Words: Alex Synamatix
Recently we had a rather crazy idea; hire a vintage Jaguar Mk2 and drive to Newcastle from London, via Manchester and via Leeds on the way home. This is how it (sort of) went down.
Firstly, let me point out that at no point leading up to the weekend did any of us think that driving an early 1960s car all the way to Newcastle was a bad or stupid idea. Also, the hire company didn’t pipe up about it as we later discovered that they had no idea that this is what we were intending to do. However, it really wasn’t long until we thought otherwise.
Meeting up at an undisclosed car park in the heart of shoreditch on Saturday morning, the four of us arrived one by one with a silent nod that spoke a thousand words about the weekend ahead. Somewhat like a scene out of an old crime film. Part of me did feel like we were about to rob a bank, but in the 60s. Hopping in the car elevator and making our way to the 6th floor of the multistory carpark, the doors slowly opened to reveal a deep ocean green Jaguar MK2. This car was a real thing of beauty with a nifty 3.8 litre petrol engine under the hood. Instantly, we all knew that this weekend was going to be an experience, whatever happened.
Chris was our designated driver for the weekend and he did us proud. I was pleasantly surprised to see a complete lack of nervousness as we approached the car. Seeing as Chris hadn’t driven in a while and had lost his driving licence (both paper and card) I was impressed and relieved to see him handle the car so well with his first task – get it into the not-so-large car lift without scratching it. Something the rest of us would not have been so comfortable doing.
Once we’d successfully maneuvered the car in and then out of the car lift we all chucked our stuff in the boot, made sure we had whatever we’d need to entertain ourselves for the upcoming four hour journey to Manchester, hopped into our seats (which for some reason didn’t change all weekend) and hit the road …
Getting out of London was interesting. It wasn’t that long into the journey through North London that we remembered that old cars have to warm up. A couple of stalls at traffic lights and we were smooth cruising towards the M6. Fortunately, Chris is a North London local and so getting out of London was no problem at all. There were a couple of the expected stares, but to be honest I think most people just thought we were all posh kids in our own hipstermobile.
After hitting every red light possible, we were finally out of London and on to the M6 to see what this beauty could really do. Chris had put his foot down a couple of times when possible in London and the Jag had no problem with acceleration, but this was the real test. She held well, even when in fourth gear (the top gear) you could put your foot down and it would somehow find some extra horsepower from somewhere. This was great, until you got up to 70mph when there was an alarming amount of rattling, so it was clear that for safeties sake we wouldn’t be doing much more than 60-70mph, especially as there were no seat belts in the back for Adam or Boyce.
A couple of hours into our journey up to Manchester and we hit traffic on the M6. No worries, this was an incredibly comfortable car, even if it was a bit like driving around in an oven. That’s when it became clear as to why it had felt like we were sat in an oven for the past hour. Some guy puled up next to us in the traffic and started shouting something that none of us could really hear. Naturally, our initial assumption was that he was shouting passionate compliments about our rad car. Unfortunately his words were more along the lines of “You’re leaking and pissing out steam from the engine. Pull over”. This was the next big penny to drop on our weekend … old cars overheat easily. We hadn’t prepared for this, and as we all waited for the engine to cool down, we tried to figure out where we would get some water from to put back into the car. No sooner had we got out of London before we realised that our initial plans may have been a little optimistic to say the least …
When a car breaks down, everyone hits man-mode. At one point or another, all of us had piped in with some claim to car knowledge, be it “My old car used to overheat like this, I know what I’m doing” or “My dad used to have a classic Jag, I’ll ring him, it’s fine” … and all this just to find out which cap was the one to poor the water in. As we were trying to figure that out, a vintage Ferrari pulled up to give us some advice and confirm the fact that our car had overheated while we all drooled over the sight of this yellow piece of art. We now knew what the problem was, but we still didn’t really have any water to solve it with. Another twenty minutes or so went by before a Dyno-rod van pulled over and offered us some water (special thanks to the RAC van for driving past and doing nothing). Problem solved.
After 30 minutes road side, finally filling up the water tank and laughing about how ridiculous this idea was in the first place, we noticed the time. Our plans of driving to Newcastle with a stop off at Manchester were clearly stupid and we were starting to wonder how we ever felt it was possible. It was time to ring up the hotel in Newcastle and cancel our booking – we were never going to get there. It was one of those moments where the only thing you can do is laugh at the situation – four young guys in an overheated 1960s Jaguar Mk2, who think that they can comfortably drive all the way to Newcastle with a stop off for lunch in Manchester. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
With our new plan of attack and a lot of driving removed from our schedule we all got back in the car ready to face the M6 again. Keeping a stern eye on the temperature gage, we started the next two thirds of the journey to Manchester in the hope to make it there for dinner. This time the journey went smoothly. It was at this point that we finally felt like we’d made full acquaintance with the Jag. We knew enough about it now to call it a friend, or at the very least for it not to throw a shit fit again and ruin our day. As nice as this was, the four hour drive had rapidly become more of a six and a half hour drive. On to Manchester …
Arriving in Manchester was an experience in itself. It appeared that we’d arrived perfectly for when everyone decides to hit the pub, get drunk, poor on to the streets and shout at southern people in posh cars. Our first interaction with a drunk Manchunian was while stuck at a red light bang in the center of town outside a Weatherspoons. A more than drunk guy spotted us with our windows down, looking pretty awesome and couldn’t believe his eyes. He wasn’t amazed by the car however, nor the fact that we were the ones driving it, oh no, his heckle cleared all that up quite quickly as he shouted … “You should be wearing a trilby! You should all be wearing trilby’s!”. I have to give credit to the guy, I don’t think any of us could have predicted that comment all weekend. As we drove off we could see him in our rear view mirror explaining what he had just witnessed to the rest of the smoking area, using oversized hand gestures to symbolise a trilby on his head.
