My Father’s Jaguar – Part 1 – Recommissioning

Recommissioning, and other charming English Ideas

Everyone who has ever worked on an English car is familiar with the particular English of those cars’ workshop manuals. “Strike sharply” or “ensure that the gasket sits proud” makes digesting shop manuals almost as elegant as reading Waugh by the fire.

But the workshop manuals always carry dreaded information, sometimes in moments we least expect it. For example, when you’re just hoping to pop off the exhaust heat shield from a Jag, and the manual begins with “Drain the coolant”, you know you’re in for an all-night ride. Turns out that to take off the heat shield, you have to remove the intake manifold. Turns out the intake manifold has a water jacket connection. Turns out you have to take off the carbs first. Turns out it’s going to take you all night and you’re going to need eight gaskets that are only in stock in Little Bonking, England and you start calculating that at midnight, you can call Nigel there.

If you’ve been doing this for a long time – and I’ve been doing it as a hobbyist for 25 years – you learn to anticipate this sort of thing ahead of time. Sometimes you get caught out, of course, but eventually you know you’re going to tackle that tailpipe replacement next week so you start ordering fuel level sender gaskets today.

The best thing to do, of course, is to move to London, England. But then you’d have to live there – a place where it’s effectively pointless to have an English sportscar anyway. Trust me… I tried.

The second best thing to do is move to sunny southern California. This is a legitimately amazing place to have an English sportscar, since you can use it essentially every day all year long, and with some attention to the cooling system, might be able to complete single journeys in single attempts.

But the very best thing about living with an English car in Southern California is that all the other crazies like you are either already here, or are looking to get parts from here. So Los Angeles is the single best supply for English car parts outside of Little Bonking, Somerset-Upon-Maugham, England. If you live here, a friendly American voice can cheerily inform you that the fuel lever sender gaskets have been backordered for sixteen years, but they expect a shipment very soon from Little Bonking.

But if you are going to recommission an English car, you could do worse than to be underneath it, with the tailpipe laying on your chest, in Los Angeles. At least the weather keeps you hopeful.