The Jaguar XJS, introduced in 1975, remains one of the most controversial models ever to emerge from Browns Lane: a heavyweight GT far removed from its predecessor, the immortal E-type. Nonetheless, it survived for almost 21 years, enduring some of the most tumultuous periods of Jaguar’s history. This week, we look at the development and lengthy evolution of the XJ-S, from 1975 to 1996.
JAGUAR LOOKS BEYOND THE E-TYPE
We can think of few challenges less enviable than designing a replacement for the legendary Jaguar E-type. A descendant of Jaguar’s spectacular D-type racers of the late 1950s, the E-type had bowed in March 1961 to international acclaim. It was fast, nimble, keenly priced, and gorgeous, and while its later iterations showed signs of middle-age spread, they remained among the most beautiful cars in the world.
Jaguar first started thinking seriously about a successor to the E-type in the fall of 1966. The new car, known internally as XJ21, was to retain the basic chassis layout and dimensions of the long-wheelbase E-type 2+2, but with new styling, a wider track, better heating and ventilation, and provision for convenience options like electric windows.
Like the E-type, the XJ21 would have been offered in three body styles: two-seat and 2+2 fixed-head coupes (sharing the same wheelbase, but with different rooflines) and a two-seat convertible. Instead of the venerable XK six, the XJ21 would have offered either a new 60-degree 3.6-liter (217 cu. in.) V-8 or Jaguar’s upcoming 5.3-liter (326 cu. in.) V-12. If that weren’t enough, at one point Jaguar also envisioned a smaller, cheaper companion model, the XJ17, riding the shorter wheelbase of the early two-seat E-type and offering a choice of V8s: either the new 3.6-liter engine or the 2.5-liter (156 cu. in.) OHV engine from the Daimler V-8 250 sedan.
That was an ambitious lineup for an automaker of Jaguar’s size. While the firm offered a surprisingly broad range of products in the mid-sixties, including the compact Mark 2 sedan (later renamed 240/340), the midsize S-type (later 420), the big Mark X (later 420G), and even a handful of Daimler limousines, Jaguar’s total volume was still well short of 30,000 units a year. As for the E-type, for all its success, it was still a low-volume product in absolute terms. Total Series I production amounted to fewer than 35,000 units between 1961 and 1968. With those kinds of numbers, the XJ21 and XJ17 promised to be an expensive proposition.
Jaguar had been doing well, acquiring Daimler, Coventry Climax, and Guy Motors earlier in the decade, but by 1965, chairman and managing director Sir William Lyons recognized that the company could not afford to remain independent much longer. In mid-1966, he negotiated a merger between Jaguar and the British Motor Company (BMC).
Although Jaguar retained its autonomy following the merger, hopes of greater financial stability (and additional development capital) were in vain. BMC’s losses, already worrisome, continued to mount, and by 1967, the British government was convinced that the only way to avoid a complete collapse was a merger between BMC and rival Leyland Motors. The result was the formation in the spring of 1968 of the massive British Leyland Motor Company (BLMC), under the leadership of Leyland’s Donald Stokes.
Sir William managed to secure a favorable position as board member and deputy chairman of BLMC, but Jaguar’s position was becoming increasingly difficult. The launch of the XJ4 sedan, which would replace most of the company’s existing sedan lines, had been delayed until the fall of 1968, and its intended V-12 engine was still far from ready. With development funds in short supply, the XJ17 never got off the ground, and the XJ21, whose design was close to production form by the time of the BLMC merger, no longer seemed economically viable; it was canceled in 1969. The Series III E-type, the first production Jaguar with the new V-12, went forward, but it arrived more than 18 months behind schedule, debuting in March 1971.
THE SPORTING XJ: THE XJ27/XJ28
While the Series III would survive for nearly three years, it was clear that the E-type could not go on indefinitely. The new engine restored the performance that U.S. emissions standards had eroded, but the E-type’s body had other deficiencies that were not easily rectified, like awkward entry and exit and sub-par ventilation. Worse, it had been designed well before the passage of the first U.S. motor vehicle safety standards, and getting the aging body to pass the more stringent rules slated for the mid-seventies would be difficult, if not impossible.
Although the company could not afford a completely new sports car platform, there was another possibility. Since Jaguar was busily replacing its sedan lineup with the new XJ4 series (the XJ6 2.8, 4.2, and equivalent Daimlers), a coupe built on the XJ4 platform was a logical next step. Design director Malcolm Sayer had proposed such a car, initially known as the XJ4 GT, shortly before the launch of the XJ6 in September 1968. If Jaguar had had the resources, it would probably have developed both the XJ21 and the XJ4 GT, but as the XJ21 project collapsed, the XJ4 GT emerged as its replacement.
Initially, Jaguar planned to offer the GT as both a 2+2 coupe, known internally as XJ27, and as a convertible, known as XJ28. The latter was canceled around 1970, both for cost reasons and because it appeared U.S. safety regulations would soon outlaw open cars. Unlike the E-type, whose body structure was a blend of monocoque and space frame, the XJ27 was a steel monocoque based on a shortened version of the XJ4 sedan floorpan. It shared the XJ4’s double-wishbone front suspension, differing primarily in spring, damping, and roll rates. Its rear suspension and subframe were also borrowed from the XJ4, with inboard disc brakes and dual coil springs and dampers on each side; the XJ27 added a rear anti-roll bar not found on the sedan. Like the XJ4, the XJ27 would have Adwest rack-and-pinion power steering, albeit with a faster ratio and a more rigidly mounted rack for greater precision.
The styling of the XJ27 was originated by Malcolm Sayer with substantial input from Sir William himself. Although Sayer had also been responsible for the E-type and its predecessors, the XKSS and D-type, the XJ27 was a considerable departure from Jaguar’s previous sports cars. Sayer was an aerodynamicist by training — his early career included a stint at the Bristol Aeroplane Company, where he helped develop the Bristol Blenheim and Beaufighter — and his goals for the XJ27 including substantial reductions in both drag and lift. Jaguar later claimed that the production car’s CdA (the product of drag coefficient and frontal area) was 10% lower than that of the Series III E-type, while front-end lift was halved.
Sayer’s aerodynamic aspirations were responsible for the XJ27’s most controversial styling feature: its flying-buttress sail panels and recessed backlight. This was not a new idea, first appearing on mid-engine race cars in the early sixties and followed in production by Ferrari’s Dino 206, GM’s 1966-67 A-body intermediates, and the 1968 Dodge Charger; it would become ubiquitous on mid-engine sports cars of the seventies. Some of the sketches for the earlier two-seat, fixed-head XJ21 had featured similar-looking extended sail panels, which appear to have been part of the XJ27’s brief from the beginning. Even some Jaguar stylists were dubious about the look, but the flying buttresses remained part of the design even after Malcolm Sayer’s untimely death in the summer of 1970.
At launch, the XJ27 would be offered with only one engine: the 5,343 cc (326 cu. in.) SOHC V-12 from the Series III E-type and XJ12 sedan. The planned 3,563 cc (217 cu. in.) V-8 — essentially a V-12 shorn of four cylinders — was proving troublesome, in large part because it shared the V-12’s 60-degree bank angle. The V-8’s output was respectable, but even with balance shafts, its refinement was lacking. It was finally canceled in the fall of 1971. A mooted 2,672 cc (163 cu. in.) slant six, intended for future sedans, eventually met a similar fate. As far as we’ve been able to determine, there were no serious plans to offer the XK six in the XJ27, although a six-cylinder model would emerge some years later.
JAGUAR VS. LEYLAND
Despite its shortage of development money, Jaguar did good business in the late sixties and early seventies, thanks mostly to the new XJ4 sedans. Jaguar sold more than 94,000 XJ6s and Daimler Sovereigns between 1968 and 1973, and by 1971, the company’s total volume had risen to more than 32,000 units, a new record.
After Sir William’s retirement in early 1972, however, the mood at Browns Lane began to darken. Sir William’s successor was his former deputy, Frank “Lofty” England, a one-time RAF bomber pilot who had joined Jaguar in 1946, becoming manager of the works racing team in 1950 and rising to joint managing director by 1967.
While England’s loyalty to the Jaguar spirit was unquestionable, Sir William’s departure had left Jaguar with fewer friends on the BLMC board. British Leyland was already struggling with a massive array of overlapping divisions, aging products, excessive capacity, and contentious labor relations. While Jaguar was one of the few BLMC subsidiaries to turn a profit during this period, it was too small and too upscale to be a major corporate priority. BLMC management also felt — not without justice — that Jaguar’s product development plans tended to be more grandiose than the firm’s volume really justified. As a result, British Leyland was reluctant to make any major investments in Jaguar, whether in new products or new facilities. A case in point was the XJ40, the planned successor to the XJ6 sedan. Although XJ40 development began in 1972, it didn’t receive production approval until May 1980.
