The Founding of The Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club

As told by Graham Searle, co-founder and General Manager.

In the early 1980s, the Jaguar marque was attracting great interest. With John Egan at the helm of the company, it was seeing both improved sales of the then-current XJ6 and XJ12 saloons, as well as renewed success for the XJ-S sports model, not least through its racing exploits in the European Touring Car Championship. In spite of this growing popularity, though, there remained only one international Jaguar club.

Soon enough, some of my friends and I felt there was a need for another Jaguar marque club that would cater for a wider audience of enthusiasts, including all those who regularly used and maintained Jaguar vehicles. Discussion of the idea soon ramped up, ultimately prompting a meeting of ten of us at an autojumble in the south of England in 1984. At that meeting, an agreement was reached to form a new club, the second international Jaguar club, with a name that would place emphasis on the passion of its members: the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club.

Of those ten enthusiasts, five are still actively involved in running the Club:

  • I, Graham Searle, the Club’s General Manager
  • Nigel Thorley, the Jaguar Enthusiast Magazine Editor
  • Ken Jenkins, the Club’s Technical Adviser
  • Mike Horlor, Current Chairman
  • Simon Cronin,Tours

And two continue to serve as Vice-Presidents:

  • Gordon Wright
  • Keith Vincent
  • Peter Clarke

Sadly, two have since passed away:

  • Robert Archard
  • David Webb

A second meeting solidified the details, and a third saw the directors of Jaguar Cars Limited confirm their approval of the formation of the Club and the use of the Jaguar name. With everything in place, the club was officially launched on the 1st of December in 1984. Its first event was the Bristol Classic Car Show, which was rather appropriate as Bristol would eventually become the home of the Club.

The goals of the new club were to provide help and support to those who ran their cars regularly, to assist in keeping those cars on the road as economically as possible, to promote the Jaguar name, and to generally encourage enthusiasm for Jaguar cars to as wide an audience as possible.

We were lucky in that the ten of us had a mixture of skills - the expertise was not limited to car-related matters. We had a publisher, a banker and an editor alongside the technical gurus. Even so, people tried to stop us launching, but we persevered — and the rest is history!

Over 30 years of Jaguar Enthusiasts' Club

The Early Days

When we launched, Club membership cost £12 and offered little more than free technical advice and a commitment to offer exceptional membership value, with one major exception: our 32-page glossy A4 monthly magazine, available from day one in an era of club magazines provided on photocopied paper.

As suspected, there was indeed a need for a new Jaguar club. Within the first eight weeks, we had a total of 500 members, and within another month we had produced our first specialist tool, the XK engine timing chain adjuster, closely followed by our second, the Hub Puller. Both products proved incredibly popular, so much so that, amazingly, they are still in production and selling well today.

First Events

In April 1985, we held our very first seminar. Attendees paid £5 each to learn all about Jaguar restoration (and enjoy some light refreshments!).

Also during our first year, we organised an event at Harewood House near Leeds in West Yorkshire. In a fantastic result, nearly 300 Jaguars were present. This clear success led to the hosting of another Jaguar day at RAF Hendon near London later that year.

Rapid Growth

Buoyed by strong enthusiasm for the Club, no fewer than 7 local regions were created and organised within our first year, making it easy and convenient for members in the same part of the country to arrange social gatherings on a regular basis.

Within six months of our inception, our membership count had passed 1000, and we had begun spreading across the globe. Though most members were UK-based, we had also attracted members from Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America (13 countries). In 2016, we have members across a whopping 70 countries.

Industry Recognition

By the end of 1985, the Club had achieved a total worldwide membership of 2,000. As the membership grew, the then-titled Thoroughbred & Classic Car Magazine voted Jaguar Enthusiast ‘Club Magazine of the Year’ in the over-1000-members category, a great accolade for a club that had been in existence for less than a year.

The early success of the Club was a testament to the careful planning and commitment of the founding members, and it continued to flourish throughout the remainder of the 1980s, further buoyed by a steady expansion of the services and facilities offered to members.

Specialist Schemes and Raffles

In 1986, we launched a “Vehicle Appraisal Scheme” to provide guidance to anyone seeking to buy a Jaguar. At the same time, a special “Club Vehicle Insurance Scheme” was set up specifically for those members with classic models, and immediately proved extremely popular.

