XK150

Go Ahead and Look

The travail of finding parts for a 1960 Jaguar XK150

It was a rare sunny day in Seattle, the clouds had all blown south to Oregon and I was free to take my Jag out for a ride. I lowered the “head” (top) and snapped the large bulky cover over the bulging material at the rear of the car. British engineering has always been a bit quirky. They use the best of materials like mohair wool, leather, and deep stained burled walnut and then design a convertible top that, when lowered, bunches up in the back like a pair of ill-fitted jockey shorts.

I eased out onto Aurora Avenue and shifted smoothly up to speed. Then I heard “the noise.” Anyone who drives a British car develops a fine set of multi-frequency ears. There are the squeaks and squeals of the upper range as well as the throb and grind vibrations, which in nature only dogs, dolphins and readers of this magazine hear.

I had grown accustomed to the sounds my Jag made, a Beethoven symphony of twitters, furious flurries and basso-profundos; but not this noise. This noise was different. It started at speed and matched the car’s rpms precisely with a grating vibration that I felt clear through the jute padding of my finely crafted leather seat. (I am speaking of the car’s seat, of course.)

The author back then: young, scrawny and invincible.

Afraid that I might miss this new sound in all its intensity I steered toward the on ramp of Interstate 5 and brought the car up to 65 mph. The result was a loping bucking sensation as the car lurched and jumped with each pounding engine rotation. I pushed in the clutch and the noise stopped. I released the clutch and the sensation returned in all its intensity. I did this for several miles, thinking that it might magically stop. It didn’t!

I was now too far from home to return safely, so I pulled off the freeway to a friend’s home in Lynnwood and stopped the car in the cul-de-sac in front of his three bedroom rambler.

Crawling under the low-slung Jaguar was no small feat, but with a weight of 140 lbs on a 6 ft. frame I was built more like a broomstick than a tree trunk. I saw the problem! It was the driveshaft universal joint at the transmission end. I grabbed it tightly and felt its heated protest. I had abused it terribly and now it got its revenge.

A few hours later I had the broken driveshaft yoke in my hands. I was 20 miles from home and without a dime or a care in the world. This was the ignorance of youth, and a young man with a British car is an unpredictable thing!

I stretched out on my friend’s lawn and waited until he came home from work. My friend, Dan, was a patient man, married with two kids and a Jaguar XK150 just like mine. He took me home and gave me some advice:

“Go to Aurora Auto Wrecking, they may have some old Jags in there and who knows, you may get lucky.”

Being young and ignorant is a wonderful attribute for a Jaguar owner. I took his advice to mean that there was just the part I was looking for, waiting patiently for me at the wrecking yard just minutes from my home. I jumped into my recently acquired Austin America (that’s another story) and paddled the automatic/manual shifter through its vagaries until I reached the desired destination.

The man at the counter was smoking a large cigar, relaxing in a blackened muscle shirt and seated in a broken down barco-lounger. The place smelled like fresh gasoline, so I made my request in a hurry.

“Go ahead and look”, he growled, “but you ain’t gonna find anything.”

I wandered out into the yard and spotted an MGA coupe. I had never seen an MGA with a fixed “head” and this made my heart flutter. Perhaps there is a part here for my XK150. However, there wasn’t a Jaguar in sight.

Dejected, I began the short walk back to the man in the stained T-shirt who was cheating death in his accelerant-laden office when I spied a driveshaft yoke. Could it be? Was this it? I plucked it from the weeds and turned it over and over in my trembling hands. Edison basking in a glow of new electric light was not as joyous as I!

I placed it on the counter and mustered up an authoritative voice, which echoed in my ear like Donald Duck with laryngitis.

“I found this one…how much?” I quacked.

The counter man was angry. He was not pleased that I had found the part in his wrecking yard.

“Where’d you get that thing?” he glowered. “I ain’t got no Jags out there!”

“I’d like to buy the part, if you don’t mind me having it?” I squeeked.

I sounded like the ten year old that I felt inside. I wanted to be tough, demanding, macho. But instead of Rambo I came across like Bambi.

The counterman laughed!

“It’s yours for $25 bucks,” he said. “Now get out of here before I change my mind.”

The rest of the day was a blur. Somehow I put that part in the 150 and finished way after dark, working with a flashlight clenched between my teeth. I was home with my Jag and, more importantly, I had memorized a new “noise.” I spent the rest of the evening practicing my “tough-guy” voice…with a British accent, of course.

By Ric Glomstad

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'Go Ahead and Look' have 2 comments

  1. September 28, 2012 @ 7:31 am Chris Johnston

    This is a great story!!! I live in Seattle so I can really relate.

    Reply

  2. September 28, 2012 @ 2:20 pm Steve Hanegan

    Fantastic story! I too live in the north end of Seattle and remember Aurora Auto Wrecking very well… including the day that Jerry (the owner) convinced my 4 year old son that there were alligators living under the uneven wooden floor, just waiting to be fed with inquisitive young people who couldn’t keep their fingers to themselves. Now, my boy is 23 and still remembers that day and reflexively curls his fingers… My guess is that there are still some Brit Bits lurking in the corners and the weeds of that fine establishment.

    Reply


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