One particularly gloomy symbol of Jaguar’s marginal status was the decision in March 1973 to change the firm’s name from Jaguar Cars Ltd. to British Leyland Exports Ltd. By the fall of 1973, Lofty England was relegated to a largely nominal position, finally taking early retirement in January 1974. He was replaced by Geoffrey Robinson, a former Labour Party researcher who had advocated the British Leyland merger in the late sixties, later becoming BLMC controller and then chairman of Innocenti.
Robinson hoped to bolster Jaguar’s position by greatly expanding its volume, but he was stymied by the 1973–74 OPEC oil embargo and BLMC’s increasingly dire financial condition. By late 1974, British Leyland was close to collapse, leading the U.K.’s Labour government to effectively nationalize the struggling conglomerate. Geoffrey Robinson resigned in 1975; he became MP for Coventry North West in early 1976. Technical director Bob Knight was left in charge of day-to-day operations, struggling to retain Jaguar’s autonomy through a painful corporate reorganization.
In that climate, development of the XJ27 languished. Its styling was finalized in 1972, but most of Jaguar’s limited resources were then committed to the Series II sedans, whose redesign was necessary to meet the latest U.S. safety standards. The XJ27 didn’t go into production until mid-1975, more than a year after the last Series III E-type rolled off the line.
THE JAGUAR XJ-S
The XJ27 finally debuted at the Frankfurt show in September 1975, badged Jaguar XJ-S. Although Jaguar had built a single prototype of a Daimler-badged version with a different backlight and no flying buttresses, the coupe would be offered only as a Jaguar.
The initial press reaction to the XJ-S was mixed. Some reviewers — most of them British — were lavish in their acclaim, but others expressed reservations about the new car’s styling, considerable bulk, and raison d’être.
The first sticking point was size. The XJ-S was more than 7 inches (186 mm) longer than the last home-market Series III E-types, some 4.5 inches (114 mm) wider, and more than 450 lb (205 kg) heavier. In fact, with a curb weight of nearly 3,900 lb (about 1,760 kg), it was only about 100 lb (45 kg) lighter than an XJ6 sedan. The XJ-S was almost American in its avoirdupois; the only other European GT to approach its size and heft was the Jensen Interceptor.
Despite its considerable mass, the big coupe’s straight-line performance needed few apologies. According to the factory, manually shifted British and European cars, with 285 hp DIN (209 kW) and 294 lb-ft (397 N-m) of torque, were capable of 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 153 mph (246 km/h), putting them in a very elite class. Even the low-compression federalized XJ-S, with mandatory automatic transmission, additional smog controls, and only 244 hp SAE (181 kW), was capable of reaching 60 mph (97 km/h) in about 8 seconds and a top speed of more than 140 mph (225 km/h), putting it among the fastest cars sold in America in 1975.
That speed was matched by remarkable civility. Noise was well suppressed even at twice the federally mandated 55 mph (89 km/h) limit. Ride was also excellent, with some testers declaring it even better than the XJ12 sedan in spite of (or thanks to) the coupe’s greater body control. The only other GT of the time that could match the XJ-S for high-speed comfort was the recently discontinued Citroën SM.
The XJ-S’s roadholding, however, was a point of controversy. Few questioned its outright competence; the XJ-S handled much like a somewhat smaller, firmer XJ12, displaying admirable composure along with fine grip from its fat V-rated Dunlop radials. What the XJ-S lacked was the E-type’s immediacy. First impressions were of softness and slightly anesthetized response — the XJ-S was a car for covering long distances at speed, not carving corners. As a sedan, it was excellent, but as a sports car, the XJ-S was more pampered house cat than athletic predator.
Even considered purely as a luxury car, the XJ-S had its shortcomings. Interior space was modest and the rear seats were comfortable only for children well shy of puberty; whatever its overall dimensions, the XJ-S was definitely a coupe. Ventilation was limited and the interior decor lacked the richness of its sedan cousins, with no wood trim and real leather only on the seat facings. No one was particularly pleased by the dashboard’s odd drum-type secondary gauges, and while the standard equipment list included automatic air conditioning and central locking, there were also curious omissions, such as cruise control.
All those criticisms might have been dismissed if the XJ-S had been as arrestingly pretty as the original E-type, but its styling elicited more puzzlement than praise. The XJ-S looked nothing like its predecessor or, for that matter, the XJ sedans whose platform it shared. It had some of the cues of contemporary Italian sports cars, but not their unity of form. The big Jaguar was attractive from certain angles, awkward from others, and its overall proportions were slightly peculiar. It was distinctive, but not necessarily handsome.
The XJ-S wasn’t cheap either. The original goal of the XJ4 GT had been to take Jaguar into a loftier (and more profitable) market segment, but its price tag nonetheless raised some eyebrows. In the U.K., the price at launch (including VAT and car tax) was a whopping £9,527, more than twice the asking for the last E-type roadster. In the U.S., the XJ-S started at $19,000, almost 20% more than an XJ12L sedan. Beyond the price, there was also the matter of the V-12’s considerable thirst, which ran to around 11 miles per Imperial gallon (9 mpg U.S.; 25.7 L/100) in hard driving, perhaps 14 mpg (12 mpg U.S., 20.2 L/100 km) on the road. Some British reviewers called the XJ-S a great value, perhaps because it undercut potential rivals like the Mercedes 450SL/SLC and Aston Martin V8, but it was no more a car for the masses than it was a sports car.
JAGUARS, SAINTS, AND GAMBITS
Jaguar’s annual sales target for the XJ-S was a modest 3,000 units, but with its lofty price and profligate fuel consumption, and the generally troubled state of world economies, it didn’t reach that goal until 1978. Production for 1975 amounted to 949 units, followed by about 2,600 units a year in 1976 and 1977.
The only substantive change the XJ-S received during that period was the replacement of the original Borg-Warner Model 12 automatic with GM’s superior Turbo Hydra-Matic 400, added in early 1977. Nonetheless, inflation brought the price ever higher. By the summer of 1977, U.K. cars were up to £13,200 with tax, while the U.S. MSRP had risen to almost $24,000, enough to buy an XJ12L sedan and a well-equipped Ford Capri.
Quality was another sore point. Even before the Leyland merger, appliance-like reliability had never been among Jaguar’s strong suits, a consequence of offering sophisticated, mechanically complex cars at extremely aggressive prices. By most accounts, the late seventies were the nadir, due in part to the ongoing battles between the auto industry and its labor force, both within British Leyland and at suppliers like Lucas. The XJ-S was also a very complicated car to maintain — the chassis, for example, required a 19-point grease job every 6,000 miles (9,700 km) — and neglecting those chores could have expensive consequences. The big cat was still at the low end of the exotic-car price scale, but it was neither cheap nor simple to run.
Back in the early sixties, Jaguar had famously declined to provide a car for the new ITC television series The Saint, starring a young Roger Moore. By the time the XJ-S came on the scene, British Leyland was eager for whatever positive press it could get, particularly when it didn’t strain the corporation’s already-tight marketing budgets. As a result, the early XJ-S got not one but two shots at television stardom.
The first was a revival of the popular sixties series The Avengers, once again featuring Patrick Macnee as the inimitable John Steed, with Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt as his new cohorts, Purdey and Mike Gambit. Producer Brian Clemens arranged for British Leyland to supply the cars for the show, including several Range Rovers, an MGB, an XJ12C, and Gambit’s red XJ-S, which featured prominently in the title sequence. In later episodes, Gambit traded his Jaguar for a Triumph TR7, but Steed acquired a yellow XJ-S. The cars were all very glamorous, but proved so grievously unreliable that the producers had to rent lookalikes to reduce the risk that the cars’ many breakdowns would compromise the shooting schedule.
Disappointing ratings led to the cancellation of The New Avengers in late 1977, but it was followed by another revival, ITC’s Return of the Saint, starring Ian Ogilvy as adventurer Simon Templar. British Leyland provided a white XJ-S for the series, an early manual-shift prototype with an unusual factory-fitted steel sunroof.
Unfortunately, Return of the Saint was no more successful than The New Avengers, ending in March 1979 after only 24 episodes. Despite their short runs, both television series spawned a surprisingly broad array of XJ-S toys, including plastic model kits and Corgi die-cast versions of both Mike Gambit’s car and Simon Templar’s white coupe.
