Jaguar drives its heritage, and others should follow

Classic Jaguar E-types are featured for in the heritage program | Jaguar
Classic Jaguar E-types are featured in the heritage driving program | Jaguar

Jaguar’s latest great idea should be an object lesson for every automaker that wants to remind people about the triumphs of its past.

Jaguar is all about its brilliant heritage, with good reason.  From Le Mans racing dominance to trend-setting luxury cars – and of course, the fabulous XK-E – Jaguar regularly channels history even as it produces its latest exceptional sports car, the F-Type.

The British automaker opens another chapter in the history book next month with an invitation to experience some of its greatest and most-memorable cars from the past.  Jaguar’s new division, Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations, launches the Jaguar Heritage Driving Experience in November at Fen End, its 200-acre testing facility in Warwickshire, England.

Jaguar’s iconic D-type race car | Jaguar
Jaguar’s iconic D-type race car | Jaguar

Open to the (well-heeled) public at a range of pricing, the program includes C- and D-type race cars of the 1950s, XK sports cars, post-war sedans and a variety of other vintage Jaguars, including the E-type. Naturally, the drives culminate in tests of the new F-Type coupe and convertible.

Seems like a pretty great plan, doesn’t it? Allowing people to check out some of Jaguar’s fabled cars of the past could whet their appetites for Jaguar cars of the present. If nothing else, it again raises the classic marque’s profile with a reminder of yesterday’s glories.

Which made us wonder if such vintage-vehicle driving opportunities could work for other automakers, especially the domestic ones.

Think of it.  Chevrolet could invite the public to Michigan to experience a wide range of historic Corvettes, muscle cars and Chevy-powered race cars.  Ford could trot out an array of Mustangs, Shelbys, Torinos and early Thunderbirds.  Chrysler could boost its image with a sampling of Hemi-powered muscle cars.

The 1967 Corvette L88 is a performance icon | Mecum Auctions
The 1967 Corvette L88 is a performance icon | Mecum Auctions

The Detroit automakers also could dial up some of their pre-war masterpieces and workhorses going back to the early days of motoring.  Learn to drive a Model T!  Or maybe a classic Lincoln, Cadillac or Chrysler luxury car.

Members of the automotive media have experienced heritage displays and hands-on driving at some new-car introductions.  Dodge recently rolled out a whole assemblage of historic cars for journalists to sample during a media event, in honor of the Chrysler division’s 100th anniversary.

At Volkswagen’s recent introduction of its latest Golf models, examples of the six generations of earlier GTI performance compacts starting from 1984 were available for the media to drive.  And a few years back, I took a wild ride in one of the original Nissan Skyline GTR performance cars piloted by a professional rally driver on a twisting road course at the Japanese automaker’s Arizona proving grounds.

So why not adopt a program similar to Jaguar’s in which the public is invited to join in? Although not so pricey – the British program ranges from about $150 for a one-hour session to more than $3,200 for a day-long experience with all the trimmings.  Certainly it could be done for a lot less, as long as the vintage cars are not priceless artifacts.

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to drive a 1969 Chevy Camaro SS, a 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 or a 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda?   Or maybe an original Datsun 240Z or Toyota Supra Turbo? Or any number of pre-war classics?

Just think of the possibilities if the automakers opened their vaults to engage the public with the actual experience of driving one of the historic cars that they’re heard so much about.

 

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