Of Men, Women, and Jaguars

Recently, our prolific correspondent, Michael Frank, mfrank@acm.org posted this missive on changing the oil in his "fleet". Michael could make watching paint dry interesting!
Note: Any similarity to previous postings on this subject is strictly accidental, believe me! Now gather 'round kids....it's story time.

Oil changing day. I slide the hydraulic jack under Maxwell's (my Jaguar E-Type) right flank. Carefully, I position a hand-carved wooden block on the lifting cup. The block has a hollow which allows it to engage the lifting pin on the floor pan. That lifting pin has been cunningly placed at a weak spot, so that novice Jaguarists can jack a hole through the floor. But I'm wise.

Maxwell slowly rises, almost groaning with the indignity. Fearing this discomfort, I protect myself with a couple of jack stands. I then slide underneath, position a pan under the plug, and loosen it a bit. Then, with a gloved hand, I manually turn the plug until it is almost free, and at the right moment, I pluck it from the drain and allow two and a half gallons of black stuff fill the pan.

European manufacturers were slow to adopt the spin on oil filter, so I must now engage in the hopelessly messy ritual of opening the cannister and changing the paper filter. Now groaning myself, I roll out from under the car, and go to my tool box for a wrench. Well, not a tool box, really, but an ancient chest of drawers that I've had since I was a kid. As I fumble for the wrench, I notice the bottom drawer is a bit open.

The bottom drawer is my secret place. Has been since I was a kid. C'mon, I sure you all have a place like that. Here is where I would stash the good stuff I probably should have thrown out. My Duncan Yo-Yo, a musket ball, the locomotive from my train set. That's what's in there.

Seeing that drawer open, I am seized by the need to see The Pin. Tossing my gloves aside, I slide open the drawer, reach inside, search a bit, and at last, I find it. It is a simple tin lapel pin, about an inch and a half across. It has a silhouette of an XKE, and the slogan "Keep America Beautiful Bring Home A Jaguar". In a moment, I am transported........................

It is April 1966. I am thirteen, just a pudgy, awkward, semi-teenager at the New York Auto Show. In those days, it was held at the New York Collesium, a huge exhibition center at 59th Street off Columbus Circle. This was a very exciting show for me, and I would bet, memorable for anyone who was there.

1966 was, I think, the golden year for automobile culture. Federal regulations had little impact on design back then. The industry was driven by style, horsepower, and chrome. At the 1966 auto show, you could see six pack GTO's, hemi Plymouths, Lincolns with suicide doors. As I recall, the first Excaliburs were at this show, as were the first Avanti II's: both were really funny looking Covettes, proving you can stuff a lump into almost anything. Also at this show was the incredible Hertz Mustang 500, a fire breathing monster which you could rent for the weekend.

All of this was a bit much for a thirteen year old, who was already counting the days until he could get a learner's permit. I had a shopping bag from Plymouth, and I had stuffed it with tons of literature. (Oh! If I had only saved those brochures!) It was late in the day that I stumbled on the Jaguar stand.

It was at this show that Jaguar introduced the E-Type 2+2, or at least, introduced it to me. It was ungainly in relation to the other E-Types, but it was still a magnificent car, certainly nicer than your average sedan. The one at the show was red, and as I looked at the literature, which touted it as the "Family Sportscar", a plan came to me. I would convince my father to buy one. He would drive it for a few years. When I got my license, the car would be old enough for him to trade in, but I would persuade him to give it to me. You see, I have always been a strategic thinker.

As I pondered all this, a little show began. Miss Jaguar Sports came out on stage, and demonstrated how the 2+2 could be loaded up with all sorts of sporting gear, including a scuba tank and a tennis racquet, for those interested in an underwater volley. Miss Jaguar Sports was gorgeous. I should say that she seemed so to a thirteen year old, whose eyes were blinded with hormones. I couldn't take my adolescent eyes off of her. Smitten. Love Struck. I was sold on the car, the girl, the whole package. As she finished the show, she noticed me staring, evidently not as discreet as I would have hoped. She reached into a cardboard box, and handed me The Pin. I blushed from head to toe, and ran from the exhibit, but not before I grabbed a whole handful of those pins from the box....