THE RACING XJ-S, ROUND ONE
Another facet of British Leyland’s quest for publicity was a return to motorsport, from which BLMC, like many automakers, had distanced itself earlier in the decade. Chairman Alex Park hoped to campaign the XJ-S in European Touring Car competition, but British Leyland was unable to homologate it for Group 2 and opted instead for Broadspeed-prepped XJ12Cs, which had a single, disappointing season in 1977. However, the XJ-S got the opportunity to prove its mettle in the Sports Car Club of America’s Trans-Am series, courtesy of Virginia-based Group 44.
The Group 44 team, founded in 1965 by Bob Tullius and Brian Fuerstenau, were longtime SCCA veterans with an impressive record of national titles, first in Triumphs and MGs, later with Jaguars. Bob Tullius had taken the 1975 SCCA National Championship in a Series III E-type roadster, which he ran for part of the 1976 season before switching to the race-prepared XJ-S.
Group 44’s XJ-S racers were noteworthy for their remarkably stock appearance. Although Tullius was originally very skeptical of Jaguar’s aerodynamic claims, he found that the XJ-S body remained quite stable well beyond the production car’s (highly respectable) top speed — a testament to the talents of Malcolm Sayer. The racing engines were surprisingly close to stock as well, although Group 44 traded the production car’s Lucas/Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection for a sextet of Weber 441DF carburetors, along with new pistons, re-profiled camshafts, and a new dry-sump oil system. The uprated engine produced 475 hp (354 kW), which Group 44 later boosted to around 540 hp (403 kW). There were naturally some suspension modifications, but the racers actually retained the standard power steering.
The Group 44 cars soon demonstrated that they had no shortage of muscle, allowing Bob Tullius to claim the 1977 Category I driver’s cup. Driving a lightened second car with an estimated 560 horsepower (418 kW), he repeated that feat in 1978, also earning Jaguar the manufacturer’s championship. Group 44 later switched to the Triumph TR8 for Trans Am, but went on to considerable success with Jaguar-powered ‘silhouette racers’ in European prototype racing and the IMSA GTO series starting in 1980.
In April 1979, the XJ-S distinguished itself in an entirely different sort of competition: the final Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, better known as the Cannonball Run. It was the last of the cross-country outlaw races started by Car and Driver editor Brock Yates in 1971, with 46 competitors matching wits and nerves with highway patrolmen across the U.S. The first to reach the destination in Redondo Beach, California, south of Los Angeles, was a black XJ-S driven by British Leyland dealers David Heinz and David Yarborough, who completed the run from Manhattan in only 32 hours and 51 minutes. According to Yates, after the race, British Leyland’s U.S. organization flatly denied Heinz and Yarborough’s request to exhibit the winning car in Southern California, presumably because the duo’s average speed, nearly 87 mph (140 km/h), was at least 30 mph (51 km/h) over the legal limit. However, Jaguar later described that victory with some pride in the Heritage section of its official U.S. website.
XJ-S HE, 3.6, AND A BRUSH WITH DEATH
Thanks in part to its racing and television exploits, XJ-S sales rose to nearly 3,400 units in 1978, but business declined sharply in 1979 and 1980 as Jaguar itself flirted with the headsman’s ax. Production had been dropping across the board, in part because of mounting complaints about quality, and sales of the thirsty XJ-S and XJ12 had been hit particularly hard by the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, which led to renewed fears of oil embargoes and shortages. Since Jaguar, like MG, was heavily dependent on the U.S. market, the fall of the dollar relative to the sterling was also painful. Jaguar’s accounts, which had previously shown consistent black ink, now took on a decidedly sanguinary hue. Losses for 1979 totaled £32 million (about $68 million), followed by a harrowing £52 million (more than $120 million) for 1980 as Jaguar’s worldwide sales plunged below 14,000 units.
In March 1980, British Leyland chairman Michael Edwardes appointed John Egan as managing director of Jaguar. Egan had been an executive of GM’s AC Delco division before taking over BLMC’s Unipart logistics division in the early seventies, which he had made one of the few profitable parts of the British Leyland empire. Egan had left for Massey Ferguson in 1975, but Edwardes recruited him back to replace Bob Knight, making it clear that if Egan didn’t stem the losses, Jaguar was not long for the world.
While Egan set about tackling quality issues, cutting costs, and rallying Jaguar’s demoralized workforce, Jaguar took steps to address the V-12’s heavy drinking. For 1980, the 5.3-liter (326 cu. in.) V-12 engine traded its outdated D-Jetronic injection for the more sophisticated Bosch/Lucas P-Jetronic electronic system, with an oxygen sensor and three-way catalytic converter instead of thermal reactors. The change enabled the compression ratio of federalized cars to climb from 7.8 to 9.0:1, giving 262 hp SAE (195 kW) and 290 lb-ft (392 N-m) of torque. Uncatalyzed European cars, with 10.0 compression, now boasted 300 hp DIN (220 kW) and 318 lb-ft (429 N-m) as well as better fuel economy.
The XJ-S went on hiatus for the 1981 model year, but bigger improvements followed with the arrival in July 1981 of the 1982 Jaguar XJ-S H.E. The H.E. had new alloy wheels, burr elm on the dashboard, chrome trim on the bumpers, Lucas Constant Energy Ignition (replacing the earlier OPUS system), and all-new cylinder heads. Back in 1976, Jaguar had licensed Swiss engineer Michael May’s “Fireball” combustion chamber design, a stratified charge layout that allowed the engine to run lean mixtures at moderate load as well as permitting much higher compression ratios: 12.5:1 in uncatalyzed cars, 11.5:1 in federalized engines. Maximum output was little changed, but the torque peak was reduced by nearly 1,000 rpm, allowing Jaguar to install a lower numerical axle ratio (2.88, down from 3.07). The net effect was much reduced fuel consumption with little sacrifice of performance. The H.E. was now capable of better than 20 miles per Imperial gallon (17 mpg U.S., 14 L/100 km) in gentle driving, no worse than some V-8 rivals.
In October 1983, Jaguar introduced the first six-cylinder XJ-S, powered by the new 24-valve, 3,590 cc (219 cu. in.) DOHC AJ6 engine, slated for the upcoming XJ40 sedan. The AJ6’s 225 hp DIN (165 kW) and 240 lb-ft (324 N-m) of torque were well down on the V-12, but the 3.6-liter cars were also more than 250 lb (114 kg) lighter and had a shorter 3.54 axle ratio and a five-speed Getrag manual gearbox; automatic was not offered with the six until 1987. Jaguar claimed the 3.6 could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 145 mph (233 km/h), the same figures quoted for the automatic V-12. The six was naturally more economical, but some reviewers found it disappointingly gruff, a shortcoming that was finally rectified by the launch of the XJ40. Except for a handful of cars imported for testing, Jaguar did not export the 3.6 to the U.S. American buyers would not be offered a six-cylinder XJ-S until the nineties.
The 1984 model year also brought the factory’s first open-topped XJ-S, the XJ-SC (for Cabriolet). The Cabriolet was not a true convertible; it had a folding fabric roof, but fixed side window frames joined by a steel-reinforced roof hoop like the old Triumph Stag’s. It was an imperfect solution — even with a reinforced floorpan and an extra crossmember, the Cabriolet lost some rigidity and critics weren’t sure what to make of its odd top-down profile. The XJ-SC was initially offered only in six-cylinder form, but a V-12 Cabriolet followed in mid-1985; it didn’t come to the U.S. until the fall of 1986. It sold in modest numbers through 1988, eventually totaling around 5,000 units.
THE RACING XJ-S, ROUND TWO
The arrival of the XJ-S H.E. and 3.6 coincided with the next round of the big Jag’s racing career. Although British Leyland had not run the XJ-S in the ETCC series in the seventies, they had eventually homologated it for Group 1, allowing it to compete in Australian touring car events. In October 1980, drivers John Goss and Ron Gillard drove a race-prepared XJ-S in Australia’s Hardie-Ferodo 1000 at Bathurst (described in our articles on the Australian Ford Falcon), although an accident put them out of the running on their 14th lap.
Goss tried again in 1981, with co-driver Barry Seton, but they had completed only 73 laps when a multi-car wreck brought the event to a premature halt. A third attempt in 1982, this time pairing Goss and Bob Tullius, ended with suspension failure, while the 1984 car, driven by Goss and Tom Walkinshaw, also crashed. The XJ-S finally had its moment in 1985, when Goss and Armin Hahne took first place at Bathurst, with Tom Walkinshaw and Win Percy coming in third.
Whatever their ups and downs, the Australian efforts had one beneficial side effect: a bureaucratic loophole that enabled the XJ-S to compete in the European Touring Car series. In the fall of 1981, the FIA established new homologation groups for the coming 1982 racing season, including Group A and the now-legendary Group B. To avoid arousing the ire of participating manufacturers, the FIA grandfathered previously homologated Group 1 cars, which included the XJ-S, into Group A.
