Published in the January 2020 issue of the Kerby News
A Carmen Red Jaguar By Tim Johnston
On a country drive a couple of years ago, I happened along the streets of Blackie, Alberta, searching for photographic opportunities. Glancing down an alley, I spotted the tail end of a Carmen red Jaguar XK-E, a British sports car manufactured from 1961 to 1975. In my view, it’s the most beautiful automobile ever made. Finding such an exotic set of wheels in this little village caused me to cruise down the alley toward the bright red beauty.
A woman mowing grass near the Jaguar asked if she could help me. Explaining my infatuation with Jaguars of this marque, she wondered if I would like to be introduced to some more of them. I was dumbstruck by her question. More XK-E’s? Here in Blackie?
Yes, indeed. My new acquaintance walked me through the back door of what was once Blackie’s John Deere dealership. There before me, instead of tractors and implements were examples of exotic automobile marques including Jaguar, Porsche, Ferrari, Jensen and Lamborghini. There was even a 1939 BMW sedan. “And this is Martyn Izod,” said my kindly guide as she introduced me to the owner and main spring of the Mulsanne Motorcar Company.
An experience such as this needs time to digest. After a brief look around and a chat with Martyn, I left his little shop of wonders and carried on with my search for pictures. But I knew I would return to the shop one day for a more thorough look at the wonderful automotive treasures it would contain. And so, late this October, I re-visited the world headquarters of the Mulsanne Motorcar Company to spend a few hours with Martyn, his staff of four and whatever exquisite automobiles were undergoing restoration.
Entering the building, I met Martyn in what he describes as his man-cave, a room that contains comfortable sofas, a complete sound recording system, several guitars, a drum set, posters and mementos, and a very large Ducati motorcycle. The musical apparatus and the Ducati are not for show. Martyn is an accomplished musician and a veteran motorcyclist. We spent an hour discussing all things Mulsanne Motorcar and I learned something of the history of this British-born auto restorer.
Martyn told me that his interest in cars began at a young age and that he often helped his father work on the family automobile of the day. “My Dad had a pair of pliers, a flat-blade screw driver, a flashlight and a hammer,” he said. “As I recall, the hammer got used disproportionately more than the other tools.” Martyn’s career in England was in property development. He often travelled to Calgary for skiing vacations in Banff and found himself more and more attracted to Canada. Eventually he decided that Calgary would be a good place to begin a new life with new priorities.
In 1989, Martyn immigrated to Canada and opened two automobile concierge service locations in downtown Calgary office buildings. With a deepening interest in restoring classic automobiles, Martyn eventually left the daily operations of the service locations to staff, rented a commercial bay and began restoring a 1964 Jaguar Mk II sedan for one of his concierge customers. “That project took nearly a year to complete but it was a turning point in my life,” Martyn said. “Toward the end, though, I was worrying about what to do next. Then one happy day, I received three phone calls commissioning restorations on two more Jaguars and a Porsche 356.”
With the restoration business growing, Martyn moved first to an acreage south of Calgary and later to the present location in Blackie. As well as restorations, he offered procurement services to customers to locate, purchase and deliver specifically requested vehicles. One such request began his involvement restoring Model A Fords. His shop has done frame-up restorations on nearly 20 of these. “The Model A’s have helped keep us busy and we are rebuilding the engine of one right now,” Martyn told me. “But really, the rescue and restoration of classic Jaguar XK-Es is what we are known for internationally.”
I then began a walk through the building stopping first in the engine shop. Here on stands and worktables were engines from Jaguars and Lamborghinis and the one belonging to the Model A Ford. Shims in the valve train of a six-cylinder in-line Jaguar engine were being installed by a master mechanic. Next door, I found several cars parked on overhead racks awaiting parts while others, including a gorgeous white XK-E convertible, were undergoing reassembly or having custom parts installed. The owner of the Jaguar had previously had extra-wide wire rims and tires put on his car and was now having a power steering unit installed to help manage the additional resistance of the new treads. Just beyond the Jaguar, a Spider 550 kit car with a custom-built Volkswagen engine was being assembled for its owner. The old BMW 326 sedan was still here, parked alongside Martyn’s own Jensen Interceptor sports car. The BMW’s visit to Mulsanne Motorcar has been rather prolonged because its owner insists on using only original parts in the restoration and these are exceptionally difficult to source. As if to emphasize that this is a Jaguar-dominated shop, however, another XK-E, this one a fiery red convertible, was parked on a low lift awaiting its new owner.
