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Member Profile
Eliot Brenner 

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Eliot's Jaguar Journey

In the ‘60s, I’d sometimes encounter English Fords, Healey’s, Minis, a pal’s muffler-deprived Alpine and occasional Jags here in Northern Virginia. Thirty years later, seeing a steady stream of Jags and several E-types at an independent shop in Annandale, the Jaguar mystique burst from my subconscious full-bore and I began looking at ads in the Post.

 

One Sunday there it was: JAGUAR, 1989 XJ6, 30,000 miles, one owner, $12k. After a once-over from the Indy shop and the prescient purchase of an aftermarket warranty, my education on the vagaries of British engineering began with a Parliament Blue 3.6 Sovereign.

 

Today three of my four Jags have been LWB models. I like the “space” part of Grace, Space and Pace, particularly for rear seat passengers, and the ride qualities.

 

The current beast is an ‘03 Quartz Metallic (LHK) over Charcoal interior (LEG) Vanden Plas, purchased in August 2020 with just under 30,000 miles from Harrisonburg, Va., lot. I’d been in the town two weeks earlier to drive an immaculate 2004 XK8 of the same color, but I passed as years of big sedans made the convertible’s flexing and wind noise annoying. The VDP was traded on a Friday, prepped Saturday, and posted Sunday night. Monday I called, left a credit card, took an inadvertent 100-mile test drive Wednesday, wrote a check and returned Thursday to collect it. It now has about 47k miles.

 

“I know that car,” said the Indy mechanic who did the pre-purchase check south of Staunton. “That’s Mrs. Wheatley’s car and she never let her grandchildren in the back seat.”

 

The first LWB model sold me on that genre. It was a BRG ’97 XJ6L (later to live at Peter Crespins), followed by an ’06 Radiance Pearl X350 VDP sadly totaled by a falling tree months into COVID that prompted a nationwide search for a replacement. While for X308 fans it may be heresy to like the 350s, I sure miss that one. The “new” Jag is also close to being the last X308 built. Assembled in July 2002, its VIN is 1,007 off the end of the XJ8 run.

 

All four cars have carried the same vanity tag — GUD KITY.  A Grateful Dead fan, I also have a “Touch of Grey” badge (also the name of one of my bands) to subtly mark the car for fellow Deadheads.

 

The last two have largely been weekend drivers, getting about 5,000 miles a year with farm market runs, Shenandoah Valley jaunts and car shows. GUD KITY The Fourth has twice won second-in-class at the Shenandoah Valley British Car Club event and in 2022 won first in class in the Hunt Country Classic in Marshall, Va. It’s been to one B-O-G show so far.

 

With no garage or driveway, I hire out most work these days and have become acquainted with shops from Rockville, Md., (Master Auto, and the late Jesse Bogan) to Annandale and even Lithonia, Ga. It was in Georgia where Jaguar Journal deputy editor Greg Wells once dispatched a tow truck 80 miles from Coventry West to rescue the ‘97 XJ6L for a new head and on later enlisted CW Jag Genius Dick Maury to resolve a mixture problem on the same car. (Jags do help you make friends!) In my early years of ownership — when I was more flexible — I’d take on things like fluid changes, brakes, plugs, valve cover gaskets and the like. The most I’ve been done of late is wiring in a battery tender. Anything else is a 401k RMD project for the pros.

 

 A relative newcomer to NCJOC, I joined a few years back. I manage a club event once or twice a year around caregiver duties, along with occasional ones from the Shenandoah Valley club to which I’ve belonged since 1998. After college and early work years I returned to NoVa in 1979. I’m a retired wire service journalist, speechwriter and government flack, play mandolin, have a private pilot’s license and advise Fairfax County Supervisors on aviation issues.

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Oh, yeah: In case you’re curious about what to do with the tray tables in the back of VDPs, I find the best use is to hold a hot fudge sundae with nuts, whipped cream and a cherry at the Moo-Thru on U.S. 29 South a bit north of Remington, Va.
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Member Profile
Jake Kreeger

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Q&A with Jake

What is your current Jaguar and what's the story behind your ownership? 

