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Digital Subscriptions >  Latest Articles > Classic test - Prince Michael's E-type princely desert

Classic test - Prince Michael's E-type princely desert
Jaguar World

Classic test - Prince Michael's E-type princely desert

Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2015   |   1068 views   |   Aviation & Transport   |   Comments (0) Prince Michael of Kent bought this E-type 4.2-litre fixedhead new in 1965. It not only survives but has been restored and continues to be enjoyed

THE BRITISH Royals have always been keen motorists. The Duke of Kent bought one of the first E-types, chassis number 007. Four years later his younger brother, Prince Michael of Kent, bought himself a 4.2-litre fixedhead.

From a tender age Prince Michael had been anxious to get behind the wheel of a car, owning his first, a Singer Gazelle, in 1960. He'd already learnt to drive sitting behind the wheel of a car as diverse as the estate tractor to a 1926 Rolls-Royce when he was just 10 years of age.

Posted to Germany serving with the 11th Hussars a variety of cars came and went, including a delicious but troublesome MGA twin cam. His first Jaguar was a 3.8 Mk 2, which he immensely enjoyed. Then in 1965 he bought a 4.2-litre fixedhead coupe E-type, finished in opalescent dark green. Before returning to Germany the Prince wanted to get acclimatised to the E-type and explore its handling. Goodwood was available (racing hadn't yet stopped there) and was the ideal circuit to stretch the legs of the new Jaguar while also taking Lord March, then aged eight, as a passenger thrilling the young Lord in the process. Originally registered DWK 464C, it wore AZ454B in Germany. With the freedom of the autobahns the Prince relished the speed of the Jaguar and remembers it with some fondness, often seeing an indicated 150mph on the speedometer. It almost had a perfect reliability record with the only blemish being a head gasket failure. He was dismayed to return to the UK and the restrictions of the 70mph motorway speed limit, losing heart with high performance. In the autumn 1984 issue of Road and Car, the magazine of the RAC, the Prince recalls the various cars he had owned, which include Aston Martin and Ferrari. Twice he mentions the E-type with some emotion, saying, "This was a beautiful motor car, immensely quick and probably the most enjoyable car I have ever owned." He concluded with, "In my case I think that probably my E-type Jaguar was the most satisfying and exciting car in my life — so far" Nothing could dampen his absolute passion and the Prince went on to enjoy many aspects of motoring, including driving an Austin Maxi on the London to Mexico Rally, where they encountered a 10-hour special stage. The E-type wasn't the end of Jaguar motoring as he bought an XJ6 to replace his Aston Martin DB5, considering it 'dull' after the Aston but also though it "very quiet, very lovely" and "smooth and predictable." Then came a Daimler Double Six that was seen as "very relaxing to drive and immensely quick."

That was quite a statement in Road and Car, given the short time of ownership. But it had left an indelible image in his life, as he reported to the current owner. In 1966 the E-type was sold to his local service agent, Gordon J. Offord Ltd, former coachworks dating back to 1791 (also restorers of the Queen's coach in 1952/3). The E-type remained in Germany until 1974 when it was repatriated to the UK, now in the hands of Colonel James Spencer. Nobody thought to apply to have the original registration reallocated and so it was given MD 265M. The ownership records are fairly complete although what actually happened in its life is less well known. Subsequent owners were: James Brunyate, June '75-Feb '76. Clive Allen Feb '76-June '76. Leslie Willis June '76-March '78. Graham Mace March '78-July '78 and Patricia Jones July '78- Nov '87. It appears that by now rust had crept in with a vigour and in 1985 it was laid up.
A new chapter in the life of this E-type began when in November 1987 it was bought by Brett Redshaw. He set about a full restoration, with Roland Stoat of RS Coachworks handling the work. Aware that the registration number was from a later period, Brett contacted Jaguar Heritage who was able to confirm the original engine, gearbox and chassis number, as well as the colour. But of some significance they furnished information about the original registration number and that it had a VIP as its first owner. With the help of Jaguar Enthusiasts' Club's vice president Keith Vincent, they were able to retrieve the original registration number. But Brett was keen to discover the identity of the VIP and with more help from Keith Vincent, Jaguar Heritage was persuaded to reveal his identity, Prince Michael of Kent. Brett was obviously delighted and sought contact with Prince Michael through Kensington Palace. To his delight a reply was forthcoming with the Prince showing great interest to the extent of sending Brett a couple of snaps of the car in Germany. Further enquiries to the DVLA revealed a list of all registered owners. The restoration was completed in 1990 with the car finished in the correct opalescent dark green. However, Brett was not keen on the original shade of tan for the interior and opted for suede green instead.

