Updated: Nov 4
I've always had a love affair with Jaguars. Ever since I was young, driving a Jaguar had been a dream, tinged with nostalgia for a simpler time when I was a delivery driver for George Kidd Motors in Royal Leamington Spa. Back then, I was behind the wheel of the new Jaguar XJ6 models, delivering them from the factory to the dealer. Oh, what an experience! The car drove like a dream, its engine purring in that distinct Jaguar way, the interior enveloping you in luxury. I knew right then, I had to have one. One day.
Leaving my beloved 3.4 MkII Jaguar in England was gut-wrenching, but Australia promised new beginnings. And it delivered, quite literally. Before long, I was back in a Jaguar XJ6. Oh, the joy of driving those four wheels across the vast expanses of my new home!
But life has its little surprises. One day, I found myself at Roadbend Motors in Welshpool, chatting with the owner, Jim Percival. I was already on good terms with him due to our shared affection for Jaguars. But then, as I was walking through the yard, my eye caught something: a red Maserati Merak. It was stunning, the epitome of a supercar, sleek and low-slung, like a predator ready to pounce.
Jim noticed my wandering gaze and walked over. "She's a beauty, isn't she?" he said, chuckling. He told me the price, and surprisingly, it was within reach. I'd been doing well for myself, and the thought of owning a Maserati filled me with a sense of excitement I hadn't felt since my early days in Leamington Spa. Could I really switch gears and become a Maserati man?
The beautiful body designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro took the breath away. The doubt crept in when I got closer. My hands felt the curves of the car, but something was off. The panels didn't align well; the door opened with a creak that was more horror movie than Italian opera. I sat inside, and the poor quality hit me. This was no Jaguar. The tactile luxury was missing, the solid feel of British engineering replaced by something less substantial.
Nevertheless, I was about to ask Jim if I could take the Merak for a test spin, but he informed me the clutch was due for replacement later that day. "Ah, don't worry about that," Jim chimed in, sensing my disappointment. "Replacing the clutch is quick and inexpensive. It's actually from a Citroën."
What! That was a revelation that felt like a splash of cold water on my face. A Maserati sporting a Citroën clutch? I couldn't believe it. Jim, noticing my surprised reaction, tried to smooth things over. "Citroën owns Maserati, so they share quite a few components. The braking system, switches, and even some of the instruments are also Citroën parts."
Instead of calming my worries, Jim's explanation shattered the mystique I'd built up around the car. It was as if the Maserati Merak had been unmasked, revealing a Frankenstein creation underneath. This was no purebred Italian stallion; it was a patchwork vehicle pretending to be my dream car, a poor man’s Ferrari.
In that moment, I realised I couldn't do it. I couldn't give up my Jaguar, my piece of British heritage, for a car that was all show and no substance. The Maserati would turn heads, sure, but owning it would turn my stomach. I thanked Jim for his time and went back to my XJ6, where I felt immediately at home.
So there it was: I remained a Jaguar man, clinging to my British roots, revelling in the quality engineering that had enchanted me all those years ago in Leamington Spa. No matter how dazzling the exterior, nothing could quite compare to the real thing. And that's how I learnt that sometimes, the allure of something new and shiny can't hold a candle to the deep, enduring love for a classic.