As his creamy butterscotch leather passenger’s seat envelops me and I listen to the inviting metronomic tick of his turn signal, Paul Fisher announces, “It’s a lot nicer to ride a Jaguar than the other way around. I prefer to stick my head in this Jaguar than the other kind.”
Paul, a Florida art dealer, is perhaps the only Jaguar owner in the world to have been attacked by the actual big cat, whose bite is twice as strong as that of a lion, and survived. Paul has always been both a car guy and an animal aficionado, who nurtures two birds, a reptile and four (small) cats at home.
In 1983, Paul was working as a Connecticut park and forest law enforcement officer, protecting wildlife. A desire for warmer weather took him to Dallas, where he thought he’d further pursue police employment. “But I just got lucky and happened to fall into a job selling rare and classic cars,” he tells me. “It turns out I was a really good salesman. They had the franchises for Bertone and Pininfarina cars, which were the former Fiat Spider and the former Fiat X1/9. I became the number-one salesman in America on those two cars.”
When an Aston Martin DB2 Mark II drophead in slate blue came his way, “Dale Chihuly [the world-renowned glass sculptor], whom I had never heard of, bought the car and wanted me to help him assemble a collection of Aston Martins, every one from postwar to present, and I thought, that’s like a dream come true. He had the money and the ambition, and I knew how to find the cars. And I had all these ex-cop, Sherlock Holmes reader tricks to finding cars. I would go to the library and look at old magazines and see who was selling what and figure out what got sold and go through old motor vehicle records and advertisements.”
Paul noticed that some classic car collectors were also collecting Chihuly’s artwork, and he began to sell the revolutionary glass sculptures as well as the often elusive automobiles. Paul eventually moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, where, “In 1999, I met Irina [now his wife] and wanted to spend all my time with her.“ Paul became a full-time art dealer, representing numerous artists, including Chihuly, at his eponymous gallery.
He recalls his encounter with the jaguar clearly. “On December 30, 2010, I got mauled by a jaguar at a big cat sanctuary. It was a freak accident where the cat had escaped. I had a moment of warning that the cat was dashing our way, and I put myself between the cat and somebody else because I thought, as I’d been around big cats before, I could handle it better.
The jaguar jumped me, landing on my head, sinking her fangs into my face, and tearing my face apart.
“It turned out I could. Most people who get pounced on by a jaguar die. She jumped me, landing on my head, sinking her fangs into my face, and tearing my face apart. Because I’d been a martial artist my whole life and had done yoga, as soon as she got me I was able to completely calm down and relax. I had turned so she couldn’t land on my neck,” he goes on. “In around thirty seconds, they were able to get her off me.” Only a faint scar marks Paul’s left cheek. “I had a terrific plastic surgeon,” he acknowledges.
The circumstances surrounding his Jaguar car purchase are equally vividly recalled:“A couple months after, I’m on eBay late at night and I see this fabulous car, a dark blue 1998 Jaguar Vanden Plas. I just adored that car but, being an enthusiast, I knew there was one that was better.“
Soon he found the 2002 Jaguar XJ Super V8 (X308), of which
he says, “It is the absolute peak of evolution of the Jaguar
four-door saloon, which I think is the best looking four-door
ever made. Between 1997 and 2003, it was absolute perfection
in form. It’s just gorgeous, a silver ocean blue.”
Paul’s car makes 370 horsepower from its supercharged 4.0-liter V-8. It has an extended wheelbase, four headlamps, and Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS). Paul notes, “In 2002, they had all the performance upgrades they were going to have in later models including the DVD, navigation, better suspension, a warning system; with burled walnut trim, thick carpeting, and a sunroof that tilts and slides. The back seat has so much room, and it has mahogany tables (like elegant airplane trays).
This Jaguar is made so that if I am driving hard and fast and digging into corners, I don’t need to look at anything, I know where everything is.
“Of all the cars I’ve owned, including newer cars, it has probably the best sound system I’ve ever heard. And the clock is always on time, that analog clock with the beautiful Jaguar round face. Every control is beautifully laid out.
“This Jaguar is made so that if I am driving hard and fast and
digging into corners, I don’t need to look at anything, I
know where everything is. I know exactly where the Sport
button is. It is laid out as well as possibly can be imagined.
It’s made in England, and this is the last car that Jaguar as
Jaguar completely designed, engineered, and built.”
And he has driven the XJ fast. “When I first got it, I touched 130 on the way home. I really wanted the supercharged engine because it was one of the fastest sedans in the world the year it came out, but I don’t really drive it that fast. At 130 it was rock solid, steady, no flow, no lift, no uncertainty or play in the wheel. I think it’s 5.4 zero to sixty.”
Paul disputes Jag’s former reputation for requiring expensive repairs: “The secret to Jaguar is that it’s like a thoroughbred horse. As long as they are active, they are happy.”