Estimate: £19,000 - £24,000
While never officially billed as such, everyone knew the Jaguar XJ-S was a car to take over from the great, and some may say irreplaceable Jaguar E Type. A car that had changed the fortunes of the British manufacturer for the better. As such, the XJ-S wasn’t a concept that was welcomed with open arms by customers, at least not in principle. Happily though, Jaguar knew what it was doing, and so when it unveiled the XJ-S on the 10th September, 1975, the crowds were hushed. The XJ-S was an imposing, impossibly low and long machine. It was every bit the embodiment of the name Jaguar - it looked ready to pounce.
The car’s development was championed by William Heynes, Jaguar’s Chief Engineer. Development actually started back in the 1960s, but as you’d expect for a car with such big shoes to fill, the project wasn’t rushed. Malcolm Sayer, who was also instrumental in the design of the E Type, penned the original design of the XJ-S. Sadly, he passed away in 1970 leaving the design to be refined and completed by Jaguar’s in-house design team headed up by Doug Thorpe.
Jaguar wasn’t messing about with the XJ-S, and as such it was launched with a 5.3 V12 engine which was available with an automatic transmission, or, incredibly, a manual option! Jaguar was determined to offer the same driver appeal of the E Type, which again was available with a V12 and three pedals.
In 1981, the XJ-S became the HE, which is the model we’re looking at here. Swiss engineer, Michael May, had come up with a new combustion chamber design in which the fuel/air mix was ‘swirled’ around before being ignited. This was a far more efficient way of consuming fuel, and Jaguar jumped at the technology, building it into its V12 engine, thus giving us the HE - High Efficiency engine. Which of course is a relative term when you’re talking about a V12!
In 1983 we were given the convertible, but initially it was more of a targa design that was actually built by cutting the roofs of completed shells and adding strengthening. It was wasn’t until 1988 that we were rewarded with the true, properly developed convertible version, which is what we have here for auction.
Being a 1988 model, this particular XJ-S is one of the earlier ‘proper’ convertibles. As you can see, this is considered, sleek design in which the roof folds 80% flat, there are no door frames nor is there any intrusion from the strengthening applied to the structure of the XJ-S. This is fully resolved, well-engineered design. For many, this model represents an XJ-S as it should be. Two seats, no roof and of course, that glorious V12 engine.
This car started life on the Isle of Man, as the personal transport of the owner of the Welbeck Hotel. As you can imagine, this meant the car covered very little mileage. Despite minimal use, it was still serviced regularly, as is evidenced by the fully-stamped service book.
In 2006 the XJ-S was exported to Spain, where it has lived until recently. Again, it lived a life of sparing use, which is why today the XJ-S has a mileage of just 44,000. While in Spain, the Jaguar was again regularly maintained and kept in good order. There is a raft of Spanish paperwork that comes with the car, detailing service work and documentation for the Spanish MOT equivalent.
The car was recently bright back to the UK for sale, as the vendor was sure that UK buyers would relish the opportunity to acquire a largely rust-free XJ-S convertible with such low mileage. However, while the car is indeed back in the UK, it is not being used. Instead, it is being stored indoors until the next owner takes the keys.
As you can see, this brilliantly red XJ-S is quite the treat for the eyes. Prone to rust, the XJ-S is an unforgiving machine in terms of its design, and as such, will show flaws without much provocation. Happily though, there are no major flaws to be identified. It is evident the car has had paint at some point, but there seems to be no issue beneath it. The panels are arrow straight, the doors have no ‘droop’ when opened, the shut lines are all uniform and there is nor scratches. The only blemish we could find was one pea-sized chip in the paint on the offsider rear wing.
The chrome is bright and free from any significant corrosion. This XJ-S wears twin headlights, which are in good order. However, the seller will be supplying the car with the original one-piece units should you wish to change them back. Other modifications include the fetching wire wheels, which again are in good order, though a deep polish may benefit them. However, there seemed to be no evidence of serious corrosion, as is often the case with such wheels.
The interior is in good order, with no damage or excessive wear to the light cream leather. The door cards are free from damage or wear, as is the wood-rim steering wheel. There are some small scratches in the leather of the centre console sides, but nothing to detract from the overall condition. The wood veneer is free from cracks, lifting or other damage. The centre switch pack for the roof mechanism has, however, broken a clip, so doesn’t sit flush (pictured). The door strikers, sill plates and hinges are all in good order, and there is no sign of any corrosion around the A pillar area.
The roof functions well, lifting and falling without any hesitance or untoward noises. It clips down with ease and seems to seal well, though obviously we were unable to test fully. However, the roof is in excellent order with no rips or breaks. The headlining is in good order, again with no signs of damage other than some light dirt marks on the forward most edge.
Underneath the Jaguar there is a great deal of rust protectant applied, which seems to have done the job well. However, there is one area of rust in the offside front floorpan, which looks to have struck something at some point. However, it would be a quick and easy repair by the looks of it. The rest of the floorpan seems to be in good order, there is no sign of poor repair or hidden corrosion.
Given this XJ-S boasts such low mileage, the mechanical side of things are in excellent order. The engine starts keenly and gets up to temperature without issue or drama, the fan cuts in and as the engine settles, there are no untoward noises, smells, leaks or other concerns. The 5.3 V12 in this car, which is the ‘high efficiency’ version, boasts an impressive 295hp. This is mated to a three-speed ZF automatic transmission, which, with its long gears, is perfectly suited to the grand touring style of the XJ-S.
This car comes with a raft of service history, and shows that it has wanted for nothing over the course of its life.
The suspension appears to be in good order. This is especially important at the rear, as the Jaguar independent rear suspension unit with inboard brakes can be a hot-sport for serious corrosion. However, none seems to be present here, which should give bidder peace of mind.
With such low mileage, this Jaguar XJ-S has lots, lots more life in it. The mechanical condition seems to be excellent, the car runs very much like a top and we’re confident it will provide the lucky winning bidder with many happy miles of topless fun.
The Jaguar XK-J is a car that had big shoes to fill, what with being the model to take over from the mighty E Type. It’s no secret that at first, we weren’t too willing to accept the XJ-S. However, the years have been kind and the public opinion of the XJ-S has elevated significantly. It’s not an E Type, and we’ve learned to accept that. Instead, we now enjoy the XJ-S on its own merits, of which it has many.
It is a handsome, powerful, refined and comfortable machine that leaves drivers feeling truly special when they take the wheel. The giddy thrill that comes from sitting behind that long, sculpted bonnet is one that many cars simply can’t match.
The XJ-S is a car that, like a fine wine, has got better with age. It's a car that has now come into its own and as such, it quickly finding a passionate and invested following. As such, cars like this, in good order and with such low mileage, are going to be the most sought after. This is your chance to get in there first.