Classics & Coffee Redditch 25th March 2018

On 25th March 2018 Great Escape Cars held its first monthly Classics & Coffee of 2018.  Run in aid of Acorns Hospice childrens charity, this informal, relaxed Sunday morning event is open to all kinds of wheeled vehicles - from classic cars to scooters to commercial trucks and modern super cars.  

Hundreds of cars turned up and £700 was raised for the Hospice.  Here's the story.  

50 years of the Jaguar XJ

When Jaguar launched the original XJ in September 1968 it's unlikely anyone involved in its design envisioned quite how long a shadow it would cast.  50 years on and Jaguar has only just shed the styling cues that the car established. That is a remarkable achievement and one repeated by few cars.
Lets take a look at the XJ's evolution and why it stayed the same for so long.

1. Series 1 XJ (1968-73)

Daimler XJ6 Series 1
The original XJ had a daunting task - to replace Jaguar's disparate and confused range of saloon cars, which included the aging S-Type and vast Mark X.  A wholly new design, it proved a revelation - long and low like a sports car, smooth and refined like a luxury saloon.  It was justifiably lauded as the most beautiful saloon car in the world, with ride quality to rival a Rolls Royce.  With straight six and V12 engines, the XJ trounced the opposition in virtually every area - and was excellent value. This really was a new era for Browns Lane.
The Series 1 sold well, but Jaguar's merger with British Leyland proved its Achilles Heel.  As BL milked its luxury brands for profits to funds its ailing mass-market models, Jaguar quality - never that great in the first place - suffered significantly. 

Great Escape Cars' experience: We really like the original Series 1 XJ at Great Escape Cars.  We've run a few 6 cylinder versions, including currently this lovely Daimler version.  They've proved reliable, durable and are utterly gorgeous to drive - like piloting a very nice sofa. 

2. Series 2 XJ (1973-79)

BABS the Great Escape Cars Jaguar XJ6 Series 2
Minor tweaks to specification and a switch to a standard long wheelbase resulted in the Series 2 XJ - more luxurious and with a redesigned front end to suit US safety legislation. The Series 2 didn't move the game on much, except to cement the car's reputation for abysmal quality and reliability. Demand always outstripped supply, but that was more to do with production problems and strikes than the market.
The Series 2 is notable for the arrival of the beautiful XJ coupe, a pillarless two-door built on the standard short XJ chassis that somehow managed to be even more attractive than the saloon.

Great Escape Cars experience: We've run coupe and saloon XJ6 Series 2 models.  The saloon doesn't work as well for me as a LWB  - cramped up front you feel like you're piloting a ceremonial limousine.  Our car, this low mileage Sable-over-avocado example, won our hearts but dug into our pockets.  The Coupe, meanwhile, is one of the few cars I wish I'd never sold. 

3. Series 3 XJ (1979-92)

Great Escape Cars' XJ6 Series 3

Despite the success of the original XJ, its replacement (the XJ40) was continually put back due to lack of funds. This meant the car had to live on well beyond its natural life.  To achieve this Jaguar went to Pininfarina and created the Series 3, which with subtle tweaks to the roofline and bigger bumpers managed to haul the 11 year old design into the 1980s.  By then the only way to sell it was on the heritage ticket, a technique that worked particularly well in the USA where the residents at the time imagined Brits wandering around in top hats and smoking pipes.
The Series 3 added more refinement, luxury and better quality to the XJ offer.  The six cylinder models soldiered on until 1987, the V12s until 1992.  Despite the creaking underpinnings, sales were healthy - the Series 3 was by far the most popular version of the original car.

Great Escape Cars' experience: We ran an early, manual XJ6 Series 3 for a short while on our fleet. It proved problematic, mainly due to the injection system, and the manual gearbox really didn't suit the car. It was also surprisingly spartan inside.  A well sorted, later (higher spec) XJ Series 3 would make a good classic choice.

4. XJ40 (1986-94)

Jaguar XJ40
Originally due for launch in the late 70s, the XJ40's arrival was put back due to lack of money and the success of the Series 3. It was clearly intended to build on the style of the original car but with a smoother and more modern approach.  But by the time it arrived it didn't look modern anymore - it just looked retro, so Jaguar dug in with the 'heritage' theme.  Beneath the retro looks was a fairly modern car with advanced electronics, excellent new engines and, Jaguar claimed, much improved quality. 
The XJ was a decent car, but one hampered by those ambitious electronics (which failed - a lot) and terrible quality.  That it also borrowed much from the original XJ also proved its strength and weakness - the cabin was cramped and the boot shallow and impractical.  Only available as a six cylinder, the XJ40 struggled in America against home-grown V8s, which meant Jaguar had to keep building the V12 Series 3 alongside it.

