x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The first love

After selling his first Jag to get married, it took a while before this Dubai resident could buy his second.

"My XJS was designed by artists, not engineers. It's an artistic work in its own right. On top of that, you buy a new car and it's junk-price in a couple of years."

They say you never forget your first love, and nobody knows this better than Dubai resident, Frank Langley. A Jaguar enthusiast since he was a child, Langley became the proud owner of his first Jag at the age of 19, when he stumbled across a classic XK120 about to be ditched for scrap. "It had been raced in Spain and was on its last legs," recalls Langley, a British expat who has lived in Dubai for 12 years and works in education. "You could say it was love at first sight - bells, whistles, stars in my eyes etc. I banged in an engine from a Jaguar Mark VII and away we went."

Langley drove his XK120 for three years before deciding to sell it when he was 22. "I loved that car with all my heart, but then I met the prettiest girl I'd ever seen. I was so smitten I ended up flogging my motor to buy her a diamond ring - and I got a Morris Minor instead. Of course, it was the best deal I ever made as my girl is still with me today, but I never forgot about my XK120." Naturally, Langley assumed he'd purchase another Jaguar later on, but with bills to pay and a family to provide for, the opportunity to splash out on a sports car didn't present itself for some time.

"After I got married, I had a house full of children so I ended up driving large family wagons. The biggest one was a nine-seater mini-bus. It was all good fun at the time but I promised myself that one day I'd sell the family car and get myself something with a bit of style." And that's exactly what he did. Thirty-five years after selling his first dream machine, Langley finally got the keys to his second - a 1988 Jaguar XJS.

"I bought it from a man who lived near me in Jumeirah," explains Langley. "I'd seen it outside his house and knew instantly it was the car for me. You see, there was a kind of synchronicity with my first Jag, because the XJS was the great granddaughter of the XK120. It sounds odd but there was a sort of lineal connection." Unfortunately for Langley, he wasn't the only one with a deep bond to the classic car, and it took him five years to persuade the former owner to part ways with it.

"I saw it every day and often made jokes to him about buying it, but he always refused. Then one day he said 'yes', so I snapped it up there and then. I won't tell you how much I paid for it, but she's been worth every dirham." Since getting behind the wheel of the late-Eighties model, Langley has never looked back and he is still having the time of his life tearing up the tarmac. "It runs like velvet on hard tyres," he chortles. "It'll go from zero to 60mph in 4.5 seconds, and the best bit is when someone cuts you up in it. One touch of the throttle, the tyres squeal and you leave the punk behind you looking at your exhaust pipes."

But one can't help wondering, in a city where new cars are two-a-penny, why choose a vintage model? "There's no character to new cars," says Langley. "My XJS was designed by artists, not engineers. It's an artistic work in its own right. On top of that, you buy a new car and it's junk-price in a couple of years. I prefer older cars with a bit more personality. If you keep them ticking over they don't cost you anything."

And he's not joking. As well as his XJS, Langley is also the proud owner of a 30-year-old Nissan Patrol and a 32-year-old Ford Cortina 1600L Estate. "The thing I love about old cars is that they're instantly recognisable," he says. "They're relics of a time that's gone - a part of history. The XJS is an old lady, but she'll pick up her skirt and run when you want her to. She's never let me down yet."

So it seems modern motors have no place in Langley's life - or at least his garage. But is there anything he'd change about his much-loved car? "I wouldn't alter a thing," he says. "Admittedly, the dashboard trim could do with a bit of a refurbish, but it's homey and without it, it wouldn't be my dear old motor anymore. Funnily enough, a while back someone said to me, 'That car's still stylish. Clapped out, though.' I thought, 'Clapped out? Still stylish?' That sounds just like me. Less of the clapped out though, please!"

motoring@thenational.ae