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Odd's XJS V12 - awaiting restoration
An inspration
Flipping through past issues of the MSVCR Magazine I noted a trip to Bangkok done about 20 years ago by Mike Truter in a pre-war Bentley. The notion appealed to me but became nothing more. This was to do with work commitments and family distractions and not least because at the time I was staring at a rather big hole where the engine used to be in my Mk2 Jaguar.

Some of you will recall my eventful run home from the Ipoh after the Pos Slim hill climb in 2001. For reasons best described as embarrassing the engine blew up just outside of Malacca and the car had to be towed home to Singapore to be subsequently repaired. For the record I express thanks again to the fellow members who rendered assistance on that day not least to Mano and Madelina who went to great lengths to help to get both me and the car back to Singapore.

A wedding

Six months further on and one of the team in the Bangkok office at work announced that they were getting married in August that year (2002). This coincided with a successful end to the running in period of the Mark II (at last!) and many of us were making preparations to attend the wedding in Bangkok. The Mark II had been in use as a daily for some months and had also just finished a run to Penang without incident
Singapore to Thailand in a Jaguar Mark II

Inspired by an overland expedition to Thailand  some 20 years ago by Mike Truter,  I drove my Mark 2 Jaguar from Singapore to Bangkok and back in August 2002 for a wedding.

A simple thought

These things start - as they most often do - with a simple thought, an offhand comment that in itself would mean little but in retrospect has a big impact. 

As a member of both the Jaguar Car Club of Western Australia and the MSVCR, I had been tasked by the JCCWA club historian Terry McGrath to procure back issues of the MSVCR Magazine. Terry had pointed out that the MSVCR is one of the oldest clubs in the region and one of the few that had a magazine in circulation throughout the last 40 years. This made it essential reading for the club historian as more than a few of the cars in Australia had originated from this part of Asia. A few emails and phone calls with Douglas Fox and a large box of MSVCR history was waiting for me at the next AGM.
I started to make lists of the outstanding items in need of repair. This is always a bad thing to do as the list is usually far longer than you would like it to be and it tends to grow as well. In these instances one must steel themselves and restrict the wishlist to the must-have list. Else I would miss the wedding and probably a couple of their children's birthdays as well.

The 'reduced list' was some fettling of the recent overhaul and the installation of some bushes we had ordered for the steering. The finishing touches one might say but only someone who never owned a classic (especially a Jaguar) would believe that or should say it.


Though I had mentioned my northerly intentions to Harry at Henderson a few times it was only when I dropped by the garage to have the one last item looked at (the steering rubbers that needed replacing) that I think Harry realised I was serious.

He had that sort of pale look. Harry knew the car was now ready but also knew I would be a fair distance from any assistance. He disappeared into the back of the workshop to emerge later with a handfulls of parts; a spare ignition coil, spark plug set, a bottle of brake fluid, an extra large water bottle, some belts and whatnot all disappeared into the boot of the car. By now he had warmed to the idea and was confident I had a fighting chance.
The wedding and back home
The wedding was the next day, the car was dressed up for the event and looked just right. It was a great day for the lovely couple. Many of the team from Singapore had flown up for the event as well. The wedding was a mixture of Thai, Chinese and Catholic customs which all seemed to blend perfectly. Celebrations went on late into the night and beyond.

The trip back took a bit longer as the departure started later than I planned after the long day of wedding celebrations. This all requiring an extra overnight stop in Krabi on the way back.
Aside from this the return trip was like the later part of any Haynes car manual instruction. "To reassemble do the first 6 steps in reverse order". Mostly uneventful I did get caught in peakhour near KL and was forced to stopover again - 3 hours short of my destination. This lead to a hasty journey early the next morning to get to the office and it was here I learnt the impact of driving a thristy Jaguar at high speed. That early morning sprint used two and half tankfuls of petrol to get home! It had been a great trip and one full of memories and experiences. Would I do it again? In an instant.
Speaking too soon
The next day I ran some errands to drop off gifts and whatnots to friends, as I was pulling out of a friends street I thought to myself how uneventful the trip turned out to be and that the car was indeed performing very well. Now classic car owners should know better than to have these thoughts as they bring on bad luck - almost immediately the car lost power and stopped dead. An ignition coil wire had fatigued and given way breaking the connection. A crowd was forming of kids and animals (mainly dogs - there are a lot of dogs in Bangkok) around the car. I had to make diagnosis and repair with an audience. Luckily it was an obvious fault and I had the necessary parts to make repairs. By the time I had finished there was a respectable crowd in terms of quantity - and mostly two legged by now but I'm not sure they were ready for the finale. When the car finally turned over it backfired letting off an almighty bang! Dogs and kids scattered everywhere!