By then, our range of specialist tools and remanufactured parts had reached a total of 14, and we announced our first prize draw for charity, offering the chance to win an XJ6 Series 2 Jaguar at just £1 per ticket. Ever since, we’ve held a charitable draw every year, raising over £300,000 for various charities.

Saving Jaguars

By 1988, Jaguar Enthusiast had been expanded to 44 pages, no fewer than 47 local regions had been set up, and the Club had become involved in 30 external events. It was during that year that the Club launched the “Save the Jaguar” campaign in co-operation with the World Wildlife Fund, raising money to safeguard the diminishing numbers of the fine animals from which the Jaguar car took its name.

Looking to help the vehicular kind of Jaguar, we also worked with the Jaguar Car Club to put on the first Jaguar-only Spares Day in Stoneleigh.

Continued Expansion

By 1990, the Club was solidly established in both its membership and its finances, prompting further expansion of the magazine. We increased the number of colour pages and took steps to ensure the annual retention of a Jaguar motor-car for our charitable prize draw.

1991 was a momentous year, seeing the organisation of a grand celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Jaguar E-type sports car. Held at the Donington Race Circuit in Derbyshire, the event attracted an incredible turnout, who brought with them almost 1000 E-types. That success would lead to many more fantastic anniversary events over the years.

Restoring Order

During 1991, we experienced some major problems with the member insurance scheme. Fortunately, Peter James of Footman James came along and bailed us out, helping us continue to grow and beginning a close working relationship that continues to this day with Footman James and the since-founded Peter James Insurance. We later added Adrian Flux to our panel.

In 1992, Jaguar Enthusiast magazine embarked on its first restoration and refurbishment project, with the first subject being a Jaguar XJ6 Coupe. In the years since then, it has been followed by numerous others, including several for the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust (now known as Jaguar Land Rover Classic). This is just another way in which the Club puts finances back into the Jaguar marque and the vitally-important charitable Trust which maintains vehicles as well as factory records.

A Full-Time Endeavour

In 1993, Jaguar Enthusiast received another accolade from the by-then renamed Classic Car Magazine. They again voted it ‘Club Magazine of the Year’, and were so convinced of its superiority that it got the nod yet again for each of the following two years.

It was a momentous year for our management, as the club’s rapid growth had generated a workload too great to be handled by part-timers. While serving as the membership manager, I had also been working as a Natwest Bank manager, and gleefully took a redundancy package to become the General Manager, the position I hold to this day, working originally from home alongside my wife Lynne and Philippa Fox.

Global Dominance

Still expanding rapidly, the Club established its first separate Regional Newsletter in 1994, allowing local groups to promote their own events and activities. The same year, it became one of the largest financial contributors to the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, looking after the interests of the classic vehicle movement in a commitment that continues to the present day.

In 1995, after a mid-year professional audit of the Club’s accounts, the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club was officially recognised as the largest Jaguar club in the world. Soon after, the magazine was extended to 88 pages.

Technical Supremacy

Although the Club had established technical seminars very early on, it wasn’t until 1995 that an annual programme of six seminars would be set up, a schedule that remains in place today.

One of the very first seminars related to the XJ40 saloon, and attracted a modest attendance of a mere 15 members. These days, our seminars cater for up to 100 members at a time, covering a diverse range of models and topics.

Touring Efforts

Also in 1995, the first Entente Cordiale French tour was arranged in coordination with Kelsey Publishing. This event endured all the way up to 2014 as an annual fixture, leading to many more inland and overseas tours being arranged.

In October of 1995, coinciding with the launch of Jaguar’s latest XK8 sports car, two pre-production cars were allotted to the Club and put to good use campaigning around the UK to raise money for the BEN motoring charity.

College Tuition

Towards the end of the decade, the Club became involved with the Manchester College of Art & Technology, initially providing technical seminars on subjects like painting, trimming and bodywork, and later offering sponsorship.

In the years that followed, we also took students through the refurbishment of a Jaguar 420 saloon that was donated to the Club by one of its members.

Back on Track

In a major development for the Club, 1998 saw the birth of our very own Race Series, inspired by the huge success of the XK50 celebrations at Donington Park which saw over 500 XK sports cars. The series covered XK120, XK140 and XK150 models. It was (and remains to this day) headed up by JEC member Terry Dye, and its success led to further Race Series — for the XJ-S, for saloons, and even for all cars powered by Jaguar engines.

