This luxury car, the purchase of which I cannot possibly justify on any economic grounds, may be my last convertible, but my first was about as un-luxurious as one can imagine. As a young journo, I bought a broken down old English Ford Prefect, fixed the engine, ripped the body off and covered it with a sport kit. Half way
En route to Connecticut in the new 2009 XK8
through the process, I read the instructions. Turns out I had removed an important part of the car’s structure, and ever after the car had a curious flexing quality when I went over 40 mph. Truthfully, it wasn’t really a convertible since it had no top, merely a tonneau cover for the passenger seat. No doors either. And just a sports windshield in front of the driver. Passengers, when any were brave enough to come with me, got the wind in their teeth.
Ford kit car in Kenya 1959
Later in London, my BFF Paul went on a BBC assignment to Canada. Eventually, I took over and he returned to England. While he was away he lent me his MG Midget for the summer. He was a generous chap then, and he is still today (see my blog of December 6, 2012). Putting the top up and down was a labour of love on any Brit sport car, usually involving at least one crushed finger. Crossing a viaduct on the way to Canterbury, one rainy windy evening, a huge gust tore the top off, and it flew away, never to be seen again. Fortunately there was a tonneau in the boot and I found if I drove fast enough the rain swept over my head. Electrics were by Lucas, Prince of Darkness, so if I put the heater on, the lights dimmed and the wipers stopped, so it was a cold journey to say the least.
MG party in London 1966
In Canada, nobody had convertibles, except Diane (we both emigrated within six months of each other, but in spite of many mutual friends, did not meet until four years ago). She’d had an Austin Healey Sprite and then a Triumph Spitfire in UK and, in Canada, an MGB and a progression of European sports cars, before settling down with a succession of Jaguars. Diane likes to go topless too. The joke about Jaguars used to be that the second seat was for the mechanic and the height of masochism was to own a 12-cylinder version. But after Ford took over, the strange Brit attitude to car making succumbed to Ford’s “Quality is Job 1” message. Meanwhile I’d gone the 3M route — marriage, Mississauga, mini-van. With three kids and a dog, the latter was the only sensible route. Thirty years later, I was down to a tiny apartment, a bicycle, and a small sailboat.
Diane and her 2005 XK8
Diane wasn’t impressed by the apartment or the bike, but she liked sailing. For the first couple of days after we met at a party, we took taxis. I didn’t know she had a midnight blue Jaguar XK8 stashed away in the garage. The first time we took it out, for a Sunday brunch at Le Select Bistro, she let me drive, but insisted on putting the top down. It was a brisk March day, exactly four years ago. Nice car, offered the parking lot attendant. It was.
That summer, the lease was up on the Jag. Jaguar Leasing was going out of business with the Tata takeover and I decided to ignore common sense and buy the lease out myself. However, we couldn’t come to terms, so we started looking at Mercedes convertibles, when the salesman at Grand Touring Auto phoned. A rich lady, whose husband drove a big Roller, had turned her Jag in with only 2,000K on the clock. The boot was too small to take her golf clubs. Were we interested? Since neither Diane nor I have ever played golf, the size of the trunk would not be an is