My first recollection of Jaguar was at the (now long since demolished) showroom of Howells of Cardiff. I was about 7 years old. My granddad was (god help him) trying to negotiate a deal on a Triumph Acclaim, while my father and I wandered into the BL showroom next door to see a Series III XJ12 in Gunmetal with red leather. To my young eyes it was sleek, exotic and intoxicating. The door felt heavy like a bank vault and, inside, the leather was thick and the wood dark and lustrous. It was like nothing I'd seen. I was hooked.
My dad subsequently went on to have several Jags, usually egged on by me. His best was one of the few XJ40 V12s sold before the X300 model change. Flamenco red with red-piped doeskin hide and claret carpets. Creamy engine with a subtle rumble on acceleration. To my horror he sold it less than a year after he bought it (in a rare moment of sanity, he'd realised the fuel bills and depreciation were unjustifiable). In his heart I think even now he wishes he still had it.
As soon as I could afford it I bought my first Jag. It was "only" an X Type but it was still a dream come true. A black Sport model (3 litre manual 4WD). I can only think that those who criticise the X type (especially the petrol version) have never driven one. Sure it shared some parts with a Ford, but nobody ever seems to worry as they shell out for over-priced Audis which share heavily with VWs, Seats and Skodas.
I am now lucky enough to own a supercharged XF. A brutally fast, thoroughly modern car that needs no misty-eyed sentimentality to justify its existence. But at the same time it's every inch a Jag. I can still see the bonnet bulge and headlight cowl of that XJ12 as I sit in the driver's seat. What more could I ask?