Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Old Jags as automotive sculpture

click photo to enlarge
My interest in cars is strictly limited so I feel left out of most conversations about them. I see cars as a relatively inefficient form of transport that is very destructive of our environment: I much prefer my bicycle. For many years I tried to live without a car, using public transport, a cycle and a tandem. However, Margaret Thatcher's assault on the former and a growing family forced my hand and I got a car.

Today I choose my cars on the grounds of utility and economy. I have a small Japanese hatchback that has the virtue of almost total anonymity and the reputation of being one of the most reliable cars on the road. I bought it on the premise that it does everything I need and that a car that doesn't work is nothing more than a useless tin box. Its size (compact), speed (0 mph to well above the legal limit), acceleration (0-60 eventually), ride (whatever that means), its status, what it says about the owner to others, all these are of little consequence to me. Hence the fact that I tend to get marginalised in discussions about cars. Actually that's not strictly true: I am known to offer my views even if they're not sought. At times I see myself as something of a missionary bringing truth and light to such conversations, throwing in what are seen as contrarian views like hand grenades. On other occasions I resort to ridicule. Neither approach is one that wins friends and influences people. The trouble is that at these times I can't help myself because, of all modern conversations, those surrounding the car are one of the most in need of a strong dose of reality.

There is, however, one aspect of cars that I find interesting, which I can debate with car lovers, and that is as objects of design and styling. But here again my tastes are often conflicting because in the main I am more interested in the design of small cars and utilitarian vehicles than luxury vehicles and sports cars. I say "in the main" due to an idiosyncratic liking for some of the 1960s Jaguar designs - the 2.4, 3.8 etc. These are vehicles that I remember from my youth, often characterised then as "getaway cars" (in the bank robber rather than holiday sense) though also used, I recall, by the British police. The front ends of this range of cars have a quality that few other marques can match. Smooth, flowing, tactile, sensuous, they could be detached from the vehicle and displayed in an art gallery simply for their sculptural qualities. I photographed today's example on a visit to the recent Boston Classic Car Club annual show (that's Boston, Lincolnshire, the original Boston, not Boston, Massachusetts). An urge to photograph something bright and shiny overcame me and so I indulged myself at this festival of all things automotive. More to come over the next few days.

I suppose you may be wondering if I fancy one of these sought after old cars. Not on your life! Noisy, unreliable and uneconomic is what they are. That handsome form masks a load of trouble and expense.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 70mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On