A Walk to the Three Cats

A spot of lunchtime exercise reveals something of a kitty-litter.

My current work establishment is in a wealthy, leafy part of town. Not seen for a while, but a Bentayga resides round here. Many SUV’s of any brand you care to mention too along with some proper dross. But the other lunchtime and only hungry for inspiration, I found these three Jaguar XK’s in a five minute wander from the front gate.

Let’s start with feelings of actually photographing these cars. I’m not comfortable with going up to someone’s motor and clicking away till I get “the shot” Plus as you’ll see, one is on somebody’s property and whilst I can usually talk to anyone, especially about cars, I’m not about to knock on someone’s door and introduce myself and DTW to be the recipient of 27 pictures and potentially dozens of comments concerning their car.

Thus I had to employ conceit and pretend to be texting or phoning someone. As nobody hunted me down or called the authorities and with assistance on altering the plates, I believe I am safe. Two have since purred away leaving the black model representing Castle Bromwich’s finest.

A walk to the three cats it is then. That’s not a new pub name by the way.

Growing up knowing the Jaguar to be a coveted beast, an expensive, authoritarian holder of the driving experience and currently an endangered species, let’s start with the eldest model on show.

Being a 1997 model year XK8, with a 4-litre engine under the bonnet, it looks in good condition at this distance. With obvious hints towards the Aston Martin DB7 and its XJS underpinnings, who knows how much use this once £50k car gets now. Has it roared to the French Riviera as the advertising tells us it was capable of? Or just pootled to Tesco for the Sunday tabloids?

The occasional outing to a Jaguar car club event, perhaps ? Or did Sebastian’s father simply give it away? Does it have CATS, the Computer Active Technology Suspension? All unknowns, sadly. Given that this area is usually the haunt of the builders or gardeners van, it’s a welcome edition. Having been driven 48,000 miles, Keith Helfet/Fergus Pollock’s design holds up well today. When I clapped eyes on this car, Roxy Music’s “Oh Yeah” sprung to mind. Someone single, promiscuous and smooth, driving home from a movie show. Perhaps that’s an age thing.

The middle model now and this colour, Crystal Blue metallic suits this MY09, it’s mileage of only 29k again sitting well. But look how things have grown. Or have they? To these eyes this looks a whole lot more fluid, more at one with the idea of a being a Leaping Cat. The larger rear window, those flanks looking far more muscular. The high level rear brake lamp with “bullet” to the rear spoiler; is that a rear wash system?

I’m personally not too keen on the wheels which seem vulgar and I’m guessing at a (large) cost option. The salesperson probably had “glee pie” that evening. The exhaust pipes caught my attention: the left hand appears newer and circular, the right hand older, elliptical, original? Or is it a trick of the camera phone?

The final model now. Whilst travel stained and perhaps not always a daily driver, this deviant even when parked up wields it’s power like a weapon of the night. 2011, 5-litre V8 with 56k under the tyres. Brand new, sir? Around sixty large. Nowadays? Anywhere between 6 and 31 grand, depending on condition. A good wash and brush up would return this cat to fine fettle, a mid-twenties on the forecourt at eight years old.

Granted there’s few differences between black and blue models, save wheels missed to perfection but I believe to be standard issue. There’s the missing bullet and to these eyes, the black model evokes a sleeker cut to its jib; the blue is fine but somehow lacks the killer instinct the black version has. The blue version will be driven by the cliched cad; happy to take his wife for dinner but happier showing off to the new secretary. Wears a flat cap, maybe even driving gloves. Portly. Likes to be heard in public places.

The black cat is driven by someone of a similar age though prefers a quieter existence. Sober, thoughtful, blessed with decent taste; a smidgen slimmer. Strength in depth – just like his car.

The navy blue XK8 I want to be owned by grandad, who’s had Jags all his life and fully intends to ”get it all sorted “ before gifting it to his beloved granddaughter who is bonkers about it as she’s about to take her test and finally get to the drive the swine, sorry, cat.

Most of this is probably poppycock. But with some imagination, keen eyes and willing feet, have a butchers hook at what’s around your little corners of the world. You might get a nice surprise. Or at least find a decent drinking establishment.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

8 thoughts on “A Walk to the Three Cats”

  1. I never liked the first iteration of XK8 because its rear bunper looked like a badly executed afterthought.

    1. That rear bumper was a gracious homage to Harris Mann’s TR7. PHACT!

  2. Good morning, Andrew. Your nicely reflective piece invoked some nostalgic memories for me. During my City career, I tried to take a daily thirty minute stroll, to get out of the hot house of the dealing room and clear my head. It was the 1990’s and we were located in the West-End, before the decampment to Canary Wharf, so there was always something to observe for an avid car spotter like me.

    Some thoughts on the XK8: I’ve always found the rear bumper treatment of the Mk1 model a little odd, particularly compared to the smooth, flush treatment at the front end. The rear seems to relate to an earlier era of integrated bumpers, when there was usually a clear horizontal step between the bumper and bodywork. The steep upward slope of the panel gap between the bumper and rear flanks is very unusual:

    The tail of the Mk2 is rather disjointed in the way the chrome trim on the bootlid crashes into the circular inner edge of the rear lamp cluster without relating to its shape at all. This is a problem seen on other Jaguars, including the facelifted S- and X-type models. In both cases, the chrome strip was widened from just covering the number plate recess to meeting the tail lights, but the junction isn’t quite right:

    Returning to the XK8, despite my powers of observation, I’ve only realised this morning that the MK1 had a boot but the Mk2 had a hatchback. Don’t know how that slipped by me!

  3. Great minds, Dave! (I hadn’t seen your comment while I was composing mine.)

    More on Jaguar rear end issues. The current XF has a really nice tail end treatment where the chome bootlid trim is continued by the clear part of the rear-light clusters to a pointed tip either side:

    Unfortunately, the effect is ruined if you go for the “sporting” de-chromed option:

    1. While I like the idea of joining bright(/dark)work and lamp components, the execution here looks a lot like recent Audi or BMW designs. When I first saw the photo above, I wouldn’t have thought of a Jaguar. The conversion to the no-chrome option is a bit half-hearted indeed. It would have been easy to make light clusters with black indicators as they were en vogue towards the end of last century.

  4. I never liked the front and rear lamps of the later car, although they are the product of their era. The rear bumper on the earlier XK is poorly conceived and an aberration on an otherwise very nice thing. So, for example, I prefer the frontal treatment as a whole of the Pollock car – and I’ve always thought Callum struggled to get this aspect right on any of his Jaguars.

    The surfacing on the Callum model is more sheer, more modern, but that doesn’t make that of the earlier car bad. The facelifts (I think there were two stabs at it) of the Callum XK were not successful in my view, but not as heinous as what he did to the XJ he inherited from the Lawson era.

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