offered for sale by Jeremy Wade.

XK Gazette Jun 06 p35, offered for sale by Jeremy Wade.
David Bentley

For the record, 1 Feb 1957 is the date of first registration according to DVLA. It does seem unlikely that the car sat around for over a year before first registration – though could it have been some sort of dealer demonstrator, run on trade plates? I see NJ records are still held at the Lewes Records Office so I recommend Robert checks those out, in the hope that it might reveal something about the delay.
Malcolm McKay"

Go to Gallery to view the article, with photos, as it originally appeared in the magazine

Article reproduced courtesy of the XK Club

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