In October 1981, Tom Walkinshaw decided the XJ-S would be highly competitive in that category for a reason many XJ-S owners would find ironic: reliability. Unlike street cars, whose dependability depends greatly on maintenance and the quality of parts, the reliability of a racing engine is largely dependent on how highly stressed it is; in that way, a big, mildly tuned engine often has a significant advantage over smaller, more high-strung rivals, and Group 44 had already demonstrated that plenty of power could be extracted from the Jaguar V-12 without undue strain. At that point, Jaguar was in no position to provide much direct assistance, but John Egan offered technical and moral support.
Putting the XJ-S in the same category as sedans like the BMW 5-Series was admittedly a stretch, but by February 1982, Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) had stripped the big cat down to its 3,100 lb (1,400 kg) fighting weight and extracted a reliable 400 hp (293 kW) from a lightly modified H.E. engine. The Jaguar’s first race, the Monza 500, ended with gearbox failure, but Walkinshaw earned third place at the Vallelunga 500 two weeks later. By the end of the season, the XJ-S was emerging as a formidable competitor, taking first and second places at both Silverstone and Zolder.
For the 1983 season, BMW traded its 528i sedans for the 635 CSi — one of the Jaguar’s principal competitors in the big-coupe field. The XJ-S and the BMW were closely matched in Division 3; the 6er had less power, but also less weight. Dieter Quester eventually took the 1983 driver’s cup in a 635 CSi, with Walkinshaw achieving a strong second.
In 1984, TWR used revised camshafts and a new proprietary fuel injection system to extract an additional 50 horsepower (37 kW) from the big V-12. The XJ-S was still the heaviest competitor in Group A, but it was also the most powerful, with a 120 horsepower (88 kW) advantage over the Volvo 240 Turbo and 155 more horsepower (114 kW) more than the 635 CSi. TWR cars scored seven victories for the season, earning Tom Walkinshaw the 1984 driver’s championship. Jaguar finished second in the manufacturer’s rankings, a comfortable 15 points ahead of BMW.
For 1985, TWR switched entirely to the V8-powered Rover SD1 for the ETCC series. Nonetheless, Walkinshaw remained involved with Jaguar, taking over prototype racing from Group 44 in 1987. The TWR-developed XJR-9LM, powered by a highly developed version of the Jaguar V-12, won Le Mans in 1988 and the subsequent XJR-12 winning again in 1990. In May 1988, Jaguar and TWR also founded the jointly owned JaguarSport, offering specially tuned cars for road use.
The early part of John Egan’s tenure at Jaguar was difficult and sometimes painful. It saw the reduction of Jaguar’s workforce from around 10,500 to about 7,000 and the implementation of new Japanese-style supply chain procedures. Nonetheless, both morale and business began a gradual turnaround. Jaguar ended 1982 in the black and posted a £49 million ($74 million) profit for the following year. By the end of 1983, the Jaguar Cars Ltd. name had been formally restored, an important symbolic gesture, and Jaguar had regained control of its own marketing.
A much more concrete symbol of that renewed autonomy came in July 1984, when British Leyland announced that Jaguar would return to private ownership. Since coming to power in March 1979, Britain’s Conservative party had been looking for opportunities to reverse the previous Labour government’s nationalization of industry, although some of the Tories’ privatization efforts had been less than successful. The government quickly approved the Jaguar sale, but as a precaution retained a ‘golden share’ that would allow the government to block any individual buyer from purchasing or holding more than 15% of Jaguar’s total sales through the end of 1990. The initial public offering was quite successful, auguring well for the company’s future. In 1985, its first full year as a private company in two decades, Jaguar PLC posted a profit of £87 million (about $112 million).
Renewed confidence in Jaguar as a company, combined with an improving economy, a broader model range, and the reflected luster of its racing brethren, brought about a healthy improvement in XJ-S sales, which rose from just over 3,100 in 1982 to more than 9,500 in 1987. Almost 5,400 of those were sold in the U.S., up from around 1,400 in 1982.
The belated arrival of the federalized XJ-SC may have helped a little, but North American dealers were frustrated with the progress of the promised full convertible model, which the factory had been developing since mid-1985. As a stopgap, Jaguar commissioned the Cincinnati, Ohio-based coachbuilders Hess & Eisenhardt to do private drophead conversions for selected dealers, beginning in the 1987 model year. Initially priced at around $47,000, the Hess & Eisenhardt cars were only about $2,200 more than the XJ-SC and considerably better looking. About 2,000 Hess & Eisenhardt convertibles were built in all.
For 1988, the XJ-S 3.6 — no longer available as a Cabriolet and still not offered in the States — added an optional automatic transmission, the four-speed ZF 4HP22 from the XJ40 sedan. The six-cylinder XJ-S also received a thorough suspension makeover and wider, more aggressive tires, intended to give it a sportier demeanor. Results were mixed. The new suspension gave the XJ-S sharper reflexes, but some critics thought it was let down by too-light steering. Moreover, even with the manual gearbox, the 3.6’s performance fell short of some similarly priced rivals.
Buyers after a more aggressively tuned twelve-cylinder XJ-S still had to look to aftermarket conversions like those offered by JaguarSport or Pearce-Lister. Both offered a full array of XJ-S performance parts, including beefed-up suspensions, five-speed manual gearboxes, and even stroked, 5,994 cc (366 cu. in.) versions of the V-12 in various states of tune. A fully specced “Stage 3” Lister XJ-S, with a claimed 482 hp DIN (354 kW), a five-speed Getrag gearbox, and a 3.54 axle, was capable of 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in around 5 seconds and a top speed of more than 165 mph (265 km/h). Adding all the trimmings, including the inevitable plastic body kit, brought the tab to around £55,000 (about $98,000), but gave the XJ-S performance to rival the Porsche 928 and Aston Martin Vantage. Federalizing the big engines was well beyond either TWR or Lister’s resources, but most of the other pieces, including the manual transmission, were also available in the U.S.
Late in the 1988 model year, JaguarSport introduced the first factory-approved, TWR-tuned XJR-S. The initial cars had stock V-12 engines, but added a body kit, big tires, and a revised suspension. The 5,994 cc (366 cu. in.) XJR-S followed in 1989, initially rated at 318 hp DIN (233 kW) and 362 lb-ft (489 N-m) of torque. Unlike TWR’s previous conversions, the bigger engine was offered only with automatic, although the TH400 transmission was recalibrated to better suit the new engine’s torque characteristics. None of the 6.0-liter cars were officially imported to the U.S. until the 1993 model year.
Jaguar announced the 1989 models at the Geneva show in March 1988. The big news was standard Teves antilock brakes for all models and the belated launch of the factory convertible. Initially available only with the V-12 engine, the convertible was an expensive transformation, involving the replacement of nearly one-third of the exterior panels, substantial structural reinforcement, and the deletion of the coupe’s vestigial rear seat; curb weight rose by more than 200 lb (100 kg) in the process. The convertible’s list price was more than £38,000 in the U.K., a hefty $56,000 in the U.S., but the drophead XJ-S proved very popular.
FROM F-TYPE TO FORD
All these changes brought Jaguar XJ-S sales to record heights — more than 10,000 units in both 1988 and 1989 — but things were not well at Browns Lane. Jaguar PLC had done very well throughout the economic boom of the mid-eighties, seemingly vindicating the Thatcher government’s strategy of privatization and earning a knighthood for John Egan in June 1986. However, Jaguar remained reliant on the American market, and as the U.S. economy lost momentum in the late eighties, so did Jaguar sales.
That was bad news for Jaguar’s plans to introduce an all-new sports car, the F-type, known internally as XJ41 (in coupe form) and XJ42 (as a convertible). Conceptually, the F-type was a return to the stillborn XJ17 and XJ21 of the late sixties. It was not intended as a direct successor to the XJ-S, but as a smaller, lighter, sportier model using the AJ6 engine and suspension from the XJ40 sedan. The styling models, developed by Keith Helfet, were quite attractive. Whether they were as lovely as the Series I E-type is debatable, but they were certainly prettier than the eccentric XJ-S coupe.
Early work on the XJ41/42 was promising and it actually received production approval in 1982, fully two years before privatization. The F-type was originally slated to debut in March 1986, the 25th anniversary of the E-type, but with Jaguar still scrambling to bring the XJ40 to market, development proceeded in fits and starts.