5. X300 (1994-97)

Great Escape Cars' Jaguar X300 XJR
When Ford took over at Jaguar they immediately identified the issues with the XJ.  Quality was improved and interiors modernised. This created the X300, which is essentially a XJ40 in a party frock.  This meant that the compromises inherent in the original XJ chassis - primarily a cramped, narrow driver area - were carried over.  And, 26 years on, the design was full of other shortcomings, including road noise, damping and ride. 
The X300 was available as a six or 12 cylinder.  It was more reliable than the car it replaced but with five fuse boxes, the electrics remained a problem.  The supercharged XJR, however, signalled a future that wasn't all walnut veneers and trips to the golf club. While not quite a match for the all-conquering BMW M5, the XJR was quick, looked good and brought back the high speed prowess that made Jaguar so successful in the 1960s.

Great Escape Cars' experience: Our XJR, pictured here, alternated between a hire car and daily driver.  Good to look at and fantastically quick, it proved difficult to live with on a daily basis thanks to the harsh, tram-lining ride and sub-20 mpg consumption. I also found the driving position uncomfortable - the handbrake in particular is oddly placed.

6. X308 (1997-2003)

Great Escape Cars' Jaguar X308 XJR
If the X300 was a stop-gap, the X308 was really the car Ford wanted to build.  Longer, more refined and able to accommodate Jaguar's new V8, this was a car that could take the fight to the international opposition. And it did. Although based heavily on the X300 the interior was much better, albeit heavily skewed towards the 'heritage' ethos that now seemed to saddle everything Jaguar did.
The X308 upped the ante on complexity but also provided a supercharged V8 XJR which was much closer to the M5 in terms of appeal and ability. But still not very close.
The X308 cemented Jaguar's image as a car for the gin and tonic golf set, a market that was clearly available to target but which arguably alienated the car from a much wider audience.

Great Escape Cars' experience: Our X308 XJR was intended to make our Jaguar Driving Days more entertaining.  And, in a way it did.  It was spectacularly quick, with suspension and driver aids barely able to keep up, but also endlessly unreliable.  Not break down and wait unreliable, just a cavalcade of electrical gremlins that spoilt the experience. 

7. X350 & X358 (2003-09)

X350 Jaguar XJ
Finally, 35 years after its launch, Jaguar ditched the architecture of the original XJ and announced the X350.  This technically advanced car used an all-aluminium body to reduce weight and a new range of engines.  Unlike every previous XJ before it (except the Series 1) it was an entirely new car.
This should have heralded a new dawn for Jaguar in the executive car market. The X350 (and its virtually identical successor the X358) was reliable, well built, very well specified and there were diesel and supercharged versions. 
The trouble was that to clothe all this newness Jaguar continued to dig the heritage theme and borrowed heavily from the style of the previous XJs.  This is what happens when you only ask existing customers what you want a car to look like.  So while Jaguar had a car that was more advanced than a BMW, Audi or Mercedes, it looked like something off the Ark. The X350 screamed 'old person's car' and alienated potential converts to the marque.

8. X351 (2009-)

X351 Jaguar XJ
When Jaguar launched its new saloon in 2009 it couldn't have waved a bigger two finger salute to the past if it had tried.  Here was a car that was as much statement of intent as four wheeled transport.  The X351 owed nothing to previous XJs and yet was clearly a Jaguar.  It flowed, it swooped, it pounced, it oozed opulence and emotion unlike any product from Germany's car industry.  Those who had grown frustrated by Jaguar's recycling of history applauded what was clearly a brilliantly designed and very capable car.  They just about managed to drown out the booing from the die-hard customers who wanted a Jaguar to look like a Jaguar.
The X351 was and is a very good car: the interior looks like an ocean liner and it drives like a Jaguar should.  The design has sired a range of Jaguars that seemingly grows daily.

9. The Future

Proposed 2019 Jaguar XJ
Jaguar is apparently rethinking its approach to the executive car market and the next XJ will be all-electric and very high tech. The car is due in late 2018, on the XJ's 50th anniversary, and will take the fight to Tesla. All of which is a very long way from 1968 and the world's first mass-produced V12 engine...


