Jaguar XK140: Joy in a jag
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This 1955 Jaguar XK140 has an unusual history, according to its owners, Lynette and Dean Lindsay.
“It was an American barn find from California, and when it came to New Zealand it was restored in Christchurch by Dave Silcock,” says Dean, explaining that Dave is a Jaguar enthusiast known for the pace he achieved racing a self-prepared Jaguar XK120 during the 1965 season.
Dean’s dad owned a Jag when Dean was a teenager. But although Dean drove one a year after getting his licence at 17, it wasn’t until much later in life that he decided to buy one.
He and Lynette first looked at a MkII coupe in a classic-car auction, but they had to pull out – it went for around a quarter of a million dollars.
Then they spotted this one for sale at Fazazz, The Motorists Shop in Christchurch. They rang the shop to ask about the car’s history.
However the shop had mislaid a lot of paperwork during the time of the earthquakes and their aftermath.
So, to get an idea of the car’s background, Dean rang Jaguar in the UK, and was put in touch with the Heritage Register.
Reassured, he flew down to look at 1955 Jaguar XK140 — Lynette was working — and they bought the car, which arrived with the full dossier in the boot. “They’d found it!”
The XK140 was launched in 1954, and went on sale in 1955 as a successor to the XK120. It had more interior room, better brakes and steering, more suspension travel, indicators, and a few other bits and bobs.
The engine was effectively the XK120 unit, but with some Special Equipment mods to boost power to 142kW at 5500rpm — it could allegedly hit 200km/h.
The wire wheels and dual exhaust were options.
The file that arrived with the car includes photos as it was found. It was clearly a basket case. Either it had lost its paint, or it was covered in such a thick layer of ochre dust that the colour was no longer visible.
“We’ve no idea how long it was in there for, clearly a long time,” says Dave.
It was in that condition when it arrived in New Zealand around 10 years ago, before it was fully restored.
“It was restored true to original,” says Dean. “The only thing they’ve done is put in an XJ five-speed synchro gearbox which wasn’t working well when it arrived; we couldn’t get it into reverse. Fortunately a local mechanic has the knowledge to fix it.”
Then there were the electric relays, the regulators. “And all that, because it hadn’t really been used, the battery was going flat all the time. They’d obviously charged it when I drove it down in Christchurch.
An electrician up here [Bay of Islands], a young guy, he got the exact electrical components ex the States, they look original. He’s taken an interest in all the cars, so he does any electrical work we need.”
Lynette points out the restoration isn’t perfect. “But we don’t want a Concours car. If it was a show pony, we wouldn’t take it anywhere.”
They like that the Jag still carries a link to its life in California – the original keyring that was still in it when it was found in that barn.
“I don’t know the true mileage, it would have done only 10,000 miles [16,093km] since its restoration,” says Dean.
“We use it once a week, at least, though it’s lucky if it’s done 1000 miles in the year we’ve had it.
“We use all our classics, they’re not show ponies, but we treat them with respect, drive them locally, weather permitting, having roadsters.”
They don’t fill their classic cars up, as modern petrol degrades fast. And since the fuel gauge doesn’t work, before Lynette pushed the button to fire it up, they use a makeshift dip stick to check there is enough petrol.
Dean warns me that Lynette will take the car faster than he would, so perhaps it’s fortunate there’s a grab handle for terrified passengers.
Sure enough, she drives it up the road with a mighty backfire. “It’s been too long since it was last driven,” she says.
The screen provides great wind protection, and on a sunny day, with that 3.5-litre straight six purring away, there’s not much to better this experience — at least from the passenger seat.
As for Lynette, she’s showing no signs of difficulty despite the lack of power steer, and drum brakes. “It’s a joy to drive,” she says. “Cars like this weren’t made to burble round town, they need to have a little stretch.”
The couple have five classics between them, but are selling three.
They’ve run out of room, but the Jaguar’s staying.
“With those lines it’s like a cross between Marvel comics and Art Deco. It’s magical,” she says.