Monday, 24 December 2007

XF - I want it more than ever

I know it's an old subject on this blog, but I'd like, if I may, to reflect once more upon the Jaguar XF.

Since my last blog upon the subject, I have read several road tests, and seen my namesake's review for BBC Top Gear. And it's promising; here, it seems, we have a car that has set a new benchmark, the car the next 5-Series has to beat.

I'm pleased. No, I'm ecstatic. I've always been a Jag man, and now we have the XF, I know that Jag has a good future. It's done exactly what they should have done with the S-type. When that was designed, they copied the MK2 in a retro, fussy way. With the XF, they have looked at the MK2 next to an XK150, and thought 'Right, let's do a 4dr version of our GT again'.

Not many of the old Jag fans I know agree with me though. They think it looks too like a Mazda6, too like a Mondeo. I reserved judgement until I saw a green one, my configuration, but I have seen a video of a green one, and it looks MIND-BLOWINGLY GORGEOUS.

I mentioned robbing a bank last time to raise funds. I've since reconsidered, as I'd not be able to afford the insurance until long after I'd been caught. But I will still have one. And every time one passes me in the street. I will turn, I will keep looking. And my heart will ache with longing until I finally realise this dream.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

That bus bit in Live And Let Die - it's not half as fun to see for real

As my route to college would normally involve catching three buses either way, the college has employed a local bus company to provide transport to college for those in my area. This service has largely been good, with only the single instance of a bus that was half an hour early to mar the reputation.

On Wednesday however, the bus was involved in a small accident with another vehicle. This was not due to the driver of the bus (Admittedly from secondhand evidence, as I was away at an English Language event), but due to the other party.

What I have found unnerving, however, is the events of this morning.

Half an hour after the bus should have arrived at my stop (the first on it's route), it was nowhere in sight. So I rang the company. I was told there had been an accident, and it was a good idea to arrange alternative transport. No problem, as another of the four of us at the stop had phoned his parents for a lift. He was happy to offer the rest of us a lift also.

We went in the direction the bus would have come from, and the tailbacks were horrendous. And I then saw why. Three fire engines, so many police cars I lost count, and the double decker bus lodged firmly into a railway bridge.

The photo at the bottom of this article outlines the extent of the damage. The bridge had acted as a tin-opener, peeling the roof off. As we went past, and for the rest of the day, I was preoccupied. The double deckers usually take a different route to avoid the bridge. This was obviously a new driver. But it happened in the mroning, with no passenger. If this had happened in the evening, there would have been 70-odd 16-18yr olds on that bus, and for those in the front half of the top deck it would have been game over.

It's a sobering thought. The bridge had a sign warning it was only 13ft high. The bus would have had a sign stating it's height somewhere in the cabin. And it still happened.

For the first time, I was nervous about getting home that noght. Thankfully we were provided with a single decker sardine can coach, which would be able to fit under the bridge anyway.

I am appalled and scared for two reasons: Firstly, I could have been killed if that had happened on the return run, and secondly, because when I pass my test it will be people like this I have to share the road with. And if they can merrily plough buses into bridges, would they think twice about performing some other similarly stupid manouvre?

I don't think so.

Friday, 28 September 2007

XF - now in colour

I came across the XF configurator recently, and having seen a few favourites, and a few of my least favourite colours, I can comment fully.

It is a gorgeous looking car, and whilst the configurator is, well, crap, it highlights that the car works in a hell of a lot of colours. I do love Emerald Fire, yet Winter Gold, Pearl Grey, and Azure Blue work well too.

The interior works in many of the colour schemes available, although I'm not over-enamoured with the 'Spice' tan seats.
Have a play on the configurator - just be warned, these things can go up to above sixty thousand pounds.

I really really want this car, it's a modern MK2. It's aspirational, contemporary, yet tasteful too. And from the rear 3/4 view it could be a 4dr version of one of Callum's other creations, the DB9

Now, I need a way of getting 60 grand cheap.
Anyone care to help me rob a bank?

Friday, 7 September 2007

I may be no calligraphist, but at least I have a proper pen

I like fountain pens. Whenever I write with one, my writing, normally only recognizable to those who allow inkstained spiders to run across their work, becomes in my opinion slightly more legible. There is also the feeling that you are using a higher class of writing instrument, and that due to the superior implement, your work will ultimately be better.

That is all, admittedly, an illusion, crap generated by the brain to justify the use of an unusual tool. But I like using them, so I shall.

During 2006, my sole writing tool was the fountain pen from the JML pen set, which some of you may remember as being advertised with an unbreakable nib. And whilst, unlike the advert, I never tried stabbing mine through a Coke can, it proved well up to the task of performing the function it was intended to.

However, whilst it's nib may have been unburstable, the nib section of the pen was plastic, whilst the rest of the pen was metal. This knackered the thread between them up to the extent that after 12 months it was non-existent.

So for the last 8 and a bit months I have been forced to return to felt ended pens, and on occasions where nothing else was to hand, I have even used the odd Biro. However, during this time, I have been actively looking for the perfect pen to replace the JML.

I tried my mother's Parker fountain pen, which has laid unused at the back of a desk drawer for the 7 years or so she has owned it. And it was awful. The nib was scratchy, the pen itself was plastic and thus too light, and it was finished in an unappealing shade of blue.

