Clunk. The car door closes. “Get in! You wouldn’t get that today,” says car collector Robin Smith.

Moving on to the next car it’s the same. Clunk. “Get in!” He relishes the sound as the door swings perfectly home.

The retired farmer has had a lifelong love affair with cars, particularly Jaguars, and the cow byres that were once full of livestock are now home to his 18-strong collection of mainly big cats.

Under countless tarpaulins, at his farm near Carlisle, the collection are all runners too – once they have been reconnected to their batteries – their interiors providing a glimpse of happy motoring days gone by.

Robin’s passion for cars was stimulated as a boy by his father’s Jaguar Mk VII. His first car was much more humble, a Morris Minor Tourer and later a Morris Mini Van, but in his 20s he secured a MGA sports car. When he was 28 his collection began in earnest.

“My dad got me into Jaguars which, to me, have style and lovely interiors,” he says. “They’ve not only got the looks but I also love the handling and the sound of the straight six and I used to really enjoy taking them to shows. But you have got to get them right when you buy them.”

The tour of the collection begins with an icon, a 1968 E-Type drophead which looks as stunning today as it did when it first left the drawing boards to replace the XK150, with its 4.2 litre straight six hiding under one of the longest bonnets on the road.

In the 14 years of manufacture 70,000 E-Types were built with a large proportion going to America. Robin’s is one of a shrinking minority to survive.

Another dust sheet is lifted to reveal a 1979 Series II XJ6 dating back to 1979 while nearby is a 1985 Series III XJ6 4.2 and a willow green XJ6 Series I from 1972, a prime example of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyon’s view that cars should show ‘grace, pace and space’.

Robin’s favourite is a 1968 420, which was fitted with a very early version of power steering and had a top speed of 123mph, though fuel consumption was a polar icecap melting 16mpg.

Also lurking in the storage is a more modern Jaguar, an XK8 Coupé, the marque’s first V8, which Robin believes will become the next generation of collectables like the E-Type.

So it’s a shock when the next dust sheet reveals not a Jaguar but a Mercedes – in this case a 1972 280E that had just 12,000 miles on the clock when he bought it in 2017. “They are good cars, probably better built, but they don’t have the Jaguar looks,” he says.

There’s another in the shed too, a 1991 Mercedes 250, and another, a 1985 300CE and a fourth, a 1983 230CE, which has special sentimental value – it used to belong to his late girlfriend.

Harry Potter fans would be thrilled as well as in the collection is a 1966 Ford Anglia 105 E Super, in much better condition than Arthur Weasley’s after it had been battered by the whomping willow.

Almost 73,000 were manufactured between 1962 and 1967, an era when rust worm was the scourge of the brand, and Robin’s well-preserved example must be one of the few remaining in the country. When new, the 1.2 litre four cylinder was capable of a top speed of 84mph and had a 0-60mph sprint time of “eventually”, according to Robin.

His collection, purchased with a keen eye for a bargain, remains his pride and joy. As for modern cars, the only new vehicle he ever bought was a Peugeot 305, which “did a job”, while his daily run around is a Ford Fiesta, again second hand.

But his favourites remain his Jaguars and as another door thunks shut, his face beams.