Name Chris Terrill
Occupation Anthropologist, adventurer, film-maker
Lives London and Sussex
First classics ‘Frogeye’ Sprite, Triumph GT6 Mark1
Dream classic Jaguar XK120/150
Best drive London to the Scottish Highlands
FROM KERBSIDE TO PRIZE WINNER
Over the years, my cars have spent a lot of time in the garage because, as an anthropologist, adventurer and film-maker, I am frequently called away on open-ended assignments.
I am fascinated by people who live in hostile environments, and my method is to immerse myself as deeply as possible into such communities. To secure the trust of the Royal Marines before going to war with them, I went through their full training for 32 weeks to win my own green beret – probably my proudest possession.
I say ‘probably’ because I have another treasured item that runs mycommando headgear very close and is, by coincidence, also green – my 1957 Jensen 541 Deluxe. ‘Jenny’ unexpectedly came into my life 30 years ago, and it proved to be love at first sight.
It was August 1986, and I was walking through London’s Covent Garden. It was swelteringly hot and I remember trying to negotiate my way through the crowds – at one point, even stepping over the prone bodies of sunbathers in their underwear! Suddenly, I spotted a form so alluring and bewitching that I could not help but stare.
In front of the Royal Opera House was a classic car with the most beautiful, flowing outline, but I had no idea what it was. I owned a Triumph GT6 at the time and this vision before me was not too dissimilar, though much bigger and altogether more epic and heroic.
On closer inspection, I discovered that it was a Jensen. Her paintwork was faded and cracked and the wire wheels in need of re-chroming but nothing could distract from her sleek form. I scribbled a note and stuck it under a windscreen wiper: ‘Dear Owner.
If you ever want to sell, contact me on number below.’ I walked away and, looking back, assumed that would be the last I saw of it.
The call came that very evening. It was a distressed Frenchman who explained in broken English that he had bought the Jensen on a whim but was unable to get an export order to take her back to France. “I ’ave to return to Paris tomorrow,” he said. “I must sell ’er vite!”
I could ill afford it but I paid the Frenchman what the car had cost him only days earlier – £800. I sold the Triumph and diverted all available funds towards the Jensen, which needed a lot of work mechanically, to the body and to the interior. For 10 years I drove ‘Jenny’ as my everyday vehicle, always delighting in the attention she attracted from across the social and cultural spectrum. I was once flagged down by a police car on The Mall and, thinking I must have infringed a traffic law, wound down the window to speak to two stern-looking officers: “Excuse me, sir.
Can you settle a bet? Is this an Aston Martin or a Jaguar?”
Another time I returned to the car, parked in the West End, to find some curious-looking women draped over the car. In a deep, baritone voice, one asked whether ‘she’ could have a photograph taken in the driver’s seat in memory of the occasion – Gay Pride!
Jenny, now semi-retired, lives with me and my wife in Sussex and, whenever I return from my adventures, the first thing I do is take her for a spin. My professional life is full of unpredictability but Jenny always starts first time and rarely needs attention. The straight-six is satisfyingly throaty, too, until I engage overdrive, at which point she modulates her voice into a deep purr.
I have never exhibited her in 30 years, but recently took her to the Vintage Classic Car Boot Sale. To my astonishment and proud delight, good old Jenny won Best in Show!
Jensen became the centre of attention in London’s West End during Gay Pride. Right: Terrill relishes long drives when he’s home.
…as did the British Racing Green paint
Winning C&SC award at recent Boot Sale
Terrill on assignment with British forces
“Austin straight-six needed a lot of work…
“What have we ’ere, then? Jaguar? Aston?”