Jaguar: Why The Passion
Mike Cook, a retired Jaguar product public relations manager, has been part of the British car world since his start at Triumph in 1958. Now as the archivist for Jaguar and the editor of Jaguar Journal, he’s been a professional observer of the marque for years.
When it comes to cars, he insists that “passion can be described as part inspiration and part impact.” Or to put it another way, inspired automotive design that makes a big impact fosters passion. The cars that he thinks have had a massive impact include the Corvette, Austin 7, Beetle, and of course, Jaguar’s XK-120, E-Type and the original XJ.
“These are cars that were so new, and in the case of the Jaguars, so beautiful, so special, that nothing could compete with them at that point in time,” he explained. “Jaguar has made that kind of impact at least three times—and possibly more.”
Cook says the designs of the XK, E-Type and original XJ were so timeless that they never stopped appealing to people.
“These cars inspired so much enthusiasm in the beginning that it helps create the passion that people have for that make of car,” he said. “The impact of the XK and the E-Type hasn’t gone away after 60 and 50 years respectively.”
Cook remembers his years with Jaguar fondly.
“It was always fun to be selling products that people didn’t need, but they really wanted,” he recalled. “It was special to have a product that people go to showrooms for despite warnings from friends that “you’ll be sorry.'”
George Jones really noticed his first Jaguar when he wsas growing up in South Africa. But unlike most people who fell for the lithe looks of the E-Type, the retired engineer from the mining equipment industry fell for a different car.
“The elegance of the Mark 2… first caught me; particularly the lightness of the interior,” he remembered. “What initially planted the seed in my head is that the Jaguar is the epitome of British engineering and sports cars. I was attracted to it because of its heritage and what it’s symbolized.”
His true passion for Jags bloomed in the 1970s when he picked up a 1965 Mk 2 for restoration.
“I happen to be an engineer with a complete metal and woodworking workshop and I can aspire to a high-level car. I’m also motivated by knowing that it would take $150K if I had to give my car to a restoration shop.”
After immigrating to the United States in the 1970s, Jones “picked up the passion again with the restoration of another Mk 2. I currently have a 1966 Series 1 E-Type FHC, which I did a total restoration on (finished in 2003, it most recently scored 99.73 points).”
Although he loves the E-Type and the XK-140 he recently parted with, the car that still speaks to him the loudest is his second Mk 2, which is featured in Hagerty’s winter 2010 “World of Jaguar” story.
The Über Collectors
For consummate Jaguar collector Gary Bartlett, “styling is maybe the biggest thing” that attracted him to Jaguars.
“When I was a kid, I had Jaguar D-type Aurora slot cars, and I remember reading a book about England and the hand craftsmanship and I always had that picture. Then in 1969 there was a red E-type coupe in front of the movie theater in Muncie and something hit me.”
In fact, it hit him so hard that he tracked down the car. With just $200 in the bank, he convinced his dad to cosign a loan so he could have that coupe. Even 40 years after he bought his first E-Type, he says “it feels good just to wash them. You can have a bad day at work, climb into an E-Type and you just feel good. Even today, the E-Type Series I coupe is simply the most stunning car ever made.”
George Jones and his wife Janet at the 2006 Lime Rock Concours, where his Mk 2 won both “Best in Class” and “Best in Show.”
Bartlett’s passion for the marque was so strong that he parlayed his interest in Jaguar into a very successful parts business. That business enabled him to collect the most hallowed of Jaguars: C-Type, D-Type and XK-SS.
Like Bartlett, Terry Larson collects Jaguars at the highest level. And although he didn’t venture into the parts business, for years he’s been one of the top Jaguar restorers and authorities in the nation.
Why Jaguar? “The car does have a personality, doesn’t it? That’s a lot of it,” he responded. “The name Jaguar is really appropriate because it’s quick, agile, strong and it’s the same as the Jaguar animal. The name attached to it gives it a personality.”
Like Bartlett, Larson’s first taste of Jaguar came with a Series 1 E-Type coupe. “I read a road test and fell in love with it. I bought the first one I saw – a 1966 coupe.
“It was the whole personality of the car, the way it felt like an aircraft cockpit. You felt like you were part of the car,” Larson said. “I love the style and the feel. I like driving them. So I’ve always been the seat-of-the-pants driver and drive my cars a lot. How can you beat an XK-120 or an E-Type? If you can only have two cars, it’s hard to top a 120 OTS roadster and an E-Type. If I could only have one car regardless of price it would be a 120.”
Based on the strong market for E-Types, XKs and the Mk II sedans and the stratospheric prices for the racing Jaguars, George Jones, Gary Bartlett and Terry Larson aren’t alone in their love for their marque of choice. And although professional PR man Cook often had Jaguar company cars to drive, there was a time when he put his money where his mouth was and owned a Series I XJ12. And he must have felt very passionate about it, too, because he didn’t seem to mind that one of the electric windows no longer worked.