I’ve just totted up the sum total of my motoring life – I’ve driven over 250 separate types of car, owned 22 examples, ridden in many hundreds, and written about hundreds more. And in my experience, it only takes a few moments to get a gut instinct about a car in the metal. You get a feeling, strengthened by experience. You can look and see a car’s history as clearly as that of a timeworn face. Some whisper “This is pukka”, some scream “run away”.
And yet it takes far longer to bond with a car than it does simply to form an opinion. Several months can pass and it can still be a passing stranger; often it’s only the passage of years which makes a car into something really special to you. A car is still an object, until you share experiences and memories with it. That’s when it becomes your mate. And in the loss of my Montego I lost one of my best mates.
But can you form that sort of emotional attachment more quickly, in exceptional circumstances? I recently had the perfect opportunity to test the theory. A friend’s stag night in Liverpool was followed immediately by another’s wedding in Bridport the following morning. I hadn’t the heart to let either one down. With 246 miles between the two, and a total of over 600 to cover in less than 48 hours, time wasn’t on my side. It would mean driving through the night with regular rest stops, and would theoretically be the ideal journey on which to make a new mate.
And I have a new car to befriend. From the ashes of E225CMV (or, more accurately, its insurance payment), I’ve landed myself one of my boyhood dream cars. I’ve found myself one of the few remaining affordable six-cylinder Jaguar XJRs in good condition. There’s something appealing about a nice fast saloon, especially one with a supercharger whine – and X300-era Jaguars are something I’ve enjoyed having in my life since I got the Apolojag. It’s a genuine sub-100,000-mile car, and naff number plate aside, a promising long-term fleet member. I bought it from a trader friend, but before him it was part of a small collection of old Jags. And unlike most mid 90s snotters, this one’s been cared for.
A special car then, and one worth bonding with. But could I in 48 hours achieve a relationship with my new motor that usually takes months to form?
The journey didn’t start well – with a considerable traffic jam on the M6 northbound and a dicky alternator on the Jag, I found myself wishing I’d brought something else. Something that worked properly. Ah well – I had aircon, I had music and I had a comfy chair. And I’d be grateful for the aircon and the performance on my madcap morning run. Having arrived in Liverpool an hour late, I enjoyed the most sober stag night of my life until 3.30am.
I had to be sober. I had a long drive ahead of me, and the time meant it would be bad enough. And I had to be in Bridport by 11am.
I shan’t bore you with stories of every motorway services, at which I was taking a rest en route. At around 5am, you find you hit a metaphorical wall of drowsiness, which by about 6.30am has disappeared. I stayed off the road until I felt awake again, but by then time was of the essence. I walked into the wedding venue with just 5 minutes to spare – never have I cut a social engagement so fine- and yet in something less capable I might have found the journey too much.
There’s little to say about the return leg, really – traffic past Stonehenge was dreadful, but by the time I hit the A34 things were going my way. A typical drive home from the south coast, just in something with a little more style and muscle than usual. It might not have been a difficult drive, or one which used good roads, but it was memorable for all the right reasons.
By the time I arrived home, I’d got a new mate. As good as the Montego was? Not yet – we’ve not known each other long enough. But my hard living, hard partying new green friend is definitely going to stick about. Perhaps it’s not time that is the deciding factor, perhaps it’s distance – and it just takes most of us rather longer than 48 hours to cover 600 miles in a new toy.
But I could get used to trips like this with my new best friend…