San Diego Jaguar Club
Member Stories

Member Stories

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How I got my Esprit

I was a teenager during the summer of 1978 when I saw The Spy Who Loved Me at the movies.  It was one of the first movies I saw as a teenager with my friends and without my parents, and one where I actually watched the movie instead of making out with one of the girls.  When we walked outside, I announced to everyone within listening distance, “One day I am going to own one of those”, talking about 007’s Lotus Esprit.  Twenty-eight years later I did.


I’d kept up with the Esprit all these years and knew the new ones ran about $90,000.  If I wanted to get a new one, I should have done that before getting married.  But then she probably would have made me sell it, so it was just as well I waited a few more years when I had more money.  That time came in 2006.


I decided it was time to get my Lotus Esprit.  I perused eBay Motors and a few other sites when I found a yellow 1994 S2 4-cylinder turbo-charged for sale up in San Francisco.  Those 140 cu inch 4 cylinder engines put out about 140 horsepower, one of the few cars that could put out its engine size in horsepower.  The other that comes to mind is the Mopar 426 hemi, which put out 425 horsepower, but I digress.  I set up a date with the owner, got airline tickets, and planned on a day trip up the coast to the bay area.  The evening before I was to leave, I found a newer yellow 1997 V-8 twin-turbo Esprit over in Dallas I really wanted to look at.  I phoned the owner, got his voice mail, and left a message for him to call me back, asking if I could see me the car the day after tomorrow.  No call the morning I was to leave for San Francisco.  Oh well.  I had my day bag packed and was ready to go.  Diana had already left for work and I was just about to walk out the door and drive myself to the airport when the phone rang.  It was Tom calling from Dallas.  He said meeting him tomorrow at my hotel in Dallas would be fine.  We ended the call with exchanging cell phone numbers.  I had to leave for Lindberg immediately otherwise I’d miss my flight.  I hoped to change my flights at the airport.  When I arrived at Lindbergh, I explained my situation to the counter clerk at the airport and she made the changes for me.  American Airlines took care of me, so instead of a one-day round trip flight, I had a 3-way SD to SF to Dallas to SD two-day flight.  I flew up to San Francisco, met the owner, and we drove his Esprit around San Francisco.  It was a fun little car to drive; lots of power and not a whole lot of weight.  While there, Diana called to find out what time I was going to be home.  Let’s just leave it at her not being too happy with my change of plans of detouring to Dallas to look at another car before coming home.


It was getting late and it was time to leave, so I headed to SFO and caught my flight to Dallas.  I still didn’t have a hotel room for the night.  The day had been too busy to make a reservation.  I was literally sitting in my seat on the airplane in San Francisco calling Marriott.  The guy next to me was like, “Are you kidding?  You’re just calling now?”  I am like, not to worry. “It’s the Marriott.  They’ll take care of me.”  Well, Marriott took care of me.  They not only found me a hotel room near the airport, but they found one that had a shuttle that would pick me up and take me back when I was ready to leave.


I landed in Dallas late at night; the shuttle picked me up and took me to the hotel after a brief stop at a drive-through burger joint whose name I cannot remember.  In the morning, when I awoke, I called Tom and told him where my hotel was.  I let the front desk clerk know what was happening and to take care of Tom when he arrived.  I remember Clark, the front desk clerk, was more excited about the Lotus coming than I was.  Tom had the Esprit there in about an hour and we went out for a spin.  While I thought the S2 had power, it had nothing on this twin-turbo V8.


We drove up to Texas Motor Speedway, where he had an appointment for us to use the track.  I’ve driven Pomona and Willow Springs, but this was my first foray into the big time.  I don’t know how much it cost Tom to set this up, but I think he knew my driving around the track at one hundred sixty miles per hour would seal the deal, ‘cause it did.


We stopped off at a Chili’s for lunch and to go over the paperwork, including all the car history repair work orders.  He and the previous owner really took care of this car.  We sealed the deal back at my hotel when I logged in and placed a $5000 deposit on the car.  He left; I checked out and flew back home.  I really didn’t want to drive it the 1500 miles home because I figured I’d probably hate it by the time I got home.  Plus, the transport shipping costs were pretty much even with the cost of me being on the road for 3 days, so having the car shipped was much less stressful.


A lot of what Tom was going to do to finish the deal was strictly verbal, and he kept his word.  I sent him the checks and found a car transport company.  He put all the manuals and spare items in the trunk, and helped load the car at his work, to be transported here to San Diego.


I only put about three thousand miles on it a year.  I babied it when I drove, but opened her up when I felt like.  By that, I mean, I didn’t abuse her, but I used what she had to her fullest potential.  As a result, I didn’t have many repair bills.  In fact, other than service, it was never in the shop.  I wanted this car to last, and to keep its resale value, which it did.  I had two vehicles to drive, the Lotus and my pickup truck.  In 1999 I decided I needed a 4-door car to drive the kids around town since I couldn’t get both of them in the 2-seater and still have room for me to drive.  It was time to find a 4-door sports car.

