If you’re ever reading about the Jaguar XJ6, you rarely get very far before finding yet more words penned on the car’s exterior styling. Unquestionably, this is an exceedingly good looking car and parked on the corner of W. Broadway and Grand down in SoHo, there was little pause between one passerby stopping and another, all eyes turning to grab a snapshot. The looks, however, were not the reason why the owner bought this gorgeous car.
1) Its beauty. Inside and out, it is a poised, luxurious thing of excellent proportions and expert materials.
2) Its dynamics. A great ride, a sporty feel, and a sense of history (the XJ6 was a landmark car for Jaguar back in 1968, ushering in sales, fame, and even a tangled obsession that put Jaguar in a number of difficult positions) give the XJ6 a bit of an allure from behind the wheel.
3) Its temperament. Jaguars have another powerful myth swirling around them about their unreliability. Electronics especially, and even the characterful engine have a reputation for frequent total failure.
These are the makings of a perfect masochistic classic car – loved for its positive qualities, ensnaring with its shortcomings, Jaguars seem to be the makings of passionate, costly affairs. Seeing one in great condition is a treat, though not that surprising, as one pedestrian commented – all the ones in poor condition break and get junked, leaving only the nice, low-mileage examples with us today. Regardless, seeing a pretty car like this with such a reputation as a foolhardy purchase leads to a bit of honest appreciation as well as a good bit of Schadenfreude-tinged wonder. I certainly enjoyed this car vicariously, able to soak in some of its allure without having to pay any of the bills from the garage.
Not that the bills seemed to trouble the owner so much – this is one car in an eleven-car stable of Jaguars. “You buy one, then two, then you just have four,” he explained, and presumably four quickly becomes eleven, as I can only imagine. But the central fascination of mine is the why involved in making the notoriously poor decision of Jaguar ownership, and I certainly assumed that the owner had been sucked in by the siren song of good looks. I mean, I was in SoHo after all, and I’m sure this was a style-bound purchase made mostly by the heart, not with head, and certainly without too much thought to the pocketbook.
But beauty can be deceiving, and SoHo is probably a much deeper, thoughtful place than I give it credit. The same, too of this Jaguar.
His dad drove a Jaguar just like this one, he told me, and this one smelled just like that one did. All of my thoughts on retro cool and vintage car handling, full engine rebuilds and troublesome breakdowns vanished when that door opened and the rich, utterly captivating aroma washed out from the airy cabin.
He had said that he was surprised at how many people were stopping to take pictures of his XJ6, which I thought was a little hard to believe, but when I could smell that interior, I took him at his word that it was a nostalgic purchase, not showy or exhibitionist. I don’t question him that this Jaguar is just a luxury that he could take here in subway-bound New York, and for all the finickiness of the XJ6, for all of the trouble it got the firm into in the 1970s with British Leyland, even for the backward-looking stylistic rut it seduced Jaguar into for decades, I found myself lost in that smell.
You might wonder why someone throws money and time at a classic car. Many people go though the trouble just to have some thrill on a weekend drive or to own an expensive possession they can show off. However, for others, this Jaguar’s owner included, a very definite, concrete aspect of the machine defines the ownership. Rather than taking some of the mystery out of the car, the simple explanation of the smell and the nostalgia only makes the car more complex, more rich, more beautiful.