Jaguar XJ-S

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She still crouches there, deep within my memory banks–all hunkered down in feline repose on those flying buttressed haunches. The Jaguar XJ-S was a coupe that could stand on its own, but to see one of these sandwiched between some battered Oldsmobile Starfire Firenza and an already rusted-out three month-old Chevrolet Citation in the potholed parking lot of the local Montgomery Ward, was to espy something that stood out like a FabergĂ© egg that had been thoughtlessly discarded onto a pile of yellow-paged Eisenhower-era wrestling magazines.

To have one of these was to have a V-12 tucked under the bonnet and although this engine put out roughly the same amount of brake horsepower as you might find in a modern Hyundai Genesis Coupe sporting eight less cylinders, those were different times, Jim! It was still a V-12–back in the day, that drunk down at the end of the bar bragging about the “monster V8” in his Coupe De Ville was a piker any way you looked at it.

The car was just as special inside as out. The dash and console were furnished in something called “walnut burl” and it was gorgeous. The simple, stark black and white gauges were by Smiths, a company so cool a bunch of geezers from Manchester stole it for the name of their musical group. The cigarette lighter would only light up Dunhills, so you’d best have some matches handy if you were going to persist in favoring Newport Menthols.

Of course, and it was a big of course, Jags of this era were notoriously unreliable. Lots of folks joked about this but it was no laughing matter when the Coventry-bred gremlins that came free of charge with every auto that rolled off the line decided to get wake up and get mischievous just when you were passing through the “bad side of town.” The driver of this car was going to garner very little sympathy when their lovely grand tourer rolled to a stop in the middle of a busy street. Especially if it was in a neighborhood where most of the residents rode the bus.

But that sort of thing is for the sociology professors to discuss. Those who love cars, especially beautiful cars, just look at it and say “Ahhhh!”

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