It was with a somewhat heavy heart that I watched our 1995 Jaguar XJ Sport, bought for the measly sum of £500, weave its way out of our car park.
After all, in my relatively short time with the Jaguar, it felt like it had achieved quite a lot. It had survived its initial 200-mile motorway jaunt with no preparation at all, proving itself to be both comfortable and good to drive.
With minimal work it then hit a top speed of 141mph at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, as well as completing a total of 34.8 arduous miles undergoing high-speed testing, doughnuts, burnouts, heavy braking and fast cornering.
It even survived having its transmission dropped from neutral in to drive at 5000rpm, in order to see if that'd garner us any additional top-end speed. Warning lights predictably followed, and the transmission politely declined to fully engage any gears, but a brief cool-down period saw a full and comprehensive selection of ratios quickly re-established.
Even after all of that, the XJ continued to soldier on and provided daily transport for myself and other Autocar staff. Nothing fell off it (well, nothing that couldn't be pushed back on), no odd traits developed and no breakdowns ensued.
Everyone who drove it came back describing it with adjectives such as 'excellent', 'amazing', 'superb' and 'brilliant', and several repeatedly jumped at the chance to prowl through Teddington's high streets in it – even if it was just to the shops and back. It even got a few admiring glances from passers-by.
Moreover, it transpired to be an immensely gratifying car to own and use. That's what I find most appealing about cars like these, the sheer satisfaction that comes from knowing that what you are driving cost so little, yet is capable of so much.
It's always a refreshing experience simply to not have to worry about a car as well. Parking by touch? Sure thing. Leaving it in a grey, desolate train station car park? No bother. Just driven over your own crankshaft? Well, it only cost £500.
Admittedly, the Jaguar may have proven difficult to get through another MOT. But even if it did fail, it would have still been depreciation-free and enjoyable motoring for the duration that it lasted – and you'd still have netted about £250 for it in scrap metal value alone, if so inclined.
Despite feeling that I should keep the XJ in order to do it proper justice, and numerous similar requests from readers suggesting we do similar, time and space were at a premium. Alas, as a result, the Jaguar had to go.
There was no way I was going to scrap such a perfectly serviceable car, and my initial inclination was to turn to eBay. We'd had several emails from people who were interested in it however, having seen it featured, but one in particular caught my eye.
John Kirk, who'd seen the car in the magazine, was planning to take part in a charity rally in order to raise money for the Round Table Children's Wish appeal, which provides holidays or last wishes for terminally ill children.
Along with several other teams, he would be departing from Europe – with his co-driver Stephen Hill – in an effort to reach the fabled Nürburgring circuit, complete a lap or two and then head home. He was, unfortunately, missing a rather important piece of the puzzle: a £500 car.