Jay Kay's Cars Hit Right
The Jamiroquai frontman, Jay Kay, tells Andrew English about his passion for stunning cars.
What's that all about Jay? The seasoned jazz-funk star sparks up a B&H and stares at the ceiling. With 30 million-plus album sales over a 20-year career, Jay Kay, 42-year-old singer of his own band, Jamiroquai, takes his time.
"I didn't realise there was a face of Salon Privé," he grins, "but I've always been a supporter, because older cars are a passion. And while you can see these things at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Salon has become the premier concours d'élégance and it's getting bigger, with a higher calibre of motor car. My involvement is that I have some of the stuff, like the Vignale, to display there, especially with this year's shooting-brake class."
Jay Kay's been a regular attendee at Salon Prive, but missed last year, the first time it was held at Syon Park, which he reckons is a better venue. "It's a high-end event," he says. "Part of a social calendar; our equivalent of Pebble Beach. I like it, the ladies are all dressed up, and if the sun's shining, there's nothing I like more; a glass of wine and hobnobbing about the aesthetics of cars."
With his sizeable and highly eclectic car collection, I wondered where Jay Kay's initial interest started from. Turns out it was sitting in the back of a car, travelling around the country to gigs with his mother, singer and actress Karen Kay. "Being in the back of the car with my mother," he says, "I knew every make of car and I saw some nice kit; Jensens and Aston Martins. In the world of entertainment, people had some flash stuff circa '73/'74. That was when rock stars and cars went together and they weren't as demonised as they are today."
With more than 50 classics in his collection, isn't Jay Kay just living out that rock-star fantasy? "No, I enjoy having other people look at them," he says. "It's not a case of 'look at me in my car'; it's more, 'look at the car'. I like the idea of other people enjoying them, because everything has become a bit faceless and nobody likes the motor car any more… Driving has become a bit of a grind and the powers-that-be would do anything to stop us, so it's really one of our last freedoms and needs to be relished."
A huge collection of 50 cars takes a lot of commitment to maintain and while his collection of stage hats occupies just a room of his Buckinghamshire mansion, the cars are in a series of modern garages. He has recently employed a manager, Luke Ratcliffe, to help take care of his collection.
Does he still love them all, or is it just a chore these days? "There is a sense of an investment and a business there," he admits, "which I don't over-exploit as I'm in it for the passion.
"It's a love-hate relationship. People say, 'you've got all those cars', but it's about what's working, where are you taking it, will the wipers make it through the storm, will it be sitting in traffic?"
Perhaps a measure of his enduring passion is that he has recently managed to buy back his first car. "I didn't get my first car until I was 22," he says. "It was a BMW 1602 and now I've got it back I'm waiting to restore it."
His driving has certainly improved over the years. Jay Kay's reputation used to be that of a wild man, with more money than skill, and he's been no stranger to the magistrates' courts for driving bans for speeding.
"I have slowed down," he admits, "and some of the cars, like the Ferrari Enzo have become an exercise in self-restraint to drive… it's a bit of a licence loser. In my mind, there's a time and a place for putting your foot down."
While recording and touring commitments mean he doesn't get much time for tuition, his best times on the Top Gear track at Dunsfold aerodrome prove he's pretty adept behind the wheel.
"I learn fast and I take note of what I've been told," he says modestly, but he admits he'd like to give the track more time next year. "Sometimes if you start these things later in life, you're more measured, you don't want to get hurt and you want to bring the thing back in one piece."
For someone who's no stranger to the sleazier side of the tabloid press and has had his run-ins with hacks and paparazzi alike, Jay Kay is surprisingly generous with his time and opinions. Perhaps his car collection provides a solid base to the notoriously itinerant rock-star life.
"I'm quite pleased with how it is at the moment," he says. "It's comprehensive and it's got some nice stuff; a couple of V12 Ferraris, Porsches, modern and old, Bentleys, Astons and some pretty rare BMWs. It takes a bit of work, but you're a sort of guardian of a motoring heritage."
Seems like this collection is in sensible hands.
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