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Me and My Motor: actor Laurence Fox on his passion for cars

Jaguars play a leading role in the life of the Lewis star

LAURENCE Fox changes cars like other people change trousers. The problem, the actor says, is he just can’t resist a good-looking Jaguar. No sooner has he acquired one than he spies another and ends up swapping models.

“I try not to think about how much I’ve spent over the years,” he says. “I’ve made some bad choices and do it too often. Only later do I think, ‘Why did I do that?’”

Fox, 37 — best known for playing the police detective James Hathaway in Lewis, ITV’s Inspector Morse spin-off — has had more than his fair share of “Why did I do that?” moments recently, and not all of them related to impulse-buying cars.

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He made front-page news for swearing at a heckler during a performance at the Park Theatre in north London this month. He later apologised on Radio 4’s Today programme, saying: “It was a very emotional part of the play. I was very upset about how I behaved.”

His love affair with cars began about 20 years ago with a £500 Rover. Fox had just left Harrow (actually he was expelled for “something to do with a girl at a dance” and only allowed back to sit his A-level exams) and was working as a gardener.

A lot is made of his membership of the Fox acting dynasty, which includes his father James, uncle Edward and cousins Freddie and Emilia, but the Rover wasn’t exactly starry.

“It smelt of curry, because it’d been used for delivering takeaway meals,” he recalls of the second-hand 213 SE.

“My mum bought it for me and I always felt warmly towards it. But I had my sights on other things.”

“My XJ6 was a dark metallic blue and became my obsession. I polished and waxed it all the time.”

And so began Fox’s car-buying odyssey. By that time he had won a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He landed his first acting job while still studying and used the cheque to pay £2,500 for a used Jaguar XJ6.

“I did not care about the mpg,” he says. “It was a dark metallic blue and became my obsession. I polished and waxed it all the time.”

That car lasted almost a year until the steering and brakes failed. “The dealer took it back and gave me a Fiat Panda 4×4,” he says.

After that Fox started to win more prestigious roles in films such as the Oscar-winning Gosford Park and was able to buy a Mercedes 230 SL for £7,000, which he later passed on to his sister Lydia as a wedding present.

In 2005 he bought a Jaguar XJ12 long wheelbase from Chris Evans. “It cost £10,000 and for some mad reason I had decided this was going to be my day-to-day runabout,” Fox laughs. “The rear suspension went and everything froze. Chris later bought it back from me at the same price but I worked out it cost me £4,000 to cover 1,000 miles.”

The XJ12 wasn’t the only connection to Evans. In 2007 Fox married the pop star turned actress Billie Piper, Evans’s former wife. The couple now have two sons, Winston and Eugene.

She “hates” his cars but Fox just can’t resist the lure of sculpted metal. The year before they married he splashed out £9,000 on a “beautiful” black Jaguar XJ8, a car he still laments selling.

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Then, in quick succession, he acquired a Jaguar XJR 4.2, an XKR and an XKR-S. He is still haunted by the memory of dozing off in the passenger seat of the XKR-S with his friend at the wheel and waking up to find the car doing an unbelievable speed. “Along the A303!” he says, horrified.

Throughout all these purchases, Piper, 33, has remained unimpressed. “When I turned up in my XKR-S, she said, ‘You’re trying to look like a musician, but you look like a banker’ ”.

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