Chicagoland MG Club: Driveline April 2014
Special Article

Tales of the Mongrel
Ralph Arata

My First “Real” Trip to England
(Story 4 of 4 – Jaguar Heaven)

NOTE: This story is in 4 parts as there is enough material from 30 days in England to do just that. This is Part #4. This is the "belated" Part 2 of the last installment.

One night my sister-in-law Sarah mentioned that her ex-boss, Mark Davenport, had an MG and would I like to see. Of course I said “yes”! Mark not only had us over but invited us for dinner which was even better!!

Mark has done well in business and his hobbies show it. After dinner Mark took us out to his garages i.e. 2. There I saw his MG – a 1958 Twin Cam MGA RPX 707 especially built for the Rome Leige and Tulip rally of 1958 by British Leyland. He had bought the car from the rally drivers, John Gott and Ray Brooks. The car is very rare, in excellent shape and is an everyday driver as his wife, Rachel, does use it to pick up their daughter from school.

Mark also has a few other cars which include a 1930 Bentley, a 1935 1.5 liter Aston Martin and a 1936 Jaguar SS. He told me it was his dad that insisted he buy a Jaguar and so Mark did just that. His garage is a showplace and the cars are all in everyday driving condition. The Aston Martin and the Jaguar look to be in concourse condition but Mark has taken his wife and the Aston Martin for touring on the continent.

A bit about Mark's Dad & Grand Dad & what I would see next!!
(From Mark) If like me you find the idea of discovering an old car, tractor, truck or steam engine and digging it out from under years of hibernation exciting then read on ....

My Grandfather really started the family affair with all things mechanical, a farm threshing contactor by trade, he travelled the country (UK) in the 1930’s with his steam engines and equipment working with his team of men for farmers, threshing their stacks of wheat, Barley and Oats, always with a large John Fowler, Foden or McLaren steam road locomotive, personally he drove anything and everything, his particular favorite being a huge Buick McLaughlin straight eight limo. The Buick lasted a long time until after lubricating the rear prop shaft one day, he didn’t refit the prop cover properly, in the evening he took my grandmother out in the car to the local speedway meeting and her large dress caught in the prop and promptly the car removed the dress and the car came to a skidding halt ....

Grandfather was a character, he was profoundly deaf from an incident trying to start a large “Blackstone” oil engine, which required a compressed air bottle to start the engine, working on a Sunday he ran out of compressed air to start the engine, always in a hurry, he managed to find a blacksmith with a full bottle ...... so with the compressed air bottle attached, he had to start the engine by turning the flywheel by hand, and then open the valve on the bottle ..... the problem being that in his hurry Grandfather had picked up a bottle of compressed gas rather than air.... as the valve opened and filled the cylinder with gas the first ignition stroke caused the explosion, the flywheel he was swinging


was found one and a half miles away luckily it had gone up rather than outwards ..... after that Grandfather was always deaf and always dangerous ......

My father inherited Grandfather’s love of all things mechanical, dirty and oily, but my father also loved to restore cars, to take something that had a life, used, discarded and then restore it to its former glory, as an arable farmer his Winters were always when the crops were planted and dormant, this would be when he would go to the barn and dig out an old Triumph or Jaguar and the long winters would be taken up with, stripping, cleaning, repairing and painting all kinds of old cars a long time before it became popular, I suppose he was just eccentric.

My own childhood was taken up with accompanying my Father collecting old cars from garages, auctions, farm sales even digging them out of orchards, I would often be waiting outside my school at the end of the school day and Father would arrive with his old Landrover (fitted with a 3.3 litre BMC engine running on farm diesel) towing his homemade car trailer, and we would head off to London and collect a car, not arriving home until the early hours of the following morning. Mother was never impressed, but supported him until one evening she found I had been to the famous 1970’s London “Bunnie club” with Dad .... not for the usual reasons as I would only have been about 8 years old ... but to collect a Jaguar XK 120 roadster from the lock up garages at the rear of the club, Mother really wasn’t impressed .....I can remember thinking that these ladies must be cold as they didn’t seem to be wearing many clothes at the time !!

In the 1980’s father had become a very good restorer of cars winning many concour’s competitions around the country and with the downturn in farming the natural progression for him was to develop his passion into a business, at this time he bought a number of post war Jaguars from a local farmer, I think we bought eight of them in one lot, some had not moved for 30 years ! The collection had been amassed by the farmer’s father and some were very good, once running even in their rough state my father really found cars he could specialize in as they are very powerful 3500 cc six cylinder engines they are capable of 100 miles an hour, and they get to these speeds quickly handle well and stop when asked.

Father became a known name for the quality of his work, and unlike many restorers he rarely buys and sells old cars for profit so he is viewed by many as an “honest broker” of old cars, the SS Jaguars he specialized in are highly valuable, especially as the SS 100 models that can be relatively easily built from a standard 1930’s SS saloon, hence father regularly gets called as an expert to authenticate SS Jaguars around the world. Now Davenport Cars restore cars for Jaguar Cars whom use Fathers company for all of their pre war and post war restoration projects up to 1950, he has even sourced original swallow sidecars for clients in the USA.

(Continued on page 15)

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