There is no denying the romance that sets in all over Cape Town when the sun starts setting and the sky turns that wonderful gold and red. It’s the perfect time for couples to take a stroll on the beach and gaze into each other’s eyes, whispering sweet nothings to the gentle sound of the lapping waves.
As the romantics get ready to way lyrical about the red sky overhead and Table Mountain in the background, let’s just remember the other side of that coin.
Every town has that one mysterious lady with 16 cats and no-one at her side. No-one ever seems to know her story either…
Was she scorned by a young lover many moons ago? Did he go to the army and never return? Did he turn out to be a Sharks supporter? All we do know is that the only company she keeps is an ever-expanding clowder of cats.
I think I have found Cape Town’s Cat-Man, hidden away in Milnerton. Not your typical “cat person,” he’s happily married with children and constantly surrounded by friends, colleagues and family. Strangest of all, he describes himself as a dog person who’s not really a fan of cats.
So, you could be forgiven for questioning why on earth this individual would accumulate his very own clowder of no less than 5 cats…until of course you realise that those cats are Jaaaaaaaags (I think that is the correct spelling).
Richard is a regular on our Carbs and Coffee runs and has collected 5 absolutely stunning examples of some of the most beautiful metal sculptures ever created. I may be a little biased here, since I have always been a huge Jag fan myself and my own XJR was once featured here.
The fact is that there is just something special about the way Coventry does things.
In terms of their styling, until recently at least, they always seemed to look at the past for inspiration and built classically beautiful cars with big curves and chrome detailing that were perhaps a little old-fashioned. Technically though, their cars were always ahead of their time and drove better and faster than most of their competition could manage. Where they really excelled however, was to build interiors so classy you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a Rolls Royce with the amount of wood and leather in there. I’d like to think that the word “plastic” warranted a Pound coin in the company swear jar at Jaguar.
Old fashioned, with glamorous styling, exquisite interiors and driving dynamics ahead of their time, the Jaguars certainly live up to their ethos: Grace, Pace and Space.
It’s hardly surprising then that as the sun was setting over Cape Town and the hypnotising, romantic effect of red skies kicked into high gear, I completely fell for the charms of these big cats all over again – and one in particular, but we’ll get to that.
Jags are famous for their sculpted body lines, and especially their bonnets. The angle of the late afternoon sun was casting shadows behind every power bulge and every creased body line. It’s obvious why these cats are nocturnal; they look incredible in this light.
The rapidly changing light meant that I was running around each car at warp speed trying to get as many pictures as I could before the magic faded into night. But the more you look at them, the more little details you pick up and over 500 pictures later I still don’t feel like I have captured everything!
We start off with the stunning cream-coloured 3.8 S-Type. Standing in the shadow of the more famous Mk II, the S-type is an unsung hero, and technically a better car than the Mk II. It has better brakes, better interior space, better steering and of course, a much better ride thanks to a very sophisticated independent rear suspension.
Having driven other cars from the mid 60’s I was absolutely blown away by how modern this car felt to drive. Richard’s has seen some upgrades to the cooling system and most notably a 5-speed gearbox, but the rest of the car is still straight from 1966, yet it drives like a brand new vehicle! Especially remarkable was how quickly I was completely comfortable with it, even when driving in pitch black night, thanks to load shedding (for non-South African readers, that’s the term our illustrious electricity provider uses for rolling blackouts when they can’t meet demand for electricity).
Sir William Lyons was one of the founders of Jaguar Cars. He was with the company back in the days when they only manufactured motorcycle side-cars and were named SS Cars. His management style was often described as ‘autocratic’ and he had absolute control over the styling of every new Jaguar.
He started toying with the idea of producing a 2-door version of the XJ saloon, but it wasn’t until the Series II came out that his pet project came into production. Sadly, it was to be the last Jaguar design he would be involved with. In converting the Series II XJ into a coupe, the proportions of the car are slightly odd, but as Francis Bacon so aptly pointed out – “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” The shape simply captivates you and you cannot stop looking at it.
These cars are extremely rare too, with only 1,677 Daimler Sovereign Coupes ever produced.
Not the only Daimler in Richard’s collection, the white X308 long wheel base Daimler he owns with his father is a very close relative to my XJR. Somehow, the extended wheelbase makes the car look even more graceful and elegant. This is a smooth and capable cruiser with classic XJ lines, making it one of the sleekest and most beautiful saloon cars ever (in my opinion of course).
The X308 was a big step for Jaguar and the first time the XJ was offered exclusively with V8 engines. Problems with the high-tech nikasil cylinder linings in early cars caused some reputational damage, but today these cars are coveted as one of the marque’s best efforts.
Of course, the first time Richard asked me which one I would like to drive, I became Mr Cheeky and immediately reached for the keys to his absolutely gorgeous F-type S. Having read every review on this car, I was instantly struck by the fact that you really cannot believe everything you read. Jeremy Clarkson himself droned on about how needlessly hard and harsh the ride is in the F-type, yet I actually found it to be very comfortable – much softer than my Z4 for example.
In typical Jag fashion, the loud pedal needs more of a prod than you might initially think, but as it nears the plush carpet, it becomes very obvious that the supercharged V6 is more than capable of putting your bowels in your back-pocket.
However, nothing could have prepared me for what happened when I started taking pictures of the stunning Series I XJ6. Finished in a unique colour somewhere between black and blue, coupled with the angled, shimmering light of Cape Town’s sunset, I was instantly in love and I hadn’t even driven it yet at that point.
The black curves of the body fade into flashes of blue as the sun hits it at just the right angle. Every single ridge on the bonnet is accentuated by electric blue lines fading into black as the sun plays over the sculpted shape. All this magic is contrasted tastefully by just the right amount of chrome in the grille, headlight surrounds and bumpers.
Below the front bumper is a second grille, like a modern-day air-dam, giving the front end of the car a very purposeful look and a visual attitude echoed by the way it drives. Anyone who has really big, excited dogs will know how it feels to be dragged along at warp speed when all you wanted to do was take them for a gentle walk. This is almost like that, because it WANTS to be driven.
Richard calls this car “The Bruiser” which gives you some idea of the driving experience. The interior and exterior styling screams out upper-class, as does the ride which is the ever-clichéd “floating on a cloud” scenario, but ultimately the car feels like an axe-murdering psychopath dressed in a tailored Armani suit. It’s a dainty and beautiful princess walking her rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth pit bull terrier. It’s simply marvellous.
These cars are Grace, Pace and Space personified. Jaguars are truly magnificent things as surely as Cape Town is a magnificent place. As sad as the Cat-Lady’s story may seem to most, I can think of nothing better than having a collection like this in my garage.