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The Jaguar XK120 takes on Slovenia & Italy

Last week, Julian Barratt and Pete Stant tackled a few stages of the famous Liege-Brescia-Liege Rally in the SNG Barratt XK120. This rally dates back to 1958 when it was originally undertaken by cars of less than 500cc and includes some epic passes through the Dolomite Mountains as well as some beautiful towns and cities en route. Julian and Pete dropped in to complete two of the 10 possible days – starting in Ljubljana and ending in the Italian city of Brescia.

Jaguar XK120

Day One – Preparation

For Julian and Pete, day one started the night before when they were presented with the route guide and maps for the following day (Sat Nav use is banned for competitors) and they spent an hour or so working out the route for the following day – the idea being that you follow a route set by the organisers and prove you took said route by submitting a photo of various checkpoints along the way. The weather forecast looked hot and the quilted jacket that Pete had packed looked somewhat surplus to requirements as we set off from the Slovenian capital on Tuesday morning…

Pete Stant, SNG Barratt's Head Technician, planning the route.

Day One – Driving

Julian and Pete left Ljubljana on Tuesday morning and, having followed the main roads out of the city, were soon heading up into the foothills of the Dolomites and, as would be a feature throughout this rally, into some spectacular scenery of sheer cliff faces, turquoise rivers and amazing driving roads.

Around lunchtime, they crossed over the border and into Italy where the temperatures were really starting to warm up and frequent stops for suncream, water and the occasional ice-cream were crucial – given that the XK120 has zero protection from the elements. Into the mid afternoon and they were heading up into the mountains proper and, while the clouds ahead looked ominous, surely the quilted jacket wouldn’t be required, especially with the Italian heatwave being all over the news in the UK…

It turned out that optimism was misplaced – and spectacularly so. As they entered the town of Arabba, which is a ski resort in the winter, we entered a storm the likes of which they had rarely seen with rain and then hail lashing the car and lightening literally striking the fields next to the road. They soldiered on as best they could into the conditions but, with the lightening edging closer and the pair both in just T-shirts, they eventually had to give up and abandoned the car by the side of the road and made a run for a nearby mountain hut in search of shelter and safety..

Some 30 minutes or so later and somewhat cold, the storm had abated enough for the guys to return to the XK120 and resume the journey. The storm had been so violent that the road to their hotel was littered with fallen trees and they were only able to finally reach their hotel that first evening after the fire brigade had cleared the route of some huge pieces of timber. Wet and cold, but exhilarated, they did their best to dry out some clothes and set about planning the route for Wednesday, which surely couldn’t be any more dramatic…

Julian and Pete escaping the rain!
Fallen tress blocking the XK120 from proceeding!
Even in the rain, touring Europe in the XK120 is beautiful!

Day Two – The Stelvio

The touring-tag-team woke on day two with their clothes still damp and the car even damper but excited as today was the day they were due to take on two of the most famous mountain roads in the world – The Stelvio and Gavia passes. So, with their route planned and under dry skies, they hit the road.

The start of the Stelvio pass was a good hour from the hotel, along fast roads through a valley with towering mountains to either side. As they left the main autostrada, however, there was a cooling of the breeze and the clouds again took on a darker shade. Having learned a lesson from the previous evening, they stopped a few miles before the base of the pass to don raincoats and an extra layer, with our fingers crossed that they wouldn’t be needed…

XK120 Touring the mountains.

Their finger crossing, however, was in vain and the intensity of the rain and then hail that we endured on this “bucket list” road was, at the very least, as bad as the night before, if not worse. So much so that there is no photo evidence of the ascent, but safe to say that we have no idea how Pete managed to get the car up the pass, as in Julian’s words “You could see very little to nothing from the passenger seat!”

Day Two – The Remainder

From the top of the Stelvio, Julian and Pete felt that they deserved a break and they got that in absolute spades. They spent the afternoon in pure motoring bliss with the sun shining as they first descended the Stelvio on the far side and then ascended and descended the Gavia pass, which was spectacular if not a little nerve-wracking from the passenger seat! They spent most of the late morning and afternoon in what Julian referred to as “a state of open mouthed wonder…”

The Ending

As Julian and Pete finally arrived in Brescia, hot but exhilarated, they pulled into the premises of British Racing Green – a customer of SNG Barratt – where the Jaguar XK120 is to be stored for now. Having done both this trip and the route down – including Classic Mans on the way – the SNG Barratt XK120 had been beyond heroic. The mileage covered, the terrain endured and the heat encountered were managed without missing a beat and it was then, in a way, fitting that the final movement required – that of backing the car into the showroom – was the last one the car could manage and moving from first gear to reverse proved a step too far!

Overall then, an epic adventure and one that proves the fun and excitement one can have in these classic cars. It has always been important to us at SNG Barratt to get out on the road and prove that we do the same as our customers do in terms of driving the cars – so we certainly did that and it just leaves one question… How are we going to get the car back?

JUY520 – What a car.

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