Jaguar E-TYPE FHC Chassis No. 860876
Built September 1962, delivered Fiji December 1962, restored 1985-87,
and still going great with itís original owner.
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To begin at the beginning - 1961. In July 1961 my work took me to a posting in Fiji. At the time I owned a BN2 Austin Healey and as the posting was for at least 2 years I had put the Healey in storage in Melbourne ready for my return.
The new Jaguar E-Type had just been announced in March 1961 and on arrival in Fiji, out of curiosity, I made enquiries regarding the cost of importing an E-Type to Fiji. After a few weeks I was advised the cost (including freight and import duties) was £2212FIJI. With the prevailing exchange rates this was about 2/3 the current price in Australia (£3700AUS) and was actually less than the price in the UK (£2097UK including purchase tax). To put it in perspective, the price was equivalent to that of two of the current Holden sedans. After doing a few sums and projections, a hurried message was sent to a friend in Melbourne. Dig out the Healey, put the wheels back on, wash it, flog it, please.
So in August 1961 a firm order was placed for one only Gunmetal Grey Jaguar E-Type FHC. The car arrived in Fiji 15 months later in late November 1962. At the time I was not on the main island and had to wait another two weeks before I could collect it. In the meantime friends on the main island would telephone with reports of the car sitting in the showroom of the importer. A very frustrating two weeks. I eventually collected the car at 5PM on Friday 7th December 1962. A memorable moment, because up until this time, apart from magazine and brochure photographs, I had never actually seen an E-Type.
Most of the roads in Fiji in 1962 were gravel which included stones of golf and cricket ball size. There was only about 20 miles of sealed surface roads and this was about 50 miles from where I was stationed. So most of the early use in Fiji was done on gravel roads and the car still carries the scars, particularly on the aluminium rear hub carriers.
The company I worked for operated its own ship between Fiji and Australia and when holiday time came around (two months each two years) you could put your car on board, fly to Sydney, pick up the car, have your holiday, and then repeat the procedure for the return to Fiji. So in January and February 1963 I spent two memorable months in Australia with a new E-Type.
Two Months in Australia, 1963. During the two months in early 1963 the car covered 10,000 miles and completely demolished the original set of Dunlop tyres. There were not many E-Types in the country at that time and whenever you parked the car there was usually a considerable crowd around it when you returned. You either waited until they dispersed or you wormed your way through looking as casual as possible. This is when you usually make a nasty noise in selecting first gear, or stall the engine or some other embarrassing action, and you could see the expression on the faces, "How come a twit like that gets to drive a car like that".
Most of the 10,000 miles was done between Melbourne, Sydney , Surfers Paradise and Brisbane. A trip I remember well was when a friend from Melbourne had a week off work and we decided to go up to Surfers Paradise, I would stay there for two weeks and he was going to return by coach after one week. At the end of the week, party priority was too great and he missed the coach. So into the E, down to Sydney, drop him at the coach depot so he could continue on to Melbourne, and back to Surfers Paradise, 1200 miles non-stop. Put a new meaning to the expression "Donít bother walking, Iíll drive you to the bus stop" . This was back in the days of no highway set speed restrictions.
Fiji 1963-4 In July 1963 the North West Fiji Car Club and the Nadi Airport Yacht Club organised standing ľ mile and flying ľ mile speed trials on the main international airport strip. With no serious opposition the E-Type took out both events, 15.0 sec for the standing ľ and 138.5 mph for the flying ľ mile. Since then air traffic density has increased and the airstrip was no longer available for similar events, thus the car probably still holds the speed record for Fiji. See Press Clipping from the Fiji Times.
For the rest of its time in Fiji it only recorded about 2000 miles. In July 1964, after 3 Ĺ years in Fiji, I returned permanently to Australia with the combined assets of one fully paid for E-Type Jaguar (see import document), a bundle of cloths, a few books, some good memories and a bank balance bouncing between black and red.
Back in Australia - 1964. On returning to Australia I lived for two years in Sydney (see Welcome) and then moved to North Queensland in 1966. Each year returning to Melbourne, a round trip of about 3000 Km (1900 miles). During that period the 300 km of road between Mackay and Rockhampton (old inland road) was rough, narrow and had numerous low level bridges and culverts. As a result it was usually necessary to fit a replacement exhaust system after each trip, as they were generally severely damaged by bottoming at the various creek crossings ( due to inappropriate speeds ??? ).
By the early 70ís I had a second car and the E-Type was then relieved from this annual pilgrimage. I was moving between various towns from Northern New South Wales to Far North Queensland so in order to move both cars, a covered trailer was constructed to take the E Type. This also doubled as its garage. The second car was a series of Holdens, FJ, EH, HK, HQ 4 Door Monaro V8 and then a Range Rover, (bought new in 1976 and replaced in 2004 after 28 years by a Land Rover Discovery Td5 ), The fleet increased to three in 1986 with a Jaguar XJ6 Ser lll, however the restoration costs for the E-Type were growing (remember the late 80's) so it had to go after 15 months. Back again to three in 1995 with the addition of a 1987 XJS HE. Up to 4 in 2004 with the addition of an Austin Healey BN1 then 5 in 2006 with a 420G.
Restoration 1985 - 1987. Tropical North Queensland is not kind to cars and by the early 80ís the paint and the upholstery had deteriorated and there were also traces of rust in the sills. (Not as bad as I have seen in photographs of UK cars of a similar vintage). Not having suitable facilities in my then local area, the car was delivered to Sydney in 1985 to undergo a professional restoration by Classic Autocraft (Now defunct). This was completed in December 1987.
The Concours Days. With a now better than new E-Type it was time to enter it in a few concours events.
To be continued (some day) ----------->>
Click here to view article published in UK magazine Classic Cars, September 2005, p48