I’ve had a real itch to travel, lately. Almost exactly two years ago, I was preparing for my first trip to Italy, which was also my first trip to Europe in over thirty years, since childhood. As much as I had tried to get ready for that trip by studying key, Italian phrases, fair prices for things, sites to see, and modes of getting around, I was completely blown away by the broad vistas of beauty and history on display. That indelible trip to Rome and Venice, linked by a picturesque ride on the Frecciarossa high-speed rail (translated as “Red Arrow”, which would also be a good nickname for the above E-Type), left me hungering for a trip back almost immediately afterward.
My conundrum is this: I keep spending money. I’m not talking just about necessary expenses, like the mortgage and groceries. I’m referring to wants and not necessarily needs, money spent on which could be funneled away into some kind of fund used for a trip or even a Curbside Classic of my own. Impulse purchases even at the local Aldi discount supermarket can sometimes leave me lightly punching my leg out of frustration. Joe, did you really need that big, European chocolate bar to snack on, when you have almost a full tin of off-brand chocolate chip cookies in your pantry cupboard that has been sitting there for a couple of weeks? And why the fancy olives? Get the plain ones, next time.
I also love classic cinema, and have amassed a small DVD collection of iconic Italian films subtitled in English, most of which are set in belissima Roma, that I like to dust off and screen from time to time (with or without aperitivo and/or an Aperol spritz in hand). Mentally, I have found a way to justify these purchases (including CDs featuring swinging, vintage Italian music of the ’60s and ’70s) by backing into the logic that enjoying these things in the comfort of my own home is much less expensive than the planning and execution of such a(nother) trip abroad. I feel like I’m an honest person, but I’m thinking perhaps it’s time for me to get a bit more “real” with my leisure budget. The clock is ticking, and tomorrow is promised to no one.
I spotted our featured Jaguar E-Type roadster at the very beginning of this decade, right after the start of summer 2010. That it was parked in front of a travel agency (which is no longer in business at that location) was, in my mind at the time, perfect placement. Most of my favorite travel posters have featured elements of locations that are at once timeless and iconic – like our featured E-Type. When I think of a travel poster to, say, Rio de Janeiro, I don’t think of something that looks like a snapshot from somebody’s iPhone. I think of saturated colors, hand-drawn illustrations, and a sense of retro-tinged dynamism like that in those Pontiac ads of the 1960s by Fitzpatrick & Kaufman. This Jaguar could reside in that world, both then and in present day.
I’ll admit right now that I can’t positively identify the model year of our featured car. We could assume the displacement under the hood by the chrome “4.2” badge on the trunk, with this inline-six featuring 265 horsepower having been introduced for the ’65 model year. The ’68 models lost the clear covers over the headlamps (which were also more upright that year) and gained side-marker lights, but this car has both the earlier, plexi-covered headlights and rear side marker lights. (I’m confused.) A grand total of just over 18,000 4.2 Roadsters were produced over the seven model years between 1965 and ’71 before the Series I and Series II E-Types were replaced by the V-12 powered Series III, which ran from 1971 through ’75. Top speed for our featured car when new would have been over 130 mph, according to the editors of Consumer Guide.
Jason Shafer’s recent essay on the cars of “The Price Is Right”, a game show that also often featured trips to many beautiful, overseas vacation destinations, got me thinking about whether I would prefer a car or a trip, whether as a prize or if purchased with my own, hard-earned money. One could make an argument that one could take a road trip in a car like this Jaguar (a la the plot line in late Italian film director Dino Risi’s “Il Sorpasso” from 1962), but I’m not sure I would risk my prized cat and subject it to the potential carelessness, malice, and/or idiocy of other drivers out there. An E-Type like this one would give me just one more possession to worry about, and would thus probably end up owning me instead of the other way around.
Still, I wonder how the debonair, chic sensation of tooling around in such a vehicle during sunny, summer months would compare to further exploration of Italy, a place to which I’ve dreamed of returning for two years… or perhaps a different country with lots of ancient ruins, beauty, glamour, and historical significance. I obviously can’t afford the Jaguar, and I probably won’t have the funds to spare for another trip overseas for a little while. I’ll keep both in mind, though, as it will take some extra willpower to forego instant gratification in the form of small purchases intended to tide me over, in order to inch toward my ability to afford either one. Those efforts start today.
Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, June 20, 2010.