Our racing expansion also saw us establish a major sponsorship of Rob Beere racing and their highly-modified 7-litre 700 bhp Series 3 V12 E-type prototype driven by Malcolm Hamilton. In the years since, the Club has organised various Track Days for members wishing to try their road-going Jaguars on racing circuits.

Overseas Tours

We are nothing if not ambitious, and in 1998, via our Surrey Hants Borders Region, we undertook our first overseas tour, shipping our cars to New York and driving across the Eastern Seaboard of the USA.

Since then, we’ve been across the USA and Canada three more times, and even enjoyed tours of Southern Africa, visiting South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and even Lesotho. This dedication to giving enthusiasts varied opportunities to drive their own cars through such wonderful scenery is something unique to JEC.

Onwards and Upwards

Our magazine efforts were going from strength to strength. After the Editor of Jaguar Enthusiast was recognised as ‘Editor of the Year’ in 1997, Classic Car Magazine identified our technical guru Dave Marks as 1999’s ‘Personality of the Year’ for his comprehensive work on unleaded fuel articles.

1999 saw the Club’s biggest move so far, and it was a literal move, as a Club head office was finally established in Filton, Bristol, at what was then the Old Library. Full of character, the premises made an ideal base for the Club after many years operating from private dwellings. The head office was officially opened on the 13th of November 1999 by Mike Beasley,the managing director of Jaguar Cars at that time.

Memorabilia

With our head office set up, we had somewhere to gather Jaguar memorabilia, and our collection has only grown since then. Now holding many unique items, including genuine Sir William Lyons artefacts and Nockolds paintings, we estimate its worth to be around £50,000.

Also in 1999, the Club assisted Kelsey Publishing with the organisation of the first London to Brighton Run, an event that ran until 2014, and the magazine reached a substantial 104 pages.

Into the Millennium

In 2000, the Club, working with Kelsey Publishing, started the JagAds website to provide a further advertising avenue for members looking to sell Jaguars. In combination with the classified advertising area of the magazine, this made JagAds the world’s largest source of Jaguar car and part sales. It is only very recently that JagAds made way for Jaguar Classifieds, our unified solution that has been growing steadily since.

On the social side of things, we launched our most ambitious tour yet: the Millennium Tour of South Africa. Building on our first overseas tour in 1998, the Millennium Tour took in the wonderful Garden Route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and through the wine regions.

Expanded Merchandising

Also in 2000, we expanded our services, appointing a full-time merchandising manager to run JEC Direct (the regalia side of the business). Operating from premises in South Yorkshire, JEC Direct broadened its range of goods, began attending more events, and introduced a tool-hire service.

2002 saw our next tour of South Africa, the Diamond Tour, which was rather more ambitious, taking us on a lengthy journey from Durban to Port Elizabeth via Johannesburg and Kimberley.

Moving Office

In 2003, the Club moved once again. Having outgrown the Old Library premises, we made our way to some prestigious, expansive and modern office space not too far away.

Owned outright by the Club (the Old Library had been rented), the new offices provided significantly more space, were better equipped for our needs, and constituted a substantial asset for the future.

20th Birthday Celebrations

In 2004, the Club celebrated its 20th birthday. In recognition of its long success and the strong support it continued to receive from its members, a major international event was organised at Thoresby Hall in Nottinghamshire. Free to all members, it saw around 2,000 Jaguars and Daimlers gathered on a fabulous weekend that broke all records, becoming the largest Jaguar event ever held in the UK.

In addition to this, we joined forces with the Warners Group to offer a full weekend at or near our major rallies, starting at Thoresby Hall and expanding to Nidd (near Harrogate), Littlecote, Hungerford, and Bembridge on the Isle of Wight.

Jaguar Support

We have been fortunate over the years to count most of the Jaguar MDs as Club members, and Bibiana Boerio, Jaguar’s first female MD, was no different. We’ve had wonderful support from Nick Scheele, former Jaguar Chief Executive, and Dr. Ralf Speth, the current CEO of Jaguar Land Rover.

We’ve worked with Jaguar on various joint events over the years, such as 2005’s 50th Anniversary Mark 1 day at Browns Lane and the Royal Windsor Jaguar Festival, our major event for 2017. 2005 also saw our second US Tour, which covered the Southern States around Mississippi, up to Memphis, and out of Charleston.

