ECOSSE ALIVE : escape
A classic Jaguar makes a road trip along the winding roads of the Trossachs one to remember, writes Claire Prentice
The obvious technical differences aside, driving a classic car is much like pushing a pram in Italy. Everywhere you go you are the subject of admiring glances, crowds gather to coo and everyone. wants to know how old she is and whether she gives you any trouble. Taking her out is by its very nature an event rather than a simple matter of getting from A to B.
Bessie, as the 1962 Jaguar Mk II we have hired for the weekend has been nicknamed, gives little cause for concern, provided you do things her way. Her preferred speed is 50mph, ideally done on quiet, meandering country roads. Which makes the Trossachs ideal for a day trip. more/less...
After stopping en route to refuel on fish and chips, we emerge to discover a crowd has gathered around the Jaguar. Delighted to have an audience, Dad hurries over to stake his claim, while Mum and I amble behind. It is his 70th birthday in May and getting behind the wheel of a car he has always wanted to drive seemed an appropriate way to mark such a historic occasion.
Bessie is a joy to drive, but she is not without quirks, as befits a car of her vintage. For starters, she does not have synchromesh gears, which means reverse and first gear are easily confused. This can be especially alarming at roundabouts - though our own fear is nothing compared with the people behind us. There are a sufficient number of these on the road to the Trossachs to ensure that Dad’s ruddy complexion grows several shades paler. Perhaps it was the gearbox that made Inspector Morse - the Jaguar Mk II’s best-known owner - so famously bad-tempered.
Given its age, it comes as a surprise to learn that the Mk II has power steering. So, despite her generous proportions, Bessie is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre as we tootle along the windy Trossachs Trail. The conversation is dominated by motoring. “This is definitely the most beautiful car ever made,” he says, gliding a hand along the dashboard, before returning to the subject of classic cars he has driven and their relative merits. His uncle was sales manager of a Fife garage in the 1940s and 1950s, so there are a lot to get through, “I can still remember the thrill of sitting behind the steering wheel of the Ford Prefect and the smell of the brand new leather upholstery.
Struck by the collage of browns, russets and bronzes of the surrounding woodland, I ask Dad to stop so I can take a photograph. A car draws up and the elderly driver winds down the window. “You’re not stuck, are you?” he asks hopefully. He seems disappointed at being denied the chance to tinker under the bonnet, but gets out to have a look anyway.
“British racing green?” he asks.
“1962,” corrects Dad.
The two men stand with their arms folded, looking at the car in silent appreciation. Just as we are about to pull away, Mum shouts for us to stop because the window has stuck. As the forecast is for snow, this is cause for serious concern. Our wannabe guardian angel gets out of his car again. After much wiggling, we manage to loosen it. We needn’t have bothered. Another of the car’s quirks is a tendency to steam up, so you have to keep wiping the condensation off the windscreen. The only way around this is to keep a small side window open.
The next day, Dad decides it is time to “open her up” so we head up the M90 towards the Angus Glens. Eventually we end up at Montrose, where a wrong turn leads to a nature reserve. We get out in search of a warming cup of tea just as the tide is coming in at Montrose Basin. Apparently this is a good time of day, and year, to come as lots of migrating birds are just arriving to take advantage of the foodstuffs brought in with the tide. One of the volunteers points us towards binoculars and begins rattling off facts about the various species. Nobody has the heart to tell her that we only came in to get warm.
It is with a mixture of relief and regret that we hand the keys back to Alex, the owner of Caledonian Classics, that night. Regret because we all thoroughly enjoyed fussing over our delightful charge and relief because the most enormous snowflakes have begun to fall. What modern car drivers might describe as the Jaguar Mk II’s “flaws” are exactly the characteristics that make it so much fun to drive. Just don’t forget to pack a travel rug.
Details: Caledonian Classics (www.caledonianclassics.co.uk, 01259 742 476) offers weekend packages including two days’ car hire and two nights’ bed and breakfast in Kennels Cottage, Dollarbeg, Clackmannanshire, from £410 midweek and £430 at weekends, based on two people sharing. Car hire starts at £120 per day midweek and £130 at weekends, The Jaguar Mk II costs from £180 midweek and £219 at weekends.
Montrose Basin Wildlife Centre and Reserve (www.swt.org.uk, 01674 676 336)