We had been planning a day of driving a 1973 Jensen Interceptor III (my favourite car) through the Cotswolds for years. Twice something had gone wrong (accidental double-booking, motor malfunction), so, surely, we thought: third time lucky. But apparently not so. We received an email from the car rental firm, Great Escape Cars, a couple of days before the big day to tell us that a client had totalled the Jensen (luckily no harm to humans, unless you count the emotional pain this was causing me).
We were offered a number of replacement cars and a 1988 convertible Jaguar XJS 4 litre V12 turned out to be the best option. We tucked the 1970s outfits, that we had been planning to wear, away and went back to the vintage clothes store for something a tad more 1980s. After all it is a well-known fact that no one is allowed to drive classic cars in modern-day clothes.
Following an amazing Saturday lunch at London’s Michelin-starred Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, we just managed to get to Euston on time to catch our train to Redditch near Birmingham (2.5h train ride, one interchange), where our car was waiting for us.
Pick-up at 5pm was pleasantly quick and uneventful. The top goes up and down automatically and simply needs to be manually clicked in and out of its respective position. All four wheels seemed to be attached in the right location. It took me some getting used to the extremely low seat position and the general low height of the car. I’m a tall guy. For the first few kilometres, especially at crossings and turns, I felt like doing a meerkat (i.e. sitting straight up and extending my head and neck above the upper rim of the stand-alone, framed, front window, just to get a better all-round view), but I soon gave up and started to feel comfortable with the arrangement.
We’re not a classic car blog (and I don’t know anything about classic cars), so I keep the car talk to a minimum. I know that there are a lot of XJS fans out there, so no offence, but I’ve always been on the side of the majority, who called this car, among others, “hard on the eye”. Even well-meaning observers penned the poisoned compliment “most underrated Jaguar.” In all honesty, it would have been hard for any car to be the follow-on from the iconic E-Type.
However, the car grew on me. The car went into production in 1975, even though it now looks distinctly 1980s to most of us. It literally makes you want to listen to horrible music, get a perm, and vote for Thatcher! There is no denying that this grand tourer is luxurious and very comfortable (if you’re not exceptionally tall). The V12 runs incredibly smoothly and quietly, but still offers plenty of kaboom, especially if you switch into sports mode.
We had a quick dinner at The Queen’s Head in Stow-on-the-Wold at 6:30pm, then made our way to our B&B: the award-winning Hare & Hounds near Bibury, where we arrived just before 8:30pm. Part of the magnificent building stems from the 14th Century, nearly all of it is centuries old. The room was comfortable two-to three-star quality and located in one of the bungalows next to the main building. For £138 (including breakfast) it was overpriced in our view, even for the Cotswolds during the main season.
The next morning we drove our little 1980s beauty to Bibury, to take a little stroll around and take some pictures. From there we zigzagged around the area between Bibury and Broadway, enjoying a brief stop in perhaps our favourite spot: Chipping Campden. Our leisurely late lunch at the famous Porch House, England’s oldest inn, in Stow-on-the-Wold, was marvellous (our review here).
After dessert it was already time to drive back to Redditch. On occasions like this we’re always aiming to be at least 45 minutes early to allow for traffic jams, wheels falling off, and other mishaps. We dropped our car off and took a cab back to Redditch train station (10mins, £6.50). Considering we’ve now got two sets of unused 1970s outfits in our wardrobes, we’ll probably have to come back again soon and drive something a little more seventies, methinks. Watch this space.