Model Forums

Around that time, we finally implemented our plan for separate Model Forums. While this doesn’t suit everyone, it helps us compete with one-model clubs, and we’ve brought in a number of people to assist with helping members who want specific information and advice.

Neatening things up, we moved JEC Direct to Bristol, and handed all T&S operations over to Annie Jenkins and her father Ken who had previously been running them from Worksop. That year also saw the introduction of a Club Warranty Scheme.

Touring Venues

By this time we were getting a little carried away with touring, and organized our most ambitious tour yet: the Coast to Coast tour. It took us from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, going through Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

Back in the early 1990s, we’d held a couple of Southern Days in Littlecote when it was owned by Peter De Savary. Years after, it was bought by Warners, and since it was a natural venue for us to return to, we eventually made it back there in 2013.

Website Replaced

In 2006, we began selling a CD featuring a digital copy of every issue of Jaguar Enthusiast from the Club’s first 20 years. It felt rather novel at the time, but seems very old hat now!

The original Club website had aged quite gracefully (indeed, it had been one of the first Club websites), but by 2007, it was clear that technology had moved too far ahead, and it was time to replace it. Not that it happened overnight ,of course - it wasn’t until mid-2010 that we actually launched it!

Route 66 Celebration

2008 saw the introduction of the Jaguar XK60, which celebrated 60 years of the XK, as well as our third US Tour following the fabled Route 66 from Chicago to LA. More than 2000 miles all the way (as the song goes!), it culminated on the Queen Mary at Long Beach.

It also saw our best-ever raffle result, as we were donated an XK150 FHC by a member and subsequently managed to raise a fantastic £45,000 for Alzheimer's research.

25th Anniversary

2008 was also an important year for Jaguar, as Tata’s purchase and subsequent combination of Jaguar and Land Rover on March 26th created Jaguar Land Rover and set it on a path to become one the UK’s leading companies when it comes to growth and job creation.

When 2009 arrived, it was time to celebrate our 25th Anniversary, which was again arranged at Thoresby Hall. Bad weather in the preceding weeks boded poorly, however, and when the day arrived, we found ourselves forced to close the event at just 1pm. Despite the forecast, however, we’d still achieved a turnout of hundreds of members. In May that year, the magazine reached 132 pages.

Social Media

In 2010, James Blackwell was appointed as Assistant General Manager to help with continuity and the ever-increasing workload. He also took us into Social Media, an area which has seen tremendous growth over the last few years and is now an important part of our communication network.

2011 saw the E-type 50, a major event held as part of the Silverstone Classic weekend that attracted a huge 763 Jaguar E-types on the track, our largest-ever gathering of its kind.

A Sad Loss

2012 started on a sad note with the death from cancer of Bob Archard, our founding Chairman. Bob had always maintained a deep love of the one-off Jaguar XJ13, and when news of his illness first emerged, Tony O’Keeffe and Richard Mason of Jaguar Heritage were able to make his dream of taking a ride in one a reality, arranging for Norman Dewis to take him on a ride around MIRA, the proving ground near Nuneaton where the XJ13 set a lap record in 1966. It was a day to be treasured.

The big event of the year took place at Weston Park in Shropshire, and treated all those in attendance to a stunning fly-past from a lone Hurricane.

Modernised Magazine

In April of 2012, we changed the style of our magazine to modernise it, and held our last US Tour,  going from Washington to New York via Canada and Cape Cod!

In December, Mark Bennetts was appointed to run the Gift Shop. Sadly, he was only with us for less than a year due to family commitments (2 teenage daughters!), but every cloud has a silver lining, and we were lucky to replace him with Helen Hodgson, who has numerous skills that will assist the club moving forward.

Recognising an Icon

Our events just wouldn’t be the same without the support of our great members, and particular individuals have been quite incredible throughout the years. One such person is Dick Skipworth, a man who brought along his fabulous Ecurie Ecosse transporter whenever we asked him to.

He finally sold his transporter at auction along with his whole Ecurie Ecosse collection, but not before we presented him with a small trophy at its last outing at the Castle Combe Classic meeting in October, a token of our appreciation for his unwavering loyalty.