Currently I own and have owned for twenty years, a 1954 XK120 OTS SE model with approximately 60,000 miles.  This car was purchased from a friend and in the ensuing years I have driven her about 20,000 miles.  Being an SE (Special Equipment) model the horsepower is slightly higher  180 than the standard 160 configuration.  Notable features are wire wheels, higher lift cam shafts.  Also unique, as this is about 40 cars from the end of 120 production, is the 140/150 style flat horn button and curved hand brake lever.  These changes appeared in about the last six months of production. just as they were getting ready to introduce the XK140 in late 1954. My car retains its original engine, gearbox; instruments; hardware and Lucas components dated 1954.  Deviations from original are few with the exception of a stainless flex fan and Petronix ignition.  It also retains its factory original leather on the facia/instrument panel. The seats coverings and

carpets were changed out in the early 1970’s and the car color was changed from red to black lacquer about that time.                                 

I managed to contact the original owner some years ago.  The car was a graduation gift from his (generous) father in 1955.  He retained the car for about three years before it was sold on.  He reminisced how he would outfox the local police who would try to catch him speeding - something he did often. Tracing owners from the late 50’s through the early 70’s has not been successful but the trail picks up again when it was sold by a New England classic car dealership to a lawyer.  Apparently the lawyer had legal problems of his own and he returned the car in short order.  It was then sold to a Mr. Etter in Pittsburgh.  He parked the car in his mother’s garage and put very few miles on it during his ownership.  It was purely by coincidence I purchased a set of H8 Sandcast SU carburetors from Mr. Etter through an ad in Hemmings Motor News many years before purchasing his car.  He told me he had the car stored and hardly drove it.  Mr. Etter sold the car to another friend of mine, Jeff Brenner near York, PA and I in turn purchased it from Jeff in 2014.

How do you use your Jaguar – Daily driver?  Restoration project?  Weekend drives?   Car shows? 

My XK120 is purely a driver car.  It, like its owner, is aging and would benefit from a restoration.  However, I maintain it and endeavor to keep looking good despite the overall slow deterioration of the paint and interior.  It has gained patina of that, I am sure. It is extremely solid and drives quite well.  I mostly take it on solitary cruises in the country and attend local car shows in it upon occasion.  If anything, I am known for my well running Black Cat.

Have you owned other Jaguars in the past?   Tell us about them. 

Many.  I have owned (along with a number of other British cars) several XK’s including three 120’s; one XK140 Coupe; XK150 OTS and a low mileage XK 150 DHC.  The first XK120 was found in the shrubs in Southern Dade County Florida in 1969 and purchased for 600.00.  It was an early steel bodied car with DuoTone interior and virtually no rust. 

I managed to get it running but on a student budget, I could not afford to put it back on the road.  It did begin my love affair with the XK Jaguars and it was about this time I became aware of the racing history of these cars. Another 120 was a 1953 OTS SE model purchased out of a junk yard in Rutgersville, Virginia.  I like to think of it as the last junk yard XK find in the US but who really knows.  It was a fantastic car: black with red and biscuit duotone upholstery.  Again, with little rust.  I got it running (it had not run since the 1960’s and I purchased in the 2000’s).  It smoked until it settled down and eventually ran quite well.  I sold it trying to put enough money together to by a good driver.  My current car is a partial result of that sale. 

What inspired you to purchase your Jaguars? 

I fell in love with Jags during my high school years in the middle 1960’s.  I wanted an E-Type (who didn’t?).  My sisters fiancé had a nearly new 1966 E-Type OTS and my sister had a 1965 Corvette.  I drove them both and never forgot that E-Type: the Corvette was unsophisticated in comparison and did not smell of Connlly Vaumol leather.  But affordability pushed me to looked at older models, specifically the XK120.  The attraction grew from there.

Have you always had an interest in Jaguars or cars in general?

Describe your car lover “journey”, including other interesting cars in your current collection or your past. 

