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Clive Cussler Rediscovers the Jaguar. How the Novelist Loved, Lost and Found a Cherished Jaguar Model

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Novelist Clive Cussler with his Jaguar in Paradise Valley, Arizona

Clive Cussler, 82-year-old car collector and author of 55 adventure novels, on his 1954 Jaguar XK120, as told to A.J. Baime.

When I was in the military, I socked away $100 every month. When I was discharged in 1954, I got home at 5 a.m. By 10 a.m., I was pulling out of a foreign car dealership in Pasadena in a new Jaguar XK120.

It was the hot car. All the celebrities owned one. I courted my wife in mine. After I proposed and she said yes, I traded it in for a Nash Rambler. She never forgave me but I used the money I saved to buy all the furniture for our first apartment.

Novel Ride for Adventure Novelist

Best-selling novelist Clive Cussler's 1954 Jaguar XK120

Years later, I started collecting cars. I just love old cars and when I find what I like, I try to buy it. In 2004, I was at an auction when I saw a 1954 XK120. I bought it for about $40,000. As soon as I drove it, I could picture myself 50 years earlier.

The engine's been played with; it has three carburetors and the original had two. It has later-model seats for more comfort, and it has been painted. But otherwise it's original, and it's quite a mover for its age.

My wife laughs about the old days in the Jaguar, those times in the 1950s in L.A. when I couldn't hit a stop sign without someone wanting to drag race me. It brings back all those memories.

Mark Peterman for The Wall Street Journal

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