I’ve always loved sports cars. I think I got the bug back when I was a young kid growing up in the Richmond district of San Francisco. This was in the 1950s when they would have sports car races through Golden Gate Park. My dad would take me to these sanctioned races, which were held on weekends. I especially remember the MG TDs, Porsches and Allards. But by far the most impressive to me were the Jaguar XK120s, which were the hottest cars out there.
As I grew older and started driving, I was drawn to European sports cars. The first two that I owned were used Triumphs, which were all that I could afford at the time. What I really lusted after, though, was one of the Jaguar XK120s that I had fallen in love with at Golden Gate Park. But Jags were too expensive for my wallet at the time. Besides that, they had a reputation for mechanical failure and were expensive to fix. As I got older my attraction to sports cars remained strong but switched from British to German. During my thirties and forties I owned a BMW and two Porsches. These were relatively expensive cars that would have been out of my league if I had purchased them new from a dealer.
About five years ago I started getting a hankering for something different. I still enjoyed the sports car experience, but this time I wanted something a little bit more refined, smoother, quieter and easier to drive. My research showed me that a Jaguar XK8 might meet my needs. In the late 1980s Jaguar was purchased by Ford Motor company, and they totally redeveloped the line. They got rid of the old mechanical elements that were so unreliable and difficult to maintain, but the kept the traditional looks of the old Jaguar line in retro form. The XK8 is similar in appearance to the Jaguar XKEs of the 1960s and ’70s, which in turn were an evolution of the original XK120s. The interior, although much more refined than its predecessors, still bears the signature burl wood dash of the old XKs that I first saw in Golden Gate Park 50 years ago.
One of the interesting things about the XK8 is that it was the first eight-cylinder production car ever made by Jaguar. Although V8s were a mainstay of most U.S. manufacturers for decades, Jags had always sported six, 10 and 12 cylinders; this model was really a departure for the company. It was also one of the first brand-new models developed under Ford’s ownership regime, so perhaps it has a bit of Detroit under the hood.
To me the lines of the XK8 are beautiful, the engine is quiet but powerful and the handling is tight. The ergonomics make every thing smooth and easy. When you open and close the doors they automatically crack open slightly because the fit is so tight. The top is fully automatic and goes up and down in seconds. These are some of the niceties of upper-level vehicles whose costs are often prohibitive.
This car cost around $75,000 when it was new in 1999, and I bought it in 2004 with 20,000 miles on it for $30,000 and it was in excellent condition. This is a big savings for a car with such low mileage. I have often thought about why the car was so inexpensive, and it is probably due to Jaguar’s poor reputation during the 20 or so years prior to Ford’s buyout. I’ve owned the car for almost five years and have had no major problems. I’m totally happy with it and will probably keep for a long time. Its well sculptured lines give it a unique look. It is as reliable as any other brand in its class. I think it was – and still is – a steal of a deal.