Golden moments - Scott Fisher (US)
... on Jaguars
Date: Mon, 03 Feb 92 11:22:18 PST
Yow! This is too good a chance to pass up!
> Attention all Jag owners lovers, enthusiasts.
Well, that's us all right.
> I want to buy a Jaguar,
We certainly do!
> What should I know, what do you recommend I get.
Well, when we were a little boy of about five years old living in Sacramento, our dad's best friend had a white XK-120 with a black leather interior. We can still remember the way that car smelled, warm leather, hair-jute pad slightly mildewed from poor seals on the roadster's hood, hot Castrol sizzling off the aluminum cylinder head; the sound as Dick Wells rev-matched the Moss gearbox through its paces on gently winding country roads, golden swellings in the earth nippled with dark green oak trees; the feeling of wind not only through our astronaut-emulating crewcut, but all down our side and back as the breeze of the Jag's passing swirled little eddies up over the cutaway doors and tickled our kidneys and short ribs like playful caresses. The XK-140 kept the same basic body panels as the 120 but lost some of the grace in the trim as it gained Le Mans victories to record on the boot-lid plaque. The XK-150 got thick in the middle with roll-up windows and a drophead roof that folded about halfway down like a VW Cabriolet, but in roadster form still manages to look like the smoothest of the 1?0 line.
Then there's what we who were there remember being called colloquially the XK-E but which has posthumously been designated by the kind of people who wear Harris tweed hunting jackets over their stuffed shirts as the E-Type, the car Road & Track's Henry N. Manney III once called "the greatest crumpet collector known to man," easily at or at least near the top of anyone's Ten Most Beautiful list. Blessed and cursed with one of the most wonderful and expensive-to-work-on rear suspensions known to chassis engineers, replete with inboard-mounted discs and a full complement of universal joints, many XKEs were sold because the owner couldn't afford to replace the discs -- not the parts but the labor. And of course that 12-quart oil sump, cause of a number of penny-wise and pound-foolish engine failures as owners who could afford the purchase but not the care found that a thoroughbred needs a special diet as well as exercise to keep at the fore.
Then there are saloons, the roundish ones with 3.4 on the deck or 3.8 or later 4.2, broad expanses of burled walnut facing the driver and passenger who rest on leather cushions (always glazed in our imagination, reticulated with the crevices of years of folding in the crisp red leather, as innumerable bottoms slid and slithered across the shiny surface while the driver explored the limits of roadholding provided by that same multi-link, beautifully articulated suspension when covered with an understated, solid and serene four-door saloon body). As our family grows, we could use the quiet and access of an early Sixties Jag saloon, a little piece of practicality amid the inconspicuous consumption of the Mk. II or whatever we find to ferry our brood.
Then there are the XJ series, saviors of the company's bottom line in recent years, a success story in modern internationalization as the managing directors made parts suppliers directly responsible for the warranty costs associated with the car's failures. Simply put, if a Jaguar had to be repaired under warranty and the failure was due to a component purchased from one of the factory's approved vendors, that vendor had to pony up the pounds for the customer's warranty work, not Jaguar Cars Limited. You can believe that this got the attention, not only of the folks at Lucas and Bosch but around the world.
Some of the things we might consider in picking a Jaguar:
- Roadsters and convertibles (of course *we* know the difference) are always more desirable than roofed versions, which makes them harder to purchase but easier to sell (assuming you hang around with the Right Crowd)
- In the E Type series, the early coupes provide all the performance and most of the sensations of the roadsters, with vastly more comfort and at a fraction of the cost; also, in the opinion of many, an early E coupe is prettier than the roadster (though we'd disagree)
- There's a certain air of Bugatti Type 57 Atlantique about the 120/140 FHCs that makes up for the lack of wind-in-the-face; get one in dark blue and tack-weld a strip of rivets to the centerline of the coachwork, just to offend the purists of TWO marques
- The V12 is ludicrously overweight, fabulously complex, impossibly expensive and laughably failure-prone -- but when it works, it's not like any other engine we've ever driven, feeling almost as though the car was connected to a rope tow rather than propelled under the motive force of a machine embedded in the chassis, a detached and smooth abstraction of Power rather than an engine
- Sports cars are about dreams, not about investment or reliability or practicality or usability; at the highest level, it's what you wish upon a star for, so don't listen to what anyone else has to say -- with the possible exception, of course, of our banker (how good *is* our Australian credit rating?)
But then, we know all that. If we won the lottery, we'd buy a pre-1967 XK-E roadster, bright red, bright enough to make Alfa owners go home and drown their sorrows in denominazione di origine controllata e garantita as the sound of six thumping cylinders roared across the echo chambers of the Santa Cruz mountains, shaking the acorns from the quercus agrifolia and the needles from the sequoia sempervirens, rustling the dew from innumerable lilies as the cams opened and closed in their aluminum womb beneath the long speedbumped bonnet straddled by ventilating louvers. The slim red taillights would wink late braking under the elms, the wishbones would play their camber game and keep the tires planted as torque pushed the slip angles to new and exciting heights. We'd have a car in which we could outdrag a jacked-up Camaro, out-corner a blacked-out 911, and spit pieces of halfshaft up through the floor of the passenger compartment, all in the same historic day.
> I have intentionally left out my specific "wants" in the hope
Obviously, my antipodean avatar is my inverse in more ways than one... He asks open-ended questions, I give open-ended answers. One more, then, the koan of the Jaguarist wannabe: Life is when you get what you want and it isn't what you want.
> Thanks in advance...
Scott Fisher DEC Western Software Labs
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