One day in August 1968, Paul Tatarian completely surprised his family by driving home in a brand new 1968 British racing green Jaguar XK-E. Over 51 years later, that same car won the Mayor’s Award in the 2020 San Juan Capistrano car show.
Paul was a car enthusiast, living in the small town of Dinuba, CA (34 miles from Fresno). A car-guy, so much so, he built a 1934 BMW ground-up in his garage, having started with just the body shell. In the 60’s, there’s wasn’t much to do in the Central Valley besides cars and football.
Paul secretly placed an order for a new 1967 silver E-type with Fresno’s Jaguar dealer, Rontell’s. Months passed. He impatiently waited. Apparently, a UK labor strike delayed shipment to the point Jaguar quit making the ’67 E-Type and switched to the substantially changed ‘68s. The dealership eventually called Paul with an option: “There’s a ’68 British racing green E-Type, with A/C, now on the ship to the US. Do you want it?” Paul agreed. When the car finally arrived, he needed a ride to the dealership, so confided in younger son Brian. That afternoon, when Paul and Brian drove this brand-new dark shiny Jaguar into the family driveway, it was nothing short of awe and magical delight. It was as if The Starship Enterprise had just landed in the front yard. Remember, this was a little town, now with a total Jaguar population of one. His sons, Bruce and Brian never dreamed their dad would make such a bold move. If anything, perhaps a “Vette”? But ever since pictures of the first E-Types hit the car mags in the early ‘60s, Paul’s dream-car pecking order forever changed.
Having great respect for all things mechanical, Paul strictly enforced the manufacturer’s break-in rules: Do not exceed 2,500 rpm for first 1,000 miles, and do not exceed 3,000 rpm for next 1,000 miles. Are you kidding me?! You have no idea how difficult it was in 1968 (particularly for his boys) to be sitting on a beast, and forced to trot at idle.
E-Types in the day overheated as a matter of course. Just imagine driving them through California’s Central Valley during summer months. The (expensive) A/C option worked great . . . in the winter . . . when not needed. But it was entirely useless in the summer, as would cause the engine to overheat. Coventry engineers probably didn’t have Fresno in mind during their cooling system design meetings.
The Jag was Paul’s commuter vehicle for a year, before retiring as a result of health issues. He was able to still enjoy the car over the next two years, driving with his wife Eleanor to visit friends and relatives in the Valley, until passing away in 1971. It was an absolute blessing that he, somewhat out-of-character, stretched to purchase and enjoy his #1 dream machine when he did.
It was then, in 1971, that Paul’s oldest son Bruce became the car’s steward. Picture a 22-year old college kid, with zero net-worth, driving this beautiful XK-E. Surreal. But Dad’s example of respect and care for cars was not lost on either of his two sons. Bruce kept the car clean, covered, regularly serviced, changed oil every 3,000 miles, and kept the wire wheels balanced and spokes tuned.
In 1972, Bruce and his new bride Katherine, drove the Jag to San Francisco for their honeymoon; somehow managing to navigate the steep hills without rolling backwards into the bay. They then drove south along Highway 1, a road specifically built for Jaguar. The newlyweds stopped along the way at an antique shop in Monterey and purchased their very first dining room table (which they still have), remarkably collapsing it to just fit inside the Jag for the remainder of the trip. They established the Jag’s first Southern California home in Long Beach. When each of their daughters, Meghan and Brianne, were born, their very first rides home from the hospital were in the Jag, a fact they wear with pride to this day.
In the early ‘80s, Uncle Brian had it repainted, which is still holding up fairly well.
By 2016, the Jag had been idle for 3 years and needed to get back into shape. Brian searched online and found this place in Oceanside, CA, called Classic Showcase. Bruce met with the owner, Tom Krefetz, and mapped out a restoration plan. Six months later, Tom and his team had done a marvelous job bringing it back to life. The 5th Tatarian family member is now a “reliable driver” and looks great. Enough for San Juan’s mayor, Troy Bourne, to officially recognize the restoration of the both the car and family history.
So, this Jaguar, because it was Grandpa’s car and now carries priceless memories throughout three generations, is truly a cherished member of the Tatarian family.
- Bruce & Brian Tatarian (25-Feb-2020)