01 November 2015

The Jaguar Question: New or Classic? Answer: Yes!

If I had discovered Jay Leno’s Garage on YouTube sooner, I might be driving a different car today.

As I’ve written in a previous post, I bought a Jaguar when I retired. Easy to say. But after I finally decided to do it, I had to decide whether to get a new car or a restored classic. I fairly quickly discovered that the price would be pretty close to the same. You can pick up a classic E-Type for less than I paid for the new XK that I was looking at. But then I’d have to pay for restoration (because I have neither the ability nor inclination to do the work myself, not to mention no garage to do the work in or tools to work with). So a nicely restored E-Type would have cost about the same as the new car.

Ultimately, I let ‘practical’ considerations carry the day. Now, I know it’s probably a stretch of the definition to say that buying a Jaguar is a practical thing to do. But my considerations all were practicalities about what I needed in my retirement car. I only have a two-car garage at my house. So ‘my’ car had to be one I could rely on and drive anytime I needed to go somewhere when my wife was already out with ‘her’ car. That also means it has to be mechanically reliable. I’d always heard how temperamental the E-Types used to be, and I didn’t want to get caught in a situation where the car would be disabled by mechanical problems. ApplePicking Jaguar

So I decided to buy the new one. So now I have a mechanically reliable car and one that will maneuver through our Minnesota winters (with snow tires). It had been a while since I’d bought a new car, and I have been amazed and delighted by the electronics and how they enhance the driving experience. I was pretty skeptical about the back-up camera and parking assist. But I’ve become a convert. Now when I’m driving my wife’s Honda CRV, which does not have a back-up camera, I’m constantly twisting around to make sure I’m not backing into something, something that the camera and parking assistance in my Jaguar would detect and alert me to. And that’s just one example. I really am impressed by the electronics in new cars these days.

I probably never would have entertained second thoughts about my decision if it hadn’t been for my experience driving a 1987 Alfa Romeo Spider. (If you want to read about that, click here.) There were a few things about that car that made me really start to wonder: What did I miss out on by not buying a classic E-Type? Despite my fascination with modern new car electronics, I was totally enthralled by full instrumentation in the Alfa. So tell me – with all the fancy electronics, why can’t they have a virtual dashboard in new sports cars? And it was a roadster, so for two days my wife and I had fun tooling around town with an open top. Again with practicalities, regardless of my decision of new vs. old, I planned to get a coupe in either case.

The whole experience with the Alfa made wonder what it would be like to drive a classic E-Type. So where else would you look to find out? The internet.

That’s how I stumbled onto Jay Leno’s Garage. He has several Jaguars in his collection. The first video I watched, he was proudly showing off his 1963 Series I E-Type. Leno tells the viewer that the car is original and unrestored. As he’s showing it off, he remarks at least twice that the dashboard clock still works! During the program, he makes a comment along the lines that the E-Type really was a reliable car, at least in its day. (Of course, he has a staff of mechanics to make sure the cars stay in good running order.)

Then he takes the car for a drive. Wow! As he drives along, he delivers a steady patter of tidbits about the car and his views about the Jaguar and cars in general and car culture especially as it was in the early to mid 1960s. For me, it was totally enthralling. I know if I had seen it before I retired, I would have more seriously considered finding a classic.

Now, my bottom line, I have no regrets about the 20014 XK that I bought. It’s a great car. But, if I ever win the lottery, I’m getting an E-Type. And as much as love the coupe, it’ll be a roadster, like the one below.