Monday, June 11, 2007

A girl named Jag

My father was a man who defined himself in part by his vehicles. MG TD's. a 1949 Willy's jeep. And the Jaguars--the impossible beautiful Jags.

His crowning pride was a 1964 Series 1 XKE. He built her out of a hundred organ donors. In the end, she was reborn as the sort of car that most men pamper with careful Sunday drives and Turtle Wax. They handle such creatures delicately, leaving them immaculate and without evidence of wear. I once walked by such a car (a Porsche) and noted a pristine pair of leather driving gloves displayed in the rear widow well. It made me sad, like a beautiful woman dying with her virginity intact.

Dad drove the XKE and he drove it often. And fast. And well--at least when she was in the mood. Jags are temperamental divas and any man who loves them knows they need a special brand of TLC. They overheat. They break down. They say "no" at the most crucial moment.

There's not many old XKE's out there. In 2002, Dad died and the number men who understand the intricacies of a sexy British aristocat with an unhealthy appetite for speed was diminished by one.

I drove the Jag a couple of times. It is stunning, quite unlike the homogenized and effortless vehicular experience most of us gulp down within the confines of our affable minivans. The driver's seat is a tightly enclosed place. The car itself is shapely and haughty in a distinctly female way. This cat is full of itself and for good reason. To drive it is to negotiate with it. She is a big powerful feline that is difficult to control. She responds in ways you don't expect. She is beautiful and infuriating.

Drive a vintage Jag and you will understand how vehicles garnered the pronoun of "she." Sexist? Goddamn right.

We still have the Jag. Her presence is painful. We don't know how to take care of her. We don't know how to love her.

Top photo: Dad and the Jag. Top photo left: Dad and his three vintage MGs in 1960. Mom is in the middle, Dad is on the right. Middle photo right: Jack Northrup and Dad (right) in the 1949 Willy's jeep before Dad restored and customized it. Bottom photo: Dick (left) and Doug Lamb and the Jag. The finished jeep is behind them. Click on any photo to enlarge.

And "What it was Like:"

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