“Mad Men” Eulogies: The Jaguar E-Type


She was beautiful once.

Probably the most beautiful car anyone had ever seen at the time. In fact, once when I Googled her, I found a bunch of old magazine print ads. It was her and some sultry model from the 60s, and the headline said, “At Last, Something Beautiful You Can Truly Own.”

I get what they were doing there, and you probably couldn’t get away with saying something like that in an ad today. But, let’s face it, they had a point. All those shiny, painted curves and dramatic angles. She looked dangerous, like something bordering on elicit. I never could have afforded her back then, back in her prime. She would have been way out of my league, an extravagance engineered for rich assholes, basically.

The Jaguar E-Type. God, that even sounds sexy.

I looked for her for years, trolling classic car shows and swap meets and blogs, and then there she was, rotting away in some old British lady’s barn. Three cats were living in her interior. Two mice jumped out of the tail pipe and scared the shit out of me when I kicked the deflated rear tire. She was such a mess.

And, of course, she was haunted.

That’s what the British lady told me, anyway. Apparently the car killed her husband. Not sure what she meant by that, exactly—her accent was pretty thick, and I think she was a little drunk. I inspected the car thoroughly. The battery was corroded. Every fuse and wire long-since ruined. The paint was cracked from neglect and four decades of freezing and thawing. But, as far as I could tell, there were no signs of an accident, certainly not an accident bad enough to kill someone. In fact, she’d hardly even been driven. The odometer said 427 miles. Seriously…427 miles.

“Is that right?” I asked the lady.

She just ashed her cigarette on the cement floor and shrugged. She was wearing a housedress, like one of those robes that only old ladies on TV wear.

Like a lot of things though, she was too good to be true. I was so hypnotized by what she could be that I ignored what she was. And what she was, sadly, was utterly and completely unfixable. I tried anyway, though. Jesus, did I try. But every time I replaced something, I’d find something else wrong—something worse, something more obscure, something more expensive. Jaguars of that era were famously unreliable, but I wasn’t prepared for just how infuriating she’d be. Everything that could be wrong was wrong. Maybe that British lady was right. Maybe she was haunted—haunted by something that just didn’t want to be fixed.

My wife thinks this is stupid, me eulogizing a car, a car I was never even officially able to start. I understand that. Women don’t get attached to things like cars, I guess. But the salvage truck is almost here. I can hear it struggling to maneuver the tricky turn down the road by the mailboxes. And, stupid or not, this beautiful, damaged little car broke my heart.

jag 2

About Matthew Norman

MATTHEW NORMAN is the author of the novel Domestic Violets, which was nominated in the Best Humor category in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards. His short story "Miss November" recently appeared in the fiction anthology Forty Stories. He lives outside Baltimore with his wife and two daughters and is currently working on another novel.
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