A set of sliding doors opened into the body shop. There was another Jensen here, this one a rare FF1 four-wheel-drive example, having its old paint stripped. Up on a rack sat a 1972 Mercedes Benz 280 SEL sedan undergoing a full restoration. The owner was having the rebuild completed to honour the memory of his father, the car’s original owner. In the centre of the shop sat a highly customized Alfa Romeo GTV, its one-off body created through the artistry of body man Paddy Kilmartin. By using an English Wheel, a tool for shaping and sculpting pieces of sheet metal, Paddy created mirror-image wheel bulges for both sides of the car and had blended them perfectly to the main body. In the engine bay sat the car’s highly tuned four-cylinder power plant that produces over 290 horsepower.
Outside, I came across body shells of two automobiles swathed in tarpaulins and sitting on wheeled dollies. The first was another Alfa GTV that will be rebuilt as a street and track car for the owner of the Alfa inside. The second was a very early Jaguar XK-E convertible that had arrived at the Blackie shop as a collection of boxes, bits and pieces, and body parts that its previous owner had given up on. When restored, the value of this car will be well over $350,000 U.S. And, at the back of the yard, another fairly rare vehicle, a fully operational 1947 Fordson 9N farm tractor, still earning its keep as the company tug.
Back in the shop to say goodbye, Martyn handed me a copy of a Jaguar enthusiast’s magazine featuring one of his XK-E restorations on the cover. The car’s owner, a Swede, had learned about Martyn’s shop through Jaguar inter-club contacts and had commissioned him to find and restore an XK-E. Martyn found a car in Detroit, Michigan, brought it to Blackie for a complete rebuild and then shipped it to his Swedish customer in a container.
I can imagine that owner’s excitement, waiting for the container to be opened to reveal the beautiful automobile inside. Standing outside the Mulsanne Motorcar Company one recent October morning, I felt some of that same anticipation. And, for a life-long sports car fan, what I found inside made me glad that I had cruised up that rural alleyway some years ago and asked about a Carmen red Jaguar XK-E.
Mulsanne Motorcar Cut Lines (not in order)
3168 Top end of a Jaguar XK-E twin cam six-cylinder engine 3175 Nearly completed Ford Model A engine, circa 1923 3180 Remanufactured XK-E differential, inboard brakes, suspension arms and axles 3184 Unmistakably, an XK-E 3185 XK-E twin-cam engine bottom end and chassis detail 3191 Power steering being installed in the white XK-E 3204 XK-E bonnet (hood), Spider 550 and, on the rack, BMW 326 sedan 3213 Paddy Kilmartin inspects the hood unit of the next XK-E restoration 3217 The potent engine of the Alfa Romeo GTV 3222 Triumph TR-6 in for new paint and overhaul 3230 Paddy shows his son Duneogh a detail of the Alfa restoration 3239 Upcoming restorations stored outside: Alfa Romeo GTV and early model Jaguar XK-E with Blackie’s signature grain bins in the background 3243 Mulsanne Motorcar Company, named after the famous Mulsanne Straight at France’s Le Mans racetrack, located on Stuart Street in Blackie, Alberta 3254 Martyn Izod with the shop’s Fordson tractor 3292 XK-E on lift for front suspension work 3297 Martyn adjusts carburetors on an XK-E 3299 Chris Dortnall adjusts the brake fluid reservoir 3302 This XK-E, just back from having a new convertible top installed, awaits interior completion 3306 How an XK-E “tips its hat” 3307 Martyn with Lucy the shop dog, Jaguars, a Porsche, a BMW and a Ferrari 3311 The top of a Jaguar transmission casing comes off 3314 Paddy Kilmartin and Roland Hancock take the wraps off the next XK-E project 3319 Dusty with primer sanding today, on the road this summer 3322 Paddy’s hands: the best sensors to determine absolute smoothness 3325 The exotics wrapped up at the end of the shop day