Scroll down to the next article to read how I found my XF.  It probably isn’t what you think.


How I got my XF

It was the winter of 1999 when I decided to act on my need for a 4-door sports car.  I still had the Esprit, but I only drove it on special occasions and I wanted a daily ride sports car.  I figured the best place to find one was at the Kearny Mesa Road Dealerships.  I started at the Mercedes dealership on the south end and just walked north to the Volvo dealer on the north end.  Oh, I did this at night after all the dealerships were closed because all I wanted to do was to look at cars without anyone bugging me or telling me lies about a car I wasn’t going to buy anyway.


It was a cool and dark December evening when I started my trek.  I had a notebook, two pencils.  I took notes on cars that fancied my interest.  By walking, I really didn't keep track of where I was.  With a car, you drive to the dealership, park, get out, look at the cars, get back in, and drive to the next dealership.  By walking, I just walked and looked.  I didn't go out to the street or even to the sidewalk as I moved.  I hopped retaining walls and slid through bushes as I moved from dealer to dealer.


Now I have to admit, I didn't keep track of exactly where I was, so when I saw a particular car that really caught my eye, I didn't even know where I was.  The first thing I saw were the lines.  This car was sleek.  The second thing I saw were the letters “XF” on the back.  I remember thinking, “What the heck is this?”  I looked up and saw I was at the Kearny Mesa Jaguar Dealership.  That XF was the sleekest, smoothest, and sexiest car I’d seen that night.   I took some notes and while writing knew I wanted one.  I pretty much stopped looking after that and went home.


I Google’d XF, looking for someone who said something negative about the car.  I didn't find anything.  A few days later I did find someone who complained about a window switch, but that was it.  Satisfied, I planned my purchase carefully.


First, I have to say we have a ranch house in Singing Hills out in the country east of El Cajon.  We go into Rancho San Diego often, where a lot of people drive BMW’s.  I didn't want a BMW, but felt I should drive one first to do a proper comparison.  Now Diana and I have different views on how to buy a car.  Her idea is to go in looking poor, and act like I can barely afford the car to get the lowest price available.  My idea is to go in exuding money, even money I didn't have, and act like I don’t need the car, I only want the car if the price is right.  My attitude would be that I am doing them a favor by buying their car, not the other way around.  Needless to say, I went with my plan.


I dressed in business casual clothes, drove the Lotus (see the previous article) to Cunningham BMW, and told them I was looking to supplement my exotic car collection with a 530i.  They took one look at that bright yellow Esprit and spent the rest of the afternoon sucking up.  They even offered to let me take a 530i home and bring it back the next day if I left the Esprit there.  I agreed on the condition I keep the car keys.  I think we all know what would have happened had I left the Esprit keys with them.  I signed the appropriate papers and off I went.


The 530i actually drove well and I loved the rear seat leg room.  I didn't understand the i-drive and the car felt bigger than it really was.  Oh, I forgot to mention I had a next morning appointment at Jaguar to drive the XF.  As part of my master plan, I drove the BMW there.  The salesman met me and we looked at, and discussed, XF’s.  I conveniently had to get something from the BMW and he commented on it, seeing the Cunningham paper plates.  I kind of threw it in his face.  I let it drop that Cunningham was trying to sell me one and let me have this one for the night as a show of good faith.  He didn't even bat an eye, nor did he match the offer.  We went for a test drive and I really liked the way the XF handled.  I left, took the BMW back to Cunningham, told them no thanks, retrieved my Lotus, and drove home.


It rained a few days later.  I called the Jaguar Dealership and told them I wanted to drive the frost blue one in the rain.  They agreed and even stayed late for me.  I drove it at night, and in the rain.  The car and I acted as one.  It was as smooth a drive as I have ever driven.  I told them right then I would be back in the morning to discuss price and other conditions.


The next morning was Christmas Eve and we sealed the deal that morning.  We agreed on a price, including no interest for five years.  I was asked how much I wanted to put in for the down payment.  I did some air math and said, “Nothing”.  He’s like, “You want zero down and no interest for five years?”  Yep.  He told me it would make my monthly payments higher, where a down payment would lower my payments.  His way I would be out several thousand dollars right off the bat, where my way I would be out nothing right off the bat and spread the total out over the entire five years.  In my opinion, my idea was a much better deal.  They agreed with the no money down and we closed the deal.


I drove off with a full tank of gas, went home, logged onto the Jaguar website, and set up an auto-pay from my checking account.  I wouldn’t see the money go, so I wouldn’t miss it.  I also didn't have to put a dime into it until March when I filled the gas tank.  I joined the San Diego Jaguar Club and the rest, as they say, is history…