It may not look like much, but this dusty Jag is a car we’re glad to have caught wind of. While we receive a fair amount of phone calls from folks with rusted-out classics looking for someone to take the project off their hands, it’s somewhat rare that these cars are close-by or desirable enough to warrant us getting the truck and trailer prepped for action. That’s what initially made this MK2 Jag so appealing; located in Clinton, Iowa, just under three hours away, this would be a single day round-trip. Though the gentleman who we spoke with wasn’t able to tell us much of any history about the car itself, he did tell us about how it had come into his possession. He had purchased a run-down old farm at auction with the intention of cleaning it up and flipping it, and upon visiting the property he was pleasantly surprised to find this car in one of the three dilapidated barns on the property. It was trapped in there, undisturbed since the early 80s thanks to a wall of cinderblocks sealing off the barn’s door. He sent us a couple not-very-revealing photos of the car and it looked half decent, so we agreed to buy it and got our ducks in a row for a quick trip to Iowa.
So, what drew us to this car? Aside from being dusty and close to home, of course. Well, the MKII Jag is an interesting car, having been ahead of it’s time in a number of ways when it first came to market in 1959. As this example is from the first year of production, it’s particularly special. While high-performance sedans are a dime a dozen today, in 1959, this was not the case. This car was extremely well-optioned from the factory; this car is equipped with the top-of-the-range 220hp 3.8L Inline-6 (later modified to see use in the world-renowned XKE), a limited slip differential, four wheel disc brakes, power steering, and an automatic transmission. Not to mention, it’s also left-hand-drive! To put that in perspective, even the Mercedes 300SL, a performance benchmark, didn’t have disc brakes in 1960!
We’ve come to the conclusion that steel wheels with polished hubcaps look good on anything, and this was another item that drew us to the car. Wire wheels are generally seen as more desirable, but we’re suckers for body-colored steelies and seeing the peeling red paint on the car’s steelies really gets us dreaming of how magnificent this car must have looked back in 1960, bombing down the interstate at 120mph, original red paint over red leather and red steelies. Luckily for us, the original polished hubcaps were stored in the trunk and survived in like-new condition.
The license plate sticker tells us that the last time the car was road registered was 1983, and from the looks of it, it hasn’t moved an inch since. After 35+ years of sitting stationary, the car had begun to grow roots. With the tires having run flat, the car actually began to sink into the earth beneath it. This wouldn’t just a be a hook-up-the-winch-and-have-at-it kind of retrieval mission, we were going to have to work for it. We began by moving the wall of cinderblocks, one by one, to free up the barn door. Of course we chose to do this the day after a snowstorm. After freeing up the barn door, the next step was getting the winch connected. Since the car had sunk into the dirt, we actually had to dig out the rear end of the car and jam planks of wood under there in order to be able to smoothly winch the car out into the daylight.
Hello World! The orientation of the car in the barn had masked the condition of the passenger rocker, which was a bit unfortunate. But overall, this car has a lot going for it. There are too many positives for us to get caught up with the condition of the rockers. I mean, just look at that interior! We put a battery in it, and immediately all (really, all) of the interior lights turned on, the Smiths Radiomobile powered on, and even the wiper sprayers are still good! After nearly four decades; just amazing. So much for Lucas electronics being unreliable!
Talk about a head-turner. We went into town for lunch after the retrieval mission, and in about thirty seconds we had a group of local guys gathered around the car, all eager to share their barn-find stories. That’s what classic cars do, regardless of if they’re dusty and rusty or spotless museum pieces. Classic cars bring people together, and it’s just one of the many reasons why we love ‘em.
Written by: Jake DePierro