Life with a Jaguar XJ40, Suzuki Ignis Sport track car and Audi A2 Tdi eco-trolley

I’m sure we’ve all had that car we locked eyes on as a kid and said to yourself, I’m going to buy one of those when I’m older. For 7 year old me, that car was the Jaguar XJ40. In Sovereign spec to be precise. Being 7, things like 0-60 times and top speed were just numbers, steering feedback and handling balance didn’t mean a thing to a kid that couldn’t see over the dashboard. What mesmerised me was the quality materials. The feel of the soft leather, the plush carpets and that Jag smell. It was my first experience of sitting in something that hadn’t been sat in the part ex section of the local used car garage with a dodgy MOT.

Fast forward a few decades and I was razzing round in a lovely rust free Eunos Roadster S-Limited (JDM mk1 MX-5) with BBS wheels and GAZ Gold coilovers. I’d been drawn down the JDM route, steering feel and handling balance did mean something to me now I could actually drive.

In 2015, major floods hit my area and the Roadster fell victim. It was sadly wrote off by the insurance company, and deemed unfit to go back on the road. After assessing my finances and realising that dream, bug eye Impreza was out of reach, I needed to take a different direction. A lightbulb moment came to me, not only was a great example of an XJ within budget, thanks to classic insurance, it shouldn’t be too expensive to run unlike many of the JDM performance cars I was previously looking at. It took a few weeks of searching for the right car but one came up at a specialist dealer and I bought it there and then.

I’m in my 6th year of ownership now and I can honestly say I’m still not bored of it. If anything, sitting in and driving newer cars only makes me love the old Jag even more. The quality and depth of its paint, the thick, soft leather, the real wood and metal and the proper XJ silhouette, all combine to offer something that’s just not available anymore. To those who don’t get it, it’s hard to explain. It’s one of them cars that you can climb in after a long, stressful week at work and as soon as you hear the clunk of those big heavy doors, it just doesn’t matter anymore. That stress and anxiety can be dealt with later. What do people think of the car? Some say it’s a grandad car and ask me where my pipe and slippers are, others think I’ve driven off the set of Snatch and expect there to be a dead body in the boot. I once dropped my dad and his mate off at the local snooker hall, seeing two 6 foot plus blokes climb out of the back of a Jaguar saloon clutching snooker cue cases was a bit intimidating for a chap standing outside with a cigarette. “Are you sure it’s only snooker cues in them cases?” he said.

During my ownership I’ve fitted the optional lattice wheels with a polished lip, going for the 15s rather than the 16s to take advantage of the extra comfort of a taller sidewall. I’ve also upgraded the sound system. It now has new speakers all round with a sub and amp setup in the boot. The dream mod would be to have it on a quality air ride system but my finances are unlikely to stretch that far anytime soon so new bushes, springs and dampers are on the to do list.

It’s an old Jag, it can’t all be plain sailing I hear you say? And you’re right. It rusts like nothing you’ve ever seen. I had the car professionally under coated a few years back and they discovered one of the inner wings was basically non existent. Both front wings are rapidly being reclaimed by mother nature and the sills are following suit. The boot used to be a mobile pond, water was leaking in through the poorly designed fuel filler surround but can also come in through the light clusters, radio antenna and boot seal. Mechanically it’s had a few hiccups but nothing serious that’s taken it off the road for a long period of time and nothing that’s particularly XJ specific. Worn alternators, a binding brake caliper and a loose hose just to name a few. The less we say about fuel economy the better but it’s an old 4 litre straight six, you’d have to be incredibly naïve to think you’ll be getting more than high 20s mpg on a run.

The XJ was bought as a road trip car, something I could rack up hundreds of miles a day in and view some stunning scenery and cruise through beautiful towns and villages in comfort. So far it’s taken me on road trips round Wales, the South West and the North East of England. With the only fault coming at Lands End of all places, where it dumped its power steering fluid. I completed the rest of the trip and the drive back to Lancashire with no power steering! Good job I go to the gym! My dream road trip is to go through Scandinavia. Denmark, Sweden and Norway for a few weeks would be incredible but the coffers are rather empty right now so maybe the fantastic north coast 500 will have to do in the meantime.

My daily driver was bought after running a box ticking exercise. You write down your list of requirements, cheap tax, cheap on fuel, cheap purchase price etc and then run every car you’ve had your eye on through it. Whatever ticks the most boxes wins and that car was the Audi A2. I’ve always admired the A2 with its aluminium body and wind tunnel sculpted design, however, that admiration came to a grinding halt after living with one after the first few weeks. Let me start by saying there’s nothing mechanically wrong with the car, it’s needed just a thermostat in the entirety of my ownership, it’s just th it’s dull as dishwater. I’ve driven very few cars with less character than the diesel A2. The seats are back breakingly awful, no padding and support in all the wrong places, the suspension manages to be crashy and stiff at slow speed yet soft and wallowing when you pick up the pace. The steering is numb and vague, the feeling through the pedals is like they have nothing to do with what they’re supposed to be controlling and as for the gearbox, I’ve had more fun shaking around the bog brush after a particularly spicy curry. I regularly spend evenings on eBay and autotrader looking for something to replace it but in a very Germanic way, it’s just so damn good at what it was set out to do, offer practical, reliable and efficient motoring. With that said, it’ll be staying in the fleet for some time to come.

My third car, or what is left of it, is a Suzuki Ignis Sport. The Suzuki was bought as a fun little run around but was kicking and screaming, kind of accidentally turned into a stripped out track car. The mods started soon after buying it and didn’t really stop. It ended up on Toyo R888R’s, with no interior, Cobra bucket seats and 5 point harnesses. Oh and it also ended up on its roof at Knockhill. Luckily no one was hurt apart from my pride. The little thing went out on its shield though, despite boasting only 109 asthmatic horses, it could give a few more powerful cars something to think about in the corners but you had to drive every lap like you were Ayrton Senna qualifying at Monaco in 1988. With the Ignis now in pieces on the driveway, the hunt will soon be commencing for a replacement track car and my love for revs, the desire to get back in a Honda and a sub £3000 budget has me drawn towards the FN2 Civic Type R. Not as revered as it’s predecessor the EP3, the FN2 is now better value with lower mileage and less ropey condition cars available for the same money. I look forward to sharing my journey with the Civic with you all!

John Bee