Paul Keating, developer of the XJ40 Register, provides a feature via Facebook on a chosen XJ40 every month, and gave Opium the honour of opening 2018.
Having recently been asked by Paul, to provide details of my 1988 3.6 XJ40 Sovereign, I realised that I had never given Opium a full introduction in her own right on my own website – she is just added into Brucie’s Diary and other event reports, as the occasion arises.
This year, Opium will be 30 years old on the 31st of March, so here is the story of how I found her!
Jim Randle, Letitia Mace and E264OMP ‘Opium’ (Picture courtesy of Paul Skilleter)
Ten years before finding Opium I had owned a stunning Jaguar Racing Green 3.6 XJ6 and absolutely adored her, but was persuaded to trade her in for a 1996 SWB 4 litre X300 Sovereign – not Brucie, I hasten to add! In the following years, I wanted a good 3.6 more than I wanted any other XJ40 model, even more than an Insignia, Majestic or XJ81 !!
19th March 2016 – ‘Classic Car Auctions’ Spring Sale
The day preceding Jaguar Spares Day we went to a Classic Car Auction in Warwickshire, primarily to assess and bid on a Maserati Quattroporte, which turned out to be rather disappointing. So we walked around the vast hall looking at all the lots, purely out of interest and tucked away in a corner at the far end of the auction hall we spotted a red XJ40. As we drew nearer and realised it was an early car, I just thought to myself ‘Please, please be a 3.6, not a 2.9!’
My prayers were answered – she was a 1988 3.6 Sovereign!
We had a good look around her, and I just hoped we wouldn’t find anything bad. Bodywork was sound, rust and dent free. Wheels were original metric. None of her original features had been removed or damaged. Bumpers were sound. Doors were locked, but interior looked as new. We couldn’t really check underneath, but what we could see was enough to suggest that a trip to the office to inspect paperwork and ask for keys would be worthwhile.
The office was very busy, the keys could not be found, and the paperwork was incomplete. Without the keys, we could not inspect the boot or engine bay or see if she fired up. Rob did an MoT check, which confirmed that her mileage was just over 39,000 miles, so we decided it was worth bidding on her.
Apparently she had failed to meet her reserve in the auction at the NEC Restoration Show the previous week, which didn’t bode well, and being a late entry for this auction, she would be last to go under the hammer and was not listed in the printed catalogue. Because of this, most people missed her, and had thankfully left by the time bidding began, so maybe it was meant to be?
I’d fallen in love with this XJ40 and really wanted her, but there had been some keen bidders, not least Roger Dudding, to whom I am no competition! As the second to last car listed in the catalogue was announced, he got up and walked away and I sighed with releif! I had already asked Rob to bid for me as he is more experienced at that sort of thing, and as lot 315 went under the hammer, Rob turned to me and said ‘So how high do you want me to go with this?’ and I replied ‘Oh, just buy it!’ to which he gave me one of those despairing looks!
Bidding for lot 316 started at £4000 and my heart was in my mouth, then it was £4500 and most of what happened was a blur but the next thing I remember was the hammer going down at £5000 and me looking at Rob absolutely horrified and thinking ‘You didn’t buy her!’
Rob just grinned at me and then the auctioneer seemed to be addressing him, and I realised that she was mine and that Rob’s deft bidding on my behalf had made me the truly ecstatic owner of this early example of a 3.6 XJ40 Sovereign !!
I never thought I would own another 3.6, so was prepared to pay any price for this one, and just hope it would prove to be the right decision! It took some time for the office to find the keys, but when we finally got them the central locking snapped into action and with one turn of the key the engine spun over without hesitation, bursting melodiously into life. Then on opening the bonnet we found an immaculate unmolested 3.6 engine bay! She is a worthy candidate for any concours d’elegance! The V5 revealed that she was a one owner car, and the wad of MoT certificates confirmed that the 39,200 miles were genuine!
She is truly stunning, and I feel confident that I now own one of the very best 3.6 XJ40’s still in existance!
The pictures below show her as she was on arrival in Scotland, after a long journey from Warwickshire, and before she had been washed!
All bodywork is sound, there is no evidence of rust and paintwork is near perfect. To the experienced eye there is evidence of past rectification, however, this has obviously been well-done and stood the test of time, as there are accompanying receipts from the mid 1990’s which date the repairs, and suggest that the car was maintained as required regardless of expense.
