Wild Ride in a Hot Jag

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Ride in a Hot Jag

By Michael


People's Exhibit A

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I stand before you fully acknowledging
the following crimes, but Justice according to the laws of our great land
demand that I be fully exonerated based on these true facts:

1. I was only 17 years old, and according to the law, a minor and therefore
not responsible for my actions. Legally, my brain was not yet fully formed,
incapable of knowing right from wrong. I was an idiot.

2. The keys were in the car! In many jurisdictions, this fact alone
could be considered to be an "attractive nuisance" or even entrapment,
especially considering the kind of car it was.

So then, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I will now relate the rest
of the facts for your consideration.

My father had a brand new 1959 Jaguar XK150-S roadster, black with a
red leather interior, and chrome wire wheels, an absolutely stunning automobile.
It was blindingly fast and made all the right noises.

My parents were away for the weekend in a different car, and the Jag
was sitting in the driveway, with the keys in it. It was just too much
to bear for a 17 year old kid, so I fired it up to listen to the growls
and purrs. The smell of the new red leather seats added to my disorientation.
It was unbearable, I tell you. I lowered the top to drink in the fresh
evening air, trying to regain my senses, by it was hopeless. With the
sounds and the smells, and the vibrations of that throbbing engine, I
lost control of any remaining rational thought, and slipped the shifter
into gear. I wanted to feel the strength of the clutch, to move it just
a bit... but soon, as if by some devil magic, we were down the street,
this beast and I, prowling and playing in the wild...

I cruised around looking for girls of course, and street races happened
just naturally. I was more successful with the latter than the former,
and that was ok with me either way. I was loving every minute of it. But
things turned ugly when I got myself into a high speed pursuit by the

It was about 3am, pitch black night, and I had picked up a hitch-hiker,
a kid in Navy whites, on his way back to the base. We were cruising about
100 on a sweet stretch of 4 lane highway, top down on a beautiful warm
summer night.

He saw the flashing lights first and said: "You're busted now, dude.
Pull over." The Devil's voice spoke next: "Buckle up and hold on!"

If there had been time for polite discussion, I would have informed him
that this was no ordinary Jag, this is a 150-S, the King of the Road,
and we have a lot more under the hood than the cops do, and we can corner
way better. This was not the moment to tell him that this was the first
Jag with disc brakes front and rear, giving me another advantage over
the cops who were driving late model Fords with drum brakes all around.
And I sure didn't have time to tell him that if I got caught driving this
Jag, my father would surely find out, and his punishment would assume
Biblical proportions.

Just the Facts

I mashed the gas pedal into the floorboards, and took it to the max (approaching
150 mph) while going slightly downhill on a wide stretch of clear road.
This was faster than I had ever experienced, and I got the feeling that
it was less like steering where you want to go and more like steering to
avoid the big things like bridge abutments. I was running on pure adrenaline
and caffeine. Survival mode. I was less concerned with the cops than I was
with what would happen when my father found out I took his Jag. Here I was,
only 17 and on the lam from the cops, and my father. How did life turn so
suddenly against me?

When I was briefly out of sight of the cops, I realized that they would
probably radio ahead and set up a roadblock, so I braked hard and turned
off the main road and headed down a long country road, and at one point,
for extra measure of cleverness, I passed an old milk truck making early
morning rounds. I passed him on a turn, because I didn't want to wait
for the road to straighten out, losing time to the cops in pursuit. I
turned off the headlights so I could see better if there were any oncoming
headlights, and then blasted around the milk truck, and around the turn,
and off into the black of night. I made another turn, and was heading
at high speed down a wide street with houses on both sides...

That's when I flipped up the high beams and was horrified to see a wall
of trees racing toward me from the end of the street. Trapped! I slammed
on the brakes, and the wheels locked up, skidding me sideways, but straight
at the trees. Amazingly, the car came to a stop before getting crunched,
pointed up the driveway of the last house before the trees, with the engine
stalled. I turned off the lights, restarted the car, drove it the few
feet into the driveway, and killed the engine. My plan at this time was
to play dead, so to speak.... to lay low and hope that if the cops were
still in pursuit that they would not expect me to be in this box canyon,
and pass on by. After things quieted down, I would get back on the road,
and find my way home by other roads.

Understandably, my hitch-hiker passenger was scared witless. He decided
that he would be better off on his own, and headed out on foot to find
his way back to the Navy base. I never saw him again. He'll probably think
twice before sticking his thumb out, or at least accepting a ride in a
growling Jaguar roadster, with a 17 year old kid at the wheel, at 3 in
the morning....

My plan worked; eventually I got that awesome car home and my parents
never did find out about that adventure. The next day, while working at
my job as a grease-monkey/attendant at the local Texaco gas station, a
police car cruised in and the cops talked to all the guys, inquiring if
anyone had seen a black Jag roadster recently. I knew they were on a fishing
expedition. They couldn't have known I was the one they were looking for,
and they continued on their way.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Speeding, evading
the police, reckless endangerment, lying to the police, possibly even
kidnapping the Navy kid (a Federal offense?). Yes, I did it all, no contest.
If I were to be held accountable as an adult, I would have paid a heavy
price for my night of indiscretion, but legally I was a minor, and an
idiot, and you must acquit me.

No one was hurt, thank God. The Jag was unscratched. But I lived in fear
of discovery for a long time thereafter.

A few months later, my older brother Bud wiped out the right side of
the Jag while passing too close to a US Mail truck, in his own unauthorized
midnight adventure, and while I never saw that Jag again, we saw a lot
more of Bud around the house!

I sure was lucky as a kid. Lucky to have lived through the experience,
and lucky not to have injured anyone in the process. Getting away with
such stunts reinforced all the wrong ideas in my still developing brain.
Fortunately, later escapades would finally get my attention and straighten
me out for good... (to be continued)

In a recent sign of enlightenment, the Los Angeles Police Chief proposed
a policy of not chasing after runaway motorists for lesser offenses because
by chasing them in hot pursuit, the police themselves greatly increase
the odds of injury or death to innocents and/or the minors and idiots
they are chasing. It will be interesting to see if this policy will contribute
to more people running away because they know the cops will not chase
them. Complicated issues, indeed.

We are beginning to see that there are consequences for every action,
and that those consequences ripple out in ways we can not see.

Writer's notes: That first ride in a Jag stuck with me. Eight years later
I traded my Mustang for a brand new '67 Jaguar XK-E roadster, dark blue.
I had it modified to accept a trailer for my BMW 700 race car. I liked
that Jag so much that two years later I traded it for a fresh new 1969
XKE roadster. My next car was a new '71 Pantera, followed by several different
models of the Ferrari 275 GTB. My need for speed grew into 3 dimensions
with a Waco open-cockpit biplane during the time I owned an awesome 1996
Viper GTS coupe, then a new 2001 Ferrari 550 Maranello. Finally, I have
come home again; my daily driver is a 2001 XK8 convertible, dark blue,
just like my first Jag.

But now I drive a lot more sensibly.


posted 1/31/2003

Copyright2002 Michael McCafferty - for more "car
nuts" stories like this one, visit http://www.michaelmccafferty.com/

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