By 1988, Jaguar finally had three finished prototypes, built by Karmann, but the original concept of a lightweight coupe with a six-cylinder engine had evolved into a much more complex junior Supercar offering either a normally aspirated AJ6 or a 400 horsepower (293 kW) version with twin Garrett T25 turbochargers and Ferguson Formula full-time four-wheel drive. The prototypes looked great and powertrain test mules reportedly had scorching performance, but both cost and weight had grown far beyond their original targets. With the addition of the twin turbos, 4WD, and a hatchback roof, the XJ41 coupe climbed from around 3,300 lb (1,500 kg) to nearly 4,000 lb (1,800 kg), making it almost as heavy as the XJ-S and likely more expensive to build.
Making matters worse, the much-delayed XJ40, which finally went on sale in the fall of 1987, turned out to have expensive teething problems and its warranty costs were extremely high. By 1989, Jaguar had slipped back into the red and John Egan started looking for outside partners to underwrite development and operational expenses.
In September and October 1989, Jaguar entered discussions with both Ford Motor Company and General Motors. The Jaguar board initially favored the GM option, which was less risky; GM was interested in only a minority stake, which would give Jaguar an infusion of development capital without ceding control. Ford, by contrast, wanted to buy Jaguar outright, hoping to make the British automaker Ford’s entrée into the upscale European luxury market. Although Jaguar’s directors were leery of the prospect of American control, by mid-October they had concluded that Ford’s offer was too lucrative to pass up. Ford was offering £1.6 billion (about $2.4 billion) up front and promised to invest more than £650 million (about $1 billion) in improving Jaguar’s products and facilities, a bet GM was unwilling to call. The Thatcher government agreed to relinquish its golden share a year ahead of schedule, allowing the sale to go forward by the end of 1989. John Egan departed the following July, replaced by Ford appointee Bill Hayden.
The XJ41/42 project was an early casualty of the merger, getting the ax in March 1990. Jaguar’s substantial investment in its development was not entirely in vain, however, at least from Ford’s standpoint. After its cancellation, at least one of the XJ41 prototypes went to TWR, where some of its engineering was applied to a new coupe for Aston Martin, which Ford had purchased in 1987. The Aston Martin DB7, launched in 1993, was in some respects a hybrid of the XJ41 and XJ-S, powered by a supercharged version of Jaguar’s AJ6 engine.
THE FACELIFTED XJ-S BECOMES THE JAGUAR XJS
With the XJ41/42 defunct, Jaguar invested a reported £50 million (about $89 million) in an extensive makeover of the XJ-S. Many of the changes were intended to streamline manufacturing — Bill Hayden had publicly criticized the Browns Lane factory for its almost Soviet primitivism — but the facelifted car also had a restyled grille, rocker panels, and taillights as well as new seats and a new dashboard. Coupes also had frameless door glass and a reshaped backlight and side windows while facelifted U.S. cars traded their sealed beam headlights for the Carello halogen units now used on European models.
Under the hood, European cars exchanged the 3.6-liter (219 cu. in.) AJ6 engine for the bigger 3,980 cc (243 cu. in.) version added to XJ40 sedans in 1990. It was actually a bit less powerful than before, with 223 hp DIN (164 kW), but had significantly more torque, now 277 lb-ft (374 N-m).
The facelifted car, which arrived in May 1991 as an early 1992 model, was now badged simply as “XJS,” losing the previous hyphen. Unfortunately, the revamp was not enough to perk up sales, which had fallen considerably since their 1989 peak — a victim of a general decline in the market for sporty coupes. Despite its higher price, the XJS convertible would outsell the fixed-head model for the remainder of its run.
Recognizing that trend, Jaguar made further changes to the drophead XJS in May 1992, adding additional structural bracing to reduce cowl shake and restoring the six-cylinder model, which had been dropped with the facelift. The six-cylinder XJS was finally introduced in North America for 1993, where it found immediate favor. Thanks to its lighter weight, the six-cylinder car had respectable performance even with the optional four-speed automatic and was more than $10,000 cheaper than the V-12. The six-cylinder convertible was still pricey, with an MSRP of more than $57,000, but its only direct rival, Mercedes’ SL300, started at over $20,000 more. The cheaper Lexus SC didn’t offer a convertible, nor did the vastly more expensive BMW 850i.
The V-12 XJS actually took a holiday for much of the 1993 model year, save for a limited number of JaguarSport XJR-S models, which were officially imported to the U.S. for the first time. Both European and U.S. cars now had a 5,994 cc (366 cu. in.) V-12 fitted with a bespoke Zytek engine management system. Despite the now rather dated three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic, the European XJR-S, with 338 hp DIN (248 kW) and 365 lb-ft (493 lb-ft) of torque, was capable of 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in about 6 seconds and a top speed of more than 160 mph (257 km/h). Federalized cars, with 313 hp SAE (233 kW) and 339 lb-ft (458 N-m) of torque, lagged by about a second to 60 mph (97 km/h), but had similar performance at higher speeds. Including four early press cars, only 104 U.S.-spec cars were imported, split equally between coupes and convertibles.
The standard V-12 returned in May 1993. Shared with the new XJ81 (XJ40-based) XJ12 sedan, it now had the same 5,994 cc (366 cu. in.) displacement as the JaguarSport engines, but a lower compression ratio, Lucas 36CU injection, and Marelli digital engine management rather than the Zytek system. Output was 308 hp DIN (301 hp SAE, 226 kW) and 355 lb-ft (479 N-m) of torque. For the first time, the V-12 was paired with a four-speed automatic, GM’s heavy-duty 4L80E.
The six-cylinder engine, meanwhile, was replaced by the extensively revised AJ16, still displacing 4.0 liters (243 cu. in.), but with a new engine management system and direct ignition, bringing it to 241 hp DIN (237 hp SAE, 177 kW) and 282 lb-ft (381 N-m) of torque. The rear brakes of all models were moved outboard, simplifying maintenance at the cost of some additional unsprung weight. Convertibles also got a revised rear floorpan that allowed the restoration of the back seat, something dealers had been demanding for years. The changes helped boost XJS sales to more than 6,600 units for the calendar year, the highest since 1990.
JAGUAR AFTER THE XJS
Although Jaguar had been working since 1992 on a V8-powered successor to the XJS, code-named X100, the firm continued to tinker with specifications of the XJS almost to the end, adding ventilated rear brake rotors, revised Teves Mk IV ABS, and yet another engine management system for the V-12. Some changes were probably driven by regulatory requirements, others by Ford’s ongoing efforts to improve manufacturing and increase commonality, but we suspect that Jaguar was also trying to keep the XJS current as a hedge against possible delays with the X100. (Given Jaguar’s track record in that area, it would have been a sensible precaution.) As a potential stopgap, Jaguar also proposed an additional makeover of the current car to allow the installation of the new AJ26 V8, but that plan never came to fruition.
By the 1996 model year, sales of the XJS 6.0 had slowed so much that the V-12 was now offered only by special order; the federalized 6.0 disappeared entirely. In North America, the six-cylinder coupe was also dropped, leaving only the 4.0 convertible with automatic. (The manual gearbox had been dropped from U.S. cars the previous year.) For all the changes, the XJS was obviously well past its prime, but the convertible still had little direct competition. Even with widespread reports of its imminent replacement, the XJS retained enough charm to sell more than 3,300 units for 1996, far from its worst year.
The X100, badged XK8, made its debut at the Geneva show in March 1996, about a month before the end of XJS production. Like the Aston Martin DB7, it retained portions of the XJS floorpan, but it traded both the AJ16 and the V-12 for an all-new 3,996 cc (244 cu. in.) DOHC V-8 with 290 horsepower (216 kW). Sole transmission was a Ford-built five-speed automatic. The XK was still not the long-promised F-type, although its styling, courtesy of Jaguar design director Geoff Lawson, had some overtones of the XJ41, particularly in front. Weighing some 300 lb (135 kg) less than the XJS, the XK8 had good performance and a fine blend of ride, handling, and refinement. Unlike the XJS, it also had the definite virtue of looking smaller than it was. A supercharged XKR followed three years later, with a retuned suspension and a rousing 370 hp (276 kW).
Jaguar flirted with the idea of a new F-type throughout Ford’s ownership, displaying a stylish XK180 show car at the Paris Salon in 1998 and a similar F-type concept at the 2000 Detroit show. The latter was described at the time as a waters-testing exercise, but if Jaguar had any serious plans to build it, they were probably tabled by the development costs of the Mondeo-based X-type sedan and the new aluminum-bodied XJ as well as Jaguar’s latest round of financial problems. Despite substantial investments in production facilities and technology, Ford reportedly never made a profit with Jaguar. In March 2008, they finally sold it — along with Land Rover, which Ford had acquired in 2000 — to India’s Tata Motors.
