The last year has brought about a surprisingly significant amount of change in my life on various levels. Maybe being horrendously ill for the first three months of the year had something to do with it, but a chap who was once interested in nothing but cars from the land of the rising sun has certainly had his horizons, shall we say, expanded.
I hadn't once considered having a Jaguar at the start of this year, let alone an old one. Old Jaguars are for people who watch Countdown. I only watch Countdown when it involves Jimmy Carr and lots of rude language. I especially hated old Jaguars. I had this belief that old Jags were driven purely by people who refuse to move with the times, the same kind of people who drive MGBs and can't go five minutes without making a comment about how they'd much rather have their rusting lump of hatred, pieced together by the mechanically incompetent in between strikes and half-day lunch breaks, than a completely superior newer vehicle. God forbid they might own a car that actually works day to day, they'd have nothing to talk to their chums about over a pint of warm brown in a dingy country pub.
But in May, I bought that one you see just above. Honestly, it was as surprising to me as it was to most of my friends, who found it a quite laughable event. Of all the people likely to buy a 1995 Jaguar XJ, I was not at the top of their respective lists. The car itself was a bit of a heap, there's no denying that - a 1995 XJ Sport 3.2 with over 160k on the clock, it had certainly lived a life. That was easy to tell from the sagging head lining, the damaged rear seats and the catalogue of issues it had amassed over the years. The front discs were warped. The engine didn't start in park, only in neutral. The rear light was taped up. The gearbox didn't like reverse until it was warm. I could go on, but if I were to list every issue the car had, I'd have no readers left by the end. Immediately after buying it I had a sudden feeling of horror - what had I done? Why had I, of all people, decided to pile my hard earned cash into one of the exact targets of my hatred?
Well first of all, I didn't really spend much of my hard earned cash at all. In fact, it would have cost more for me to buy a sterling silver letter opener from Tiffany&Co - genuinely, a whole car for the price of a tiny little letter opener - albeit a bloody expensive one at £260, but such is life in the upper classes. Secondly, unlike the expensive silver letter opener, the XJ makes you feel very, very special. I wasn't prepared for just how much of a better human I felt for being comforted by the pale leather, electrically adjustable seats of the Jag. If you want to eat from the A la Carte menu of Gordon Ramsay's London restaurant, while going absolutely mental by having a glass of the cheapest wine from the list, it'll cost you a smidge over £200 and allow you to feel like you're a part of the cultural elite for about two hours - the Jag cost exactly that and allowed me to feel like a member of the cultural elite every time I sat in it - which sadly was not often. For reasons unknown to me, as someone who is now at the part of their life where even an ASBO-esque Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution can be insured for well under a grand for the year, the Jaguar was literally uninsurable. The cheapest quote I got was in excess of three thousand pounds which, as much as I loved it, was impossible to justify. Temporary insurance became my best friend during my ownership of the Jag, and when I couldn't reason with the cost of that, I'd just go out and sit in it on the drive - it was a truly wonderful place to exist.
For the insurance reasons though, it had to go. I wasn't really sad about it at the time, I think the aforementioned, combined with the catalogue of issues, made it a very bittersweet tenure.
So why, of all the things, do I now find myself lusting after the far more insurance-friendly 4.0 version of the same car?
I shouldn't want one again based purely on the fact that it's the opposite of everything I love. I love handling. I love speed. I love a really good manual gearbox. I don't love going into a corner with the knowledge it's going to feel like navigating a cross-channel ferry. I don't love having to plan overtakes months in advance due to the lethargic performance of a heavy straight six engine. I don't like four-speed automatic slush boxes that kick down when they want to, not when I want to. So why do I find myself wanting another one so badly?
I guess this is just my mid life crisis happening at 22 - and if it is, my 44th birthday is going to signal the start of a very worrying year.