We still hadn’t parked up before we got our next encounter. While stuck at yet another red light (I think we hit every single one in Manchester city centre), another very non-sobre chap strolled past and proceded to buff our chrome Jaguar on the front of the bonnet before tipping his hat and giving us one of those butler style nods. Unlike our previous friend, this guy just walked off without saying anything. It had to be the most random thing to happen all weekend.
Fun and games aside, it was time to find ourselves a hotel for the night before we started filming the stores we had come to visit in the first place. Parking the car, we went on a little mission from hotel to hotel to find some rooms, but got no further than the first one that we walked into when the guy behind the counter hit us with the news that the Stone Roses were doing a come-back gig that night in Manchester and every hotel room in the city had been booked up ages ago. We couldn’t believe our luck, or lack of it.
After a short moment of “Are you joking! Could shit go more wrong?” we calmed down and remembered that our next stop, Leeds, was only an hour and a half away, so we’d get a hotel there. With our plan readjusted once again, we set about doing what we came to do, visiting Oi Polloi, Wood and Note to get some footage before quickly chucking a Wagamama down ourselves and getting back in the car …
It was hard to stay grumpy during the drive from Manchester to Leeds. The scenery was stunning, even when it was pissing it down with rain. With fuel in our bellies and the promise of a warm, dry hotel bed at the other end of this comparatively short journey, we pressed on with a new found sense of hope. Chris was driving like a man possessed. If I had ever seen someone focused on an end goal to the point of tunnel vision, it was then. A man on a mission with a single goal in mind.
It was at this point that Boyce and Adam, sat in the back of the car, felt that they should remind Chris of the lack of seat belts in the back, which, to all of our surprise, he had no idea about up until this point. The pace slowed down a bit with this new bit of knowledge in place and we carried to cruise on to Leeds through some of the most stunning English countryside we had seen.
There was a distinct silence in the car, not helped by the radio being broken and no way to play music. Don’t get me wrong though, it wasn’t a bad silence. It was somewhere between a collective appreciation for what we were driving through teamed up with that silent feeling of excitement you got when you were a kid, starving hungry and you spot a McDonald’s. That feeling. That golden feeling. The feeling that is mostly relived these days at 4am while piling out of a club and remembering that the chip shop round the corning is 24 hour. We knew that finally things were starting to look up in regards to our luck …
On arriving into Leeds, we had one thing in mind; get a hotel room. It didn’t take us much more than ten minutes to discover on entering the first hotel we found that the whole of Leeds was also fully booked. This was starting to take the piss and felt like some near impossible Godly denial. Surely the Stone Roses couldn’t sell out two cities worth of hotel rooms? No, obviously not, but what we didn’t know is that it was graduation weekend in Leeds and therefore everyone’s family and their dog was in Leeds, in hotel rooms that had been booked up months in advance.
After yet another change of plan we were advised to drive to Bradford and find a hotel there. Shouts to the really helpful guy at The Crown Hotel in Leeds for going well above the call of duty to sort us out. The outskirts of Bradford, as Boyce so delicately put it, were a stern reminder that the recession had indeed happened. A visual representation of the credit crunch. Getting into the centre of the city we chanced the nicest hotel we could see and went in. After all, we figured we deserved a bit more than a Travel Lodge after the day we had had.
For the first time all day, our luck actually turned and stayed in the positive. Four rooms later at the Midland Hotel (one of the first railway hotels in the UK) and we were all sound asleep, ready to face the next day in Leeds before heading back home to London …
Starting our day with a solid cooked breakfast at the hotel, we were all eager to get going as soon as possible. The quicker we could get to Leeds, the quicker we could start the long journey home.
Leeds had a very enjoyable air of calm to it. I’m not sure if that’s because we felt a lot calmer in general or if it was the city itself. We did our thing, visiting MKI, Chimp, Open Lifestyle and Hip, taking a much more relaxed approach to the day before. We started to really settle in to Leeds, but had to remind ourselves of the four hour minimum drive back to London that awaited us. With this in mind, we scrapped the idea of a casual lunch in Leeds centre and opted to jump in the car and see how far we got before we stopped at a service station to eat or broke down.
The North had been kind to us when it could, but it was time for us to get safely back to London and return the Jag …
Fortunately, it seemed like our luck really did change for the better on Saturday night. I think it’s safe to say that all of us were expecting at least one thing to go drastically wrong on the way back home, but it went rather smoothly. Perhaps this was due to our new found experience, our connection with the Jag or maybe our constant checking to see if we were overheating or low on fuel? Who knows.
One thing is for certain, we had bonded. I’m not talking about bonding with each other, I’m talking about bonding with the car. There was a connection there and to be honest, once we had arrived back in London, parked the car at the car park and removed all of our bags, I felt a certain sadness to be leaving it behind. Somehow I had managed to convince myself that we were on a wild weekend in my mate Chris’ vintage Jaguar Mk2. He was probably even more attached to the thing than I was, even if it had broken down on us the day before.
We had learned a lot this weekend, but above all we had learned this; if you plan on hiring a vintage classic, don’t use it to just cruise on motorways from city to city, put it in the countryside where it belongs. As chaotic as it sounded, it was good fun. Definitely not the fun we planned, but fun none the less and I think we all knew that our plans were going to go out of the window within the first two hours anyway.
Special thanks to Auto Trader for hooking us up with the car. If you want to win a similar trip then you can enter their competition (get those entries in asap), but please learn from our mistakes … keep an eye on the temperature and water levels and don’t just cruise on motorways all day.
Thanks to Chris for driving and to Boyce for filming and taking photos, and special thanks to Auto Trader for the supply of the Jaguar Mk2
Watch the video here.