The Arthur Daley Jags and why it’s not all glamour

Published: 21 May 2010

Think Jags are all about glamour? If you’d asked me 15 years ago I’d have had a slightly different view. Before getting into the magazine business I spent a couple of years toiling away in a distinctly downmarket back street garage. It was just the two of us there: me, who’d dropped out of college to change subframes on Metros and weld Mk4 Escort battery trays, and my boss, a brilliant mechanic with a fancy for cheap old Jags but no time to make them work properly.

XJ40s were his thing, the square-edged mid-80s saloons with the 3.6-litre six. He’d pick them up for a few hundred pounds, cannibalising one for spares to keep the other running. One particularly awful example I remember was handpainted black and desperately in need of a new set of discs and pads at the back. He was too busy to change them so he clipped a couple of clamps over the rear flexi hoses and made do with the front brakes. For months, I seem to remember.

But in truth I’d already been exposed to the horror of cheap Jags at work. One of our customers was a part-time DJ who spent the rest of his time doing budget weddings with a white Series 2 XJ. A poverty-spec four-speed manual 2.8, it had Wolfrace slot mags, a dodgy MOT (nothing to do with us!) and door bottoms visibly straining to prevent 20kg of Isopon P38 body filler from exploding on to the road. Did he actually show people the car before they signed on the line for their dream wedding? He says yes, but it’s hard to believe he did.

This deathtrap was complemented by his companion car, a red XJ40, this one a 2.9 manual with cloth seats. Oh the luxury. He had it painted white but was too tight to get the door shuts done too, so when the bride stepped into the door she had to climb over burgundy sills. With such a grounding in awful Jags it’s no wonder that I was delighted to spend time in the rotten XJS V12 with the mouldy headlining we bought on another mag when trying to do a ‘150mph for £500’ feature. And why no one else in the office would go near it.

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By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker