I photographed George and his E-Type Jaguar for a regular column I write for Retromotive magazine titled “It All Started When”. George had sent a very detailed response to the questions I sent him for the article, so much so that I could not cover everything in the two page spread. It would be a shame to lose those stories, so I have published his words here alongside some additional images of George and his Jag. You can read my take on George’s story in Volume 3 of Retromotive, due out in the last quarter of 2018.
I grew up in NYC, Harlem to be exact, as an only child in very small family. My family did not own an automobile and as it turned out I was the first member of my family to own a car. When I was 10 years old, we moved to another area of Manhattan and our housing development had a parking lot holding about 30 cars, and that was my first memory of becoming interested in cars…all of which were American made. I don’t recall ever riding in someone’s car until I went away to college… excluding taxi cabs. My mother and I would take bus rides down 5th Avenue in the Summer on the double decker buses, and that was where I discovered that I really liked riding and better yet some day driving and controlling a vehicle. Also, riding the Greyhound Bus somewhere was always a big event for me. I would always try and get the front seat across from the driver so that I could have an unobstructed view of the road and what the driver was doing. There were no car culture experiences in my developmental years.
Throughout college in Washington, DC my passion to own a car grew and upon graduating I took the money I’d made from a part time job, and the monetary graduation gifts I’d received and bought my first car: a 1958 white Austin-Healey 100-6. Some years later it was stolen and I took the insurance settlement and purchased a metallic blue 1964 Austin-Healey 3000.
In the three performance sports cars I’ve owned the first thing that attracted me has always been the lines of the car. Other vehicles I’ve own which I use as daily drivers or utilitarian vehicles to lesser extent. I think that my first sighting of the Jag was in NYC in the mid 60’s and it was being driven by a guy who had attended college with me for a short time. Then a few years later I briefly dated an alumni from my college who resided in Washington, DC and she owned a yellow E-Type. I got the opportunity to drive her Jag from DC to NYC and then up to Vermont to go skiing and I knew that I had to have one!
I began my search in the NY Times Automobile Classified Section Sunday Edition for an E-Type Jag shortly thereafter. After what seemed like a year I came across the ad for this car. The secret to the success of this purchase was the following:
* If you reside in NYC you can pick up the NY Times Sunday Edition at round 8PM on Saturday night if you go down to the NY Time building. Which then give you a 10 to 12 hour advantage over those who wait until Sunday morning.
*In this particular issue there was a blue E-Type Jag roadster for sale for $3000. The bad news was that the last digit of the phone number was missing. Saturday night I started calling, adding the last digit beginning with zero to the number. I made it to the number 6 and the guy answered “Yes I do have an E-Type Jaguar for sale.” We arrange a viewing of the car for 7AM Sunday morning. I took $3000 with me, checked out the body, engine and interior, drove the car, and the rest is history. This was the of Spring 1971.
With respect to the three grand I paid in‘71, I thought at that time, and continue to feel, that it was a pretty good deal. I don’t recall spending an inordinate amount of time researching prices but I knew that at some point I was going to have to acquire an E-Type, and at that moment in time I had the money and a decent job.
Living in NYC in particular has several negative aspects. The condition of the streets and roads are terrible. Lots of traffic and stupid drivers, and parking issues, no place to do any serious mechanical work, finding reasonable garage storage fees for long-term parking; for the first ten or twelve years it was parked on the street.
The best things are the compliments and conversations you get to have with perfect strangers who you’d probably never have encountered. Then there’s driving the car as fast as you can get away with for long distances over many hours. ie. NYC to San Francisco in 58 hours; return trip in 56 hours (to passionate drivers). Or, single driver cross country trip of 10,200 miles in six weeks, included Van Cover, BC to Tijuana, Mx straight down the West coast. I drive the car on interstates and hi-ways fast and hard all of the time. My cruising sweet spot is from 80 – 95mph no matter how long the trip!
I’ve also been fortunate enough to have the Jag used in a few clothing and footwear fashion shoots. One reporter for the NY Times left a note on my windshield asking if he could do an article on the car. Owning this car and residing in NYC means you can never go out and not allow time to talk to people, that just never happens, period!
The most common comment about the car is how beautiful it is. One middle aged man caught me at a rather long stop light and after slowly walking around the car told me that this was the most beautiful car he had ever seen. Would you believe that today (9/29} as I was coming from the gym another guy crossing the street in front of me said the same thing “Hey man, that’s the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen…! Then in two separate incidents a year apart a lady came over to me, as I was parking, and told me the in no way were they in the slightest interested in any automobiles, but they could not get over how beautiful this car was, it took their breath away… Lastly, something which continue to intrigue me, is really young children in strollers and in those child bike seat behind their parents invariably take note to the car if it happens to come into their field of vision in passing and their reaction is a “wow” moment.
Over the 47 years of ownership I went through three Jaguar alternators within a two year period so I switched to an American one made by Delco. One fan belt on the 10,200 mile cross country trip. I had a spare so I was back in the road in 30 minutes. An ignition switch which went bad on a return trip from one of four trips to Florida and left me and my young son stranded on I-95 North in Georgia late one afternoon. Fortunately, within five minutes a flatbed pulled up and took me to a sports car restoration and repair shop ten mile away. The owner found a switch from another British car, installed it and I was on my way…I’m still using that switch 16 years later. I knew the switch was going bad when I left NY but I decided I’d replace it when I returned from Florida.
Right now I’m having some issues with lights because I switched the original lights to LEDs and the wiring in the car is 50 years old. It’s a costly project to rewire the entire electrical system so I’m leaving that to my son when he gets the car. On that note yesterday I drove 120 miles out to my mechanic and we took care of the lighting issues 🙂 I never been really stranded and couldn’t get the car back home, because I try and have preventative maintenance done whenever something goes awry and I have, and have had great mechanics, my current one for 12 years. There have been some performance upgrades over the years which have also helped with the long-term reliability of the car, and the oil & filter are changed every 3000 or so miles. An engine rebuild at 79,000 miles, due to a blown piston ring, at which time a light weight clutch fly wheel was installed. Currently the Jag has approx 194,000 total miles on the odometer.
There are too many memories to pick a fondest. Each long distance road trip was a gem in and of itself. Meeting car guys at vintage meets and Cars & Coffee meetups. Attending the vintage car races at Watkins Glen, NY each September. Driving the American British Reliability Run this coming Friday thru Sunday. And really just driving as fast as I can get away with all the time…the car offers such a visceral driving experience and the feedback from the road is spot on.
As I’ve gotten older a recurring thought creeps into my consciousness a little bit more than it used to. This is not a modern car, it has no air bags, no reinforced steel bars in the doors, no ABS brakes, no roll bar etc. So, at the speeds that I’ve always driven, and continue to drive at, if anything happens for whatever reason; I don’t think that I’ll be walking away from it… The good news if that once I get behind the wheel, all such thoughts immediately vanish :-):-)
With that in mind I ALWAYS make sure that I have good tires, good breaks, and a solid and responsive engine! Lastly, although I am not an art collector, I do appreciate great artistic works in any medium. I do consider the E-Type Jaguar a quintessential piece of automotive and therefore functional art, which I never tire of viewing, owning and best of all DRIVING!
Note: I also drive a 2002 e46 M3 BMW and a 2006 Subaru Outback XT Turbo, both fast, but each has safety features that the Jag lack.