When Jock Speedy first spotted this XK140 he was just a 17-year-old lad. Instantly smitten, he vowed that one day he would own this car. In 1968, he was able to purchase the Jaguar but after completing 15,000 miles in the car he was forced to sell it. However, the tale wasn’t over – almost three decades later, Jock was reunited with the XK140 he’d nicknamed ‘Casper’.
Words: Allan Walton | Photos: Cameron Leggett and Allan Walton
“My story is not one of meticulous restoration from a pile of parts to gleaming perfection,” admits Jock Speedy, “but rather one of fortuitous long term, albeit broken, ownership and driving enjoyment of a car which has been maintained and, in some cases, upgraded to fit the purpose of its respective owners, all of whom I have had the privilege of speaking to.”
However, before we go deeper into our story of Jock’s time with this classic British sports car, we need to go right back to the beginning – all the way back to June 1955, the completion date of our featured Jaguar XK140 Fixed Head Coupé, chassis #S804213.
Once completed, the car was destined to fill an order received from Independent Motor Sales in Wellington and was despatched to its new owner, Hawke’s Bay farmer Angus Hyslop, on October 24, 1955. At that time, Hyslop was in the UK.
When he returned to New Zealand, the XK140 came with him – being registered in Hastings as CJ4525.
Although he never took to the circuit with the XK140, Hyslop used the Jaguar for local hillclimbs and speed events before deciding to get more serious about motorsport. As such, Hyslop sold the XK140 in 1958 and purchased Bob Gibbons’ D-Type (XKD534) – a car that had originally been delivered to New Zealand (also to Jack Shelley’s Independent Motor Sales) in 1956.
The XK140’s new owner, Terry Rennall, ran a farm based on Eringa Road, Longbush in Masterton, and it was during his decade-long ownership that a young man by the name of Jock Speedy first came across the car.
“My first encounter with this car we call Casper was when I was about 17 and Terry Rennall, whose farm was not far from ours at Longbush (approximately 20 minutes from Masterton), gave me a drive,” says Jock. That drive down nearby Mahupuku Road convinced him that this was the car he wanted to own.
“Several times later and looking for the comfort and performance not afforded me by my 1947 MG TC, I pestered Terry to sell me the car, but without success.” Jock was persistent and, finally, in September 1968, Rennall traded the XK140 in to Masterton Motors Ltd for subsequent purchase by agreement between Jock and Terry Rennall.
At the time Jock purchased the XK140, finished in Old English White with a red leather interior and a three-spoke E-Type wood-rimmed steering wheel, it was still in mostly original condition and came with six body-colour wire wheels. An SE model, the car was fitted with a C-Type cylinder head, fog lamps, windscreen washers, twin exhausts and wire wheels. Unusually, the car was fitted with 7:1 compression pistons. This was rare for a car with the C-Type cylinder head and was reflective of the common perception at that time that some fuel available in Jaguar’s more remote markets was only of modest quality.
Later additions included a pair of aftermarket mufflers fitted by Terry Rennall to quieten the car down. At the time Jock acquired the XK140, it had covered 55,456 miles.
“Some 15,000 quick miles were covered in a relatively short time until the responsibilities of marriage, and impending attendance at the university in Dunedin, forced the difficult decision to sell.
“One could pass it off as ‘better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all’,” says Jock.
However, although the XK140 was gone, as far as Jock was concerned it was never forgotten.
The person benefitting from Jock’s loss would be Ross Sellars of Wellsford, who purchased the Jaguar in August 1970. The late Les Parkinson would be the XK140’s next owner. According to Jock, Les “discovered” the car in 1972, although he wouldn’t register the car in his name until May 1980. He was probably the best owner the Jaguar could have had at that stage as its condition had deteriorated to the point where a lot of work was required to bring the car back up to scratch. In the process of refurbishing the XK140, Les fitted a close ratio four-speed gearbox with a Laycock de Normanville overdrive unit and also carried out some period performance modifications, preparing the car for classic racing and giving it the nickname ‘Gus’ after the car’s first owner, Angus Hyslop.
In March 1988, the Jaguar went to new owners, Frank and Elizabeth Beardsley, with Frank taking to the track in the car for the occasional spot of classic racing. They obviously worked some sort of deal with Les as the car was returned to his workshop (Parkinson’s Jaguar Services 1989 Ltd) for reconditioning of the XK140’s 3.4-litre straight-six engine and Moss four-speed/overdrive gearbox, the work being carried out in 1991 – at which time, the Jaguar had completed 79,562 miles. The car was also treated to a complete, bare-metal repaint in its original shade of Old English White.
