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Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required – Part 1

This story begins many years ago. And, with fits and starts, will continue to the present. It is the story of the decline and restoration of a car. A rather beautiful car. A Jaguar E-type.

The Jaguar E-Type was revealed to the public at the Geneva Auto Salon in spring of 1961. It was a sensation, not only for its performance and good looks but for its amazing price point, around 2200 pounds sterling when Ferraris were going for twice that. Norman Dewis famously drove an E-Type open two seater (OTS) “press car” from the factory at Coventry to Geneva overnight, arriving just in time to join its mate, a fixed head coupe (FHC) for the big release to the world press.

I will digress, not for the last time, to mention that there is a delightful interview with Norman, who recently passed away, on Youtube. Here is a link, if you wish to watch it: tinyurl.com/wuz5udd6. To digress even further, when I provide a complicated link to an internet page, I will use the Tinyurl process, which is a neat feature available to anyone that takes a long cumbersome URL and makes it sort enough that one could type it in manually if necessary. Anyway, back to my story.

After its release, the E-Type was in big demand. Frankly, Jaguar was not prepared for this and for a while, only the well connected were able to buy one. I did a feature on one fortunate fellow, who lives near me here in New Hill, who was able to buy one of the first 7 cars brought to the US. Read his story here: tinyurl.com/kcncmete.  

But our story begins with I. T. Ritchy, Inc. of Downey, CA who was able to buy a FHC in the spring of 1963. A Google search reveals nothing regarding I. T. Ritchy the corporation or the person. I would be interested in obtaining his background but I’ve nothing so far.

So you may ask, how do I know about I. T. Ritchey? That’s easy. I have the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust Certificate for Mr. (?) Ritchey’s car. Jaguar kept moderately good records for the cars they built and sold. These handwritten records are in the hands of the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust. For a modest fee, a car’s current owner can obtain a Production Record Trace Certificate. Among other information, it contains the Date Built, interior and exterior colors, and the first owner’s name. Googling Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust Certificate will get you started, if you wish to obtain one for your car. 

So I can only surmise that Mr. I. T. Ritchey purchased a new E-Type and expensed it to his corporation as his company car. A very nice company car indeed but we are talking LA, where exotic cars are a dime a dozen. The Heritage Certificate says the car had an exterior color of Sand and an interior color of Light Tan. Its build date was January 2nd, 1963, which is a little bit ominous but as we will see, initial build quality was maybe not so much of a concern by the time I got the car.

At this point, the trail goes cold for many decades. I see folks on forums inquiring about the ownership history of their cars. Frankly, it is almost impossible to determine ownership history if the car changed hands very much. Occasionally old cars pop up that have had a single owner who wrote down every gasoline and oil purchase in a little log book kept in the glovebox but this is rare nowadays. Maybe it was a remnant of a mindset established during the depression, as I remember my father did that for his cars. I don’t know. Anyway, this car did not come with a notebook in the glovebox. As we will see, the glovebox came in a box!

Fast forward to the turn of the century, i.e. the year 2000. Thankfully computers around the world did not crash when the date changed at midnight prior to 2000. It was around this time that I purchased my first E-Type. During that time, I was in the habit of reading the classified ads (remember those?) in the local papers each day, looking for interesting cars to purchase. I responded to an ad in Durham for a 1967 E-Type Series 1 2+2. It didn’t look too bad, having been painted at some point “resale red”. But I came to find that the brakes and clutch were inoperable so a test drive was not possible. The owner was a young Brit starting a new family. He told me “father always drove Jags” so he had bought this one out of New York City. He said every time he took it in for work, it was another $5000. I don’t know that this was the best marketing approach but I was nevertheless consumed with car lust. As I recall $7500 exchanged hands and it was mine. I arranged for a flat bed truck to meet me there and I followed it home, where it was rolled off into my driveway. It sat there long enough that my wife Kelli threatened to plant kudzu around it and turn it into a topiary. That motivated me to build a small garage just barely big enough for the car, where I drug it to in order that it be out of sight. If you are interested in that car’s saga, read more (much more) here:  tinyurl.com/46ejx556  

Fast forward a couple of more years, to 2002. I was still reading the Classified Ads, now available on line, so it is basically the first thing I did when I got to work each morning in Charlotte. I saw an ad for a 1963 E-Type FHC. I immediately felt weak at the knees but I restrained myself and didn’t call the number listed before 8 am. A lady answers and says, yes, that would be her husband’s ad. He is at work but she will get a message to him. A few long hours later, the phone on my desk rings. It’s him. We chat for a bit. He allows that it is a “kit car”. I immediately have visions of awful fiberglass bodies on a Volkswagen Beetle chassis. But he says the car is disassembled with most of the parts in boxes. It is a “kit” because you have to put it together. I get the impression from the discussion that he is actually feeling me out as to whether I am worthy to view his kit car. I guess the fact that I was currently restoring another E-Type made a good impression as he finally said “Call my man at our warehouse and he will show you car this afternoon.”  In my next installment of Some Assembly Required we’ll see what I found.



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