One of the houses I called upon belonged to some friends of my sister (Ja and Odd). Ja had studied together with my sister Catherine in Canberra. The husband (Odd) is also a classic car enthusiast and so I was keen to have a look at his collection. Odd was able to show me his  Cooper S, a Traction Avant and a V12 Jaguar XJS. All are currently projects and Odd was experiencing the usual problems of getting the right parts. I had noticed on my trip up just how many classics there are in Thailand - many still in day to day use (and many still with their Singapore plates showing underneath the Thai plate!) On the trip up I was able to spot a BMW 2000 Tourer, numerous Mercedes roundies and finnies, Fiats and a number of early 70s Australian Holdens and Fords as well. Its great to be able to see classics and classic enthusiasts in other countries.

I put the car in for cleaning with one of the shopping mall operations near the hotel. I had used these guys before and they were pretty good. The guys took a look at the gunk covered Jaguar and told me to come back in three hours! After four hours I came back to find them still at it but nearly done. They had done an amazing job cleaning the car inside and out even giving the leather a new lease of life and making it a few shades lighter than before.
Other friends in the club had advised me of the key contacts in the club all up the peninsula as well as contacts in southern Thailand should things go wrong. I felt comfortable in the knowledge that there was a fraternity out there should the need arise.

Some Creature Comforts
With the rebuild the car had been modified for overdrive, allowing for more relaxed cruising and better economy, also in acknowledgment of my inability to whistle for 25 hours my one sacrifice to modern comforts was the installation of a CD player. I calculated I would need 20 CDs to make the journey.
Lies, Damn lies and........ gauges
I called Harry and he had me inspect oil levels, top up the car and run  it again. Strangely the gauge regained normal pressure, Harry  suggested that the gauge was faulty and whilst I should be careful I could ignore it. The gauge did this little performance another two times that night forcing me to repeat the exercise, strangely though after that it never did it again (and I wasn't to replace the gauge for some years after that.) It was at the time however an unwelcome event.
Crossing the border I travelled up to Hat Yai then on past Phatthalung, stopping at Surat Thani for a KFC binge. It was then on through Phunphin, Prachuap Khiri, Phetchaburi and finally Bangkok.

Getting into Bangkok is all a matter of timing - arrive at the city outskirts during peak hour and you may as well get comfortable for a mutli-hour traffic crawl into town, arrive late at night and you get a dream run which I managed to do. I was able to navigate the outskirts onto the elevated toll road and glide right into the centre of town to the hotel. Total driving time had been 20 hours, distance 1880km over two days. I was tired but happy, the Jaguar was filthy from the rain and roadworks and badly needed a wash but had performed admirably.
The car was well known in the office and some had made remarks about what a good car for the wedding it would be. The Thai office thought it was a good idea too. Certainly the car was in a good condition now and the trip to Thailand was familiar to me from previous forays in a modern - but in a 38 year old car? It seemed by then however that the whole office was talking about it - making it very hard to back down! The idea then of a big trip was proposed and the response from the soon-to-be wed couple was in the positive. Plans were made.
Penang was an 8.5 hour journey (oil gauge included) of 700 kilometres reached later that night. I recall Truter's trip took longer but he did not have the advantage of the North South Expressway. Additionally the overdrive was making lightwork of the distance and I was able to maintain a fairly high cruising speed. I enjoyed a delightful overnight stay at the Eastern and Oriental which as all those who have been there will know suits classic travel to a T.
Next stop Bangkok
The next day started early and after a huge breakfast overlooking the sea it was off to the Thai border and then a non-stop run to Bangkok. A total of about 13 hours of driving and 1174 kilometres in all. The car caused a bit of commotion at the border as they could not find Jaguar Mk2s in their database of cars but as usual the Thai border officials were extremely polite and I was able to get underway with minimum fuss.

The relatively small tank (12 gallons / 55 litres) meant stopping every 300 kilometres for fuel. This was not a great problem though as fuel was both plentiful and cheap. The rebuild had presented the opportunity to convert the car to unleaded fuel and I was able to easily get 95 octane throughout the trip, high enough for the engine. Roads were good as well. Thai roads are not motorways but are the next best thing, with most of the route to Bangkok now dual carriageway and of very good quality. This made the run very smooth. Similarly Thai drivers are relatively easy going. I was puzzled by their reluctance to take off at traffic lights until I realised that plenty of cars (and trucks) will run the red. So when it turns green and its your turn to move everyone just takes that little extra moment to check both ways before they head off clever.
First stop
I left mid afternoon and headed for my first stop Penang. I was a little nervous and was watching the gauges like a hawk when I noticed that the oil pressure was falling. I couldn't believe it as I had yet to cover even 100 kilometres! The pressure continued to drop forcing me to stop on the side of the motorway and then without explanation it went right to zero.