Jags and my Dad: growing up with a Jagaholic

Published: 24 June 2010

My Dad was a great Irish man: a Harrier pilot, RAF missile base commander and the kind of character who'd walk into a room and become the life and soul of whatever was happening.

He only ever owned Jaguars. No wonder I worshipped him.

I vaguely remember the 1967 3.8 Mk II (grey with red leather) he had when I was five; remember well the 420G from five years up to when I was 11 years old; the white Series II XJ6 only lasted for a couple of years, but the mustard yellow (with brown vinyl roof!) 1973 Series I XJ12 (NEL 387 M) took me through my teens.

Road trips each summer to my grandparents' house in France (my Mum is French); hot leather seats burning the back of my legs; trips to and from boarding school for weekends and end of term, alone with Dad eating egg mayonnaise buns and Yorkie bars in the front seat; drag runs up and down the disused runway on "Dad's" airfield with the growl of the 5.3 V12 and that odd mix of adrenaline/queasiness as a 13-year-old got squashed back in the big leather seat; and learning to drive around the hangars with Dad firmly but generously coaching me.

But more than anything, the weekends spent with carburettors, valves, distibutor caps, plugs, shocks, air boxes, and most of the other ancillairy engine parts and Lucas boxes spread across the kitchen table, the smell of WD40 and my mother going nuts because Dad used the table cloth to wipe down the cam cover again.  And then the sanding, filling, priming, and painting followed by hours of pleasure cleaning and polishing with Turtle Wax and a paste Dad used to make of vinegar and baking powder for the chrome.

Dad got cancer back in 1991, fought it every day for seven years but died in 1998.  And I miss him.

I'm going to be 40 soon, and I've nearly saved up enough to buy an XF. 

It'll be Lunar Grey with red leather.

Reader's article

By Ted Melaniphy

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