Hot Wheels When a Sleek Car Is a Measure of Success

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My midlife crisis arrived later in life. After celebrating a significant birthday in 2007, I bought myself a snazzy, silver Jaguar XK sports car. It was — and still is — a head turner. The minute I laid eyes on her, I knew she was the one. Match.com couldn’t have found a better pairing. While my friends were driving sensible SUVs, I put my money into this hot little number. Even today, spending $80,000 for a car is a splurge, but back then, it was the ultimate indulgence.

More than 10 years have passed since the day I coolly drove her out of the showroom, and I still get goose bumps every time I sit behind the wheel. While I may no longer be able to turn heads as I walk down the street, my car still does as I drive down the road. Yes, I feel young again.

Despite her age, my XK is often mistaken for an Aston Martin, probably because legendary car designer Ian Callum designed both. To glide through the air, her hood is low, sleek and aggressive, like a predator speeding toward its prey. From time to time, I think about trading her in for a younger version, but I simply can’t do it. True love runs deep. To me, she is ageless.

I still baby her like the day we first met, parking in the back of every lot so no one dares to touch her with an open car door. If a scratch or two appears, my English husband is on it. He oversees her care, spending hours buffing or polishing something or other; he loves her as much as I do. Some might say she’s “the other woman” in our marriage, but this is one threesome I don’t mind. This love is meant to be shared — sparingly, of course. With just 23,925 miles on her odometer, we think of her as a vintage bottle of Dom Perignon, only to be imbibed on special occasions. Yes, we have a more practical option for those trips to Home Depot.

While she doesn’t have all the technological bells and whistles found in new cars, she has something better: style. Verbal commands and surround cameras don’t interest me as much as her highly polished burl wood trim on the steering wheel, dashboard and doors. Her beauty is timeless.

I take pleasure in the image my car reflects — every car has one. Volvos convey safety. VW Beetles express frugality (VW owners would never put all their chips on red in Vegas). Rolls Royce Silver Cloud owners? The obvious. They’ve got more chips than they know what to do with. My XK says style ranks above practicality. The trunk is rather small, the back seat is sized for no one taller than 4 feet, and the GPS system is so outdated it probably thinks the Studebaker dealer is still in town. But those trivialities don’t matter. Once my foot hits her accelerator and she growls like the day we first met, I fall in love again.

To some folks, it may seem superficial to put so much emphasis on a car, but my XK is a reflection of my career achievements. I grew up in New Jersey in a working-class community. My first car was a two-door Rambler American — it was all I could afford. My father never owned a new car, his were always secondhand. Buying a new Jaguar and paying cash for it was my way of patting myself on the back. It says I made it. And that I still have a little growl left in me too.

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