Peter Pickering - Words and Worlds Interwoven

A Tale of Elegance and Grace

My Journey with Jaguars


My lifelong affair with Jaguar cars began in the UK with a MkII 3.4, a vehicle that epitomised British automotive craftsmanship. It wasn't just a car; it was a symbol of a bygone era of elegance, a car so sleek and robust that if Bonnie and Clyde were British, they'd undoubtedly have chosen a Jag as their getaway car. Its commensurate power and performance, coupled with its alluring design, made it the perfect choice for any high-speed escapade, setting the stage for a series of memorable experiences with this iconic brand.

In Royal Leamington Spa, a young lad, I found myself at the heart of a pivotal chapter in my automotive journey, working for George Kidd Motors. My role there entailed delivering new cars straight from the Jaguar factory in Solihull, Birmingham. It was during this time that the XJ6 was released, and to say it caught my attention would be an understatement. The XJ6 was not just a car – it was a revelation, embodying everything I admired about automotive engineering and design. I was utterly in awe of it.

Each delivery was a new experience, allowing me a brief taste of what it would be like to own such a masterpiece. Despite the XJ6 seeming so far out of reach, I made a vow to myself: one day, I would have one. Little did I know then that my future move to Australia would bring with it the opportunity to fulfil this aspiration. There, I would not only achieve my dream of owning an XJ6 but would also embark on a series of adventures with various models of this iconic car.

The journey continued in Australia with a series of XJ6s, starting with a pristine white, Series 1, 2.8 model, followed by a striking red XJ6 4.2, and another white XJ6 4.2 with a black vinyl roof. Each of these cars, though symbols of luxury and performance, echoed the same reliability issues that I would come to associate with the brand.

Jaguars, up until at least the 1980s, predominantly used electrical components from Lucas Industries, a British manufacturer of automotive and aerospace components. Lucas gained a reputation for its electrical systems, particularly lighting, and this reputation was not always positive. Indeed, Lucas earned the nickname "the Prince of Darkness" among some car enthusiasts, largely due to the perceived unreliability of their electrical components in various British cars, including Jaguars.

This reputation stemmed from issues such as faulty switches, unreliable alternators, and problematic lighting systems. The challenges with Lucas electrics were somewhat emblematic of broader issues in the British automotive industry during that period, which often struggled with quality control and reliability compared to its European and Japanese counterparts.

It's worth noting, though, that while Lucas components were a common point of critique, they were part of a larger context of automotive engineering at the time. Vehicles from that era, across various brands, often required more maintenance and care compared to modern cars, which benefit from decades of technological advancement and improved manufacturing standards.

Then, embracing the spirit of adventure, I acquired a British Racing Green E-Type V12 hardtop. The E-Type wasn't just a car; it was a piece of art, a masterpiece of design that captured the essence of speed and beauty. Driving it was like being part of a glorious automotive history, feeling the pulse of its powerful engine and the admiration it garnered on the roads. However, even this iconic beauty wasn't immune to the recurring trips back to the mechanic.

Following the E-Type, the XJS series marked a new chapter with a silver V12 - the first one sold in Australia, followed by a brown XJS, a red one, and a dark blue model. Despite their sophistication, they too often found their way back to the workshop more often than I would have liked. Being one of the first cars incorporating computer technology I was in trepidation of the computer failing as they cost thousands to replace.

The pinnacle of my Jaguar journey was the Daimler Double Six, essentially a Jaguar XJ12 by another name. This car represented the ultimate in luxury, yet it too was not immune to the reliability issues that seemed to plague the brand.

These experiences with Jaguars, filled with frequent visits to the mechanic, led me to reluctantly move to Mercedes. My biggest reluctance was that they were not British, and perhaps I was suffering from a little WWII hangover in a Basil Fawlty kind of way. But in Mercedes, I found a blend of reliability and luxury that my Jaguars couldn't provide.

Fast forward to 2015 after selling my BMW 735iL, I decided to purchase a Jaguar XF. This particular model was a striking metallic red with a bone leather interior, a combination that exuded refined elegance. However, my experience with the XF left me underwhelmed. Unlike the early Jaguars I had owned and cherished, this car felt different—more like a Toyota, Holden, or Ford. There was nothing particularly special or distinctive about it that set it apart from many other cars on the road.

What I was trying to do, I think, was capture the nostalgia of the past and the British heritage that Jaguars once epitomised. Unfortunately, this essence had been lost for me, at least. The XF didn’t evoke the same emotions or sense of pride that my earlier Jaguars did. I later discovered that Jaguar had undergone significant changes over the years. Ford acquired Jaguar in 1990, and during their ownership, many alterations were made, some of which impacted the brand's distinctive characteristics. In 2008, Ford sold Jaguar to Tata Motors, an Indian company, which further influenced the direction and development of Jaguar models​. These shifts likely contributed to the XF's departure from the unique feel and charm that had once defined Jaguar vehicles.

Despite the initial excitement of owning a new Jaguar, I kept the XF for only 12 months before moving on. The experience taught me that not all evolutions are for the better and that sometimes, the essence of a brand can be lost in the pursuit of modernity and broader market appeal. Reflecting on my journey with Jaguars, from the classic grace of the MkII to the modern iterations, I cherish the memories and the golden era of Jaguar. Owning a Jaguar meant being part of a legacy of automotive excellence, even if that legacy came with its own set of challenges.