In July 2010, Tata announced that the F-type, now dubbed XE, would debut at the 2011 Geneva show, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the E-type. Renamed F-type, the new car finally debuted in early 2013, slotting under the current XK in both size and price. The two-seat F-type rides a smaller version of the current XK’s all-aluminum platform and offers a selection of supercharged V6 or V8 engines. A hybrid version has also been discussed, although whether it will make it to production is still unclear.
Even after 21 years on the market and more than 115,000 sales, the XJS remains a polarizing design, particularly the coupe. (The convertible, lacking the flying buttresses, is less divisive, one of the reasons it eventually outsold the fixed-head models.) It has a certain following, but it doesn’t provoke the same eye-glazing lust as the E-type and probably never will.
It’s interesting to speculate what sort of response the XJ-S would have received had Jaguar also been able to build the XJ21. The XJ-S’s styling would probably still have been controversial, but we suspect that critics would have been less inclined to chide it for what it was not and more willing to embrace it for what it was: a new kind of car for Jaguar with strengths of its own.
It’s also worth noting that many of the criticisms of XJ-S — that it was too big, too heavy, and too soft — were also made about most of its rivals, including BMW’s E24 6-Series and the Porsche 928 (not to mention almost every subsequent sports car and GT). The XJR-S made it clear that Jaguar could have offered a much sportier XJ-S if they’d been so inclined, but for the most part, the factory opted not to, judging (probably correctly) that its customers preferred grace to outright pace. As for the abortive XJ41, we’re not sure it would have sold any better than the XJ-S in the early nineties. Attractive as it was, the XJ41 would have arrived just as the sports car market was collapsing; the sales figures of its potential rivals from that period make for depressing reading. There’s a reason the posh XJ-S and its XK successors have survived more than 30 years while the F-type/XE took until 2013 to reach production.
Even so, we find the XJ-S easier to respect than to love. It has its appealing aspects, but we can’t help thinking an XJ12C would offer many of the same virtues (and, admittedly, many of the same foibles) in a prettier, more practical form. The XJ-S’s unique character and exceptional longevity have earned it an honorable place among classic Jaguars, but immortality will be a harder road.
The author would like to thank Martin Alford, Xero Britt, John Parkes, Antonio Tarascio, ‘MSL,’ and ‘FiatTipoElite’ for the use of their photos and Dan Bodenheimer of Saint.org for his help with the history of the Return of the Saint TV series.
NOTES ON SOURCES
Our sources on the development of the XJ-S included Keith Adams, “Daimler XJS,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 25 March 2011; “Autocar Test Extra: XJ-S V12 Convertible,” Autocar 27 April 1988, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1989), pp. 164-167; “AutoTest: Jaguar XJS HE: Fireball efficiency,” Autocar, 24 April 1982, reprinted in ibid, pp. 94-99; John Barker, “Group Test: Tour de Force,” Performance Car April 1992, reprinted in Porsche 928 Takes On the Competition (Head to Head), ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1999), pp. 114-121, and “Tried, Tested, Rejected: Jaguar XJS Twin-Turbo 4WD,” CAR January 1997, pp. 68-69; Patrick Bedard, “Jaguar XJ-S: The cat comes back,” Car and Driver January 1976, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 13-18, 69; Stuart Bladon, “Fireball: The development of the decade?” Asian Auto June 1981, reprinted in ibid, pp. 85-87; John Bolster, “Road Test: State of the art,” Autosport 25 February 1982, reprinted in ibid, pp. 90-91; Michael Brockman, “JaguarSport XJR-S: Still hitting on all 12 cylinders,” Motor Trend Vol. 45, No. 7 (July 1993), p. 58; Thomas L. Bryant, “TWR Jaguar Sport: Subtle changes, dramatic improvements,” Road & Track August 1985, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 126-127; Martin Buckley, Jaguar: Fifty Years of Speed and Style (Haynes Classic Makes) (Sparkford, Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 1998); Roger Bywater, “The technical history of the Jaguar V12 engine,” Jaguar World, 1997, www.jagweb. com/ jagworld/ v12-engine/ index.html, accessed 5 October 2009; “Buying Secondhand: A Classic Opportunity,” Autocar 8 April 1987, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 143-146; Mike Covello, Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-2002, Second Ed. (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2001); Michael L. Cook, Illustrated Jaguar Buyer’s Guide (Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Company, 1996; Peter Crespin, The Essential Buyer’s Guide: Jaguar XJ-S: All 6- and 12-cylinder models, 1975-1996 (Dorchester: Veloce Publishing Limited, June 2008); Dave Destler, “Going Topless in France: Jaguar Unveils the XJS Convertible,” British Car October 1988, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 153-156; Jim Donnelly, “Visionaries: Malcolm Sayer,” Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car #67 (March 2011), p. 64; Craig Fitzgerald, “Marketplace Buyer’s Guide: 1993 Jaguar XJR-S: Jaguar’s Rare, Affordable V-12 Coupe,” Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car #57 (May 2010), pp. 80–85; Pascal Gademer, “Jaguar Model Guides: The XJS,” South Florida Jaguar Club, 14 February 2005, www.jcna. com, accessed 23 March 2011; Scott Gordon, “First Drive: 1995 Jaguar XJS 6.0: Tampering with perfection,” Road & Track Vol. 46, No. 7 (March 1995), p. 48; Ron Grable, “’93 Jaguar XJS Coupe: Sporty performance with an emphasis on style and grace,” Motor Trend Vol. 45, No. 7 (July 1993), pp. 53-55; Larry Griffith, “Jaguar XJS-SC Cabriolet: The return of the pop-top cat,” Car and Driver August 1986, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 131-135; Larry Griffith, “Short Take: Jaguar XJ-S: The fastest production car in America,” Car and Driver February 1981, reprinted in ibid, p. 75; “In Search of the Greatest Grand Tourer,” Autocar 9 January 1991, reprinted in Porsche 928 Takes On the Competition, pp. 104-112; “Jaguar XJ-S: Enhancing its reputation for silky smooth performance and luxury,” Road & Track May 1981, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988; William Jeanes, “Preview: Jaguar XJS: A new way to re-skin a cat,” Car and Driver Vol. 37, No. 1 (July 1991), pp. 123-124, 127; “Life Begins at 40,” Performance Car October 1986, reprinted in Jaguar XJ6 Gold Portfolio 1986-1994, pp. 15-23; Brian Long, Jaguar XJ-S (Dorchester: Veloce Publishing Limited, 2004); Karl Ludvigsen, “Twelve to Go,” Motor Trend Vol. 23, No. 5 (May 1971): 80–82; Richard Maura, “Understanding Fuel Injection,” Georgia Jag, 2006, georgiajag. com/ Documents/UNDERSTANDING%20FUEL%20INJECTION.htm, accessed 25 September 2014; Mark J. McCourt, “Living Up to the Legend,” Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car #67 (March 2011), pp. 18–23; “Move Over Merc,” Motor 1 May 1976, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 40-44; Bob Nagy, “Jaguar XJ-S: A New Groom for the Old Cat,” Motor Trend Vol. 44, No. 4 (April 1992) pp. 80-82; Douglas Kott, “Jaguar XJR-S Coupe: JaguarSport puts some snarl into Coventry’s fat cat,” Road & Track Vol. 44, No. 7 (March 1993), pp. 69-72; Ian Nicholls, “Jaguar XJ21: The missing link,” AROnline, 15 November 2009, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 3 April 2011, “Jaguar XJ6: Quantum leap,” AROnline, 2 January 2011, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 5 April 2011, “Jaguar XJS: A brave new direction,” AROnline, 22 May 2010, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 12 April 2011, “Projects and prototypes,” AROnline, 15 November 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 25 March 2011, and “Quantum Leap: Jaguar E-Type,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 13 October 2009; Kirby Palm, Experience in a Book: Help for the Jaguar XJ-S Owner (Morgantown, WV: Coltrane Productions, May 2009), published online by the author at Jag-Lovers.org, www.jag-lovers. org/ xj-s/ book/ Jaguar.html [e-book in PDF format], accessed 23 March 2011; Cyril Posthumus, “New Jaguar E-Type V-12: Technical Analysis,” Road & Track May 1971 (Vol. 22, No. 9), pp. 26-30; “Prestige Performance,” What Car? March 1988, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 158-163; “Road Test: Jaguar XJ-S,” Motor 21 February 1976, reprinted in ibid, pp. 26-31; “RoadTest: Jaguar XJS – 3.6C,” Motor 3 March 1984, reprinted in ibid, pp. 112-115; Graham Robson, “XJG Classic Choice,” Thoroughbred & Classic Cars August 1991, reprinted in Jaguar XJ6 Gold Portfolio 1968-1979, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1995), pp. 164-171; Michael Scarlett, “XJ-S: A new concept in Jaguar motoring,” Autocar 13 September 1975, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 5-11; LJK Setright, “A Cat may look at a King,”Car and Driver Vol. 24, No. 4 (February 1979), p. 110; Paul Skilleter, “On the road,” Thoroughbred & Classic Cars October 1975, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 12-13, 55, and “XJS,” Thoroughbred & Classic Car January 1977, reprinted in ibid, pp. 48-49); Kevin Smith, “Short Take: Jaguar XJS: Rocky XIV: In which our handsome hero undergoes an ego reduction,” Car and Driver Vol. 39, No. 1 (July 1993), p. 125; John Simster, “Test Match: Open warfare” and “The fall and rise of the XJ-S,” Motor 6 August 1988, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 172-176; “Test Update: The Cat Strikes Back,” Autocar 7 October 1987, reprinted in ibid, pp. 147-149; Bill Visnic, “Topless Review: Jaguar XJ-S: More evidence that Jaguar’s finest tradition is tradition itself,” Car and Driver Vol. 34, No. 8 (February 1989), p. 55; Ted West, “Lister-Jaguar XJ-S NAS,” Road & Track November 1987, reprinted in Jaguar XJ-S Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 150-152; Barry Winfield, “Jaguar XJ12: Coventry’s 12-step program,” Car and Driver Vol. 38, No. 12 (June 1993), pp. 87-89; Barry Winfield, “Short Take: Jaguar XJS 4.0 Convertible: They’re not kidding about cats having nine lives,” Car and Driver Vol. 40, No. 6 (December 1994), p. 169; “XJR-S ’88-’91,” Jag-Lovers.org, 25 February 1999, www.jag-lovers. org, accessed 11 April 2011; the official Jaguar Heritage website (www.jaguar. com, accessed 7 April 2011); and the Wikipedia® entry for the XJ-S (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguar_XJS, accessed 24 March 2011).
