Monday, October 02, 2006

New Wheels

Old Jag
The friendly old cat that was Mad Dog's daily driver for five years.

There has been a truly silly level of travel activity in the Mad Dog kennels recently. So much so that time available for blogging has been severely restricted. However I really should mention a trip to San Diego, California, I took back in August. The purpose was to pick up a new (used) car from old friend, mechanic, English ex-pat and generally top bloke, Mel Muzio. Back in 2001 when I arrived once again on the shores of the New World I needed an inexpensive pair of wheels to traverse the greater Seattle area. Mel had mentioned he had a decent 1988 Jaguar Vanden Plas for sale. It was a high mileage car but inexpensive so I flew down to California, stumped up the readies and drove back to Seattle over the Thanksgiving weekend with my daughter who was keen to take a look at the University of Washington as a potential site for her tertiary education. Frankly I was nervous about the concept of an old Jag and catastrophic bills but then I was really only planning to keep the car for a year and get one of new MINI Coopers that were due to be imported.

Well its funny how things change. I had never seen myself as the driver of a Jaguar saloon -too big, bourgeois, expensive and stodgy. Up until that point I preferred small, high-powered, noisy buzz boxes. So it was slightly disconcerting to realise that I loved wafting around in the Jag. I was calmer, less aggressive and reaally enjoyed its cache effect. Everybody loves these old cats, even when they have faded paint and are clearly a bit past their prime. So after the first year of ownership I did not trade up (or down?) for a MINI but elected to continue driving my iconic piece of UKmobilia. And so I continued for five years when it became clear that a change would be necessary in the interests of both safety and economy. Once again I contacted friend Mel who said that he had just the car for me: a black 1998 XJ8 in pristine condition and with all the worrying mechanical weak spots for that year corrected. So once again I flew down to San Diego, completed the transaction and drove back to Seattle. This time however, I didn't blast back in wintry rain and snow as I did in 2001 but opted for a leisurely cruise along the sunny and stunningly beautiful Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco before jumping onto the more business like Interstate 5 to Portland, Oregon and Seattle. I arrived back home feeling relaxed and refreshed (note to self: the feeling had better better last, pal, as it's the only vacation you're going to get this year!)

New XJ8
Black Cat, Mad Dog and Mel.

Big Sur
Big Cat on Big Sur.

And what about the car you ask? Well I'm still learning about it and I sometimes have to (Heaven forbid) consult the owners manual. In essence it has a 300hp V8 motor with sports exhaust, traction control, electronic stability control, cupholders (a first for me) as well as a 6 CD player ("so 1990" I know, but again this is a first for me). The interior materials must have required the clear cutting of a forest of burr walnut and the extermination of several large quadripeds. Overall it's quite gorgeous and according to the onboard computer is drinking at the very reasonable rate of 19.4 mpg (and don't forget that's US gallons, not 10% larger Imperial measure). My only reservation is the rear windows which are tinted black: while fine for Southern Californian pursuits such as drug dealing and drive-by shootings they are less suitable for the Pacific Northwest where these activities are less popular.

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