That night, I approached my father.

"Pa, we should buy one of these."
"It's a sportscar"
"No, see...it's a family sportscar"
"Don't you have homework to do?"
"Really, I saw it, it would work"
"Wadda yew nutz?"

He was now using the loving tone of voice he reserved for when his beloved youngest son lost his marbles. I began to suspect that his enthusiasm for the project was wavering. I pressed my argument home:

"Look, it would work, it would be as
good as any car, and it has class"

"CLASS? I DRIVE A CHRYSLER!"

It was over. I had committed the ultimate transgression. I believe that one of the big Commandments was "thou shalt not denigrate Mopar". Over. The car, the girl, all over.

Time heals all wounds. Days became weeks, weeks became months, and soon it was April again. I would go to the auto show, seek out Miss Jaguar Sports, confess my heart. Perhaps we could go scuba diving with her 2+2 sometime.

Well, wouldn't you know it, she wasn't there. The booth was different, and the new models just weren't Miss Jaguar Sports. I was devastated.

I wandered through that show, looking at the first generation of federalized cars. No huge changes, but a seat belt here, emergency flasher there, still the old glitz, but the wind of change was in the air. Eventually, I found myself at the Dodge exhibit. There was a great big Charger on the stand, with a 383 Magnum as I recall. And showing it off, was none other than....yes.....the Dodge Rebellion girl!

Try to imagine what it felt like to be fourteen, and be face to face with this legendary beauty. Now try to imagine as she reached back, then thrust out her forefinger, yes, pointed right at me, and shouted 'The Dodge Rebellion Wants You!" In a flash, my melancholy melted away. I was in love again. You don't have to be Al Bundy to realize how special it was to be chosen by the Dodge Rebellion girl. And through the hormone rush, I could hear my father's words:

"CLASS? I DRIVE A CHRYSLER!"

His wisdom suddenly was clear to me. To paraphrase Mark Twain, it was amazing how smart the old man had become in twelve short months. I could drive a Mopar, and still get the girl. Needless to say, I pressed up towards the stand, and asked her for a lapel pin. And yes, I still have The Pin. A two inch laminated pin, with a picture of the Dodge Rebellion girl and the logo, The Dodge Rebellion Wants You. It just doesn't get better than that.................

In reflecting on all this, the sexual nature of the pitch is apparent..but I don't think it was at the time. There is a simple mathematics to all this:

Prime Axiom: Girls like boys. No explanation for this, but there is plenty of empirical evidence.

Inanimate transference theorem: Boys like cars. This makes perfect sense:

Zelda: "I won't go out with you, Dobie"
Dobie (thinking): "It must be my car"

Reverse transference theorem: Girls like cars. How does this happen? Follows directly from the Prime Axiom and the Inanimate Transference Theorem:

Zelda: "I like Dobie, but he's always fooling with that car"
Dobie: "Well, maybe if you give me a hand, we can do something later"
Zelda (thinking): "If I admire his car, maybe he'll notice me"

The rest is capitalism in action, but hey, as long as we're having fun.

Last step for today is to change the filter on the Barracuda. I can do the whole oil change without lifting the car, and the filter can easily be serviced from above. In a minute it is over, and I have used one of my last remaining chrome Formula S filters. But Archie the Barracuda and Max the Jaguar are road ready.

I gather the used motor oil in gallon containers...four for today's work. In time, I will filter this miasmic goo and use it as a winter fuel supplement for my Mercedes Diesel. Mustang, Messerschmidt, Spitfire, all have all found peace and synergy under this roof.

So have the man and woman who own them.

I wish you all a happy Father's Day. Good night.

Mike Frank
1969 E-Type 2+2
1966 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S
1979 Mercedes 300CD


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