I decided to narrow my search to pens like the JML, metal pens with a certain degree of weightiness, and with nice nibs. As, however, it wouldn't be considered good form to try a pen before purchase, I decided to look towards the cheaper end of the market, as I would be wasting less money should it not prove comfortable.

Some of you may be wondering why I didn't simply get another JML pen. The reason is that I couldn't find one anywhere. However, the pen I eventually found is almost perfect. It's silver, but probably isn't silver. It's not light, weighing at a guess two thirds of the weight of my mobile phone. It's lovely to work with, and the best bit of all is that it was just £2.99.

Yes, there are faults, such as that I would bet it isn't as tough nibbed as my last one (then again, I don't plan on stabbing this one through a Coke can either), and the clip on the lid is hideous, but it's a nice pen and I even have a choice between using cartridges or using bottled ink.

So I'm happy. Writing has once again become an unalloyed pleasure. I wonder if anyone would design me a fountain keyboard..........

Saturday, 1 September 2007

It all started with an SD1

When I was six, my parents sold the 1982 Rover SD1 3500 Vanden Plas that they had owned since before I was born. It had no brakes, very little in the way of non-corroded bodywork, and used a lot of oil. Yet despite this, it had made such a powerful impression upon me that now, ten years on, I am still madly in love with the products of British Leyland, and indeed most cars outside that conglomerate also.

It was Moonraker Blue, automatic, and had grey box velvet seats (a no-cost option instead of the standard leather - why?), and looked fantastic.

Sadly, it was last heard of by the DVLA only a couple of years after we sold it, and my mother reports that it was painted yellow last time she saw it, which the DVLA confirms. (Yellow with blue tinted windows)

My very first memory is of the back of that car. I must have been about 3, and was looking at the registration plate, PKY36X, and at the Vanden Plas script on the rear panel. The memories I have of my first holiday, in Mablethorpe when I was about four, are few in number, yet one of them is of that car stood next to the caravan.

I have always (I suspect sparked by that car) had an interest in cars. And, in particular, cars by the same company as the SD1, British Leyland. This led to me discovering, run by Keith Adams, joining the BMC>MG forum there, and eventually finding my way onto many boards throughout the net.

There has been, for the last month or so, a Moonraker Blue SD1 Vanden Plas less than half a mile from my grandmother's house. And it's reminded me just how gorgeous they are. And one day, I will own one. A V8, but with leather seats in place of the velvet. Until that day, I must just dream.....

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

XF - What to think?

So, now the car has been officially launched, and we can see official Jaguar images, has my opinion changed?

I have to say that I'm ambivalent until I see one in the metal. The exterior is every bit as gorgeous as the spy shots suggested, and surprisingly the interior isn't QUITE as bad as that spy shot had led me to assume. I still reckon it could have been easily improved, yet it's not quite as cheap looking as I thought.

It will appeal to younger buyers, and whilst yes, it could be better, the elderly gents who bought an S-Type for their retirement won't be too dismayed either. I quoted a Jaguar employee in my last blog, and he's almost there. What he SHOULD have said is that Jaguar have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. No, it's not quite like our impression of a Jaguar is today, but compare it to the Mark 2 of forty years ago and it's bang on the mark.

I think that this car has shown me just how wrong the impression spy shots can give you can be. The shots were undoubtedly of a car that was close to this spec, maybe even the same, but subtle things can change it. It looks classier and more Jaguar-esque than I thought it would.

I just want to see what it looks like in green.

Friday, 24 August 2007

XF - Jaguar's saviour or downfall?

I've seen spy shots of the forthcoming Jaguar XF (launched next Tuesday) and I'm not sure what to make of it. Whilst not in any way a traditional Jaguar, it still is undeniably an attractive car.

It strongly resembles a 4dr version of the XK coupe, with a slightly remodelled nose featuring a version of the grill seen on the 1968 XJ6. This is good. Jaguar saloons of the 1960s, such as the S-type and MK2, looked not dissimilar to 4dr versions of the XK150 coupe that preceded the E-type. But where I feel the XF will test those who may have considered one is the interior.
I've only seen one photograph of this, and I have to say I'm surprised. It does not look like a Jaguar interior at all, more the interior of something more low-rent like a 5-series. There are acres of black plastic, and only the thinnest sliver of wood demonstrates that this car is more expensive and prestigious than a VW Passat.

How could they have got it so wrong? Yes, they are losing money and need to appeal to younger buyers, but the XK has shown that Jaguar are capable of designing modern and contemporary interiors that still appeal to the lovers of the XJ and previous S-Type. The XK interior is an example of a truly epic interior: It can be trimmed in black leather and fitted with carbon fibre trim if the owner so desires, but still works well with the traditional cream leather and walnut that Jag fans like myself appreciate. The XF could have been like that, but instead they have chosen to take the German route. To quote an employee of Jaguar, stated on a spyshots forum, they have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

I am gutted. Rover went to the wall for being overly retro. Yet Jaguar, whose very appeal lies in being that, have abandoned it completely.

And it's not as if it's going to work. Young buyers will be put off by the continued 'old man' image of both XJ and X-Tripe, and the more mature fans will look upon the catastrophic interior of the car, turn on their heel, and leave the showroom. Jaguar are at risk of losing existing clientele without attracting anyone to replace them.

I hope that the shots I have seen are not of the interior that will be unveiled with the rest of the car next week. If they are, Jaguar is taking a huge gamble, and I for one don't believe it will pay off.