200 Months of XK Parts, by Julian Barratt

Firstly, a big congratulations to the XK Club on the 200th edition of the Gazette – the last 16 years or so have seen countless tours, events and track days all pushed along by the boundless enthusiasm of Philip, Julie and their team and I would have to say that I have always thoroughly enjoyed my times with this Club, as it has a great bunch of members and a beautiful selection of cars…

From the perspective of a parts supplier, I suppose the over-riding feelings looking back on the last 16 years are of surprise and excitement. Certainly, if we had looked ahead 16 years ago and tried to predict what the enthusiasm for the XK range would be like all those years ahead, we could never have imagined that interest would be so strong. Every year we wonder whether this will be the year when the enthusiasm for classic Jaguars – XKs and E-types in particular – will start to wane and every year we are surprised and excited that demand seems to go from strength to strength.

Of course, the industry has changed noticeably over the years covered by the 200 editions of the Gazette – notably by the arrival of the web. While parts events such as
Beaulieu and Stoneleigh are still going strong, the fact that now you can log in 24 hours a day and get so many XK parts on a next-day basis is a big change. From a supplier’s point of view, this can be something of a mixed blessing of course because, while a great number of XK parts are available straight from the shelf these days, it has become the norm for customers to expect everything to be available and when items do go out of stock – occasionally for some months – it becomes harder to explain. Added to this, the facts that the level of interest is still so high in the cars and the values are so strong mean that expectations, both in terms of availability and quality, are ever rising. We are seeing cars restored to a level far higher than ever they left the factory, with a range of modern upgrades and tweaks, and satisfying this demand is an (enjoyable) challenge for us and I suspect most parts suppliers.

What is fuelling this demand is hard to say – probably some economic factors such as the low interest rates have some impact – but I would like to think there is a sense of nostalgia and excitement from our XKs that we don’t get elsewhere in life. The enjoyment that comes from hopping into what was essentially a hand-made car with all its smells and sounds – as well as its occasional creaks and groans – is a far cry from the modern world of 24 hour news and Facebook. When people ask me what there is to like about driving a classic car and that “surely a modern sports car is faster/more reliable etc,” I explain to them that it’s all to do with the “feeling”. While the “feeling” of grinding to a halt every now and again can be mildly frustrating, the “feeling” of blasting along a country lane on a late summer’s evening and even the “feeling” of approaching a greasy roundabout at anything above 25mph, more than makes up for it! While the engineering and design may be well into their pension nowadays, the fact that XKs were so well thought out in their day makes them still credible for any driver looking for something visceral and engaging today.

From a personal point of view, my wife and I have always loved our XK 150 and it holds a special place in our hearts. Not only was it the car we used to take us from the church on our wedding day, my wife actually prefers the XK over our E-type and for any prolonged trip, the XK always seems to be the one that ends up leaving the garage. Of course I couldn’t comment on a preference; suffice to say that these XKs are all fabulous cars that richly deserve their longevity. Another warm congratulations to the XK Club: as long as the enthusiasm and driving continues, we will be here to provide the parts!

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