Additional information about the XJ-S’s competition history came from Charles W. Bryant, “How the Cannonball Run Worked,” HowStuffWorks.com, 22 June 2009, adventure.howstuffworks. com/ cannonball-run.htm, accessed 26 March 2011; Ginger Corda, Phyllis Chisholm, “Florida Jaguar Clubs Take their Cats out to Play at Sebring International Raceway,” Jaguar Clubs of North America, 2 March 2002, www.jcna. com, accessed 26 March 2011; Frank de Jong, History of the European Touring Car Championship website (originally homepage.mac. com/frank_de_jong/Race/, now www.touringcarracing.net), accessed 30 March 2011; Job Drenth, “XJC Models Part 2: The Series II XJ Coupe Models (II),” Jaguar Model Club, 2005, www.jagweb. com, accessed 28 March 2011; Alexis Gousseau, “Group 44: the return of Jaguar,” IMSA History, 15 August 2006, alex62.typepad. com/ imsablog/ 2006/ 08/ group_44_the_re.html, accessed 26 March 2011; “Le Mans Grand Prix d’Endurance,” n.d., www.silhouet. com/ motorsport/ lemans.html, accessed 31 March 2011; Wouter Melissen, “1990 Jaguar XJR-12,” Ultimate Car Page, 26 July 2007, www.ultimatecarpage. com, accessed 15 April 2011; Gordon Smiley, “Track Test: The Big Cat’s Back,” Autosport 25 February 1982, reprinted in Jaguar XJS Gold Portfolio 1975-1988, pp. 88-89; “Turning Topics: Race modifying Jaguar’s XJ-S for European endurance events,” Motor Sport May 1982, reprinted in ibid, pp. 103-105; “Two Jaguar Coupes: Group 44’s XJS is more than the cat’s meow,” Road & Track May 1977, reprinted in ibid, pp. 56-61; and Brock Yates, “The Cannonball: One More Time,” Cannonball Express: A personal Journal of Automotive News and Opinions Vol. One, No. 18/19 25 (April 1979), www.onelapofamerica. com, accessed 26 March 2011.
Information about the brief television career of the XJ-S came from Keith Adams, “The New Avengers,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 25 March 2011; Dan Bodenheimer, “The Saint’s Jaguar XJS: Jaguar and Ian Ogilvy as The Saint,” The Saint Club/Saint.org, n.d., www.saint. org, accessed 23 March 2011; Dave Matthews, “The Authorised Guide to The New Avengers Star Cars,” The Authorised Guide to the New Avengers, 25 May 1998, www.personal.u-net. com/ ~carnfort/ NewAvengers/ navgcars.htm, accessed 25 March 2011 and “The Return of Steed,” ibid, 9 December 1996, www.personal.u-net. com/ ~carnfort/ NewAvengers/ navg.htm, accessed 25 March 2011; Paul Rance, “Gareth Hunt – Mike Gambit of The New Avengers – Obituary,” Booksmusicfilmstv. com, 24 April 2007, www.booksmusicfilmstv. com, accessed 25 March 2011; and the IMDb page for Return of the Saint, www.imdb. com, accessed 9 April 2011.
Other information about planned and actual successors to the E-type and XJS came from “2013 Jaguar XE,” Car and Driver April 2010, www.caranddriver. com, accessed 26 March 2011; Keith Adams, “Jaguar XJ41/XJ42,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 11 April 2011; John Barker, “Tried, Tested, Rejected: Jaguar XJS Twin-Turbo 4WD,” CAR #413 (January 1997), pp. 68-69; “DB7 – The six cylinder cars,” Aston Martin, www.astonmartin. com, accessed 26 March 2011; Robert Edwards, Aston Martin: Ever the Thoroughbred (Haynes Classic Makes Series) (Sparkford, England: Haynes Publishing, 1999); Steven J. Ewing, “Report: Jaguar F-Type gets the greenlight,” Autoblog, 28 May 2010, www.autoblog. com, accessed 26 March 2011; “Jag F-Type is go,” Auto Express, 28 May 2010, www.autoexpress. co.uk, accessed 26 March 2011; “Jaguar confirms XE + X-Type,” Autocar; “Jaguar: The all new F-Type Concept,” Autointell. com, 11 January 2000, www.autointell. com, accessed 26 March 2011; “Jaguar – the next 12 years,” Autocar, 15 February 2011; “Obituaries: Victor Gauntlett,” The Telegraph 2 April 2003, www.telegraph. co.uk, accessed 26 March 2011; Martin Padgett Jr., “Jaguar XK8: Never mind the bollocky XJS–here’s Jaguar’s next sexy pistol,” Car and Driver Vol. 41, No. 5 (November 1995), pp. 34-37; Simona, “Jaguar confirms F-Type and X-Type models,” Topspeed. com, 13 July 2010, www.topspeed. com, accessed 26 March 2011; Steve Sutcliffe, “Jaguar F-type review,” Autocar, 17 April 2013; “Tata buys Jaguar in £1.15bn deal,” BBC News, 26 March 2008, news.bbc. co.uk, accessed 26 March 2011; Mark Walton, “Jaguar F-Type V8 S (2013) CAR review,” CAR 17 April 2013, www.carmagazine. co.uk, accessed 20 April 2013; and Mark Wan, “Jaguar XK,” Autozine.org, 13 April 2006, www.autozine. org/ Archive/ Jaguar/ new/ XK.html, accessed 16 April 2011.
