When my then girlfriend and future wife Valerie graduated from college in 1987, her mom bought her a used 1980 Ford Fiesta "S". On the plus side, the car had A/C, but just about everything else was on the minus side, including the ugly yellow gold paint with brown "racing" stripes that the previous owner had started -- but not finished -- painting black. The car was intended to last her a year until she could get a job and save up enough to get a "real car". Well, that first job was long on experience and short on salary, and by 1988, my future bride was a poor student again, still driving the Fiesta as she pursued a PhD in Molecular Pharmacology.
Fast forward to November 1995. The Fiesta has nearly 180 K miles on the clock and a few more scrapes and dents, but has served her well. And my spouse of three years is about to defend her PhD dissertation. Family will be in town for the big event, and post defense party is planned. What does a guy get his wife as a graduation gift? She really needs a new car, but she is not a car person. What car can I get her that she will truly appreciate? Certainly NOT the "time to have a family" minivan she is expecting after 7 post-graduate years of schooling. But there is that one car we occasionally see that catches her eye -- the long nose and curvy lines of a Series III Jaguar XJ-6.
So began the hunt. The first one I drove was on consignment at a higher end used car lot. When we returned from the test drive, I was looking in the "boot" when the owner happened by and saw the salesman's golf clubs in the back, and they got into an argument over how the salesman was driving it every day, during which time I escaped. The next one had a dead battery when I requested a test drive, so the salesman had it jumped and we were off. When we got to a less busy street, the salesman encouraged me to "open it up". I obliged and then the throttle got stuck! As the car kept accelerating, the salesman told me not to turn off the key as we wouldn't be able to get it restarted. Finally, I ignored him, switched off the key and pulled over to the curb. Needless to say, I didn't buy that one. The next one was immaculate, a 1986 with only 15 K miles. However, the price was a bit high, and on top of that, needed a new differential seal and rear brakes, a pricey repair on an XJ-6. Finally, I found "the one" -- a white 1987 XJ-6 with a taupe leather interior and the most striking grain pattern in the real wood dashboard of any I'd seen. I bought it and then hid it at my brother's house in anticipation of the big day.
When the day came and Valerie passed her dissertation defense, family and close friends returned to our home for a private celebration before the big party later that evening. Valerie opened a few gifts and then we blindfolded her and led her outside. She later told me the thought that came to her mind as she stepped out of the house: "I hope it isn't a minivan". As the group gathered outside and walked toward the driveway, there are a few gasps and murmurs as no one but my brother knew what was in store. Parked in front was the XJ-6 with a huge red ribbon tied around its middle. The look on Valerie's face was priceless when the blindfold came off with a big "surprise". She truly was speechless and in awe as I led her to the driver's door to get in behind the wheel. We had quite a party that night, but the hostess of honor was nowhere to be seen in the house -- she was too busy giving guests rides around the block!