Ranger Smith Big Cat Rescue and Thanksgiving
Once upon a time I was "the artist formerly known as RangerSmith" on Oppo/Jalopnik and several vehicle specific forums. I spent years lurking, commenting on other posts. My Mazda RX-2 was stolen. In 2015, I sold my yet-to-be-run-over-by-a-train, Ranger Level II in my thumbnail. Around that same time, I promised my now wife, that I wouldn't acquire any serious projects until summer 2021, due to both of us changing career paths and pursuing more schooling. I spent maybe an hour a week browsing craigslist ads, just to kind of feel out prices for different cars in different areas.
Fast forward to July 9th 2020. Covid is in full swing. We own a house outside of town with tons of parking, an attached garage and an additional small shop. My wife's grandfather has been pressuring me to take out his Chevy Wagon that he bought a few years back.
My wife and I roll the windows down and decide to head out for a socially distanced, child free, fancy dinner before hitting a brewery near our house. Throughout the evening people are honking, waving, screaming that they love the Chevy. All pretty normal stuff for driving old cars with lots of chrome. At some point my wife admits, "this is REALLY fun," and that she's " never driven or ridden in any old cars before." Even though I feel like a bit of a failure over the previous statement; the entire time, I'm getting a thrill out of her discovering that vehicles can be beautiful.
Summer blows by and late September comes around and I find this 1971 Jaguar XJ6 on Missoula, Montana Craigslist. Witness greatness and a truly rare sight, XJ parked next to another XJ!
It's apparently almost completely rust free, minus an inline 6 and transmission. But has all the chrome, less than 6 hours away, and somehow only $750. I mention something about it at the dinner table. While my spouse reads the article and scans the dozen or so pictures in the ad: I'm pretty sure I've forgotten how to breathe. Although interested and now done with her graduate degree, she reminds me that I don't finish my program until next summer. I shrug my shoulders and go to bed, dreaming little Jaguar dreams.
Over the next several days my wife starts feeling terrible, developing a fever and flu like symptoms, yet testing negative for the 'Rona. After a couple ups and downs, she starts slipping into some territory that I'm not comfortable with. I call the doctor again, and he says I should just take her to the E.R. Thanks dude. But modern medicine really is amazing and doctors determined that coming in, when we did, saved her life. She was becoming septic from an internal infection. Several hours later, she's getting round after round of Torodal and antibiotics. We're laughing about things and casually watching the Seahawks and the Patriots. She looks over at me through the drugs, and says, "You need to call about that Jaguar tomorrow." Trying not to get too excited, I quickly find that the ad is STILL up after about a week and a half! The next day I've got a list of questions to ask the seller. Preparing to hear the worst, "that someone else is coming to look at it," I dial the seller.
I find out that while he's had a number of calls about it, mine was the most serious that he's had. And that for full price, I can come get it on Saturday! I borrow a trailer, pick up a buddy and some snacks, and head for Montana.
Make it through the mountains with just a little bit of rain, and we arrive in Ronan, Montana. The XJ6 is as advertised. Clean MT title, straight and solid! And it was so complete! Everything except for one little Jaguar badge appeared to be there. But with trunk full of parts I couldn't really get much of a look from inside at the little bit of rust in the pan. Underneath it didn't appear bad at all. Push it onto the trailer, we spend some time with the older gentleman as he tells us what history he knows about the car. It used to be silver. He bought it in Sacramento while he was an airplane salesman, from a guy that had sanded much of the car in preparation of paint. The car sat until he moved to Montana. At some point he sold the engine and transmission because he was planning a Ford 302 swap. It then collected dust in his shop across the street from his house, before rolling it across the street to his shop/house combo where it sat inside until the day he posted the ad. He did have some other interesting(VERY OPPO) vehicles that looked well maintained and restored. I thanked the old man for telling us stories about his life, and made sure he knew how grateful I was for him having kept this car so complete for all of these years! He replied, "I've had a great run, but I'm getting older, and really started to notice myself losing some mobility. With this car, I just ran out of time."