In November 1996, the XK140 found a new owner – Rob, son of Wallace McNair, famed for his mighty aero-engined Sunbeam. Rob was cut from the same cloth as his father
– many readers will have admired his
6.12-litre Gipsy Major aero-engined 1931 Riley, a car that Rob built. The attention to detail on his self-built Riley is indicative of Rob’s considerable automotive skills and, as you would imagine, during his ownership the XK140 was expertly maintained.
“I accepted that I would be unlikely to ever see the car again,” says Jock, “although I did see it being raced by Frank Beardsley at the Ardmore classic car races in 1989.”
However, 10 years after spotting the car racing around the runways at Ardmore aerodrome, it was time for Jock to re-enter our story.
By 1999, he was well-established in business and with his wife Julie monopolising the use of their MGB GT, he decided that it was time for him to buy a second classic to keep the MG company – something that was sensible but exciting to drive on sunny weekends. His first thoughts turned to a Jaguar Mk2 saloon but then he found out that Rob McNair was selling his XK140.
“It wasn’t just an XK140, but ‘my old car!’”
The Jaguar was in Christchurch, having been consigned to Fazazz for sale.
“I couldn’t hold back my excitement at the prospect of owning my old car again, and a talk with Robert by phone led to a quick flight to Christchurch to view the car at Fazazz – deal done and arrangements made for its delivery north.”
In August 1999, 30 years after he’d sold the car to Ross Sellars, Jock once again became the proud owner of the XK140 and, during this second term of ownership, Jock gained the full benefit of McNair’s meticulous maintenance work and, of course, the performance enhancements made by Les Parkinson and Frank Beardsley. The Jaguar now boasted a close-ratio gearbox with overdrive on top gear, a straight-port cylinder head and two-inch SU HD8 carburettors. The car was also fitted with power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes (taken from an XK150), Koni shock absorbers and wider Yokohama 205/70 tyres (subsequently replaced by Pirelli P4000s) wrapped around 15-inch chrome wire wheels. A four-spoke, wood-rimmed Moto-Lita steering wheel replaced a refurbished black Jaguar wheel; Jock has the old original wheel in storage.
“The name ‘Casper’ became attached to the car shortly after my first ownership,” says Jock. Understandable given its ghostly white colour – and perhaps there was something supernatural at work that brought the car back to Jock after so many years.
Interestingly, Jaguar only manufactured 8,956 XK140s, of which a mere 199 were right-hand-drive Fixed Head Coupés with C-Type heads, so Jock’s car is something of a rarity in the world of Jaguars. As an indication of this rarity, a sister, NZ-new car (Christchurch) carrying the consecutive chassis #804214, and in excellent restored condition, sold at auction in 2016 for $258,750.
“I’ve been privileged to have spoken to every owner of the car at some time or other and the 18,000 miles covered during my second time of ownership have been hugely enjoyable miles, and to far-flung areas of the North Island, made all the more so because of the performance enhancements carried out by previous owners.
“One such road trip was from Tauranga
to Taihape where, especially along the Desert Road, I appreciated just how well the car eats up the miles, then on to the hilly drive through to Napier via the ‘Gentle Annie’ where its power and road holding came to the fore, and finally arriving home via Gisborne.”
When we caught up with the very appropriately named Jock Speedy, he and his wife, Julie, had quite recently retired and moved into a thoroughly modern apartment with a terrific view overlooking Tauranga’s Waikareao Estuary. With limited garaging space, Jock’s XK140 lives elsewhere while the MGB GT they owned for many years had to be sold.
A Jaguar man through and through, at the time of our visit with him, a painting of an XK140 hung on the wall of his apartment, while the dining room table was filled with a half-completed jigsaw depicting racing Jaguars. And as you might expect, Jock also has a lot of information on Jaguar XKs, including several boxes containing his car’s service history.
After chatting about Jaguars and life in general, it was time to take Jock’s car – now carrying the personal registration plate XK140 – for a quick spin out to a suitable location so we could snap a few more photos of the car (to complement those already taken by our principal photographer, Cameron Leggett).
Clambering into the Jaguar’s cabin was a bit of a stretch – I’m not as flexible as I once was – but there’s plenty of space once inside the XK140’s leather and wood veneer-wrapped interior. Jock mentioned that when he purchased the car second time around, the original slide-out glove box in the centre of the dash had at some time earlier been replaced with a radio. As a driver who much prefers the sound of a twin-cam engine to music, Jock removed the offending radio and was able to obtain a period replacement drawer. Look closely and you can see that the colour of the veneer on the drawer is a slightly different shade than that of the main dashboard.
