When a car is nearing its 50th birthday, it is bound to have a rich heritage and countless stories. Graeme Head's Series 1 Jaguar E-Type has certainly had its fair share since it rolled out of the factory in 1964. But it is the latest chapter of this iconic sports car's life that could have turned into sheer disaster for its Abu Dhabi-based owner. Thirty-nine-year-old Head, a civil engineer from the UK, wrapped his beauty safely away under a cover at his home recently to go on holiday for a week. He never thought that it would not be there when he returned.
During the time he was gone, the Abu Dhabi municipality assumed the car was abandoned and took it away to a compound outside Al Ain. "At first, I called the police to report it stolen," recalls Head. "They gave me an Abu Dhabi number. I rang it and the guy on the other line couldn't tell me why the car was towed away and had a vague description of where the car was. "I had to calm down and I tried again the next day. This time I was able to get directions to the compound. When I got there, it was a huge place full of cars such as new Porsches and Hummers."
Luckily Head managed to produce ownership papers at the compound's head office back in Abu Dhabi and, after paying Dh250 in "administration fees", he was reunited with the Jag that has been his since moving to the UAE in 2000. Head bought the E-Type for Dh70,000, a relative bargain, after spotting it in the classifieds. "After my three-month probation, I decided that I need a car. I opened the classifieds page and the E-Type immediately jumped out at me.
"I got in touch with the owner, an Australian helicopter pilot, thinking at least I could go out and have a spin in it. When I saw it, I said to myself 'Wow. I have got to have this'." The E-Type was far from the finished article though, as Head found that when he came to register the car, it failed the UAE's emissions laws. Undeterred, he went about making the car roadworthy by himself over the next 10 months, spending a further Dh20,000.
"It became a hobby of mine. The laws here are not like the UK, which allow some leeway for old cars. I discovered that the pistons had worn the linings, so I rebuilt the engine. I found most of the parts from the US and here." He snuck the engine up to his 17th-floor apartment by bringing it up on a trolley early in the morning. He began rebuilding it in his bath tub while the car remained in the underground garage."The tub was completely destroyed with all the engine liquids," he says. "I was spending an hour at night and most of the time each weekend."
When it was finished, Head moved the 3.8L, six-cylinder engine back downstairs using a shopping trolley. He connected the engine back up and poured in fresh petrol. "It was a big moment and I was unsure of what was going to happen next. It could have blown up. I turned the ignition and nothing happened. "I let it tick over three or four times and then it burst into life. It ran as smooth as you like.
"It was a proud moment. The feeling of hearing the engine run was only second to the births of my two sons." It was a new lease on life for this Jag, which still has its certification numbers and engine stamps that allowed Head to trace its history from the day it left the Coventry factory. It was first sold to a certain Sid Salomon Jr, part owner of the St Louis Blues NHL franchise. By 1994, the car was located in Florida before being brought over to Dubai by an American in 1995.
Head has no interest in selling his car though. "After putting hundreds of hours into it, I would not want anything else. This is my car. I know every inch of it intimately." Who can blame him? email@example.com