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Homepage. This page: Motoring Disasters Pt2

Cars that bite back

Big engined Jaguar, BMWs & Dodge

Big engined moderns and classics that didn't play ball

I've never had much joy with fuel calculations. The Series 1 Jaguar XJ12 L I had some years back was also fairly vague in its reported fuel levels, manys the time it coasted to a halt sucking only fumes from either of its twin tanks. After a few of these 'failing to proceed' moments I did the sensible thing and kept a gallon tin of fuel in the boot, figuring that wherever I conked out should be within 9-10 miles of a petrol station, this range being the max that this thirsty old beaut would stretch out of a gallon of petrol. This lovely old Jaguar was pressed into service one long weekend at the 1997 Goodwood Festival of Speed, using over 170 worth of fuel in 3 days, and this was in 1997 when fuel prices weren't quite as barbaric as they are now.

That Jag was a lovely old duchess, although I wasn't so enamoured with it when the auto box (Borg Warner Model 8 if I remember right on the V12) expired in splendid fashion, pouring clouds of smoke and dodgy burning smells from its transmission as a pool of burnt fluid dumped itself over the tarmac. Investigations by those more savvy with Jaguars identified that incorrect clutch packs had been fitted to the 'box at some point in the past, so it was only a matter of time before it would detonate. A reconditioned 'box was fitted and normal service resumed, the shiny dark blue XJ appearing outside the Stockport job centre back then when I was out of work. Probably a good job the penpushers didn't look out of the window and see it parked outside, else they'd have no doubt questioned whether a 4 carb'd 5.3 V12 powered Jag was suitable transport for an unemployed youth.

Even though the Jag is now just a distant memory (although RAR 115L did re-appear on ebay briefly in 2004), it didn't end my curiosity with over-engined vehicles. One of my current long term projects is a 5.4 litre Dodge lorry, which is a long way from seeing the road again (last roadworthy in 1955). One fine day I thought I'd fire her up, just to listen to the melodious thrum of a lazy big 6 cylinder sidevalve motor (petrol). Things were rigged up as usual for these test runs, and the floor starter given some boot. The all iron lump soon fired up and sounded as glorious as ever. However I'd ommitted to change the seal that fits into the oil filter housing, the dried out one still being in place. After a few seconds, I noticed a decided oily whiff in the air. A quick peek from the cockpit informed me that warm oil was spraying in all directions from the top of the housing, all over the chassis, bulkhead, nearby plants, and the graveled driveway at the house we'd recently bought. Despite only running for a short time, the volume of oil that had been ejected in all directions was quite spectacular, and took some cleaning up.

Another overly engined (if thats possible) car I had was a 750iL BMW (the first of two V12 Bimmers I've had). It was a reliable old girl, and went better than its lardy looks would suggest. Not a classic I know but one of very few modernish cars that did still have a semblance of character within its ECU-laden bodyshell. Every now and then on a long fast run it developed an annoying habit of ejecting auto transmission fluid from the dipstick, which would then run on to the exhaust pipes below, producing a long plume of smoke the Red Arrows would be proud of. It turned out that topping up the auto box on the BM required a particular set of steps to be undertaken in order that the level be right. I'd used a method as suitable for most automatic boxes, but it turned out they weren't suitable on this 5.0 BM, hence my overfilling things a bit. Thankfully the box wasn't damaged and continued on ok after that.

My path into big engined BMs began with buying an old E28 style BMW M535i lookalike (actually a 535i dressed up as an M). This was in very nice condition, its underbonnet appearance being virtually as new. This car went jolly well and was a real hoot to drive, if only for its lary-ness. Being dressed up with a slightly unfortunate bodykit, painted in bright Zinnobar red, it was less than subtle, but a lot of fun. I didn't own if for too long, but at some point I decided to fit a replacement exhaust system. Despite having a good idea already, it was during the fitment of said exhaust that I was sharply reminded that a complete exhaust system, is HEAVY. It was while I was fitting the rear support mountings underneath the car, that the full system decided to drop down on top of me, slipping off my knee that it was propped upon, and bouncing off my front teeth (ouch). Amazingly my teeth didn't shatter, all those fluoride tablets I had when a kid must have given me carbon fibre nashers, however I don't hope to re-enact this with any future exhaust fitments.





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