A crashing realisation

A crashing realisation

It’s not going to be a universally popular opinion, but I’m afraid I love a bit of banger racing. Indeed, I probably have it to thank for my love of old cars. Back when I was a kid, in the mid 1980s, a Sunday afternoon out at High Edge Raceway in Buxton was a rare and intoxicating treat. Watching straight-six Jaguar XJs, V8 Rover SD1s and V6 Ford Granadas go head-to-head in the ultimate blaze of glory made me adore the sounds and shapes of cars I’ve since revered all my life, before a ride home in the back of my dad’s Cortina to drive my Matchbox cars into each other on my plywood racetrack topped off a very happy weekend. Joyous memories indeed.

But I also acknowledge that it’s not for everyone, especially where old or rare classics end their days on the oval. I’m not keen on that side of things, either.

For general end-of-life cars though, fair enough. There won’t be a huge number of tears shed for a 250,000-mile Mondeo with aerated sills that was never going to make it to a classic car show anyway, so if it provides an evening of entertainment on its way out then it’s one final act of usefulness before reaching the end of its life. But a couple of weeks back, something came as a massive shock to me. At my local banger track, the Adrian Flux Arena in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, not just one, not even two, but three Jaguar XFs met their maker against the Anglian Armco.

Yes, XFs. Cars that to me are still ‘new’. The XF was the first of the Ian Callum-designed new wave of saloons that stepped away from traditional Jaguar styling and moved towards the brave new world that Jaguar occupies now.

I remember when it made its debut. The boasts of the many-millions spent on its development, the technological genius of its rotary gear selector, the electric air vents that magically appeared as you switched on the ignition and a bold statement of marketing intent with trim levels such as Premium and Premium Luxury. This was a full-on high-end car that was ready to play the Germans at their own game and it mattered not that it was based on the platform of the S-Type.

Except to banger racers, it clearly did – or still does. In the ‘Unlimited’ classes, where V8 engines are welcome, the S-Type is a perennial favourite due in no small part to the fact that, a couple of years ago, you could barely give them away (though that is changing fast). It’s hardly a surprise, as the AJ V8 is a hardy engine, the chassis balance is terrific and on a shale surface the S-Type is a drifter’s delight, no matter how ungentlemanly that might sound. But supplies are drying up fast.

Enter the XF. A car that trade whispers suggest is starting to develop similar levels of floorpan rust to the S-Type (hardly a surprise, given it’s the same floor) and is at an age now where a major repair could become economically unviable.

Indeed, that was exactly what happened to one of the cars at King’s Lynn. I spoke to the driver’s mechanic, who told me they’d bought it from a dealer who’d essentially made one good XF out of two broken ones. They’d bought the remains of the donor car, minus its engine, and put a V8 in it from an S-Type they’d raced previously. It had paid for itself by many of its useful parts being sold off and what was going round the track was pretty much just the bodyshell, though it still came as a shock to see.

Driving home that evening (sadly not to play with my toy cars), a thought came crashing down on me and almost ploughed me into the barrier, though. The XF is now 15 years old, and back at High Edge Raceway in 1985, most of the XJ6s that were on their final lap were much younger than an early XF is today. XFs, like myself, are older than I dare to think.

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