At Great Escape Cars we've run many different XJs over the years, including Series 1, Series 2, Coupe, X300 and X308 models.  We love Jaguars but for us the original XJ Series 1 is our favourite.  You can hire a Daimler version from us for under £200 per day.  To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit

If you love Jaguars but can't decide which to drive, you might like our Jaguar Driving Day.  It gives you the chance to drive 5 classic Jaguars over a 180 mile route. 

Click here to find out more.

The Jaguar XJS dilemma

Some cars demand investment, others are less sure of themselves.  Where even the most decrepit E Type will find someone with deep pockets, its successor the XJS has people digging less deep and less often.
The reason is, of course, all about economics: the E Type is a £40,000 plus car, the XJS can still be had for a few thousand.  Even the best only nudge high teens.  So when a XJS needs restoration, the arguments for and against are much more balanced - and often weighted towards 'scrap it.'

This is a real shame because, like the E Type before it, XJS values will only go one way.  It's the last 'proper' Jaguar before Ford took over and the last one designed with input from the firm's founder William Lyons. That it also uses the superlative Jaguar V12 engine should be enough to have speculators reaching for their wallets.
Right now this creates something of a dilemma for XJS owners who want to restore their cars.

Although values are beginning to rise, the economic argument is against them - even a light bodywork or mechanical restoration will quickly equal the value of the car.
All of these issues were in our minds when we were approached to repair a XJS V12 convertible.  The car had suffered head gasket failure, a common issue with this engine, and the gearbox was showing signs of weakness.  Fixing the head gaskets and renovating the gearbox are potentially costly jobs - the former tends to be labour intensive because of the engine's structure and complexity while the latter relies on scarce replacement parts and even scarcer specialists willing to take it on. Taking this route would have rendered the car scrap because the costs would quickly have matched or exceeded its value.

We scratched our heads and considered other options.  We've worked on several XJS' over the last 12 months, in each case the economics have been the driving factor in our approach.  For owners, these are cars of relatively low value but high sentimental worth - and probably high future value.
Luckily, having worked on these cars for a while, we've got a good network of contacts.  So we were able to source a very good low mileage engine and gearbox from a reputable specialist. This option, at just a few hundred pounds, avoided the huge labour cost of replacing the heads and refurbishing the gearbox.  It would involve removing and refitting the engine and box, but this would have happened whichever route was used.

Some additional labour was required to transfer the ancillaries and injection system across, but this was not significant when set against the saving.  To complete the job we reused the water pump, distributor - which we retimed - injection system, and inlet and exhaust manifolds.  New parts were limited to resealing the sump and rocker cover gaskets, inlet manifold gaskets and studs and new belts.

The end result involved 70 hours work and less than half the cost of replacing the head gaskets and refurbishing the gearbox.  The car now runs significantly better than before, being more free-revving and responsive to throttle inputs.

To find out more about what we do click here or call 01527 893733.


5 of our favourite driving roads

Like a drunk staggering into the daylight, Spring is on its way. Even snow, wind and the Beast From The East can't stop its inevitable march.  And that means it's the start of our season, a time to dust down the motors and hit the road.
We run 3 road trips a week along with several taster experiences.  So we've got to know our local roads very well.  Here are our favourites - you can sample all of them on our driving experiences.

1. A483 Penybont to Newtown

When I originally reccied this road for our Break For The Border road trip several years ago I burnt out the brakes on my Saab.  It's that good. The 23 miles are like a great classical symphony, starting quietly and gently and building to a crescendo of hair-raising bends that require attention and skill.  The scenery is magical, the traffic volumes low and the distance just right.  It's such a good road we incorporate it into several of our road trips.

Experience it on our Break For The Border & Jaguar Driving Day road trips. 

2. A44 & A424 Evesham to Stow

The start of this 16 mile stretch is not particularly encouraging.  But once you've cleared the roundabouts and dawdlers you've got an uninterrupted two-lane blast up Fish Hill, a hill climb masquerading as an A road. It's steep, sharp and fun, before topping out on the beautiful 5 mile drive, a straight tree-lined section that has echoes of France. Then it's along the top to Stow via the fast and scenic A424.  Great fun.

Experience it on our Cotswolds Highlights Tour road trip.

3. B4520 Buith to Brecon

Even in a diesel Kia towing a classic car in pursuit of several enthusiast customers, this is a gem.  Provided you watch out for the wandering sheep you'll emerge steeply and unscathed onto a desolate moorland road that meanders and weaves before dropping down to Brecon.  It's a joy, particularly when the sun is low and the wind has dropped.

