‘It’s superbly engineered, sensationally quick, very refined and magnificent to drive – a combination of qualities that no other car we’ve driven can match at that price’ – Motor Magazine.
Launched in 1975 after 10 years in development, the XJ-S perhaps suffered somewhat from simply not being an E Type. A little harsh perhaps as it was never the cars designer, Malcolm Sayer, or his boss Sir William Lyons’ intention to produce a direct replacement for the 1960s icon but rather come up with a continent-crushing GT. Safety concerns particularly in the key US markets resulted in jitters over the future of convertible cars which ensured the new model remained a fixed head coupe for the first 13 years of its life until a fully open version was launched in 1988. At that point the public got and ‘got’ what Jaguar were really trying to achieve; in one fell swoop the controversial flying buttresses of the fixed roof were consigned to the bin marked “ugly bits that we didn’t really want in the first place” and duckling became swan. For a nation that had produced the Lotus Elite, Aston Martin DB4 and St Pauls Cathedral we really lost the ability to ‘do’ roofs in the 1970s…
Five years prior to this aesthetic transformation, Jaguar’s new six-cylinder AJ6 engine in 3.6 litre guise was inserted into the XJ-S range and while not quite as powerful as the legendary V12, it gave a very good account of itself with a ‘sportier’ character and lighter weight which arguably infused the GT car with a sharper feel. Towards the end of the XJ-S’ life, in 1992 the car was re-engineered and given a mildly tweaked appearance. The AJ6 engine was taken out to 4.0 litres while mechanics and their knuckles rejoiced in the repositioning of the rear brakes closer to the outside world next to the wheels as opposed to the differential. These cars are the pinacle of XJS (the hyphen was also engineered out with these revisions) development and are considered the most desirable. Just as well then that this beautiful XJS is a May 1994 car and is hence ‘the one to have’.
To our eyes (and we understand to many of others’ too) this is one of the best colour combinations; Navy Blue with a matching roof which contrasts beautifully with the cream interior. The paintwork itself not only looks to be original but it carries barely a mark or imperfection, belying its 23 years of age. Deep, even and with a good shine it looks fantastic with only a couple of light ‘brushes’ on a rear wing which are barely visible in the photographs we took of the area. The painted element of the rear bumper has a slightly more noticeable wear mark and though it is perhaps a polish away from being invisible, it is shown in the photo gallery for reference. The chrome-work present is deployed subtly, does a great job of setting off the rich, dark blue paintwork and is in almost perfect condition throughout. Its condition is indicative of plenty of attention from sponge and chamois though the silver effect on the boot badges has been perhaps over-cleaned and is now wearing slightly thin as is the black finish to the wiper arms – yes we are being hyper critical but we need to find something negative to say, no matter how small!
The navy blue mohair hood is generally in good condition as is the glass rear window. There are just a couple of areas of wear in the fabric which are likely to have originated when the car was driven with the hood stowed, leading one to surmise that the XJS has for the most part been exercised in fine weather conducive to top down motoring.
On inspection we checked the Jaguar’s bodywork in all the areas known to be susceptible to rust and could find nothing of any significance. The photo gallery shows one tiny ‘bleb’ in the corner of the scuttle panel which the previous owner had apparently monitored and found to be virtually unchanged during their ownership over the past three years. Panel fit is excellent throughout though Jaguars of the time were never up to current Audi standards even when fresh off the Browns Lane production line. Dark colours are the enemy of dents and dings, highlighting them mercilessly so it is most encouraging to see that this car looks as straight as a die from any angle. The exception is the tinniest dimple near the rear near side corner of the boot lid – if you can spot it in the photographs you have better than 20/20 vision.
The XJS’ cream leather (not the easiest colour to keep looking perfect) seats are in similarly well cared for condition and still beautifully supple. The rear seats look to have never been occupied though given their dimensions, this is perhaps not so surprising, while the passenger chair is almost untouched and the drivers’ perch shows just the lightest of creasing with no wear or, heaven forbid, tear. The matching padded hood cover is also in virtually unmarked condition. The carpets are protected by over-mats (over the over-mats!) and have suffered very little in the last nigh-on quarter of a century.
All is neat and tidy in the engine bay with a complete set of factory stickers, labels and identification plates. While no attempt has been made to cosmetically ‘buff-up’ this area, the impression is of a regime of careful maintenance rather than obsessive polishing and preening.
The boot of the XJS is a very good size (not unique to this particular car admittedly) but everything is in good condition and the factory tool kit, jack and wheel brace are accompanied by Jaguar top-up bottles for both screen wash and anti-freeze; a barometer of the care and attention this car has enjoyed even well past its 20th birthday. The factory CD changer is still in place but we were unsure if it was still on speaking terms with the in-dash element of the sound system.
Factory standard fit alloy wheels are wrapped in premium brand rubber almost new at the rear and with a good amount of life left in the fronts. The wheels are themselves in good order with only minimal kerb rash or corrosion.
The underside of the car appears, beneath a light coating of road grime, totally solid and rot free with only the lightest of rust stains showing on wear points such as jacking plates. For the most part the factory applied sealants and protective finishes are intact and still performing their intended function. Suspension components are also similarly road used with just a localised coating of surface rust where original paint finishes have been chipped or worn away and the exhaust system appears to be affected in much the same way. Please examine the photographs to get an accurate impression of the XJS’ undercarriage.
Driving the XJS is a delightful experience with all the controls functioning as they should. The major items such as engine and automatic gearbox also appear to be in fine fettle with the box changing through all the gears just as it should while as can be seen in the photo gallery, the engine when only slightly below full operating temperature and at a sub 1,000 rpm idle shows a very healthy 5 bar (70+ psi) oil pressure and there is not a whiff of smoke on start up or when running.
The thick history file contains a virtually full set of MOT certificates and copiously stamped service book both of which confirm the cars 89,000 miles from new. Of the eighteen service stamps, all but five were applied by Jaguar main dealers; this XJS has not only had a lot of care and attention lavished upon it over its entire life (four services in the last 5,000 miles, just when one might expect maintenance to tail off somewhat) but this has been done by the right people too. There is also a veritable library of Factory manuals and handbooks tucked inside the original Jaguar wallet.
Overall our impression of the Jaguar was of a car that has been cosseted, looked after and sensibly used throughout its life; one that has fortuitously avoided falling into the hands of owners who while they may be able to afford to buy one, can’t then do them justice in the crucial area of maintenance.
Having emphasised that the XJ-S was not a direct replacement for the E Type and pitching one against an early six cylinder car would only serve to demonstrate their different relative functions and strengths, back to back one with a later V12 S3 E and you might be surprised how similar they are in the real world. Perhaps the biggest contrast is in their relative current values where we make the exchange rate a very healthy five or six to one in the later car’s favour. For everyone who tutted disapprovingly as Flat Floor (often more accurately no-floor) project cars sailed past the £100K mark, might we suggest that the HMS XJS is just about to sail and you would be wise to embark now.
Registration number: L140 HYO
Chassis Number: SAJJNAFD3EJ193656
Engine Number: 9EPCNA194006