Wheels and Engine Bay
No signs of rust in any of the usual places, and everything is spotless, apart from a light coating of dust from the long journey home! Wheels are the original metrics, as they should be. Ouch – that’ll hurt when she needs new tyres! The original Dunlops are nolonger available, but Avons in the correct metric size can be purchased from Longstone Classic Tyres
All veneer is unmarked and unfaded, driver’s seat bolster is unworn. She has a sunroof and her roof lining is exactly where it should be! All electrics are working! Early XJ40 toolbox – correct and complete, and she still has all her keys!
Cooling pack cradle (always first to go on these cars) shows only surface bubbling; original stamped Jaguar exhausts; all pipework, sub-frames and floorpan are perfect!
She is Bordeaux Red with Doeskin Hide interior trim and I named her OPIUM, as a play on the letters in her registration number.
She came with a car cover and a factory fitted battery cut off, so it would appear that she was never intended as a daily driver.
Part of her appeal is her originality – many features which have been lost by most early XJ40’s are still present on mine. I love the early scuttle finisher and door mirrors, which were changed for the 1989 MY, and the original XJ40 digital display which was replaced by analogue dials for 1990 MY.
Worth waiting for!
In August 2016 forty XJ40 owners celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the XJ40 at Dunkeld House Hotel in Scotland, where the original launch of the XJ40 took place in 1986.
The weekend included driving the original test route, and Jim Randle’s friend, Terry Griffin was my co-driver and navigator for stage one. Almost at the end of this stage, 4 miles from our rendezvous at Lochearnhead ‘Opium’ clocked 40,000 miles at 10.54am on 29th August 2016 just as we were negotiating a series of bends, all of which was witnessed and recorded by Terry – a small achievement to anyone else, but this minor event meant a lot to me – my 28 year old XJ40 reaching 40,000 miles on the Press Launch route on the 30th anniversary celebration of the XJ40, and witnessed by a close friend of Jim Randle – what could be more fitting? A wonderful memory to cherish forever!
After morning coffee at Lochearnhead, Jim Randle asked if he could drive my XJ40 for the next 25 mile stage of the route. Gosh, what an honour! Terry was rear seat passenger and I navigated. The man responsible for the XJ40, driving my car! Another memory to cherish! Jim only drove two XJ40’s that weekend, and the other belonged to my partner, Rob Jenner.
Jim Randle demonstrates the ‘Randle Handle’ while driving my 3.6 Sovereign, known as ‘Opium’, on the Press Launch route at Dunkeld 2016 (Picture courtesy of Paul Skilleter)
Letitia Mace and E264OMP ‘Opium’ (Picture courtesy of Pim from Holland)
Judging of the cars then commenced, with Jim Randle (Jaguar Design Director in charge of XJ40), Paul Skilleter (renowned Jaguar Journalist), Ed Abbott (XJ40 Vehicle Proving), Howard and Ann Hunt (XJ40 Launch Co-ordinator/Dunkeld House Hotel Head Receptionist 1986) and Jonathan Partridge (Jaguar Heritage) being given the task of selecting what they thought was the nicest XJ40 at Dunkeld.
I didn’t envy the judges the task they’d been given, as there was not a bad car at Dunkeld, in my opinion, although I had not had time to go over all of the cars in fine detail. Rob Jenner had been nominated to read out the list of winners, after dinner. Starting in reverse order, I listened, thinking that my car might have been highly commended…. but no, she wasn’t!
So was it too vain to hope that Opium might be in the first three? Again, I listened – she wasn’t third, she wasn’t second …..
Finally, Rob declared the winner of the award, stating that this was very difficult for him, as the award was in the name of his late father, Alan Jenner, also involved in Project XJ40! It had occurred to me that although my XJ40 was a lovely example, she was amongst other cars of an extremely high standard and she had not been mentioned in the list of those who were highly commended, but as Rob read out the registration number of the winning car, ‘E264’ he paused for a moment and the penny dropped and I found myself finishing the number off out loud …. ‘OMP’ – I was absolutely astonished and overwhelmed!
Jim Randle (the man behind the XJ40) presents Letitia Mace with the award for Best XJ40 at the XJ40 30th Anniversary, Dunkeld, 2016
I cannot express what a wonderful day this was – I waited a long, long time for this XJ40 and now she had not only been driven by Jim Randle, the man responsible for bringing the XJ40 into the world, but she had been voted car of the show at the 30th anniversary of the XJ40 !!