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Jaguar E-Type 3.8 Fixed Head Coupe

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      14.11.2003 23:58
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      Back in the '60's I was told that my white Jaguar E-Type 3.8 fixed head coupé was not a woman's car. The expression PC was not used in those days, but anyway they were right and I will tell you why later. Strictly speaking it was my husband's car, but he drove my cortina as often as I did the jag, so it was shared pretty equally. It possibly isn't my favourite car of all time, but the memories of this beautiful car are as sharp as ever and I feel a tug at my heart on the rare occasion that I am passed by one. In heady days of Jensons, Aston Martins and the like, this was a car which made design history and was said to be deliberately shaped as a phallic symbol. All of 14 '6" long while only 4' high the tail-gated rear swept over the cabin before dropping down to a bonnet which disappeared into the distance - the last 9 inches disappearing from sight of the driver between headlights which looked like great inset jewels. A raised ridge running down the centre of the bonnet accentuated the sheer length of it and added a growly look to the overall effect. Wire wheels were standard equipment for a sports car such as this. Inside the comfortable leather bucket seats could only be pushed back as far as the generous shelf (big enough to carry a labrador retriever in comfort) which made up the luggage space, yet my long legs were more than adequately accommodated. The walnut dash was lined with the neat Jaguar switches of the day and the dials were clear and functional. It was not as "fully loaded" as such a motor would be today, but we didn't expect it to be. I knew my way around a motor engine fairly well if only to know where things were and possibly diagnose a fault. Thus it was my habit to lift the bonnet of a newly acquired car for a quick spec. When I did this with the E-type I closed it again fast. The whole area was jam-packed with British engineering and my initial look
      for a carburettor was rewarded with the unfamiliar sight of 3 large pots down the side. The aforementioned ridge was there for a reason rather than prettiness. It made more room for the engine. As it happened the car was serviced regularly and never let me down. The driving experience was as to be expected although at no time did I approach the top speed of 150 miles per hour. In fact I rarely drove at speed at all. Just being behind the wheel of this beautiful, head turning vehicle was enough. Much appreciated was the weight of the accelerator. Other smaller cars of the time with sports engines had the habit of leaping forward as if off a spring when the clutch was released. The E-Type, like other jags, needed a little pressure before engaging. The 4 speed manual gear box was smooth, but I didn't feel the brakes were quite as effective as they should have been, although 4 wheel disc and servo-assisted. That is not that they didn't do the job, but I would have liked to have felt more response. The road holding had sports car excellence as should be expected from a car which weighed a little below a ton. Now for the things about this car which return most to memory and why in the late 60's this was a car which men had designed for themselves. I am 6' tall and a lot of that is legs. Nowdays these are generally discreetly hidden beneath jeans or trousers, but I am talking mini skirts in those days and mine were very mini. The high rear shelf behind the driver meant that I could only push the seat back so far and, although my legs disappeared deep beneath the engine, the wide, narrow-edged steering wheel coupled with the also narrow seating meant there was only one place for the wheel to go. You've got it! Between my bent legs. My husband said that I looked like Popeye's girlfriend Olive Oyl. This caused some embarrassment at traffic lights when beside a high lorry with the driver's mate looking down
      on me. It rather spoilt the ultimate pose. Added to this any chance of a graceful exit was prevented by the need to push open the heavy coupé door, hang on to the top and bring my legs out one at a time from the deep well which housed the pedals. The sticky finger marks of the title were the inevitable result of small boys placing their hands on the deep curving edge beneath the window as they peered inside when I left it parked. Since there were fewer women driving at this time, let alone an E-Type, this was a car which fed my vanity and my posing had nothing to do with women's rights. The local police also showed an interest and one afternoon I was overtaken by a patrol car. This slotted in before me and allowed its twin to stay close to my rear bumper. So it was that at 30mph I was tightly escorted fore and aft for about a mile before I turned off for home. More was to come. At that time I had a rear driveway situated off a cul de sac reached by a drive off the main road and down a couple of short private roads. Before I had even signalled my intention the police driver before me turned off and I followed as did my rear escort. To the delight of my neighbours and to my own giggles which had replaced concern, a white E-type sandwiched between 2 patrol cars slowly cruised home. I felt like a frigate being piloted in to harbour by tugs. I think they were trying to tell me that they knew where I lived. As I parked they turned and returned back to the main road as I waggled my fingers in a cheerio to them. Happy, silly days! The petrol comsumption was not an issue over 30 years ago, but was surprisingly good being in the 20's. I can only think of two disadvantages apart from my undignified efforts to disembark. This was not a car for very slow speed on a hot day. Caught in a queue in the lion enclosure of Longleat beneath a blazing sun the engine over-heated twice resulting in rescue from the safari wardens. This was
      the only time it happened. The other is that fellow drivers expected me to be a road hog. So many times a quiet and gentle drive through country lanes was managed with difficulty. Although not on the tail of a morris minor fifty yards ahead, it would still pull over and a hand could be seen waving us on from the offside window. It was impossible to ignore and I had to overtake out of politeness. Among the photos I have of this glorious motor my favourite shows only the rear parked in lonely splendour on a shady road in the New Forest. In the days of the wonderful 60's when a brand new Hillman Imp cost £700 and a mini moke just £400, my husband paid £1000 for the E and I saw this classic model recently advertised for £19000. Although followed by the glamourous 4.2, the 3.8 has often been spoken of as the preferred car and who am I to argue. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you want to take part, please include CARS OF MEMORY in the title and include the following paragraph: "This review is part of the CARS/MOTOR BIKES OF MEMORY challenge where members are asked to write about cars/motor bikes which bring back memories. ** Katie says she will hurry through any item requests. If they are flagged "Motors"she will see they go through as quickly as possible. She also asks that they not be "In General". Any which have consumer information will be eligible for crowns. **"

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