Ron Cherry: The family cats: Jaguars
March 2, 2018
Some people are dog lovers and some are cat lovers. Gary Anderson's family is definitely into cats, at least as far as cars go.
His dad, Andy, bought his first Jaguar XKE, more properly termed an E-type, on Flag Day in 1967. It was a '66 Series 1 coupe, which had a 4.2L inline six with dual overhead cams and three SU carbs and a 4-speed trans.
It had only 10,000 miles on the odometer, painted Golden Sand with a black leather interior, and was in excellent condition.
Although it wasn't his first British car, having owned a Triumph TR3 previously that he said "rode like a buckboard, but a real sports car," but it was his first Jag. He and his wife joined a Jaguar club and made many trips with them and alone. And Andy didn't baby it.
On a trip to Wisconsin, he said, "It's a heck of a road car. The only time I went under a 100 miles per hour was when I got to a city."
For a few years, it was his main driver. Gary remembered helping his dad put in a Corvette clutch because the Jaguar one was inferior and kept slipping, the only non-stock part on the car.
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Although British sports cars have a reputation for being unreliable, Andy did not find his Jag so.
"It never failed me," he said. "Well, I take that back. About 15 miles out of Jackson Hole, Wyo., I broke a fan belt when the bearing seized on the alternator. I thought, 'Oh, no. Why out here?' But the mechanic said it was made by GM and replaced it."
Not bad for 49 years of driving it.
Over the years, Andy bought more Jags, like a '65 XKE with a blown engine that he rebuilt himself, a '71 XKE with the inline 6 that he completely went through and a '96 XJS convertible with the rare option for that year of the 4.2L inline 6 engine.
Not a fan of the V-12 engine, he looked hard to find Jags with the 6-cylinder one. He still had the '66 XKE, the '71 XKE and the '96 XJS until 2016, keeping them in a storage rental for 20 years and driving them when he could.
"About 15 or 20 years ago, my mom and dad were making out the will for their family trust and my dad asked me which Jag I wanted," Gary said, "the '66 or the '96. I chose the '66 for two reasons. 'One,' I told him, 'That's the one you and mom drove a lot and I identify it with you. Two, it's worth more.' The '96 would go to my daughter, Caroline."
Then Andy called Gary in June of 2016. He had been paying $450 a month in storage for the Jags.
"'I can't drive all these cars anymore. If you come and clean out the storage unit, I'll sign the '66 and the XJS over to you and Caroline,' he said," Gary said. "Caroline came down from Seattle and helped. Then she drove the XJS home with the top down the whole way."
And Gary drove his early inheritance, the '66 XKE, home. The car came with "a file about an inch thick with receipts for everything done on it."
Since he got one of the family cats, Gary has made a few repairs, but nothing major. They were the type of issues that can come from a car just sitting too long.
The heater fan didn't work, although the heater itself came on. He blamed the problem on "Lucas, Prince of Darkness wiring."
For British car lovers, Lucas, the company who did electrical for many of them, including Jaguar, was known for problematic wiring. Lights failing at night is where Lucas got its nickname.
First thing to do was see if the fuse had blown. But the Jag had no fuse panel, with inline fuses at apparently random points in the wiring.
"I got a schematic and traced everything down," he said.
A little corrosion on a fuse was the culprit and jiggling it solved the problem. Finding the fuse was the hard part. The electric fuel pump went bad and Gary replaced it with a Lucas rebuilt (new ones are not made) to keep the car stock.
The only other issue was a leaky front brake caliper and he replaced both front ones to be safe. That's it.
When Gary "inherited" his XKE, it had 71,000 miles on the clock. Since then, he has put about 2,000 miles on the car.
"I can't believe I've taken it that many times to Cars and Coffee," he said with a laugh, referring to Cars and Coffee, an informal gathering of car lovers which happens from 8-10 a.m. every Saturday at the K-mart parking lot off McKnight.
"I guess I'll have to change the oil now," he said.
He has also driven it to other places in NorCal, including a few shows. He said the Jag gets a lot of interest wherever he goes. However, he has not taken it on any cross-country runs at 100 miles per hour.
His daughter has her XJS in storage, but brings it out whenever the Seattle weather permits with the top down. That's probably about three or four days a year.
His dad kept his '71 XKE.
"It's not a 100-point car and I drive it, but it has won a few trophies," he said, and chuckled. "It came in second place at a show against a bunch of trailer queens."
Trailer queens are cars hauled to shows that never have their rubber meet the road.
So now two of the family cats have homes with the kids, but Dad and Mom still have one at their home.
Now you could say they're all cat people.
Ron Cherry's books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His new book, "The St. Nicholas Murders," is a Christmas mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills that is remarkably similar to Nevada City. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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