I have had an interest in antique cars of all ilk's since I was about twelve years old.  I still do. To the best of my recollection this came from watching The Untouchables with Robert Stack in the 1960’s.  I found it fascinating to see men hanging off of running boards and shooting machine guns while escaping the law not to mention the charm of riding in a rumble seat.  I was exposed to antique cars day to day growing up in once rural Potomac: specifically Model A Fords.  These were still running around as cheap old cars and could be found in barns, garages and fields.  Somehow, I convinced my father to buy me a 1930 two door when I got my driver’s license at 16.  It was an astounding $450.00.   I bought another, a 1930 Deluxe Roadster, out of a field sometime later. 

When I went to college in Florida I was forced to sell both Model A’s.  The roadster was restored by the new owner and went on to win a national first place in the AACA Hershey meet sometime later.  Good bones as they say.   I suspect it’s still out there somewhere, as is the two door perhaps.

When I got to college it became quite evident old cars were in my blood for good.  I somehow became aware of the MG T series cars.  I thought of them as Model A Fords only smaller and better handling.  Somehow, I learned of one in a garage in Southern Dade County. It was in pieces. Also in the garage was three vintage Ferrari’s - remember this is in the late 60’s.

Two of the Ferrari’s ran (smokily) and could be had for under 3000.00.  The TD was 625.00. I bought the TD.  Fork in the road for sure.

 

We towed the TD behind a 1955 Buick Special to a friend’s garage and over the summer somehow, with minimal knowledge or guidance managed to reassemble it; paint it and get it roadworthy.  I purchased my first whit worth wrenches then.  I still have them.  We 

drove that car from Miami to Rehoboth Beach and back again on I95 at an average speed of 45MPH.  I kept her for about four years. Another fork in the road came when I decided to trade my first XK120 and the MGTD in on a 1967 3.8 Mark II Jaguar saloon with 20 thousand miles on it.  This decision was made because I decided to leave Miami and return to Maryland and I wanted to do it in style. Little did I know but I soon found out how troublesome a Jaguar could be.  In away the car forced me into my first post college job working for the infamous Manhattan Auto in Rockville, Maryland.   They were a Jaguar dealership (along with MG; Fiat; Austin Healey; Alfa Romeo).  The Mark II caught fire at a gas pump and the only way I could afford to have it fixed was to work for the dealership.  Mission accomplished.  Sadly, I totaled the car one rainy night on Rockville Pike when the brakes failed 100%.  By today’s standards the car was very fixable but by the dollar value of the day it was not.  I kept the salvage rights and that started me on my parts collection buying and selling journey.  Later in the 70’s I found my second XK120.  It resided in a barn outside of Potomac and was covered with barn swallow excrement.  The doors were piled high with the stuff.  It took lots of pictures of this, a true barn find.  The owner also had a DB 5 or 6 Aston Martin.  I stuck with the Jag but another fork in the road in hindsight.  Woulda, shoulda coulda as they say.I kept that Jag for almost another 20 years before selling it; the XK150 DHC and others in a quest to find a good driver. That led me to SN 676399.  The car I own today.

Are you a member of other car-related clubs – which ones?

I am a member of NCJOC; Jaguar Club of America;  AACA; Austin Healey Sports and Touring Club; Austin Healey Club of America; Austin Healey Club USA.

What do you hope to get out of your NCJOC/JCNA membership this year?

Well, that’s difficult one.  I am reining back as my mid-seventies are now a reality.  I still attend car shows; socialize with car buddies and do a bunch of research.  Sadly, the XK contingent of the NCJOC is now very sparse.  Demographics you know.  The E-type (still an unrequited love of mine) are a bit more present but they too are less evident.

I find technical sessions and some social events enjoyable.  I still sell the occasional part from a rather large inventory I have of Jaguar and misc. British car parts.  While I have a healthy appreciation of the marque and especially its early history, I do not relate to later model jaguars on the same level as those of my youth.  It’s not to say I don’t respect them and I wouldn’t mind owning a few relative recent models, the enjoyment of fettling just isn’t there.  I assume most contemporary owners appreciate that but old school guys find it somewhat therapeutic to work on their cars.

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