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Jaguar XKE or MG Midget?

John W. Pinkerton


If you’ve ever read my essay “Cars,” you know I’m not a car guy: I’ve never lusted for the hottest, latest, fastest version bursting from the automotive factories, but I must admit there were two vehicles which made my toes curl a little.

I recall vividly the first time I saw a Jaguar XKE.  I was a sophomore in college out on the town for the evening---you know, driving around, dropping in to bars, looking…looking for someone or something exciting.  The bright florescent lights  captured my attention as I drove by the showroom.  After circling the block, I stopped at the curb and saw there was only one vehicle in the brightly lit space…its hood open.  Intrigued, I killed the old heap, got out, and slowly walked to the plateglass of the showroom.  As I looked down into the engine compartment of the vehicle which was nudged against the plateglass, I counted the twelve cylinders…holy crap…twelve cylinders.  The engine compartment was huge and overflowing with chrome.  I repositioned to get a better look at the body.  The body of the car was…well, spectacular---beauty and brawn wrapped into one gorgeous package.  I was in love.

John Schaeffer’s "In the Key of E" is an Jaguar XKE inspired by the fact that Big Ben in London strikes in the key of e.   It is 18 x 24 acrylic on canvas.

To my eye, the Jaguar XKE, produced from 1962-1975, is the most beautiful automobile ever produced.  Its aerodynamic lines puts it in a class by itself.  Even the Metropolitan Museum said “yes” to the E.

I stood before the object of my adulation wondering if I would ever be able to possess the beauty.  Remember, I was a sophomore in college who had just taken out my third  National Defense Student Loan so I could afford to continue in college.

I never saw many XKE’s on the street; Hell, they were pretty pricey.  I remember seeing my first XKE sedan, four-seater, while I was coming out of a movie theatre in Germany…nice, but the hump of the roof added to accommodate two extra passengers made it look pregnant.  It was never meant to be a sedan.

It was the kind of car that I’d refuse to even sit in today if given a chance because it would make me want it even more than I already do.

I also suspected at the age of twenty that I was not and never would be an XKE kind of guy.  It just would never match my personality; it was far too beautiful, far too powerful to share the road with me.  No, it could never be.  It was a love affair that cooled but was never forgotten.

John Schaeffer’s 1947 MG TC named "Too Cool". 12 x 16 acrylic on canvas

My most enduring love is the MG Midget.  I knew immediately that it fit my personality much better.  It wasn’t as streamlined as the XKE and certainly not as powerful.  It was handsome in its own way and a little quirky.

There were a lot of versions over its history from 1929 through 1955: M, C, D F, J, P, TA, TB, TC, TD, and TF.  They were all basically the same.  If any changes were apparent, it is that they became more attractive in my eyes.  I grieved a little when it stopped production.  I haven’t seen one in years; it’s my understanding that their value has gone up astronomically.

I always thought that this car fit my personality much more closely than the XKE.  I could see myself behind the wheel of an MG wearing a pistol cap with elbow patches on my sports coat driving about the countryside looking for antiques.  Well, that’s how I see myself even if you may not.  Leave me my dreams.

Perhaps we are what we drive.  However, I doubt it.  I’m presently driving a Chrysler 300, good car, very dependable, very comfortable….  On second thought, perhaps we are what we drive.