It was one of those glorious English days: cold, dark, windy and damp. Confidence was not high; RF had dragged me to yet another industrial building in the middle of nowhere to check out yet another piece of automotive history: the Aston Martin DB5. As a woman raised in South Africa, the whole Bond thing had passed me by. Sure, I love Aston. The Vanquish is my number one all-time favorite car. But I'd driven enough classics to know that most of them are like male models: great to look at but incapable of a quick, intelligent conversation. And yet, there she was, and my God, she was beautiful.
I walked around the car a few times admiring its presence. The strange combination of its Volvo P1800-like rear end and bulldog nose, those perfect pipes and wire wheels, that rakish roofline– it all worked a treat. I was deeply smitten with the DB5, ready to fall in love. The interior kept the flame alive with its sweet-smelling leather and aircraft-style gauges. As always, RF had the first go. His real-time report warned me of the driving difficulties to follow. I told myself that his standards were too high; I wanted to like driving the DB as much as looking at it.
First problem: I couldn't see a thing. We returned to the Aston Martin Workshop for a cushion. It's hard to describe the feeling of driving a $200k classic car down a country lane while sitting on a cushion. It's a bit like playing tennis at Wimbledon in platform shoes. In this case, with weights tied to your arms. I've wasted many hours arguing about the ideal amount of power assistance for a steering system, but I'm sure that some is better than none. The DB5's massive steering wheel is there for a reason; I practically had to climb up its wooden sides to get enough leverage to turn the beast. Everything about driving the car was difficult: brakes, gearbox, visibility, radio, the lot.
This is the point where I'm supposed to say that suddenly everything gelled. That the DB5 and I got into a groove and all was right with the world. In truth, the Aston's skinny-tyred handling scared me to death, and I was not prepared to put the time in to make friends with the world's most beautiful truck. I couldn't wait to stop driving. "If only there was a set of wheels this beautiful that drove like a modern car," I said. "Oh," RF said, grateful for our untouched insurance premium. "You want an Eagle E-Type." E-Type? Sure it was a legend in its time, but if ever a car symbolized the whole sports car as small penis compensation thing, it's the Jaguar E-Type. Austin Powers' "Shaguar." Gimme a break.
Take two, outside a shed. Henry Pearman appeared from out of nowhere, tea in hand, and showed us his "factory." And then I heard a six-cylinder engine cough into life and she came 'round the corner: an Eagle E-Type. The car looked brand-spanking new– because it was. The Eagle wasn't a restoration; it was a ground-up recreation: chassis, engine, gearbox, brakes, suspension, etc. Henry assured us that all the E-Types' "foibles"– engine cooling, electrical gremlins, etc.– had been eliminated with modern technology. You could even order your Eagle with air conditioning that worked. "It's as reliable as any current Jag," Henry said, unaware that he'd made a joke.
Of course, the Eagle E-Type was one of those "if you have to ask you can't afford it, and if you can afford it you're going to have to wait a long time to get it" deals. My favorite kind of car, really. When my turn arrived, I found the Eagle to be a pussycat. Sure, there was a bit too much nostalgia, too much authenticity to the handling for me to really get a move on, but I could drive the damn thing plenty fast without breaking a sweat. The Eagle was more chic than all but a handful of exotics, or the entire lower end of Bond Street for that matter. Yes, I'd gotten over my anti-E thing, big style. This car was me: quick, nimble, comfortable, eye-catching and, of course, wearing the right label.
And I thought, why doesn't Jaguar do this? You know, build the E-Type with modern bits. Forget retro. I want pseudo-resto (restoration). I bet there are hundreds of thousands of drivers who'd love to drive a modern version of their favorite classic. American manufacturers– who need some serious help in the design department– could bring back all the best designs: the first Buick Roadmaster, the '55 Chevy, the big Caddies all the other designs that fill a pistonhead's heart with desire. As for me, make mine a DB5, WITH machine guns.