How to buy a British, or more specifically, a Jaguar automobile
by Paul Salm
I’m sure you will quickly realize that I am not your loyal correspondent. Truth is, Richard (YLC) has been away and requested that I fill in for him in submitting the latest article for the Marque. Herewith, having realized all too late that I should have politely declined, I shall strive to meet, on some level, his expectations and provide some manner of reading engagement, for which I shall be ever grateful to Richard for this dubious honor.
In keeping with another sad (on my part) tradition, I am woefully late in submitting this, and only through the gracious and very probably gut-wrenching patience of the editors of the Marque, will this see print.
So, to the subject line: how to buy a Jaguar.
I had been thinking, while trying to conjure some suitable story/tale/anecdote/whatever to fill the void left by Richard’s temporary absence, I could in fact tell the story of why I have actually accepted the challenge and embarked upon this current endeavor. That is, to entertain and amuse our loyal readers, albeit I am sure without the keen sense of wit and cleverness that ORLC (Our Regular Loyal Correspondent) possesses. (Please note that at this point, I have managed to complete several paragraphs of printing for the Marque without really saying a thing. Damn, I should go into politics. Do I have your vote?)
Buying a Jaguar. I’m getting close. Truth is, I own a 1977 Jaguar XJ-S, bought brand new in 1977. I still have it, although as our dear-departed Henry (Hensel) used to say of some of his vehicles, “I killed it.” It would take a winning lottery ticket to restore it. But as the only owner, I can still dream. Oh, yes, how to buy one. In my case, I was a single Naval Officer, on exchange duty in Venezuela (we were then on very good terms with the country), driving a 1968 Charger 440. Shortly before my tour was over, I decided I wanted to buy a vehicle that one would not see every time one turned a corner: a Jensen Interceptor. British vehicle, US drivetrain. Great decision, until I wrote the company and found out that they stopped making them two years prior to my inquiry.
Back to square one — or so I thought, until I happened to open a magazine and there before my eyes was the most (arguably) beautiful two-door Jaguar I had ever seen, a four-seater (again, very arguably). The XJ-S. Wrote letters, sold everything I owned, including the Charger, found a reasonably priced one in my hometown of Buffalo (New York — a good place to be from), and made the deal. Upon returning to the States, I went to the dealer and picked the color of my choice (there were only two on the floor). Simple also, as there were no options, everything was standard. It still has the 8-track stereo in it. Talk about a chick magnet!
I did manage to put about 150,000 miles on it before I stopped driving it. It needed a water pump, so I took two weeks leave to change it and painted my house instead. It was easier.
Oh, yes, that “chick magnet” aspect. A few years later I was in the process of buying a house, when my realtor invited a bunch of friends to her house for one of those “come be on my team” sessions. (Yep, I was suckered in.)
At the start of the presentation, the gentleman speaking asked what we would do if we suddenly found ourselves with a monetary windfall. We all sat there, eyes glazed, with no idea how to respond, when finally one person spoke up, saying, “I’d buy a car just like his!”
The presentation went on, finally ending with everyone chatting in small groups about everything except the presentation. Upon leaving I found myself behind the girl who wanted the Jaguar, and later asked her out on a date. She agreed, and I picked her up in — get ready — my old VW bus, held together by rust and a prayer. I think I warned her about the hole in the floorboard at her feet. Every Jag owner needs a second vehicle to drive when their British car is “visiting the hospital.”
As the months and years went by, many dates consisted of her handing me tools as I disappeared under the Jag, or running to the parts store in her car to pick up something the Jag needed in order to run again. Sound familiar?
I still have that Jaguar XJ-S, the same girl (now my wife of many years), and a new old Jaguar. The VW bus has gone, then been replaced by another in the same state of disrepair, then again replaced by a more family-friendly car (read “dependable”). The Jags are in my garages, holding items pertinent to their future rebuild, or just acting as overpriced storage systems as per my wife. Either way, this not-so-young man still has evidence of his dream come true, along with future fun cruising in a true classic — my Jaguar Mark II. Main Street, here I come!