Me and my 1959 Jaguar Mark 1
When ITV decided to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first episode of Inspector Morse with a new one off special, they knew they had to get the details of the show just right. In Shaun Evans, the producers of ‘Endeavour’ found the ideal actor to play Morse during his early days in the force. But of course, Endeavour Morse needed a Jaguar to drive around in!
The man they went to was Anthony Gilsenan from Ashington, the owner of a 1959 Mark 1 Jaguar. From the perspective of a purist, Anthony’s car isn’t entirely the genuine article – there’s a 3.8 litre Jaguar engine rather than the 2.4 litre original – but Anthony couldn’t care a jot. “The purists might complain but that wouldn’t bother me as it’s such an unusual, individual car,” said Anthony.
“It has black wire wheels, a 3.8 litre engine from another S-Type Jaguar and beautiful red leather interior. Previously, somebody had painted it red with a cheap gloss paint. The wood varnish was peeling off so over one Christmas I took all 27 wood panels off and re-varnished them, so the car is in really excellent condition now.”
As it transpired, the condition of the car was actually too good for the makers of the programme, which aired to good reviews on Boxing Day. Having taken it along all polished, the crew asked Anthony to use Mr Sheen to dull down its appearance. Anthony was then recruited as an ‘action car driver’ and was on call during seven days of filming in Oxford.
Anthony recalled: “I was lucky as I was asked to show the actors how to drive the car. Shaun drove the Jaguar beautifully, but Roger Allam (who played Detective Inspector Fred Thursday) had a habit of slamming the door shut. On one occasion he slammed the door and the window came down and due to the way they work there was no quick way of winding it up. I was told that the window had to be up, and that I had fifteen minutes to get the window trim off and sort the problem out! There were 37 people waiting on me to do it, so thankfully I was able to get it done!
"It was a fantastic experience – somewhat boring from time to time, but you meet some very nice people. It’s a very different world to what I’m used to but I’m pleased to have been a part of it. Now the Jaguar is sitting in the garage, waiting to hear if ITV are going to commission a new series.”
Anthony bought the car in 1995 to replace a Jaguar he had recently sold. He paid £5,000 for the 1959 Mark I from a garage in Chelsea who had described the car as excellent. “It wasn’t excellent,” remembers Anthony. “It was rather tatty but it had plenty of personality. The brakes were leaking, the bumper was loose, but I did a deal and bought it. I got it home, took the family out and headed down the road but we just about made it to the garage to find the brake fluid reservoir was empty – we were within a gnat’s whisker of not having any brakes!
“So the big restoration process started. I’ve done quite a lot of it myself, but I’ve needed a lot of help too as over the last 16 years we’ve done everything – the engine, the brakes, the wheels, the interior – most of the car has needed work in one way or another. I’ve spent a lot more money on the car - the cylinder head rebuild cost £2,900 alone. But it’s worth every penny.
“People say ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ but in truth modern cars are much better. These are rust traps, there is no power steering so it’s heavy to drive and parking is tricky. But the brakes are phenomenal and the Jaguar is quick – it cruises along very nicely at 70mph.
“I love the car. It makes everybody smile. It’s an iconic brand car and we have to take care of these cars until it is somebody else’s turn. But I’m going to hang on to it - you need things in life that make you smile.”