Here is an easy trivia question for you. What is the only car on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York?

According to Orrin Cross III, of Concord, it is the Jaguar XKE, and it's considered a piece of art.

As a young man in 1963, Cross got a two-year teaching job in Germany with the Department of Defense. He was smitten by the new Jaguar XKE and decided he had to have one. He visited British Motor Cars in San Francisco and arranged for an overseas delivery at the factory in Coventry, England.

"There were no U.S. taxes or shipping, so I ended up paying $4,719 ($19,500 in today's dollars) for the car, including a factory hardtop, AM-FM radio and wire wheels, saving about $1,500," Cross said.

Arriving in Germany in mid-summer, Cross flew to England to pick up his car. It was only the third car built for the 1964 model year. He was enjoying the new car smell as he drove his brand new XKE to the ferry in Coventry to cross the English Channel to France. But "Lucas Electrical got me," he said. "That was the first year the Lucas electric fuel pump was placed in the gas tank, and it stopped working the first day I owned the car."

Good, fast service by Jaguar replaced the fuel pump, and Cross didn't even miss his ferry reservation. But, he added, "The fuel pump has gone out twice since."

In those days, there were no speed limits in Germany, and Cross enjoyed the long, winding roads. He didn't pamper his Jaguar. He raced it in competitive hill climb events and had the opportunity to take it on a professional race track.


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"I found out that their advertisement that the car does 150-plus mph is true. The noise is frightening, especially in an open car and with the car shaking," he said.

Mindful of proper maintenance, one winter day he brought his Jaguar to a small German dealership.

"I received a call," he said. "It seems that the mechanic was 'road testing' my car, went into a skid and badly wrinkled the beautiful long single-piece nose. My tears melted the snow. Two factory reps flew from England to assess the damage, making sure the car was restored to its original state."

The XKE is a two-seater, and the doors are small. Sitting in the car, one's legs are almost straight out, making it a bit difficult to get into and, especially, out of the car. Cross recalls one winter day in Germany when he was taking a somewhat large workman to a location. The hardtop was on, and when it came time for the workman to exit, he couldn't maneuver himself out of the car until the hardtop was removed.

The Jaguar engine design dates back to 1948. Under the long bonnet (hood to us Americans) is the time tested 6-cylinder, twin-overhead cam, 3.8 c.c.-engine that uses three carburetors. According to Cross, the best way to set the carburetors is by listening to each carburetor using a doctor's stethoscope.

The 265 HP engine uses nine quarts of oil, almost double most other car engines. British engines have a reputation for leaking oil, so Cross always carries a couple of quarts in the boot (trunk).

"The way you can tell a British car is out of oil," Cross said, "is when it quits leaking."

Pretty advanced for the time period, this Jaguar has a fully independent suspension, twin master cylinders for the four-wheel disc brakes, and a monocoque (unibody) body to keep the weight down. The transmission is a four-speed manual, but first gear was not synchronized until the following year.

When his German assignment was over, Cross had his Jaguar shipped back to California. Unfortunately, the fire extinguishers on the ship accidently went off, totally destroying the car's top and paint. The Jaguar factory supplied the original paint, and once again the car was restored to its original luster.

Cross used the Jaguar XKE as his primary vehicle from 1963 until he retired as a high school music and drama teacher in Pittsburg in 1998.

"Like me," he said, "with its age, the Jag gets some special consideration. It only gets to 'stretch it legs' on sunny, mild days. I just wish I were in as good a shape as my timeless Jag."

Other than two paint jobs and one engine rebuild, maintenance costs have been pretty reasonable. Cross calculated the total cost of owning this Jaguar for 50 years, including the original cost of the vehicle, at $71,644.43. He estimates the current market value to be about $50,000. By using the classic car owners' mathematical rationalization formula -- Total cost minus market value/50 years x 12 -- we learn that owning a Jaguar is cheaper than going to Starbucks.

Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com.