The rain had finally let up long enough to allow the sunlight to trickle through the deciduous trees onto the road below, bouncing off the curves of a dark green sports coupe parked underneath. The majestic columns of a Classical-style building rise in the background … Sounding British enough?
It should, because the coupe in question is none other than the Jaguar E-Type, dressed in British Racing Green. Cram a plum, mushy peas and curry sauce into your mouth and you’ll still be left with a less Pommy recipe.
This particular model is owned by Mark Jasprizza, a former public servant, member of the Jaguar Driver’s Club of Canberra and avid car enthusiast.
Looking at it today, you wouldn’t know that there was once a time when it didn’t start, the paint and trimmings were badly sunburnt, and the interior was falling apart. Today, it is beautiful.
Soon enough, everyone will be able to enjoy it too, because this year marks the 60th birthday of the Jaguar E-Type, and a local car show is not letting the occasion pass by without celebration.
‘Terribly British Day’ returns to the Queanbeyan Town Park next month, bringing in more than 200 cars, motorbikes and scooters from the ACT and surrounding region. Some even hail from as far away as Sydney, Bathurst and Newcastle.
Organised by the Triumph Car Club of the ACT with backing by the Council of ACT Motor Clubs, the cracking show is now in its 46th year.
It used to be held each December on the lawns of Old Parliament House, but when the National Capital Authority complained about the grass getting squashed, the show moved to Queanbeyan where they were welcomed with open arms by the local council.
This won’t be the first time the E-Type has stolen the show. When the sheets were ripped off at the Geneva Auto Salon in March 1961, jaws, pencils and other assorted objects dropped around the world.
The founder of Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari, is even rumoured to have described the E-Type as “the most beautiful car ever made”. Presumably, this was followed by a stern talking-to from his PR team, but he had nailed it.
The Le Mans race track was the battlefield of the day for many car companies and Jaguar wanted to celebrate its motorsport success by making a race car for the road. The straight-six engine under the very long bonnet had begun life decades earlier in the XK models, and by the time it got to Mark’s 1969 Series 2 model, it had grown to 4.2 litres.
By then, the indicators were also enlarged, and the headlight lenses were removed, ostensibly for safety reasons.
“They also gave it a bigger mouth with an extra cooling fan, as the earlier ones were prone to overheating,” Mark says.
Mark first fell for the allure of British cars as far back as high school at Narrabundah College, when the car park on any given day was flush with Morris Minors.
“I bought my first one and took it home – mum took one look at it and said, ‘That’ll never run’.”
One sure-fire way to get a man to do something is to say that it can’t be done. So it was ‘challenge accepted’ for Mark and soon enough, the Morris was firing on all cylinders. His first restoration job was complete, but in no way was it to be his last.
Since then, there has been an Austin-Healey, followed by an MGA which, he says, on reflection, was painted the wrong colour.
“It was bright red, and an old man in a bright red convertible carries certain connotations …”
At the moment, there’s another Jaguar coming together in his garage, a blue XK140.
It all adds up to more than 20 years resurrecting classics of the British car industry, purely for the fun of it.
“I have to have something on the go at all times,” he says. “I don’t do it for the money. I don’t like to think about how much I’ve spent or how much the car is worth. I just do it because I love doing it and I love cars.”
Terribly British Day will be held at the Queanbeyan Town Park on Sunday, 5 December. Entry is by gold coin donation and funds raised will go towards Respite Care Queanbeyan. There will also be awards handed out for the best-in-show.