Car books are a genre just like detective fiction or sea stories. They generally break down into two categories, marque histories, usually notable mostly for their evocative photography, and “how to” books, usually notable for all the information missing from the book, and for which you bought it in the first place.
Very occasionally a car book transcends the genre. Among the marque histories, at least of british cars, “MG by McComb” is one of the notable exceptions, being surprisingly literate, and “TC’s Forever” the appreciation by Michael Sherrill is surely a stand out title in the restoration category. Your scribe, by the way, had the opportunity to tell him so one July night many years ago, when seeing the lights on in the much missed Westminster MG museum, he barged in with his family and discovered Jerry Goguen giving Mike Sherrill a private guided tour.
It’s fairly well known that William Lyons and Jaguar were caught completely off guard by the public demand for the XK120 when it was unveiled at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1948. In order to get them into production quickly, very early cars were literally stick built with an ash framed body a la “T” series MG. The XK 140 was the car Jaguar would have built if they had had the luxuury of sufficient development time.
Jaguar’s reputation was forever established on the basis of two milestone cars, the XK 120 and the E-type. I stay well away from $100.00 car books, but I could sense this one was different. Who, after all, puts out a coffee table car book on the XK 140 ? No, something was definitely going on here that required making an extraordinary purchase.
The something was this: Not only had the author, Bernard Viart, chosen the relatively obscure (by comparison with the plethora of XK 120 books) XK 140 for a detailed analysis, but he quite literally created over 2,000 four color plates of virtually every component of the car, labled with the part numbers and the start/stop dates. There’s NEVER been another car book quite like it. Did you know that eight different shades of upholstery were offered, as well as 23 body colors ? They’re illustrated in Viart’s book.
This is the “Gray’s Anatomy”, the text book, not the T.V. show, of british cars.
I am on my second XK 140. The first, a drop head coupe, serial # 818891, was purchased in 1971 for $200.00 in “Ran When Parked” condition. This car was ‘down the road’ around 1980 when the car I really wanted, an open two seater, S 811508DN, came along. Parse the chassis number sequencing diagram in the second illustration and you’ll soon realize who got the better end of the deal when I swapped it even up for my Husquvarna 250 WR motorcycle.
Soon after receiving the book (from XK’s Unlimited) I dropped M. Viart (who as it turns out, is French) a line to tell him I was utterly flabbergasted, no other word accurately conveys my sense of astonishment, at his accomplishment. He wrote me back saying he could never have done it had he not been retired, as he spent six days a week for three years putting it together. Bravo Bernard !
- Several people had the car right, an MGC GT, indentifiable by the stainless steel hood molding and the roof line, but nobody got the tire. Predictably, Jeff Schlemmer came the closest because, as he explained, having worked as a tire jockey while going to college, he knew that Bridgestones, Continentals & Semperits were all made in Austria, a clue we dangled in the “comments dialogue” .
This week John and Butch have started reassembling this TR3 which has been completely refinished in a silver metallic by Jason Marechaux and his crew at East Coast Collision & Restoration. That’s Butch behind the driver’s door bolting down the TX mounting.