Going forward I will have to go through the obvious things like brakes, fuel system, bushings etc. I think while the engine bay sits empty I might as well tidy things up and paint the car as well. Might go like an Aston Martin silver/ champagne again. The interior needs some help. All the wood needs to be refinished. Front seats are torn along the seams and might be able to be saved. The back seat will need to be redone. Driver side fuel tank looks like it might be okay. Passenger looks like it has some internal rust. Realistically, since I don't have a powertrain, I'll probably end up with a SBC 350 just to keep things simple and costs down. Even though someday I'd really like a LS3 and more than 4 gears.
Please excuse my very messy shop.
What's underneath the spare tire? Found my missing badge!
The following morning, I get a text from the seller, "What a difference a day makes...Glad you picked the Jag up yesterday! First snow a few weeks before our normal...Polite little storm here, but not so nice atop Lookout Pass...So it looks like you have a good car and good Karma! Cheers -R."
I know as we get closer to Thanksgiving, we try and remember our blessings. This year has been a little crazier than most for many of us and it doesn't seem to be slowing down just yet. I know I've spent my 20s scratching and clawing, trying to start a family and get established. I've been busy! But retrospectively, I've been wondering if I have missed things by being too eager to meet whatever my next goal is. Did I call my grandma enough? Either of my grandmothers? Did I really drive that RX-2 hard enough?
But the last couple of weeks I've really started to think about slowing things down and trying to be more appreciative, IN THE MOMENT. My kids are happy and healthy. My wife is healing and she thinks the Jaguar is pretty! We have jobs. I'm only 31. I have the rest of my life to be a better me. I have time to fix the Jaguar so that my kids can drive it. It's a weird range of emotions. I've been humbled this year. It took me meeting a stranger in Montana to buy a car to realize how truly fortunate I am. I really appreciate you all and the community you created over the years, so that I could freeload and read something other than bad news on the internet. I'm amazed and really excited that Oppo 2.0 has sprung up and spread so organically. Giving me a second chance to participate. Apologize for the various potato pictures and how long winded this got. RangerSmith is now a Jag Dad!
Chariotoflove last edited by
Love this story. Your wife sounds so cool. Thank God she came through okay and is well. We all look forward to hearing about that Jag and it’s new life!
Exage03040 last edited by Exage03040
Apologize for the various potato pictures and how long winded this got. RangerSmith is now a Jag Dad!
No, don't apologize this was excellent Oppo and look forward to seeing the progress. Congratulations on the Jaaaaaag and wish your wife a speedy recovery!
CB last edited by
@rangersmith great story and glad your wife is on the mend. How much mileage on the body? Any other tricky rust spots?
And might as well stay with an in-line six and do a 2JZ swap.
@cb Couple of small dings that need to be smoothed. But nearly zero rust anywhere. Passenger floorboard has some, but it's saveable. 86,754 miles according to the odometer and previous owner. I've never seen a Series I with this little rust.
SilentbutnotreallyDeadly last edited by
That's in really decent shape all things considered. It's a a great story, well told. Long may the telling continue...
If it were me, here in Oz, then I'd be looking at a inline turbo six from a Ford Falcon XR6 with the six speed behind it.
@silentbutnotreallydeadly I've heard that its becoming a more popular engine here too! I think the manual swap could be done, I think Europe had a manual option? But the dang foot well is so skinny(due to the massive transmission tunnel) that it'd be a bit of a trick. But you're in the land of all the big power rotaries! Im jealous
@chariotoflove Absolutely! And yes she is awesome. She keeps me sane. Thank you.
davesaddiction last edited by
@rangersmith So glad she’s okay!
Wife on board with one’s car hobby is HUGE.
Vondon302 last edited by
@rangersmith This is good Oppo 2.0.
Love the Jag and your wife is the best, hope she's well.
Taylor Martin last edited by
What a beautiful car you snagged, I'm looking forward to reading all about it's progress and restoration. But much more importantly, I'll be keeping your wife and you in mind, though I'm glad she's alright. Happy travels pal!
jminer last edited by
@rangersmith This is awesome - thanks for sharing!
Shop-Teacher last edited by
@rangersmith cool purchase! I'm glad your wife is OK. We nearly lost my father in law to a septic infection a couple years ago. It's some nasty stuff!
davesaddiction last edited by
@rangersmith Moved to Best of OPPO.