Other details about Jaguar, including its relationship with British Leyland and its return to private ownership, came from Keith Adams, “Company timeline,” and “Jaguar under BL’s wing,” AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline. co.uk, accessed 25 March 2011; Edward Connolly, “Upper limit is placed on Jaguar Cars offer,” The Glasgow Herald 7 July 1984, p. 15; Nicholas Faith, “Obituary: Lord Ryder of Eaton Hastings: Dominating chairman of the National Enterprise Board,” The Independent 21 May 2003, www.independent. co.uk, accessed 25 March 2011; Dan Fisher, “Jaguar Shifts Gears, Backs Buyout by Ford,” Los Angeles Times 3 November 1989, latimes. com, accessed 3 March 2011; “Geoff Lawson, 54, Dies; Designer of New Jaguar Line,” New York Times 5 July 1999; Jonathan Glancey, “Obituaries: Geoff Lawson: Assured designer who brought style and success back to Jaguar,” The Guardian 28 June 1999, www.guardian. co.uk, accessed 26 March 2011; Gavin Green, “Why a Jaguar is not a Ford,” The Independent 1 October 1994, www.independent. co.uk, accessed 12 April 2011; Michael Harrison, “Former Jaguar chief Egan to take chairman’s role at Severn Trent,” The Independent 7 July 2004, www.independent. co.uk, accessed 23 March 2011; “Jaguar prospectuses quickly snapped up,” The Glasgow Herald 31 July 1984, p. 9; Bernice Kanner, “Jaguar Revs Up: Quality Catches Up With Image,” New York Magazine Vol 20, No. 34 (31 August 1987), pp. 23, 26-27; Evi Kaplanis and Antonio S. Mello, “Jaguar Cars: A Case on Foreign Exchange Exposure,” University of Wisconsin Business School, 1990, research3.bus.wisc. edu/ file.php/ 93/ Case%2520Studies/ Jaguar_Cars_A_Case_on _Foreign_Exchange_Exposure.pdf, accessed 25 March 2011; “Loughborough graduate and designer of E-type Jaguar honoured” [press release], 13 May 2005, Loughborough University, www.lboro.ac. uk/ service/ publicity/ news-releases/ 2005/ 37_sayer.html, accessed 25 March 2011; Steven Prokesch, “Ford to Buy Jaguar for $2.38 Billion,” New York Times 3 November 1989; John Revill, “Ford has spent billions on its British brands,” Automotive News Europe, 21 January 2008, www.autonews. com, accessed, 23 March 2011; Jonathan Wood, “Obituaries: Lofty England,” The Independent 9 June 1995, www.independent. co.uk, accessed 23 March 2011; and the Wikipedia entries for John Egan (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Egan_%28 industrialist%29, accessed 23 March 2011) and Geoffrey Robinson (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Robinson, accessed 25 March 2011).
Details on Ford’s sale of its British acquisitions came from Nick Bunkley, “Ford sells Aston Martin unit,” New York Times 12 March 2007; “Ford pays £1.8bn for Land Rover,” BBC News, 17 March 2000, news.bbc. co.uk, accessed 26 March 2011; Tom Krisher, “Ford Sells Jaguar, Land Rover to Tata,” The Huffington Post, 26 March 2008, www.huffingtonpost. com, accessed 26 March 2011; and Terry Macalister, “Ford sells Aston Martin,” The Guardian 12 March 2007, www.guardian. co.uk, accessed 26 March 2011.
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Some exchange rate data for the dollar and British pound were estimated based on Lawrence H. Officer, “Exchange Rates Between the United States Dollar and Forty-one Currencies,” MeasuringWorth, 2009, https://www.measuringworth.org/exchangeglobal/, used with permission. Exchange rate values cited in the text represent the approximate equivalency of British and U.S. currency at the time, not contemporary U.S. suggested retail prices, which are listed separately. Please note that all exchange rate equivalencies cited in the text are approximate and are provided solely for general reference and illustration; this is an automotive history, not a treatise on currency trading or the value of money, and nothing in this article should be taken as financial advice of any kind!
15 CommentsAdd a Comment
Interesting article as usual Aaron, on an interesting or curious car – in some ways an example on what not to do. I remember reading about a spy photographer getting into the design studios and ignoring the XJS prototype because he didn’t think they would release a car with the ugly buttresses. The Lynx Eventer is far and away the best looking (along with the convertible) because of that.
Typical large British car in some ways, with such a ‘huge’ engine it is like they ignore weight, the Rover SD1 is the same. Then the BL in-fighting that saw the XJ40 designed to not fit a vee engine because they were afraid the Rover 3.5 would be forced upon them, a move that caused havoc when they subsequently tried to fit the V12…
Well, the weight of the XJ-S doesn’t seem as unreasonable if you consider it as a variation of the XJ sedans, which is really what it was, in many respects. Making it substantially lighter would have required a bespoke platform (which Jaguar couldn’t afford) or extensive use of alloy panels (which would have complicated manufacture and probably made it even more expensive than it already was). I don’t think Jaguar was oblivious to the issue, but sometimes you’ve got to make do with what you have.
For the record, I rather like the buttresses. I think the issue is less the buttresses themselves and more the overall proportions, exacerbated to some extent by the awkward shape of the quarterlights. The pre-facelift cars have a hint of Mercedes C107 (SLC coupe), which is not to the credit of either; the facelift coupes are cleaner, but even more sedanish.
I’ve mixed feelings about the aesthetics of the facelift. I like the revised nose, reshaped rocker panels, and frameless door glass, as well as the ’94-on body-colored bumpers, but I prefer the original taillights to the rather anonymous wraparound units, and the integral chin spoiler of late-model cars looks rather strange on close inspection. I’ve never liked the shape of the Eventer, which to me lacks elegance and looks huge — it’s not nearly as pretty as the Volvo 1800ES.
You are of course right about the weight, but Jag sedans inc. the XJ6 have always been heavy, the engines likewise. Even the aluminium V12 weighs as much as an iron big block Chev (have seen an XJS with this swap!). That the weight of 40-year-old Jags seems ‘normal’ now says something I think.
I agree with you on the tail lights, the buttresses I think are not helped by the overly-arched rear window. I see what you mean about the rear overhang of the Eventer, a bit smaller would help.
Too bad the XJC (2 door) didn’t get much of a chance. That’s the first I’ve learned of it and I think it looks great.
Aaron, kudos on another fine article.
For anyone who wants to see photos of the Lynx Eventer, check out .
Also, a minor typo on the last page: you said that the XJS had 115,00 sales (the final zero is missing).
Thanks for the note on the typo — it’s been fixed.
Minor detail to an fine article: under the first picture of the XK-E, you state that "[i]This car’s covered lights were not legal in the U.S. in the sixties and seventies[/i]".
Actually, covered headlights were legal in the US though the 1967 production year, and the XK-E, Alfa Spider and Fiat 850 Spider had them through MY 1967. There were other cars that had them too, mainly Italians like Ferraris and such. Sadly, in 1968, they all went away, ending an era.
Desperately trying to find the tire and rim sizes that Tullius ran on the Group 44 XJS racer.Thank you for your consdieration
The Group 44 cars had Goodyear Blue Streak tires on 15×10 Minilite magnesium wheels. The front tires were 25.0×10.0-15, the rears were 25.0×11.0-15.
Any help on aftermarket wheels for the XJS like the ones on the 44 XJS racer/ thx Mike
Aaron-great article- just purchased a 1996 XJS 2+2 DHC as a stablemate for my 1990 Vanden Plas Majestic, which is a prolific show winner for me. You can see a picture of my Majestic in Wikipedia listed in the Jaguar XJ40 article, listed as the Majestic model,taken at the 2012 Greenwich Concours Show. The XJS has 138K+ miles and was mechanically neglected by it’s previous owners. Exterior is Topaz Pearl Metallic with Oatmeal interior and Brown Hood, all in good shape, however car is currently undergoing extensive surgery in the local ER with the help of a couple of capable Latino “doctors” and a few suppliers from around the US. After receiving the diagnosis a couple of days ago, I could have kicked myself for the purchase, but it is a great looking car cosmetically and am looking forward to showing it when discharged and cruising the backroads of CT to car shows next year.
Un poco tarde. En San Luis Obispo California, está XK Unlimited y ellos tienen todo lo de Jaguar. Inclusive envian las partes a México.
Old article, but I have just come across it. I have owned a 95 4.0 Coupe and now a 95 4.0 soft top. I never heard a complaint about the buttress from anyone. I used to prefer the coupe, but now I think each has its own look. Having put quite a few miles on the two, and comparing to some Germans I have driven recently back to back; I would agree that the steering it too light. I would have preferred the dash about 6″ forward instead of the long hood, which does have some spare space with the 6. I disagree that this car will not become a desired classic. Not versus the e-type, but in a minor way. Prices are moving upwards on good ones.
I find that encouraging! The dilemma the XJS faces as a collector car is that it’s not especially rare and it is very costly to properly maintain, repair, or restore. That can create a scenario in which a lot of examples get run down beyond the point where it makes economic sense to fix them and either end up scrapped or as a sort of a devil’s bargain for used car buyers (there are few things so perversely expensive as a cheap used luxury car!). That in turn can depress their resale values, making the cars’ survival dependent on individual owners just really liking their cars rather than there being a strong market for them. (This isn’t limited to the XJS; a lot of high-end luxury cars present the same issues.)
Excellent article. I re-discover this every few years and have a great read. I own a 1986 XJ-S and a 1986 Pontiac Trans Am T-top. I can’t tell you how firm…tank-like…the XJ-S feels after getting out of the TA with its many squeaks, creaks, rattles, and flex. The TA’s great for a little poor-man’s Miami Vice vibe, but sometimes you feel more like the refinement (and dare I say Bond vibe) from the XJ-S.