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Omaha Magazine

Spinning Gears: Terry Peterson’s 1968 Jaguar XKE

Oct 01, 2021 03:00PM ● By Chris Hatch
posed view of red-orange 1968 Jaguar XKE

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

To listen to Terry Peterson tell it, the immaculate English auto tucked away in his garage isn’t merely a car. Like the eight other vehicles next to it, equally stunning in their own right, this is a four-wheeled, two-seated dot on his own personal timeline.

“Every car that I have in this collection, I have a connection to, from when I was a kid,” he said, staring fondly out on his pristine collection. “The first car I ever drove in high school was a red Impala. The first car I ever bought was an SS 396 Chevelle, just like that.” He gestures at each one in turn, slowly turning in a semicircle.

Eventually he lands on it: the 1968 Jaguar XKE.

“I’m kind of a muscle car guy, so everything I’ve got other than the Jag is a Chevy,” he said, gently popping the hood of his most recently restored piece of motor-powered art. “See, I had a ’68 Jag as a kid.”

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Peterson, a longtime Omaha resident and owner of Omaha Track—a railroad service and supply company—has an encyclopedic knowledge that weaves between anecdotes about his days riding along in drag racing cars as a teen to his interactions with expert craftsmen throughout the U.S. who have helped him build his collection.

He runs through the impressive list of features for the XKE like a chef putting together ingredients for a feast. “They were two frame chasse cars with all-wheel disc brakes, independent inboard disks on the rear. Way ahead of their time for the 1960s. Plus, they’re beautiful cars. Enzo Ferrari said that the Jaguar XKE was the most beautiful car ever built. They just have beautiful lines.”

“It’s got a Monocoque design, which is quite unique,” said Jim Vakoc, one of his partners in the lengthy restorative process, fellow Jaguar expert, and president of the former Maplewood Motors in Omaha. That design refers to the frame and body being built as a single, integrated structure. “It does make it a little different to restore—unlike a lot of those other older cars that have the full frame and separate bodies.”

Peterson traded for the XKE somewhere back in 1985. Since then it’s seen a few miles and a few makeovers, and even a cameo in local cinematic lore.

Photo by Bill Sitzmann    

“One interesting thing about the car…when they shot the movie Election here…it was in that movie,” Peterson said, referring to Alexander Payne’s 1999 film. Fans can view Matthew Broderick at the wheel of Peterson’s vehicle a little under an hour into the movie. 

He recently finished his most extensive overhaul of the vehicle, a multi-year odyssey that is part artwork, part plastic surgery, and all love.

“At the time, when I bought the car, I was under the impression that it was a pretty standup car. When we went in to start to restore it, we found out that it had kind of been cosmetically enhanced at some point and it really had some issues I didn’t know about.”

Peterson continued, “It was a journey. All in all, it was about two years in the shop, doing a complete rotisserie restoration. But the car is probably better than new now.” 

“He really does love that car,” Vakoc said. “He kind of saved that car. I got to do all the fun stuff, tinkering with the interior.”

Peterson plans to have it out of the garage and in the streets of Omaha soon. 

“My philosophy about these cars: you drive them, you enjoy them. Really, I drive everything I have now. I like to drive them, get them out,” he said.

Visit omahatrack.com for more information about Peterson’s business.

This article originally appeared in the October issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.