Friday has come around again and every week we take a look back at a car from yesteryear, sometimes it’s a classic and sometimes it’s classically bad, but it is always an important part of Britain’s motoring heritage. This week we go sub zero with the ultra cool Jaguar XJS.
What’s In A Name?
Before looking at the car itself it is worth mentioning the naming structure. Generally referred to as the XJS this car was infact called the XJ-S initially, then the XJ-S H.E and XJ-S SC until finally towards the end of its production it was finally given the plain old title of XJS. Perhaps not really worth noting but Jaguar geeks would certainly thank you for taking a moment to appreciate the complex nomenclature of this big cat.
The XJS was launched as a replacement to the E-Type. That in itself meant the car probably had some of the biggest shoes to fill any new car would ever need to fill. The Jaguar E-Type was not only a design icon but also a performance one. Being the car that came after the E-Type was never going to be easy but the XJS gave it a very good try. Launched in 1975 it was in production right through to 1996 and sold over 115,000 units. It’s modern design and substantial V12 engine gave it a lot to be proud of.
Unlike many other models the XJS didn’t actually have that many versions over its 21 year lifespan. Yes there were some different iterations, and certainly names, but the changes were all fairly minor. At launch the car had a 5.3 lite V12 engine then a 6.0 version. Later on a version would be launched with a smaller V6, there was a part convertible and full convertible car and some minor styling changes towards the end but overall the XJS remained true to its original looks and design throughout its life.
V12 cars were really not that common in the 70s, they are not that common now, so the XJS was certainly a big deal. The snag was that it was launched while the fuel crisis was still having an effect and the market for a car that used that much fuel was small. The only other cars out there at the time with that kind of engine were the Italian supercars of Lamborghini and Ferrari, the E-Type did have a V12 in some versions but it was standard in the XJS. When it was launched the XJS would do the sprint from 0-60 in just 7.4 seconds and had a top speed of 143 mph which was impressive at the time and still is today.
In 1980 the HE version was launched, HE stood for high efficiency, the referred to a more economic engine using a rather amusingly named, fire ball system. It not only made the big V12 more efficient but also added some extra power pushing the total output to an impressive 295 bhp, and this brought to 0-60 time down to 6.9 seconds.
Although there are lots of important historical facts about the XJS in terms of design and special edition versions the really important thing to mention is the simple fact that the XJS was a cool car. It looked like something from the future and went like it too. To say it was sleek was an understatement, compared to many cars at the time the XJS looked almost flat it was so streamlined. With a smooth automatic gearbox, plush leather interior, walnut dashboard and all the trimmings of a truly luxury car the XJS was a true grand tourer.
When you look back at it now the XJS does have a dated look, it feels like a futuristic image from the past but it is still cool and has become a modern classic. As the years go on the XJS will be hailed as more and more of a true classic and without it we would never have had amazing cars like the stunning F-Type or its predecessor the XK-8 which replaced the XJS in 1996.
If you want to sit yourself in one of the coolest cars on the road you can still pick one up, there are actually a lot of examples for sale and prices range from £4-5000 right up to £20,000 depending on condition and version. Low mileage convertibles hold their value well whereas the later smaller engined versions are fairly cheap to pick up. As with all classics, they will need looking after and may nee some substantial work, rust is always an issue so do not go and pick up and cheap one and think you will drive it trouble free for years. Do some research and consider any XJS an investment, the classic car market is thriving in these times of low interest rates so if you have storage space and money to spend an XJS could be a great choice to enjoy and to invest in.