I ALWAYS suspected that the most powerful arbiters of what makes a classic car are the chaps in hi-vis jackets at village shows – but I’ve a feeling that the goalposts have moved during lockdown.
You’ll know these chaps if you own a vaguely old car, as in more normal times they’ll be manning the gates, directing incoming motorists with a quiet word through a lowered window or, if they’re really up against it, with a single outstretched arm.
In an instant, they have to judge if your Subaru Impreza or Mazda MX-5 will be counted by the wider public as an important piece of the nation’s heritage.
Get it right and you’ll be sent to show off alongside the E-types and Austin A40s, but get it wrong and you’ll be sentenced to an afternoon in obscurity in the visitor car park, hiding between Renault Scenics and Skoda Kodiaks.
But there haven’t been many shows during the pandemic, and it’s only later this summer that it looks like some old favourites from across the North West, including the Lydiate Classic Car Show on July 4 and the Ormskirk MotorFest on August 29, get back underway.
In the meantime, and with car sales depressed during much of the shutdown, another judge, jury and executioner of old cars has sprung into action; the chaps who stick flyers on car windscreens, saying they’ll give you a decent cash price for scrapping it.
I know this because I was in Birkdale the other day and I spotted one of these on – drum roll, if you don’t mind – a Jaguar X-Type.
Coincidentally, a couple of us were talking about the X-Type in the Classic Car Weekly office barely a few days earlier, because the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club is organising a celebration for Britain’s 3-Series rival at its national rally in July – and the consensus was that the X-Type has, just about, made it to classic car-dom. There are so many things to commend the X-Type, starting with the common pub misconception that it’s a Mondeo in drag, whereas in reality it’s much more than that – you couldn’t buy a Mondeo with four-wheel-drive and a three-litre engine, for starters.
You could talk about how, while it was pitched squarely at 3-Series and A4 buyers in the early years of the new Millennium, Jaguar’s engineers benchmarked it against the Subaru Impreza Turbo when it was being developed.
Then there’s the local history angle, too; readers of a certain age will remember the palpable relief of Halewood factory workers on North West Tonight when, having been told their jobs were on the line when Ford Escort production ended, that they’d been given the gig of bolting the new ‘baby Jaguar’ together instead.
So to see the owner of a surviving X-Type being invited to scrap it saddened me, because the X-Type deserves a better fate than that.
It deserves to be taken under the wing of a Jaguar enthusiast, tidied up, and put on show at that club national rally.
Not convinced? Well, just remember that a generation or so people were eyeing up Jaguar Mk2s and early XJ6s for the scrapheap too.
The X-Type’s time will come, if it hasn’t already.
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly