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Say hello to Cheryl Fitzgerald! She’s the classy lady who zips along Virginia’s highways and byways in a sparkling, vintage ’69 Jaguar XK E-Type OTS.

For Cheryl, the Jaguar isn’t just transportation. It’s therapy.

Cheryl has always loved classic cars and driving them. She has owned a Toyota Spyder OTS and a Jaguar XJ6C, but always dreamed of having an XKE convertible like the one a friend drove in high school. “I always swore I would get one,” she says.

But the years slipped by, and Cheryl, who is also a horse enthusiast, continued to drive the trucks, cars and SUVs one expects to see in horse country. After an equine accident requiring surgery, Cheryl says, “I traded in that type of horse power for the under-the-hood type of horsepower.” Cheryl still drives a horse-country vehicle to work–but it’s just practical transportation, not her passion or her therapy.

With middle age come aches and pains, and for Cheryl, those aches and pains were exacerbated by rheumatoid arthritis. Normally a cheerful and spirited soul, Cheryl realized somewhere along life’s highway that she needed a pick-me-up, something to renew her joie de vivre–in fact, something to put the zip back into her drive. She decided to buy that Jaguar she’d always promised herself.

Through a broker in upper New York state, Cheryl found a vintage Jaguar that had owned by one family. A French doctor had purchased the new 1969 Jaguar in Coventry, England. He kept the car until his death, at which time it was inherited by the doctor’s son and shipped from France to Quebec, Canada. The son repainted the car, changing its original willow green to a “sparkly forest green,” as Cheryl describes it. The son decided to sell the car and entered it in several British car competitions in Vermont, where it won top honors. When Cheryl purchased it, she says, “All the legal papers were in French and had to be translated to English.”

When the Jaguar arrived in Virginia, Cheryle says, she “felt elated … and content with her dream that had finally come true. Unfortunately, Cheryl quickly discovered that the Jaguar had some serious driveability and safety issues. She founded herself stranded during rush hour in the center of a busy Vienna intersection, “blocking all four ways, with people honking and yelling,” Cheryl says. “The tears came, and I panicked.”

Once she and the Jaguar were home, Cheryl sought the advice of officers and members of the Nation’s Capital Jaguar Owner’s Club. “Everyone recommended R&R,” she says. Cheryl had her ailing Jaguar towed to R&R Auto Service early the very next morning.

Rob Carter, R&R’s owner, “was great,” Cheryl says. He put the car “up on a lift, then showed and explained everything. He made me feel comfortable and relaxed.” Cheryl says she asked for help “to get it to where it runs, and we’ll do other stuff as I can afford it … He did what would get me on the road safely.”

Cheryl explains, too, that Rob and R&R have made sure she has been safe every step of the way. At one time, she says, she was instructed to drive the car only locally for a couple hundred miles and to report any problems immediately and then to let R&R know how “the car was doing before he would release me to leave the area.” She adds, “Rob is a wonderful teacher–not just a mechanic.”

Now, Cheryl drives the Jaguar, which she christened “Longfellow,” safely and confidently “on any backroad I can find,” she says. “It’s so smooth riding.”

Cheryl paid us a visit at R&R recently. “I was out for my little joyride,” she said, “and I just stopped by to say hi, and thanks for giving me so much fun!”

You have made me a happy woman,” she told us. “I really needed this car.”

Posted at August 24, 2012

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