A while ago, my dad introduced me to one of his business partners who just happened to happen to own a 1960 Jaguar MK9. Hmm…Maybe I just needed to see it…Well, I’m happy to report to you that it is, without doubt, one of the most breathtaking cars that I have ever laid my eyes on. Not only does the beautifully patina’d maroon and good paint look absolutely stunning. Oh, and if stunning looks and a spotless beige leather interior complete with Grey Poupon jars (you never know who might need them!) aren’t enough, this car used be Ike Turner’s car. So, this car isn’t just ANOTHER Jaguar MK9…
The story behind the owner of the car is an interesting one in itself. My dad’s business partner, Michael Page, used to be the bassist for Iggy and the Stooges, which was a band that opened for the Rolling Stones. Mike also played for Chuck Berry and other bands in the 1970’s. Mike now runs a small studio down in Southern California. When I asked Mike if he still played musical instruments, his reply was, “Naw, I’m content to listen to it now.”
The story behind how the car ended up being in Michael’s hands is an interesting story itself. During Ike and Tina Turner’s long divorce, Ike parked the Jag on blocks in a back lot of Paramount Pictures for somewhere around 17 years. One day when Mike was walking in the back lot, he saw the Jag, was absolutely smitten, and made an offer on the spot. It was accepted. He then proceeded to, as he put it, “I stood on my head for about an hour with the guy from Paramount just trying to figure out what kind of engine was in it. Eventually, I saw a label that said ‘Chevrolet 350 C.I. V8.'” That means that the engine is a Chevrolet 350 cubic-inch small-block V8. The Chevy 350 V8 is a popular choice for engine swaps in Jaguars. It requires very little work to install, it has decent power stock (a LOT when it’s tuned), and it’s an extremely reliable engine. That can’t be said about any Jaguar engine. Just ask my uncle or grandmother. As a whole, a 1960 Jaguar is a pretty sturdy car. It’s made all out of steel (the only aluminum is inside), it’s got glass that could probably stop a bullet, and the tire treads wouldn’t look out of place on something destined to go off-road.
After Mike had owned the car for a couple of months, he decided to take it out for a spin on the freeway. When he got up to 55 mph, the engine was screaming at something close to 5,000 RPM, and he was playing tag with a bunch of tractor-trailers and grandparents. Not exactly my (or his) definition of fun. He got off of the freeway and went to the local transmission shop and had them install an overdrive. Now, the RPM’s are cut down to 2,500 RPM (most modern cars turn 1,800-2,000 RPM’s on the highway), and he can go up to 70 mph without worrying about killing the engine. The overdrive, Chevy small-block V8 and Turbo 350 transmission are the only parts that didn’t come with the car. That is, other than the tires!
Speaking of tires, the tires are modern Coker radial tires with big, tall whitewalls on them. If whitewalls are put on the right car, they can turn a show-stopper into a car that will literally make people’s heads turn right off their neck! That’s what my dad’s business partner did with this Jaguar. The whitewalls make this classic Jaguar look better than it did when it rolled off of the Jaguar assembly line in Coventry, England, in 1960. Not many cars can pull that off. Plus, the engine, transmission, and overdrive give a car that wasn’t really driveable before the engine/transmission swap driveability.
In terms of driveability, Mike says that it drives like a wallowy, new car. It’s got suspension technology from 1960, so it’s not the best choice to throw around a road course. With the stock engine and transmission sans overdrive unit, the Jaguar MK9 isn’t easy to drive unless you toodle around town. The stock engine was designed for people to take a slow, scenic drive of the British countryside, not for freeway cruising. Bring a car like that to America where there are vast expanses of freeways, and you’re essentially got a death wish. Mike essentially said the same. The stock three-speed manual has a stiff clutch, according to Mike, and three short speeds aren’t going to do you any favors when you’re cruising. The Turbo 350 transmission greatly improves the driveability factor. The Jag doesn’t have power steering, but it tips the scales at about 3,400 pounds, so you’re really not having to put THAT much effort into turning it. It does, however, have power brakes, so that does make it easier to stop it, even though there was no such thing as ABS back then. With the Chevy engine and transmission, plus the overdrive unit, Mike could easily drive across the state of California if he so wished.
His Jaguar doesn’t have thousands of man-hours put into restoring it to #1+ condition. It doesn’t have ABS, cruise control, or satellite radio like most modern cars. It’s a survivor car. Trust me, the Jag is perfectly fine that way. It’s got absolutely gorgeous looks before the paint, which accentuates the car’s looks even more. It has beautiful walnut wood varnished to an almost matte look. It doesn’t need to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to get best-of-show at every car show. These old Jaguars have a certain charm to them that very few other cars, classic or modern, can duplicate. They’re not absolutely cute like a Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite nor do they look like they were hewn from a block of stone like a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro. They have an understated elegance to them, plus that cute British charm. With the right paint colors on them, like gold and maroon, they can be quite a looker.
If you have a self-esteem issue, buy a Jaguar MK9 NOW! Nobody really lusts after them, so they cost far less than a 1960 MK2, which is also a good car for those with self-esteem issues. People will want to take pictures of themselves standing in or next to the car (#selfie), and Mike says that whenever he goes out, he literally has to either leave an hour just to talk to people, or park the car and run. I’d leave an hour. Running’s not my thing…
I’ve attached some photos of the Jag for you to literally drool over. As I’ve previously said, it’s one of the most beautiful cars that I’ve ever seen. It really looks stunning, especially with some light, but not too much. I’ve never seen it at sunrise or sunset, but I can only imagine how beautiful it is at those times.
Editor’s note: Mike actually played with Chubby Checker, NOT Chuck Berry! My apologies!