Last week I described taking the 1971 SCM Citroën DS21 Pallas for a drive.
My son Bradley accompanied me. He is gradually developing a tolerance – if not yet an affection – for the oddities the Citroën presents. After our morning drive, we topped the tank off with non-ethanol gas and slid the car into its storage spot at Pro-Tek Automotive.
Then it was time to bring the 1971 Jaguar V12 coupe to life for an afternoon adventure.
Bradley has learned to operate the choke on the DS’s 109-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, getting the car up to operating temperature before handing it over to me. (“Choke” has already become an obsolete and irrelevant term for our modern cars.)
The procedure in the Jag is similar. You pull the choke lever out three clicks. I had him give the throttle a couple of pumps to tickle the four Zenith-Stromberg carbs, just for my emotional satisfaction.
The car fired up immediately.
As the 272-hp 12-cylinder engine roared through the four exhaust pipes, I was reminded of why I like vintage cars so much. The sound was fabulous, and the car revved easily.
Bradley got the biggest smile ever on his face when the car started.
I was reflecting that he will never forget learning to start the DS or the Jag. No matter whether cars, old or new, play a place in his life he will have these memories. His sense of mastery in getting them going will remain with him always.
Before we set out, he wanted to inspect the engine. He opened the bonnet by twisting and pulling on the latches on each side of the cockpit. Then he got his fingers under the center bulge, pushed on the safety latch and opened the hood. I was impressed.
In my 50 years of collecting, I have never owned a car as original as the Jag. It has 23,000 documented miles and has always been properly taken care of. Aside from the headliner, every surface on the car, in and out, is original.
Under the hood, although hoses have been replaced as necessary, all the correct clamps are still in place.
Ed Grayson at Consolidated Autoworks, who looks after the car, said it was one of “the most original, un-messed-with Jags” he has seen.
He had to replace the bushings in the front suspension. Long ago, someone had “upgraded them” to polyurethane. They had gotten old and brittle and just kind of fell apart. There is OEM-style rubber in there now.
Another part of bringing the car back into regular car servicing was replacing one of the thermostatic switches on the fans. I also had him upgrade the headlights to LED. That came after a drive back from the Oregon Coast on back roads at night, when I could barely see the road ahead.
On another trip to the coast, the alternator stopped charging and I wasn’t attentive enough to see the voltmeter dropping. (Where are those warning lights when you need them?)
Friend Neil d’Autremont grabbed a new battery and shuttled it out to us and we were soon underway. Ed rebuilt the alternator. I wondered later if I had carried one of my glovebox portable battery chargers with me, could I have simply hooked it up to the battery and that would have given us enough juice to get home? Can you use those chargers that way?
Most recently, the master cylinder started leaking brake fluid into the booster, so Ed rebuilt them both.
I also had him rewire the dead power outlet so Bradley could charge his phone, and we could power the JBL Bluetooth speaker that fills the car with sound. There have never been speaker holes cut into the car.
Last summer, I drove it on the SCM 1000. In the heat of the Oregon High Desert, the car never overheated, and the a/c (upgraded to R134a) kept the car ice cold.
Sunday, Bradley and I put about 50 miles on the Jag. It’s a delight to drive. I was never behind the wheel of a 1971 Jag when it was three years old, but this car feels that new.
It has copious amounts of power and the V12 just purrs. At 80 mph the Citroën is beginning to plead for mercy, while the Jag is just getting going.
We celebrated the lovely drive by stopping at a McDonalds in Troutdale, OR, in the Columbia Gorge. Bradley ate a Big Mac and fries on the way home. I’ve been criticized many times for encouraging my kids to eat in my classic cars, but I will never change. If we want our kids to enjoy their time with us in our old cars, then riding in them should not be a tension producing, “OMG DON’T TOUCH THAT” situation.
To Bradley, the Jag is just one more goofy old car that his dad owns, and he likes jumping into it and heading out.
We got back to Pro-Tek, topped off the tank with clear gas, and slid the car into its slot next to the DS.
I’m planning on driving the Jag on the SCM 1000 (and the Citroën as well), and last weekend was the proper way to prepare them. Fire them up, get on the road and watch the miles click over on the odometer.
It is only through use that our old cars become reliable. And it is only through use that we bond with them and learn exactly how they want to be treated. It was a satisfying day for both me and my son.