One moment, the 1971 Jaguar V12 coupe was hustling along at 70 mph on Highway 26, heading back to Portland after a satisfying lunch of fresh-caught rockfish at the South Bay Wild Fish House in Astoria, OR.
The next, it was sitting silently, hood-up, by the side of the road.
The Jag had been performing brilliantly. The 5.3-liter engine was spinning like a turbine. The a/c was blowing ice-cold. With the fresh OEM rubber suspension bushings, the car tackled the turns with gusto. The more power I applied the happier the car was.
My second foray into the world of classic cars with automatic transmissions, the Jag soon became my favorite. A pure analog car, the interior is festooned with gauges and switches, some labeled, some not.
I had always viewed the V12 coupes as the bloated “Miss Piggys” of the Jag world, with their flared fenders and tall windshield.
But owning one soon taught me that while the earlier 6-cylinder E-types were pure sports cars, the V12s were comfortable, sophisticated cruisers.
Just 30 miles from home, as I passed NW Sellars Road on a long uphill stretch, the Jag lost all power.
Sadly, this was not my first experience with this happening in a classic car. Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club President Cindy Banzer’s eyes still get large when she recounts the time we were driving our 1958 Alfa Giulietta Spider Veloce (our race car with just enough equipment to make it street legal) on the California Mille and the throttle jammed wide open on a twisty mountain road. I was hell-bent-for- leather chasing Michael Levanthol in his 1953 Ferrari 340MM Vignale Spyder.
I wasn’t going to let him get away. I was able to reach behind me and use the battery cut-off switch to modulate the speed of the car. It was definitely an E ticket ride.
When I felt the output of the Jag engine go from 242 hp to zero, like a carrier plane at Midway looking for the Enterprise, I steered for the nearest part of the road with a wide shoulder.
I landed safely off the highway. The electrical system was on sabbatical. Turning the key brought out the little cricket clicks as the solenoid pretended to engage.
For some unknown reason, the battery had been completely drained. The Jag has a voltmeter which I had not been paying attention to. In fact, I don’t understand the point of a gauge that tells you when your battery is dead. At least with an ammeter you can see if you are charging or not. But I’m sure wiser collectors can fill me in on this.
A quick call to SCM Tour Director and car wrangler Neil d’Autremont and a solution was in hand. “Send me a picture of the battery, I’ll grab a spare and be there in 30 minutes.” The word gratitude hardly reflects my feelings of appreciation.
He showed up and declared the battery in the car to be a POS (that’s car talk). He dropped in the new one and we were once again on our way.
Neil is going to buy a new high-quality battery and then we will send the car to Consolidated Autoworks to have the charging system inspected.
Our trip had only been interrupted by an hour. While we were inconvenienced, the engine shutdown happened in daylight, in good weather, and in a place where I was safe pulling over.
Further, this points out the value of the SCM Mantra, “Drive your cars.” Far better to have this happen now than on SCM 1000 Day One, in the High Desert with no cell coverage, 100 miles out from Bend, OR.
With Neil’s help, we were able to triumph over the machinations of Lucas, the Prince of No Horsepower. The Jag is resting at home, and ready for those last few tweaks before the July tour.
As the Bard said, “All’s Well That Ends Well.”