This latest episode of Car & Classic: The Rescues featuring a Jaguar is of a slightly different tone to the previous ones. In the past, we brought a little Austin back to life, and we have taken a £100 Mercedes-Benz and put it back on the road. Pistons have moved, oil has been swilled, petrol has been burned. This time though, none of that has happened. It simply wouldn’t have been possible. But how, in that case, has this been a rescue?
The object was simple: salvage what we can. The Jaguar MkIX is a rare car, so if this rusted hulk could yield some useful parts, that would be good. But this specific objective was not our main motivator. Instead, we were bowing to the pressures of the human condition, and with it, our desire to explore the forgotten and the unloved. Shipwrecks, derelict buildings and of course, forgotten cars. They all serve to fascinate us with their decay and consequent demise. We wanted to get to closer, to explore and to see just how far the elements had allowed this once majestic car to fall over four-and-a-half decades.
We’ve all seen farms littered with rotting cars, and we’ve all wanted to explore and have a prod about. Traditionally though, that’s not often possible. Land owners are, quite rightly, protective of their land, so permission might not be granted. And even if it was, you’d only be allowed to look, not touch. That wasn’t the case for us, though. We were allowed to touch, to dismantle, to dissect and ultimately, to move.
This Jaguar languishes on a farm somewhere in Somerset. Said farm belongs to Simon, friend of the co-presenter in this video, Jonny Smith. Simon, a fast-response paramedic based in London has inherited the farm and all that is on it. However, he has plans for the land, which means the old cars have to go. This gave us the excuse we needed to get up close and personal with the Jaguar. To explore and to salvage. This car, which was once a runabout for Simon’s father, was parked before Simon was born. Simon is 43. It has not moved since. Nor has it been touched.
The farm on which it sits is extremely isolated. No passing traffic, walkers or, well, anyone or anything really. As such, the Jaguar has not fallen victim to the hands of vandals, it has not been disturbed other than by the apparently aggressive hand of nature. This episode of The Rescues is more akin to Time Team than Top Gear.
Just how far can a car fall in forty-odd years, we pondered? A long way, it seems. As we set about our dig, we first had to remove years of thick, steel-cable-thick vines. We had to move the classic farm detritus such as other car parts, the obligatory Land Rover bits and, um, a toilet. But as we chopped, cut and snipped our way through, the once magnificent Jaguar presented itself to us. Or at least what was left of it.
The huge, pontoon wings had fallen from the car. The doors, A and B pillars and all, had fallen away. The sills were past tense, as was the boot lid – they weren’t missing, they simply didn’t exist anymore. The roof had fallen into the car, as the pillars had rusted into nothing. In doing so, it had spilled the screens front and back into the car.
The interior, once a glorious red leather, had been reduced to brittle swathes of hardened material. When the doors fell away from the driver’s side, we observed that some sort of furry creature, probably a badger, had been evicted from what was once the rear footwell. Sorry Mr. Badger.
The windscreen’s descent into the car exposed the once shimmering walnut dash to the elements. All we found was the odd baton of wood held together by the wiring loom and associated lights. The whole dash had fallen into the car, the speedometer forlornly staring at the floor, reading the mileage of 65,000. The radio had fallen into rusty pieces and hung from the dash. The scuttle, the floors, the bulkhead, all were gone.
In the episode, you’ll be with us as we explore the wreckage. We might not have made an engine run, but that doesn’t matter. The journey of discovery in this instance is far more engaging. As is the autopsy of the old Jag. The car could have been unceremoniously destroyed by the bulldozers when they move in, or we could dissect and dismantle it with a slightly greater degree of care. And that we did. And it was truly fascinating. ‘Carcheology’, Jonny called it. His new favourite phrase.
And you shouldn’t just watch for the Jaguar. The farm is still awash with hidden old cars, parts and automotive paraphernalia, all of which we explored. At least, as best we could – those vines were vicious in places! But where we beat them, we found kit cars, Daimlers, race vans, tractors and so much more. We did what we have all wanted to do when we see a farm rich in forgotten machinery, but without the risk of being reprimanded by an angry farmer.
And as for our objective to salvage parts from the Jaguar? Did we? Did what has to be the most rotten Jaguar in the world yield anything of use? You’ll have to watch to find out.