The Formative Years


This article by Bill Stewart appeared in the December 1980 issue of the Ontario Jaguar


Some time ago, when I was a new member, my interest was arroused in the past endevours of the O.J.O.A. I approached the then President – Mr. Doug Cramb with an idea about the club’s history. Doug agreed that this would be beneficial to both the club and its members. He then, convinced past President, (also one of the club’s founding members) Mr. Bill Stewart to take on this great task of recording from different sources the club’s history.
At long last, Mr. Stewart has given the first installment to this history, in the form of a forward. This details the groundwork to the conception of our present club – ONTARIO JAGUAR OWNERS’ ASSOCIATION. -Editor. (Ron McLean)

Soon after the ending of the Last War there was considerable immigration from Europe to North America, and it was natural that many of the newcomers would find new homes in Canada. It was to be expected that since many of these people were used to the European style of car that they would choose a motor vehicle with which they had some familiarity and knowledge. The motor vehicle manufactured in Canada and also in the United States immediately after the war was similar in most respects except for minor changes to the cars that were in production up until the year 1942. This had some advantages, since the end of a model run, may often be quite a good car.
The European motor vehicle manufacturers were keen for business, the North American markets were hungry for cars and many people found that the new imports were pleasantly different, and offered a startling new appearance and a new driving experience behind the wheel. A multitude of little motor car dealerships sprang up, many of them in local service stations where a single Austin Devon or Jowitt Javelin would be displayed, and quickly sold.
After a short period of time some larger dealerships came into being and one of these was James L. Cooke Motors Limited, located on Bloor Street West at South King sway. One would not consider this a large dealership today and indeed on viewing the building now used as an office, it is difficult to think that an active automobile agency was located there. But, they were busy in those days and they carried an impressive array of motor cars; Jaguar, Wolesley, Riley, Bentley, Morris Oxford, Morris Minor and always a pristine MG in dark green or red, and with wire wheels. These automobiles were so different and so appealing in style from the native American and Canadian products that a following of enthusiasts was created in a very short time. It was only logical that these enthusiastic people would gather together to drive their cars, and to talk about them , and to compare notes and experiences, and so the ground was fertile for the founding of Motor Car Clubs.
Jaguar motor cars started to appear in small numbers about the year 1949-50. They were never numerous, but they were so rakish and had so much eye appeal that they were always easy to see and admire. The first cars that I remember were the Mark V Sedans, usually in a light green colour and also the drophead four passenger sedan , in the writers’ opinion, one of the prettiest cars of all times. These cars were good performers too and I remember going to watch an automobile race on the dirt track at the Exhibition Stadium in which a Mark V Sedan was driven with great skill and success around that short dusty circuit. The XK 120’s started to appear and they became instant favourites because of their performance and their style. I recall that one of the well known American automobile writers, after he had lowered the windshield and driven at one hundred and twenty- two miles per hour, remarked “It’s a hell of a car and a hell of a bargain”. It must be remembered that in those days, late forties and early fifties, no American car purchased off the floor would reach one hundred miles per hour.
The first Motor Car Club that came to my attention was the British Empire Motor Club which apparently had actually started in the thirties. I was told that in those days it was a motorcycle club that had gradually embraced four wheeled vehicles and especially so when motor cars with a sporting character started to appear after the war. An off-shoot from this club was the Sports Car Club which came into being, very largely composed of B.E.M.C. members who preferred motor cars to motorcycles. Indeed the first president of this club was Mr. Bert Punshon who was number one on the membership list. I wish to point out that this is the same gentleman who has been a judge at some of our recent Jaguar Concours d’elegance. The Sports Car Club produced some very dedicated men who did much for racing, rallying and the sport in general. One of their early presidents was Douglas G. Cramb who needs no introduction to you, who was followed by John Reid, also a Jaguar Judge, Ross Patterson (Mark VII), Jim Gunn, George Grant, Peqgy McFarlane, Ron Webster, Bob Evis, Peter Lighthall, Laurence Bateman ( Mark V and XK 140 ) and many others whose contribution was also noteworthy. They had a full program of events. Racing was very popular and easily accommodated at the numerous wartime airports. I do not remember seeing any cars being trailered to the races. Sports cars were driven to the races usually in company with club members’ cars who were going to help run the race. The only spectators in those days were the club members and their families. I have happy memories of pleasant sunny days at Edenvale where the MG’s and Healeys and Jags and a few others gathered for sport and camaradarie in that peaceful country setting.
It was in 1956 I believe that the new generation of Jaguar cars appeared. This was the start of the 2.4 litre series and I recall that the firm with which I am associated took delivery of a gray 2.4 sedan at 35 Bold Street in Manchester. This was a sedan with a sporting look and was a centre of attraction wherever it went. After a European tour it arrived in Canada and I took it to Harewood acres. By this time Edenvale had been abandoned, I believe the pavement had disintegrated and Harewood acres near Jarvis, became the centre of sports car racing for the Toronto region. It also had the advantage that it was close to New York State and al though American entrants and spectators had always been present at Edenvale, now they came in larger numbers because of proximity. I well remember an American entrant whose sponsor was little known in those days “McDonalds 15 cent hamburgers” was painted on each side of the car. Also from USA were some glamorous cars, a “C” type Jaguar and a “D” type and an Aston Martin. It was always a great event to stock up the car with every good thing we could think of and set out early Saturday AM. bound for the races. The only people who seemed to attend in those days were the enthusiasts, a friendly, jovial group of people of all ages brought together by the sports car.
I have already noted that Douglas Cramb owned a Mark V as did Laurence Batemen. At this time the One Make Clubs started to appear on the scene with numbers largely drawn from the larger older clubs, ie; The MG Car Club, the Austin Healey Club, the Triumph Club and others. It was also about this time that Peter Draycott acquired a 2.4 litre, soon to be followed by John McNamara with the new 3.4 litre sedan, which was a powerhouse at that time as well as later.
So it came about that Jaguars were not only owned by the two seater prople but also by those with families who bought the sedans. Jaguars were becoming more numerous, their sales being fueled by an amazing series of racing victories both in America and Europe. The stage was being prepared for a new Motor Car Club, the Ontario Jaguar Owners’ Association.