There are supercars which travel with their own myths: cars that you can hardly bear to touch for fear of maiming them. That is what myths are for, after all: to remain inviolate. (The Aston Martin DB11 has more in common with The Virgin than you would imagine). I love these cars – who doesn’t? – but I am not the kind of person who builds a garage to house a cherished car; and in west Cornwall, you need it. The salted air rots metal. My husband says he would buy a Ghost and treat it like a banger he bought from my mother’s hairdresser, but most people are not like that. You can’t have a Ghost with a dent in the back. People will think you are ill. When I am tired, I think my spirit car is a VW Golf or a Ford Fiesta. They look after you while you pass un-noticed in the world. When I am less tired, I want something more.
Thankfully beneath these myth-cars – cars that require frontage, attitude, money and garaging – are cars as beautiful, efficient and slicked with history. They also cost about £100,000 less; and will make your mid-life crisis feel less chronic and exposed. The Toyota Supra is one. The Jaguar F-Type is another.
Jaguar is a doughty British brand. It makes the prime ministerial car: an XJ Sentinel supercharged 5.0 litre V8. This car is very the current Prime Minister: it looks respectable but is flighty within.
Jaguar was once, charmingly, called The Swallow Sidecar Company. It was the invention of two neighbours from Blackpool – William Walmsley and William Lyons – and today it makes many fine and sensible cars. I loved the E-Pace, a smooth and responsible SUV apparently modelled on the F-Type (though I could not see it) in which I felt like a smooth and responsible Home Counties mother. I am not sure if you choose a car that is like you or become, in time, very like your car: the same question can be asked of a marriage or a dog. I do know that I like a car for running away – or rather driving away. Something powerful, muscular and fast: but something you can park outside Screw Fix without attracting too much attention or being asked too many questions you do not want to answer as you are busy looking for screws.
The F-Type is Jaguar’s sportscar: the successor to the E-Type, which was the British car of the 1960s. It rose, fell and is remembered: Enzo Ferrari called it the most beautiful car ever made and he would know. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City bought a 1963 roadster for display; it could sit beside a Klimt. Some sell for Dr No prices now (£300,ooo or so) but only, I suspect, if they have been responsibly garaged. Ask a certain type of Baby Boomer what car they seek: it will be an E-Type. It will remind them of irresponsible sex, cannabis, and the Beatles.
The F-Type is less ephemeral and laconic than the E-Type. It is a two-seater still: that is, it does not pretend to have back seats which are merely instruments of torture, and leave their passengers begging to be let out at a bus stop. But it is more bulbous and solid. I like this: I don’t want to drive a sculpture. I don’t need the responsibility of living up to a car. (I feel exactly the same way about leather goods). Almost all cars are idiot proof these days. There is nostalgia for the era when only non-idiots could drive them – “everything that makes it a Jaguar / Ferrari / Kia special has gone” they wail – but that only makes me think of car crashes and blood, especially my own.
I feel no shame that I can shift this lovely monster around the Cornish lanes without scratching the paintwork or thinking about my life insurance policy. It flies merrily and with joy. I project a consciousness onto all cars. This one is masculine: an athlete, but kindly. The interior is fine, with much leather. I do not feel stupid, or inappropriate. I do not feel the car is driving me: an enabler, then.
It does 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds. The top speed, which is semi-theoretical but important for daydreams of driving away, is 155 mph. The cost is £54,000 or thereabouts, far below the constellation of supercars where reality is.
It causes a sensation when I park it at the synagogue in the barn near Truro: but then it is post-box red. Jews love Jaguars because they feel so mid twentieth century and British: they remind us of David Niven, the Few and victory in Europe. The nickname in Golders Green is the Jew Canoe: and so I paddle onwards, burning petrol.