it’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses
Not only do I like the movie, I also like Ray Charles, and this song, and the street dancers.
Please listen and dance responsibly.
The Men in Black? I’ve seen Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith do it better.
if you hit Route 66 in Chicago
eventually you’ll end up here
Some say a good road trip is a great way to spend your vacation, or a great way to spend any time you have with your girl, or any time you don’t have to do something else for that matter.
My very first long-distance road trip was from my place in the North of England to a little villa on a vineyard in Tuscany. At it’s very best that’s 24 solid hours driving, assuming no delays, and that you don’t go out of your way sightseeing and driving mountain roads just for the sake of it. All told it’s a drive of around 1,350 miles, each way. Perhaps I was being optimistic to think my Triumph TR6 would make it there and back without breaking down, at least once. (I was younger and better-looking then.)
In my opinion, there are seven essentials for a successful road trip:
- A cool car.
- Enough money.
- The right girl.
- A great driving road.
- Good weather.
- A relaxed attitude to deadlines and commitments.
- Time. Lots and lots of time.
Not necessarily in order of importance ~ however, if you don’t have all seven then your road trip adventure isn’t going to be all you hoped it would be.
If you are using your own car, then you also need to take along a decent tool kit, some spares, and the knowledge to use both.
It is vitally important that the girl riding shotgun is someone who you really like hanging out with, because you are going to be spending a lot of time cooped-up together. That has been my mistake on more than one occasion, because taking a long road trip with the wrong girl can give new meaning to the concept that there are sixty minutes in every hour, and twenty-four hours in every day.
(It helps if she knows how to take a great picture.)
There are three kinds of road trip;
- Where the destination is important. Usually the time is also important. You have to be in say; Tuscany by Tuesday…
- Where you have organised everything in advance, including booking your overnight accommodations.
- Where the destination is immaterial and time is of no pressing importance. Except perhaps, you have to go back to work in a couple of weeks or so.
Guess which type of road trip is the best? But then, you do what you want as long as you stay cool and relaxed.
As an example of organising everything in advance was a road trip I took down the Loire Valley. Because I wanted to stay in a different château each night, this all had to be booked and paid for before I set off. (If the girl riding shotgun is the least bit ‘precious’ don’t make her pack all her luggage in the back of a tiny 7 ~ or she will sulk.)
For my next road trip I want to follow as much as I can of the old Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, ending with dinner at The Lobster. Say 2,200 miles. For something shorter there’s the PCH which runs from Orange County in Southern California to Mendocino County in the North. About 600 miles. What the hell, I have the time and money to do both, preferably in a muscle car.
pictures by jack collier
and the girl riding shotgun
When it was introduced in 1968 the Jaguar XJ6 was probably the finest car a gentleman with taste and refinement could buy. Outstandingly beautiful, quiet, comfortable, fast ~ fitted with the glorious, iconic, versatile, powerful, dohc straight six 4.2 litre, (258 cu in), XK engine the big Jaguar saloon could top 120 mph, (which was very quick in 1968), and made the classic Jaguar E-Type look jaded in comparison.
Jaguar and Rolls Royce for sale in Palm Springs
The Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, (seen in a dull colour in the background here), was not even in the same league as the Jaguar, being slower, heavier, and with handling like a barge in comparison. The Rolls-Royce was also almost three times the price of the XJ6.
From its launch this was a car for crossing continents in comfort. When the Daimler Double Six came along, Jaguar had produced the most elegant car in the world.
The big downside for Jaguar was that the XJ saloon was just too good. In one form or another the XJ remained in production from 1968 to 1992, after which it was replaced by other Jaguar saloons which were, more or less, the same as the 1968 XJ. All in all, Jaguar made versions of this great car from 1968 until 2009, (in a bewildering number of variants), until it was finally replaced by the Eurobox that is the current XJ, (known by Jaguar as the X351).
Along the way the big Jag came in short and long wheelbase, two and four door, Jaguar and Daimler versions with straight six, V12, V6, and V8 engines of various ilks.
Probably the most desirable of all these magnificent cars is the Daimler Double Six Coupe, of which only 407 were made between 1975 1nd 1977. Fitted with the 5.3 litre, (323 cu in), V12 engine this gorgeous car could do almost 150 mph and sprint to 60 mph in about seven and a half seconds ~ and this in 1975. Even by today’s standards, this is a very fast car. (Daimler is the even more upmarket version of the luxury Jaguar brand.)
Daimler Double Six Coupe
How much should you pay for one of these cars? How much have you got? A friend of mine almost bought a beautiful example of a long wheelbase XK engined XJ6 in Palm Springs which had a sticker price of $9,500 ~ stupidly I talked her out of it, and I don’t think she’s yet forgiven me. If it comes to that, I haven’t yet forgiven me! Want one of these cars? Just you peruse the advertisements on the internet, and don’t even think about anything that needs a lot of work.
Long Wheelbase Jaguar XJ6
These cars are mechanically complex, (your local garage won’t have a clue), and some versions are very prone to rust. The luxury interior would cost you a fortune to restore, and in a Californian summer it will overheat. The V12 will really overheat. The answer is, buy the best you can afford because you will need a mortgage for any repairs or restoration work. Also, it’s a good idea if you know / can find someone who will spend a few hours a week fettling your XJ.
Unless you don’t have to worry about money, you can’t really afford to run a classic version of the XJ, not without scrimping on other things. The V12 will usually only give you somewhere between 5 and 15 mpg, (depending on how you drive and the size of your gallon of petrol / gasoline). The Jaguar independent rear suspension, with its inboard disk brakes, will have the average American mechanic in disbelief and needing therapy. And, even the XK engine, (introduced in 1949 remember), is complex and difficult to maintain and rebuild. (Trust me, I have rebuilt an XK, and I still have the grey hairs). But properly looked after, the big Jaguars / Daimlers are totally bombproof. (The XK engine was so strong it was even used in a tank.)
You know what? I am seriously thinking of driving from Chicago to Santa Monica this year, following the line of the old Route 66. A Jaguar XJ6 would be a great car for that road trip, a v12 coupe even more so. The big Daimler Double Six is Californian spiritual sex on wheels. The downside is the XJ didn’t come as a convertible. Perhaps a Jaguar XJS would be a better choice for my next road trip.
Piers are great, so very seaside, so very 1950’s, so very English Music Hall, there even are songs about piers…. Santa Monica Pier is fabulous.
Right at the western end of Interstate 10, Santa Monica Pier is easy to get to. Santa Monica pier is also the Western end of the old Route 66, and that’s got to be my next US Road Trip, all two and a half thousand miles of it from Santa Monica to Chicago, (or maybe the in the other direction).
When I got there, I had that feeling of déjà vu which so many place in the USA give me. Not surprising; Santa Monica Pier has featured in countless films and TV shows; from Elmer Gantry and The Opposite Of Sex, to the iconic TV show The Rockford Files. Film buffs can have a great day out there; take your reference book with you.
At the end of the pier, the ferris wheel is solar-powered; when does Santa Monica ever get cloudy days?
There is also a great restaurant at the south side of the landward end; Lunch at The Lobster is not so expensive, around $100 for the both of you; The Girl Riding Shotgun loved the mussels. The views from the pier are worth seeing.
Great day ~ next time out I think I’ll take my teddy bear along…
pictures copyright jack collier