James and Karen Phillips were friends of the Redshaws and became enchanted by the E-type after seeing it at a Highclere Castle Jaguar event. James has been the Estate Farms Manager on the Highclere Estate for 28 years. He's always loved cars remembering his mother's Frogeye Sprite, which at 17 became his first car, citing her as a major influence. He was to own an MGB, Reliant Scimitar and an Austin 7 Pearl Cabriolet as well as others. Then one day he had a ride with Brett to the Jaguar Drivers' Club E-type Day at Prescott, and on return immediately put his collection of cars on the market to raise funds to buy his first E-type. With Brett's help James located an E-type 3.8 fixedhead coupe. It needed some work but James did it all himself. Not to be outdone Karen spotted a beautiful silver blue 4.2 fixedhead that had been restored by Henry Pearman, pre Eagle days. Karen kept this car for 6 years winning a JDC concours award at Prescott. James had the restoration bug and got further involved with other Jaguars. The results proved impressive with some concours wins along the way. It wasn't all plain sailing as was demonstrated when he bought a Mk 2 at auction, dropping a valve on the way home. Karen had a 4.0-litre XJS for a time. But then came the day when the unexpected happened, Brett was selling his E-type. In May 2001 the Phillips had a garage reshuffle and bought the ex-Prince Michael of Kent E-type, just in time for the E-type's 40th anniversary.

Anxious to return as much as possible to the original brief without sacrificing the driving pleasure, a re-assessment of the car was done. That wonderful green interior had to go and was replaced by as close to the original tan as possible, the work being done by trim specialists, BAS. Prince Michael had two badges fitted to a short badge bar just below the nose of the bonnet. Today the car proudly wears the replacements; one from the Institute of Advance Motoring, the other declaring HPC, relating to High Performance Course. Prince Michael says that the HPC was mostly undertaken by budding racing drivers and owners of sports cars. In a gesture to modern motoring, brakes have been upgraded while electronic ignition replaces the standard points set up.
Many people in the Phillips's position might well cosset this most historic of E-types but that simply isn't the case. Of course it is well cared for and appears spotless. But just as in Prince Michael's days, this E-type gets used. It is a regular visitor to E-type days at Prescott, attends track days at Goodwood and is used on European trips. And just like before, it is totally reliable. Its illustrious former owner's connection opens many doors giving entry to Royal Ascot, St James Concours and more recently, the Hampton Court inter club concours where Prince Michael was Patron and one of the Judges.

James has also been in touch with Prince Michael, who did him the honour of visiting to see the car after, of course, lunching with Lord and Lady Carnarvon. It was a winter's day with a dusting of light snow but that couldn't dampen anybody's spirit with the Prince once more delighting in his old car. In 2011 the Goodwood Race Revival celebrated 50 years of the E-type and the Phillips's extended an invitation to Prince Michael to drive it around the circuit. It was as if the clocks had been rewound to 1965 as the passenger was once again Lord March, the driving force behind the immensely successful events at Goodwood. For once the competition cars had to give way to a road car for attention, every cameraman's lens was aimed at Prince Michael, Lord March and the E-type.

The day is grey when James and Karen Phillips open their garage doors to reveal an Aston Martin Vanquish S on one side and the E-type on the other. We chat awhile, sip tea, scoff delicious biscuits and take notes. Before the weather fully closes in we grab our window of opportunity as James and I take off in the E-type for a brisk drive, stopping as the scene grabs us for photography. I take over and head for the open road. Immediately I note that this Jaguar is so much more than just a car with a fascinating history, it is actually fabulous to drive. Quick and responsive it reacts well to my every demand. Clearly well set up it is arrow straight at speed, although we never reach the telling speed of 135mph when front end lift is most likely.

It's still light as we return to put the car back in the garage, but not before I have a chance to look it over. It screams glamour, even more so with Karen driving into Ascot looking fabulous. The standard of restoration is very high and a credit to Roland Stoat's work all those years back. But then the owners take enormous care of this Jaguar and simply will not allow deterioration. It's obvious that it is enjoyed; the modern sound system and subtle driving aids suggest that. Owning a car like this has the wonderful advantage of double pleasure — turn up at Goodwood and delight the crowd as it is reunited with its former owner or use it as the maker intended and put miles beneath those wheels. Look out for it in 2015 and you too will have an insight into this car's illustrious past.

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Jaguar World magazine is an amazing read, it brings together owners of all types of Jaguars, from the classics such as XKs and E-types through to the dynamic range of modern saloons and sports cars. If you like Jaguars then this is the magazine for you.

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