Nothin but a heartache - Blackbourn 380

By: Rob Blackbourn, Unique Cars magazine

Presented by

Did you ever hear the one about the steering lock that nearly killed star singer Bonnie Tyler?

Nothin but a heartache - Blackbourn 380
Jaguar E-type

A few years back classic E-Type Jaguars were not bringing the sort of money they deserved by my reckoning. That's changing now with the best of them vying with other high-performance exotics in the price-tag stakes. Prices above $150k are becoming more common and the occasional gem is offered at twice that.

The E-Types release in 1961 got the pulses of performance-car cognoscenti (and petrolhead kids like me) racing for a number of reasons: Regardless of your personal car passions you always associated the Jaguar name with rapid motoring. So anything new from the Browns Lane factory was special.

Add to that the media hype claiming a 150mph (240km/h-plus) top speed for the E-Type. That set hearts a-thumpin, especially here in sunny Australia at a time when our four-cylinder powered family cars were topping out short of 80mph while Holden, Zephyr, Vauxhall and Falcon sixes were struggling to reach 90mph.

Certainly there were sports cars and a smattering of powerful sedans with 100mph-plus capabilities. And the odd super-fast Ferrari or Maserati  but exotic stuff like that was so rare you were lucky to ever spot one.  This 150mph Jag, though, was the one warp speed car you could expect to see on the road most days.

Then there was the sheer beauty of its voluptuous styling that paid its respects to the iconic Le Mans-winning D-types while adding modernity and sleekness. With such multi-faceted appeal the E-type burst spectacularly on to the Australian motoring scene.

It's an interesting paradox then that my awe-struck praise of the E-Type (from a non-E-Type owner) is at odds with the mumblings we hear from fellow contributors David Morley and Jon Faine about actually living with E-Types. Between Faine's grumbles about fuse-holder issues and self-destructing brakes and Morley's labelling his high-maintenance you could be forgiven for thinking E-Type ownership is about as much fun as copping a community service order.

This E-Type tribute was prompted by a magazine article by ace Kiwi motorcycle-racer of the 70s and 80s, Graeme Crosby. Reporting on a recent World GP Bike Legends event at Jerez, he mentioned that the ageing husky-voiced songstress Bonnie Tyler had frocked up to provide entertainment for the bike boys.

Bonnie Tyler reached out to me powerfully with her hit Nothin' But a Heartache when I was working in the UK in the late 70s, surprisingly challenging Shirley Bassey's special place in my imaginings (what endowed the vocal magic of these sultry Welsh sirens with such beguiling power, I wonder?).

Bonnie's E-Type connection surfaced during a TV interview at the time. After a barney with her bloke one night she had apparently grabbed the car keys and stormed furiously out of the house, before jumping into his car - the E-Type  that was parked out front at the kerb. She fired it up, slammed it into first, dropped the clutch and launched in a cloud of tyre smoke.

Her intention had been to hit the anchors for the T-intersection, about three doors away, swing right, and then roar off hell-for-leather toward the motorway to burn off her crankiness with a bit of high-speed action. Unfortunately, in the dark, she failed to notice that the steering lock - one of those period ratchet devices with a hook on each end - was firmly in place, rigidly locking the steering wheel to the brake pedal.

When she went for the brakes nothing happened.

She also tried the swerve option, again to no effect.

The momentum from the rapid take-off was sufficient to speed the E across the intersection and through a brick fence before burying its nose in the front wall of the neighbours house...

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