REPRINTED FROM THE NOVEMBER 2, 2021 EDITION OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. PHOTOS COURTESY WSJ AND CALEB KENNA. STORY BY A.J. BAIME.
This car lover grew up in a world of iconic, all-American vehicles, but something changed when she saw this 1971 E Type 4.2. Elizabeth “Widgie” Pierpont, 57 years old, who works in real estate and lives in Bennington County, VT, on her 1971 Jaguar E Type 4.2, as told to A.J. Baime.
Elizabeth ‘Widgie’ Pierpont with her 1971 Jaguar E Type convertible. She has owned the car for 38 years.
I grew up in a tiny town north of Chicago. My father was a huge car enthusiast. I remember all of his cars: a 1963 Lincoln Continental, a 1964 Corvette, a 1968 Mustang, a 1974 Mercury Cougar, a 1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. These were just a few. All his cars had one thing in common: They were all American.
He let me drive to the carwash, starting when I was 11. I learned to drive stick shift in the family 1974 Mercury Capri. From 1978 to 1982, my father sponsored a Corvette race car, and I went to a lot of races with him, all around the Midwest.
The Jaguar E Type is one of the most revered of all classic cars. A convertible like this one was the third automobile to enter the Museum of Modern Art’s design collection.
Both my parents died when I was 18. It was very traumatic. I was a freshman in college, and my brother and I were not in a position to take care of the cars. So we sold them. My brother had a few dollars in his pocket, and he bought a vehicle. I remember thinking: Well, if he can do that, why can’t I? I started looking around at dealerships in Chicago.
When you really fall in love with a car, it’s true love. That’s how I felt when I first saw this 1971 Jaguar in 1983. The E Type was a classic. (The model was often called XKE in the U.S. when the car was built, and is often called E-Type with a hyphen. Ms. Pierpont’s car says “E Type” on it.) It worried me that my dad would not approve—because it was not an American car. But I also thought: I was so enamored of the way he loved and cared for his cars. I knew if I bought this one, I would care for it forever.
Widgie Pierpont likens Vermont’s roads to the country roads of England, where this Jaguar was born.
I kept the car in our garage at the home where I grew up, while I was in college. After that, I moved to Chicago for work. I found a great underground heated garage with people who would take care of my car, because I was working all the time. In 1993, I got married and moved to Seattle. We were not sure if we would stay, so the Jaguar remained in Chicago. In 1995, I had my son. Two and a half years later, I had my daughter. We moved to Bangkok for a short time. Then Rye, NY.
The original interior. Under the car’s hood: a 4.2-liter, inline, six-cylinder engine that puts out 245 horsepower.
All of which is to say: This past spring, I finally had the time to give this car the love I wanted to give it. I had the mechanicals redone. For most of the 38 years I have owned this car, I put about 2,000 miles on it. I have put nearly that much on it in the past six weeks.
I live in Vermont now, and it is the first place I have lived where I am surrounded by beautiful roads. The roads resemble the country roads in England, where this car was born. Low-sloping roads, 50 mph, past farm stands and sheep—it is the perfect place to drive a car like this with the top down, even on a bad hair day. I also think that the preservation of classic vehicles is essential, and I want to do my part. Vermont’s roads are ‘the perfect place to drive a car like this with the top down,’ Widgie Pierpont says, ‘even on a bad hair day.’
This past September, I took my kids to a car show called The British Invasion, in Stowe, VT. It’s a weekend event for British cars. We had so much fun, and I think they learned something about why having a vehicle like this one is special. Sharing the joy with them! That is what my father did for me.
Widgie Pierpont in the driver’s seat of her 1971 Jag. The license plate is short for catamount—the University of Vermont’s mascot.
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