It is 40 years since Jaguar launched the XJ-S to an expectant world. It wasn’t, it turns out, what the world expected. After a veritable hit parade of beautiful, elegant cars spanning back to the 1950s, like the, XK, Mk2, XJ and E Type, Jaguar customers had been educated to expect something svelte, shapely and feline. The XJS ticked many boxes, but it wasn’t those ones. In 2015 the XJS is finally being brought in from the cold. Many classic car fans do still overlook it, but opinion is steadily turning the XJS’ way. What were once considered slightly odd and awkward looks are now distinctive and classic and the car is finally moving off the classic car naughty step into general acceptance. Classic car magazines are even putting it on their covers. This means a wider audience can begin to appreciate the car’s many dynamic qualities – because, shorn of all the baggage, the XJS is a very, very good GT car indeed.
The XJS’ styling may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is certainly unique and, viewed objectively, not actually unpleasant or ugly. A XJS in a good colour scheme on decent wheels hits most of the right notes, being long, low, lithe and wide. It also handles and rides brilliantly, attributes that are far too often overlooked when considering the XJS’ legacy. Based on a shortened XJ chassis, the XJS could easily lay claim to being the most accomplished GT over trans-continental roads. And then there is the engine. The Jaguar V12 fitted to many XJS’ is possibly the greatest Jaguar engine of the last 50 years. The list of mass production V12 engines is a fairly short one, meaning that with the exception of the XJS and XJ saloon there are few opportunities to experience the silky smoothness of a 12-pot motor. it is definitely one worth discovering.
If you’ve been moved by all the 40th-anniversary publicity to quietly covet a XJS then now is the time to act. Prices of good cars are beginning to climb and there is no reason to expect them not to go much higher. The XJS is not only a really good GT car but it is also decently screwed together and, thanks to cheap parts prices, a practical classic car purchase. There are, of course, a lot of XJS’ out there, albeit not as many as there were (around 8,000 of the original 28,000 RHD models). There are also a lot of different XJS’ because Jaguar continuously evolved the design over 21 years. Consensus varies on the best but certainly a V12 has to be up there. Although the later cars were better built, more luxurious and more economical with their straight six engines, for classic car, low mileage purposes the big-engined model is the natural choice for me. I also prefer the mid-period late 1980s models to the earlier cars – which are a bit too vinyl-intensive and lacking in wood – and the later cars, which have too many Ford bits. The only other real decision is between convertible and coupe, a choice that will be largely dictated by personal preference. The convertible is a superb sunny day cruiser, the coupe is a much sharper, cossetting GT which of course has those iconic flying buttresses. At Great Escape Cars we have been running XJS’ on the fleet almost since day one. A XJS convertible V12 was the third car on our fleet and is still going strong. In 2014 we added a low mileage V12 coupe, rebuilt and restored in our workshop. If you are considering buying a XJS – and we recommend you do – then we now offer a choice of Try Before You Buy packages. You can choose to hire either car for 24 hrs to immerse yourself in the XJS experience, or pick our 1 day, 2 cars XJS Try Before You Buy package. The package puts you behind the wheel of both cars over 24 hrs, with unlimited mileage, insurance, RAC cover and use of both cars. We also provide a free copy of our popular XJS Buyers’ Guide to take away. The XJS deserves to be celebrated 40 years after it was launched. While that celebration may be a little lower key than the E Type’s, don’t let that put you off: the XJS is every inch the worthy E Type successor, a car that delivers perfectly on its GT pretensions. You can hire the coupe for £150/day , the convertible for £199/day or our Try Before You Buy package is £175/day. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk.