The car stood in an outbuilding. An old Austin 7 was stored beside it. A black Jaguar saloon, it was the sort of car in which boys might sit and imagine themselves as policemen rushing to the scene of a crime, or secret agents racing through hostile territory.
There was a sense of something different about the car. The metal image of a jaguar on the bonnet, the deep blackness of the paintwork, the shiny chrome of the bumpers and trim, the smell of the red leather upholstery. It was a car of a boy’s imagination, a car that would have fulfilled a dream.
Decades later, when the young Police Constable Endeavour Morse drove Inspector Thursday’s car in the television series Endeavour, it was not hard to understand why Morse found the car so attractive. Thursday’s car was a black Jaguar in which a young boy would have dreamed of sitting. There is a moment when Shaun Evans, the actor playing Endeavour Morse looks into the rear view mirror of the car and through the possibilities created by CGI, his predecessor and successor John Thaw stares back. There is a moment of time travel, but who would deny that such a thing is impossible if one is driving such a car?
Jaguars had a class about them, a panache, a style, a quality that was inimitable. There was no other car quite comparable with a Jaguar. The red Jaguar driven by John Thaw’s incarnation of Inspector Morse is a car that is a mark of taste and discernment. It is a car that chimes with his appreciation of classical music and his love of opera. It is a car of culture, a car of class.
Driving on the M5 motorway in Gloucestershire this morning, a Jaguar passed me, as would be expected of a car with an engine capacity two or three times that of my Peugeot 207. White, sleek, it swept by, leaving a strange image in the mind. It was a Jaguar estate car.
BMW estate cars, Mercedes estate cars, may be fine, but never before had I seen a Jaguar estate car. It seemed the engineering equivalent of building a garage onto the end of Buckingham Palace, or a conservatory onto Windsor Castle. Why would anyone build a Jaguar estate car? Why would anyone buy a Jaguar estate car? Aren’t there plenty of other estate options already on the market?
It’s hard to imagine what Morse would have made of it.