In the motoring world there are very few views better than that from the cabin of a Jaguar XK sports car – that long shapely bonnet with its curvaceous wings is probably only matched by the equivalent view from an E-Type Jaguar. Jock’s car is even smoother than normal minus the radio aerial and the wing-mounted rear-view mirrors that were removed many years ago. He also made the decision not to mount replacement mirrors on the doors, so driving through town traffic requires concentration. And, while the XK140 might not be entirely happy about driving through town traffic, once the road ahead clears and the XK engine is given its head, the car lifts up its skirts and really flies. The sonorous sound of a straight-six Jaguar engine on full song is an absolute delight and, once on the open road, you can even forgive the less than sporty gearchange action offered by the car’s Moss gearbox. Although, in truth, the XK140’s close-ratio ’box isn’t that hard to use as long as you remember your double-declutching technique and don’t hurry the changes, especially when going down the ’box.
The performance enhancements fitted to Jock’s car give the Jaguar a considerable helping of pace to go along with its proverbial grace and space.
Now he’s owned this XK140 for well over 20 years, does Jock still enjoy his time at the Jaguar’s wheel?
Absolutely, of course: “Even after all these years I still get a real kick out of the XK140’s style, performance and reliability.”
Jock was lucky as a young man to have the wherewithal to own the car of his dreams, and three decades later even luckier in being able to return to the days of his youth and relive his dream for a second time. We hope that Jock’s dream lasts for many more years to come.
[Thanks to Richard Waugh for his assistance in preparing this feature – although any mistakes are all my own! Jock’s XK140 is also featured in Richard’s new book, Classic Jaguars of New Zealand.]
Jaguar XK140 (1954-1957)
Successor to the innovative XK120 sports car, Jaguar unveiled the XK140 at the London Motor Show in October 1954 alongside the new MkVIIM. Available in three body styles – OTS (Open Two Seater), DHC (Drophead Coupé) and FHC (Fixed Head Coupé) – this second iteration of Jaguar’s classic sports car featured an upgraded suspension set-up with thicker torsion bars and telescopic rather than lever arm dampers. Moving the XK engine and front bulkhead forward three inches improved interior space, providing room for occasional rear seats in the Fixed Head Coupé and more efficient brakes, as well as rack and pinion steering.
The 142kW 3.4-litre engine, as previously fitted to the Special Equipment (SE) XK120, would be made standard for the XK140. For the SE version of the XK140 (XK140 MC in the USA), the engine was fitted with the C-Type head and delivered 157kW.
As a sign of things to come, as well as being offered with an optional Laycock de Normanville electric overdrive operating on top gear, the XK140 would become the first Jaguar sports car to be offered with automatic transmission, a three-speed Borg Warner, in 1956.
Externally, changes from the XK120 included larger front and rear bumpers, a revised radiator grille and larger doors to ease access. Inside there was more legroom and a heater was now standard, while the Fixed Head Coupé’s roof was extended. The spare wheel was now housed in the boot floor, an improvement from the XK120’s underfloor tray. The chrome strip running down the centre of the boot lid included a red badge proclaiming ‘Winner Le Mans 1951-3’.
1955 Jaguar XK140 FHC
*[Chassis #S804213 details as featured]
Engine XK straight-six dohc straight six
Bore/Stroke 83mm x 106mm
Valves DOHC C-type cylinder head [420 straight-port head]
Max Power 157kW (210bhp) @ 5750rpm [171-179kW (230-240bhp)]
Max Torque 288Nm @ 4000rpm [Est: 320Nm @ 3500rpm]
Fuel System Twin 1¾ SU HD6 [Twin 2-inch HD8]
Transmission Four-speed manual [four-speed close ratio with overdrive
on top gear]
Brakes F/R Drum/drum [Disc/disc]
Suspension Front Independent, by wishbones and torsion bar, anti-roll bar
Suspension Rear Leaf springs with live axle
Steering Rack and pinion
Wheels 5x16-inch 54-spoke wire wheels [6x15-inch 72 spoke wire wheels]
Tyres Dunlop Road Speed crossply 600x16 [Pirelli P4000 205/70-15 radial ply]
Track (F/R) 1295/1305mm
Overall Length 4470mm
Dry Weight 1295kg
Top Speed 207km/hr (129mph) [Est: 218km/hr (136mph)]
0-100km/hr 11 seconds [9 seconds]
8956 (all XK140 models, including 843 RHD, of which 199 were