Experience it on our Welsh Triangle road trip.

4. B4203 Great Witley to Bromyard

This must be a great road because it passes the excellent Shelsley Walsh hill climb.   But there is very little time to savour the motoring heritage on this twisting rollercoaster of a road as it bucks and ducks around the lovely Worcestershire countryside.  It's also quiet, which means you're rarely stuck behind anyone.  We love it.

Experience it on our Break For The Border, Forest of Dean & Malvern Loop road trips

5. A4113 & A488 Bromfield to Penybont

For 32 miles this combination of roads is all about leaving the busy world behind.  It may be A roads but it's quiet, endlessly scenic and gradually opens out into countryside and more countryside.  There are even wandering sheep towards the end.  Whether you want to push on or just sit back, this road has it all. 

Experience it on our Break For The Border road trip


Road Trips

We run eight different road trips, including half day and full day experiences.  Each one is available to drivers and passengers and includes everything you need for a great day out.  Prices start at just £149 per driver.  Find out more here or call 01527 893733.

Which E Type is best - a survival guide

There are few cars more classic than the Jaguar E Type.  It regularly tops popularity polls and values continue to soar. The last cars are now over 45 years old and as we've discovered at Great Escape Cars, not everyone who loves these cars is old enough to understand the often bewildering variations available on the basic design.

So here is our guide to the different E Types, based on our experience running the UK's largest fleet of these delectable classic cars. 

The Series

Series 1 1961 to 1966

Launched in 1961, the original E Type Series 1 is the one most people recognise - the fared-in headlamps and small rear lights are, for many, true to the car's original style.  Available initially as a coupe or convertible (then 2+2 from 1966) the first cars had 3.8 litre straight six 'XK' engines, later revised to 4.2 litres from late 1964. The first E Types were manuals only but the 2+2 was available with an auto box.  Early cars had the cumbersome 'Moss' box, the introduction of the 4.2 model coincided with new synchromesh gearboxes.

Series 1.5 1967 to 1968

Changes to US safety legislation necessitated the Series 1.5, which differs only from the first cars in having higher headlights with no aerodynamic faring and, significantly, reduced power.  Otherwise the range and specification remained essentially the same.  These cars are considered by enthusiasts to be the first of the compromises foisted on the car by a cash-strapped Jaguar. 

Series 2 1968 to 1970

Great Escape Cars Jaguar E Type Series 2 coupe for hire

Prompted again by tightening US safety laws, Jaguar created the 'Series 2' E Type.  Casual observers might have missed the bigger rear lights - now below the bumper - and changes to the interior (out went the toggle switches and push-button starter, in came rockers and key start). But enthusiasts ever since have bemoaned the compromises, cheap solutions to big challenges, including an enlarged front grille.  If minor cosmetic changes don't bother you then the Series 2 is better built and more comfortable than the earlier cars. 

Series 3 1970 to 1975

Great Escape Cars has two Series 3 E Types for hire
When Jaguar married the E Type with its superlative new V12 engine it wasn't all upside.  In a bid to eek extra life out of the 10 year old design the car gained flared arches, even bigger grille, wider track and power steering.  Coupe and convertible body styles, standardised on the longer 2+2 chassis, were available, with the V12 matched to manual or auto boxes.  The Series 3 was deliberately softer and more luxurious and not everyone liked it. 
The Series 3 may compromise the original's style but taken in isolation it has its own character and is the easiest E Type to live with thanks to the extra length and bigger doors. Plus that V12 is a total gem. 

The Body Styles

Conceived to bring the aerodynamic style of the D Type to the road, the E Type was launched as a coupe and convertible.  The first cars were pure sports cars, which Jaguar soon realised limited its opportunities in its largest market, the USA, where the small door apertures weren't suited to the country's larger customers. So in 1966 a 2+2 was launched on an extended wheelbase.

The 2+2 was intended to be a four seater (some chance) and more of a GT than the shorter car.  It was also perfect for hat-wearing customers owing to its increased roof height.  In reality it was a fudge, but it did signal the way forward for the car as it aged.  In 1970, with the launch of the Series 3, Jaguar standardised on the long wheelbase and deleted the short wheelbase option, offering coupe and convertible versions only.
Your preference will depend on your priorities.  For originality, the short wheelbase cars are true to the car's concept, the longer cars are more practical, if only for getting in and out and taller drivers. Coupe or convertible is a personal choice.

