When I met Simon Biggs at the SNG Barratt Open Day in May 2015 he told me the story of why he had chosen a classic 1960’s S-type in favour of any other classic car.
Too Tall for Classic Cars!
by Simon Biggs
It was always understood that when I retired I was going to buy a classic car. I had dabbled with a Volvo Amazon estate and a Ford Anglia, both too far gone for the meagre resources I had coupled with the lack of time, money and expertise. Both had to go after spending some time rusting on the drive or in the garden. Next there were kit cars. I tried a Merlin TF and later a Merlin Plus 2. The latter was a very well built and competent sports roadster. However it was low, tight and stiff on the suspension. A bumpy ride at best and painful on occasions which eventually led to its disuse. Fun had, it was now time to sell, and the car found a good home with an enthusiast in the Midlands.
We had now moved to a much bigger house as our professional lives developed. It had a wide drive, a double garage and space for a work shop. Coupled with the fact that we had not had children and the expense associated with this, things were looking good. Then at 46, a problem that had dogged me from my early twenties resurfaced and this time laid me low. The back problem which had been developing had now led to me having a pump fitted in my abdomen. Filled with morphine, this now gave a level of pain relief that made life tolerable if not fun. You learn to live with these things. Breakthrough pain became worse and after increasing amounts of time off work, I applied for and obtained early retirement on ill health grounds.
So, at the age of 46 I now had time on my hands. A few years later, my mother in law died. I was very upset as we had always got on very well and I liked her very much. It did however lead to us inheriting a sum of money which had not been expected. Once the dust of bereavement had settled, and all affairs were set in order, we discovered that we had some surplus money. My wife, bless her, suggested that I look for a classic car to buy as while I could still get in and out of one. So I began to search.
I started by scanning the classic car press which I had been reading for some years. I started to compile a list of classics I fancied. The problem was that the adverts did not give me some vital information, not their fault as you would not usually include this information when selling a car. The first thing was the length and width, or to put it another way, would it fit in the garage? The second bit of information even more important and the cause of early retirement, could I fit in the car? The problem is that I am six feet six inches tall. My inside leg measures thirty six inches and such long legs coupled with size twelve shoes need to be accommodated under the steering wheel. Not to mention my head resting firmly within the head lining as it already did on many cars. Whilst I was able to look up the car sizes on various web sites to establish if it would fit within my garage, I still did not know if I would fit within the car.
Now began the long process of visiting car shows the next season to see if I could ‘fit’. I had already crossed a number off my list of possibles as they were too big for the garage. I now began to cross off even more as I could not fit within them. The tall bloke wandering round show grounds asking ‘Do you mind if I try your car for size?’ became, I imagine, a familiar site. Not all cars I was interested in were at all shows, nor were their owners always with the cars. After several shows, and becoming more and more downhearted as I crossed out car after car from my list, I wondered if I would ever get a classic car to suit me. I was looking for something with style, a comfortable and if possible luxurious place to spend time, something that would deliver a good driving experience. This produces a long list of possible cars. The Triumph stag had gone, the Riley RM had gone, the Ford V8 Pilot and others were consigned to the ‘can’t fit’ category.
Then I sat in a Jaguar Mark Two ………. the clouds parted, the sun came out, trumpets sounded hallelujah! Leg room, head room, my knees touched under the steering wheel which was not in my lap. My elbows were not pressed into my sides and my feet fitted the pedals. When the owner pointed out that there was also a telescopic steering column I could not believe it. At last. I had found the ideal car for me. Next problem, the price. Up to now we had bandied several amounts about between us but had not actually fixed on a maximum amount. My darling wife (she may read this!) in her wisdom pointed out that I had hopelessly dreamed of returning two previous rust buckets to the road before. Therefore the amount must be enough to buy something decent. Whilst we had been considering Fords, Rileys and the like, about £5000 seemed reasonable to obtain a good specimen. But now we were talking about Jaguars! A quick look through the classifieds and my heart dropped along with my hopes. It was now that my wonderful wife (she’s bound to read this!) suggested a budget of around £10,000. This meant that I might be able to get something reasonable to do up. It still fell a bit short of a half decent Mk 2 but as I researched the Marque I realised that other candidates such as the 240, 340, Daimler 250 and S Type might be a better option. They seemed to be cheaper than the Mk 2 and the money I had would get me a fairly good car of this type. After even more research I settled on either a Daimler 250 for the extra luxury or an S type for the extra space and headroom. It also seemed that the S Type handled better than a Mk 2 with its E Type rear suspension, and was only fetching about two thirds of the price of a similar Mk 2.
I started my search. After a couple of disappointing phone calls I spotted an S Type for sale near Tiverton. We arranged to go down to see the car and discovered a very nice looking S Type in Willow Green with a Suede Green interior. The car was in very good condition and had belonged to the father in law of one of the Cooper brothers who created Coopercraft Brakes, an after market braking system for classic cars regularly advertised in the classic car press. I bought the car but in a cruel twist of fate, my back went again when we were to go down and pick it up. Paul Cooper kindly agreed to trailer the car up to the West Midlands where I live as he was coming up to collect parts from SNG Baratt at nearby Bridgnorth. I paid his petrol and got a cheap delivery and he got his parts cheaper than expected.
The car is very comfortable and we try to do as many shows in the season as we can in the Midlands area. I am slowly improving the car up to eventual show standard but in the meantime I am enjoying driving it as much as I can. I am delighted with the car and so glad I decided to go for a car with such a rich pedigree and heritage as Jaguar.
I suppose if you are very tall like me the only option is to slog round car shows politely asking owners if you can sit in their cars. Always offer to remove your shoes (so wear slip-ons) and always ask if you can move the seat or anything else before you do so. You will find the vast majority of car owners only too pleased to show you their car and to answer any questions you might have about it. The classic car fraternity are very friendly and a wonderful source of information. My only hope is that in the future, some web site might consider not only listing the cars dimensions but also suggesting the maximum height for drivers of the vehicle. After all, the RED Letter Day organisations which offer exciting days out parachuting, ballooning or driving cars round tracks have all decided that anyone over six feet two is too tall.