30th Anniversary

The most notable event in 2014 was our 30th Anniversary celebration at Thoresby Hall, for which our members filled the park with 1200 Jaguars, Daimlers and SS cars, making the occasion extremely memorable. Much smaller but no less enjoyable was our first-ever event at the famous Prescott Hillclimb. With 250 cars present, a glorious setting, and excellent weather, it was a fun, relaxed day.

We were also honoured that year to be invited to see the amazing collection of over 500 cars amassed by Dr. James Hull just before he sold the entire collection to Jaguar Land Rover. The collection had 181 Jaguars, representing every model ever made; an astonishing feat.

Autumn Classic

JEC Racing continues to thrive, and the 2014 calendar culminated in a major presence at the Autumn Classic Meeting at Castle Combe. The Pre-65 Jaguar race wowed the crowds, and firmly established the event as an annual favourite.

In an effort to improve upon and add variety to our major events, we partnered with two of our regions in 2015 to put on an Eastern Day at Ickworth, Bury St Edmunds and a Western Day at Bodelwyddan Castle, North Wales. Each worked extremely well and set a great precedent for the future.

2017 Wonderful Windsor

2 years in the planning saw our most successful event ever. Over 1200 Jaguars, Daimlers & SS cars met on the iconic Long Walk in front of Windsor Castle. A timeline parade of 240 cars drove through the town and into the Castle quadrangle to be greeted by HRH Prince Edward.

The weekend started with a champagne reception for 450 guests in the fabulous St Georges Hall hosted by HRH Prince Edward and finished with a gala dinner at Windsor Racecourse.

The aim was to raise money for The Prince Philip Trust Fund and did we succeed!  We raised £105,000.

The event was capped when we received the Classic & Sportscar Award for the Best Club Event of 2017, a great honour.

NEC Classic Motor Show

The final event of 2017 was the NEC Classic Motor Show as the XJ220 was celebrating its 25th anniversary we went for a spectacular Jaguar SuperCar stand. Commencing with a 1950's C-Type then the amazing Lindner Nocker Lightweight E-Type, The Budlight XJR12, that set Goodwood alight this year, the unique CX75 Hybrid Concept and a perfect XJ220 on a turntable. This with our XK Convertible Raffle car drew huge crowds to our stand all weekend.

So, what of 2018? Our big event will be the XJ50 & XK70 celebrations at Wroxall Abbey on July 1st together with a large programme of other events and tours. New benefits are coming on line, check out our membership section now!

A Word from the Chairman

I can’t talk about our last 30 years without paying tribute to our incredible members and, most heroically, all those involved in the running of our regional groups. You are the social face of the club, and over these years you’ve flown the flag for us time after time at everything from the smallest meetups to 700-car events, raising thousands of pounds for charity and forming countless lasting friendships. Just one look at the diary on our website shows how many events we have running all around the country on an average weekend during the season, and it’s all of you who make it worthwhile.

Looking to the future, we are working harder than ever to maintain (and, most importantly, continue to deserve) what we have. With Jaguar continuing to make so many great cars, our prospects remain bright, but we must do better at reaching prospective members and introducing them to everything that the JEC community has to offer.

We have been working with Footman James to improve what we can offer to members and potential members, and I’m pleased to announce that the details of some major improvements will be unveiled very soon, most notably involving cover for newer cars at highly-competitive prices for club members.

JEC was one of the first clubs of its kind to have a website, and we must continue to embrace technology as it develops and changes, considering everything from social media to PPC advertising. I know that not all of our members are into this approach, but we believe that the new generation of Jaguar owners will do most of their searching for cars, clubs, insurance etc. online, so we must be there to meet them. That’s why we revamped our online shop, expanded our online ad section (which now boasts over 500 ads), and reintroduced the digital version of our magazine, an option that has since proved very popular, particularly abroad.

The internet does have its negatives, of course. It’s so much easier than ever before to start a new club or forum, and this fragments the Jaguar customer base, making it harder for us to attract new members. We believe, though, that our quality will always manage to stand out and set us apart.

These 30 years have been both enjoyable and busy, and we’re absolutely ready to attack the next 30! Our community may well be very different by then, but with our best efforts, and your support, I know that we can continue to protect and further the interests of Jaguar owners across the globe, and enhance the joy of associating with the best marque in the world.

Join today and become a part of our history!

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