The Engines

XK straight six engine
Three engines were offered in the E Type but only one at a time.  The venerable XK straight six engine was available as a 3.8 litre at launch and then a 4.2 from late 1964.  In late 1970 this made way for the superlative 5.3 litre V12.  The XK is not the last word in sophistication and once Jaguar extended it beyond 3.4 litres it began to lose its smoothness. The V12, on the other hand, is a superb engine but does expose the E Type's age and limitations.

The Gearboxes

Like the engines, there were three gearboxes offered with the E Type.  The first cars had Jaguar's aging 'Moss' box, a sturdy but cumbersome unit that lacked synchromesh on first. This was quickly replaced by a new fully synchromesh four speed gearbox that was infinitely better and remained in production for the rest of the car's life.  The main problem with both boxes is that they lacked overdrive, despite this being available on other contemporary Jaguars.  So at higher speeds the manual E Type feels under-geared, a fault exacerbated with the V12.
A three speed automatic was offered from the 1966 2+2 onwards.  The E Type may have matured and become more GT during its life but this doesn't make the auto option any more palatable - it isn't suited to the car's character and the change up or down is slow and cumbersome.


No. Built
Body styles
1961 to 1966
SWB coupe
SWB convertible
LWB 2+2 (from 1966)
3.8 (to 1964)
4.2(from 1964)
Moss (to 1964)
Synchro (from 1964)
Auto (from 1966)
1967 to 1968
As Series 1

1968 to 1970
As Series 1
As Series 1.5
As Series 1.5
1970 to 1975
LWB coupe
LWB convertible
5.3 V12
As Series 1.5

Which is Best?

At Great Escape Cars we've been lucky enough to have driven every variation of the E Type.  We love them all, with the notable exception of the 2+2.  The extra length delivers only downsides - ungainly looks, compromised handling and, as an auto, a truly disconnected experience.  The auto is, in our view, the worst E Type because it's so far from what the car is about - we'd rather have a XJS.

Your E Type decision comes down to preference.  Despite what aficionados claim, late cars and early cars are all excellent.  The first cars are uncompromising - cramped and hard to get into, but the upside is those astonishing looks.  No car, we think, looks as good. Later cars lose out in aesthetics but are considerably easier to live with - better gearboxes, more comfortable and better built. The V12 cars are noticeably softer and more luxurious, but this does make them lovely cars to drive over distances.

We have early and late cars on our hire fleet.  The earlier cars have a purity and presence that the Series 3 cars have slightly sacrificed, and suit anyone who wants the original E Type experience.  For those planning to drive further and to experience perhaps the greatest engine Britain has ever produced, the later V12 cars have to be sampled.


Great Escape Cars has the UK's largest fleet of classic Jaguars to hire, including three E Types.  To find out more visit or call 01527 893733.

New Classic Health Check

Whatever your views on the Government's decision to roll back the MOT exemption - and most people are of one view - it's happening.  At Great Escape Cars it worries us - a lot - so we've created the Classic Health Check.
First, a bit of background.  The MOT test has been creaking round the edges trying to cover a widening range of cars from the 1960s to current day.  The European Union decided that this was becoming untenable so started looking at ways to simplify it.  Roughly translated this meant reducing the breadth of cars it needed to cover.

The classic car fraternity translated this as meaning old cars could, potentially, be banned from the road.  So they proposed an exemption, arguing that old cars aren't used much and their owners are fastidious.  Remarkably, the EU and UK governments bought this and agreed an exemption on cars over 40 years old, commencing in May 2018.
What appears to be a blow for red tape is not quite the victory over bureaucracy that it might seem.  Although owners of older cars no longer need to put them through a MOT, they are still responsible for ensuring their cars are safe and roadworthy.  Without a MOT how do you do this?

As we're faced with this problem on our classic hire fleet we had to find a solution.  As a responsible hirer we need an independent assessment of each of our cars to prove that they are road legal - it's not just a moral obligation but a legal one.

We have worked with a local MOT tester to create the Classic Health Check. It started as an idea for our own fleet but is now available to any classic car owner.  It covers safety and structural issues on your car and provides an independent 'pass' or 'fail' assessment.  This can be used to demonstrate responsible maintenance of your car.   The cost is just £50 and takes about an hour.  We even include a free collection and return service within a 20 mile radius.
To book your Classic Health Check call 01527 893733 or to find out more click here.


01527 893733