• Truly bespoke – you won’t find another one like it
• Built by an ex-TWR mechanic
• Well-engineered and beautifully finished
• Immaculate inside and out
With a 20-year production run from 1975 to 1995, the XJ-S was a great success for Jaguar, even if it was met with mixed reactions when it first appeared.
The angular styling, some said, failed to live up to the standard set by its predecessor, the E-type, but since that is repeatedly said to be the most beautiful car ever made, we’ll let the XJ-S off the hook. Either way, it was good enough for Simon Templar, so it’s certainly good enough for us.
It’s a pity the styling was divisive, because the mechanicals underpinning it were not to be sniffed at. For the first few years, every XJ-S left Browns Lane with the 5.3-litre V12, introduced in 1971, which was passed on from the Series III E-type.
Whereas E-types had often been manuals, though, XJ-Ss were predominantly automatics, marking a shift in character from sports-car to luxury grand tourer. From 1981, the HE (High Efficiency) version of the V12 was rolled out for greatly improved fuel economy.
There was just one thing missing – a competition pedigree. Enter Tom Walkinshaw. The seasoned Scottish racer founded his own team, Tom Walkinshaw Racing, in 1976, and from 1982 begun a string of victories and podium finishes with the XJ-S in Touring Car racing. In 1985, TWR became Jaguar’s official team.
Walkinshaw needed something to do when he hung up his racing helmet in 1988, and so turned his attention to Jaguar’s road cars. Fettling with the V12, he increased its capacity to six litres and dropped it into a greatly enhanced, limited-production version of the XJ-S called the XJR-S.
Built from 1988 to 1993, the XJR-S received the larger TWR engine with Zytek fuel injection in September, 1989. Other features which distinguished the standard XJ-S included a body kit, special alloy wheels, a unique suspension system with modified coil springs and Bilstein shocks, handling improvements and an inviting interior of Connolly Autolux leather and walnut trim.
It was a very exclusive offering, and only 787 XJR-S coupés were built.
Until about 10 years ago, this car was just an unassuming old XJ-S HE in Westminster Blue, but then it fell into the hands of an ex-TWR mechanic, and he was in need of a project. You might suss that, over a few years, he turned it into an XJR-S all by himself, but that’s only the half of it.
With 25 or so years having passed since the XJR-S was first unleashed, the builder had the advantage of 25 years of technical progress with which to bring it up to date, and he made full use of it.
In short, he built the ultimate incarnation of the XJR-S, appearing outwardly like an original but with engineering to take it to another level. It’s Jaguar through and through, though – there’s not a part on this car that wouldn’t have been available to the engineers at Browns Lane.
The vendor, a classic Jaguar specialist, bought the car from Simply Performance in Surrey, another well-known Jaguar specialist. For the past three or four years, he has enjoyed using it regularly, as others might use a family saloon.
In addition to the V5, the XJR-S comes with a weighty stack of receipts and invoices pertaining to its conversion, which was a time-consuming job undertaken to professional standards.
Going back 10 years and totalling over £50,000, they testify just how much time and money went into making this bespoke car. A significant proportion of the build relied on all-new parts.
The 61,000 miles on the clock are backed up by a full service history. It has an MoT with no advisories valid until 26th May, 2022, and a record of unblemished MoTs going back as far as 2006.
In some respects, the interior of this Jaguar is everything you’d expect it to be – acres of walnut and inviting cream leather.
On the other hand, nothing about it is reminiscent of the sober old English drawing room look with which Jaguars are often associated. No, the interior of the XJR-S has a distinctly contemporary feel; an orderly and well-appointed lounge for the modern professional.
It is no overstatement to say that every aspect of the interior is as good as you would expect from a brand-new car. The leather is smooth and the seats absorbent but firm.
We could reel off a list of superlatives but, to be brief, we scrutinised the leather, carpets, walnut finish and all the trim and could not find anything to fault and, of course, the same is as true for the rear passenger compartment as it is for the front.
Resplendent in glimmering Oxford Blue metallic – actually a Land Rover colour rather than Jaguar, but correct for the period – the XJR-S really looks astonishing as the summer sun dances off its flakes. It dazzles softly all over, with not the slightest imperfection that we could find to spoil it.
Evidently, this car has been extremely well cared for, and we do not hesitate to say that, as far as its paint and bodywork goes, it is probably one of the best XJ-Ss around. The vendor tells us that he bought it to use rather than show, but he could have fooled us – it would be a worthy concours contender.
Not only that, but its looks have been significantly enhanced by way of the conversion to XJR-S specification. It sports an original TWR XJR-S bumper kit and original 16” TWR wheels (more desirable than the standard 15” TWR wheels), which serves to clean up the XJ-Ss already rather neat appearance, and makes it just a touch more sinister.
So that the bodywork may continue to be preserved into the future, bidders should note that the car is supplied with a bespoke cover.
The XJR-S’s engine rumbles away contentedly at idle, and we can only imagine what it would sound like when the driver’s foot goes down on an open stretch of road. Although the vendor admits he doesn’t know exactly what work has been done to the engine, it sounds healthy and hints at some considerable power. Most of the work completed has been recorded, though, and can be viewed in its paperwork file. Deep breath, now:
- Manual gearbox conversion – Getrag five-speed
- 3.54 LSD differential
- AJ6 engineering TT extractor exhaust system
- Derek Watson E-type vented rear brake conversion
- WATJAG power steering adjustment
- Rob Beere GAZ suspension all round
- Eibach DB7 springs
- Front and rear subframes powder-coated
We would emphasise that all the modifications were completed with OEM parts, so it is Jaguar all the way (the Aston Martin DB7 had originally been planned by Jaguar as a replacement for the XJ-S, hence its suspension fits easily).
Even parts such as the brake and clutch cylinders, and the pedal box, which are often replaced with aftermarket items, hail from Browns Lane. The only criticism we are able to level at the whole car is that the bonnet insulation has some imperfections, not that that will make any difference to its outward appearance or usability.
Although all these modifications really say ‘supercar’, the vendor advises that he has used it with some regularity and it is a very reliable, docile car when the conditions require it to be.
When it comes to justifying an automotive purchase, just telling yourself “It’s a Jaguar,” is usually a good enough excuse. Well, this is a Jaguar, and a bit more besides. The XJ-S was already a well-engineered and successful grand tourer before Tom Walkinshaw got his hands on it, but he went and took it one step beyond.
The XJR-S was one of the greatest incarnations of the XJ-S and, if anything, this example is better still as it makes use of parts and technology which weren’t available when Walkinshaw was working his magic.
The result is one of the most understated supercars around, a gazelle with the heart of a lion. With the Jaguar maxim of ‘Grace… Space… Pace…’ seamlessly incorporated into a car with modern technology and a modern-looking interior, there can scarcely be a car better suited to the modern gentleman.
In the name of gender equality, we can’t finish on that note, but you will excuse us if we say that we do not consider this to be a car a lady might drive. Oh, no: we think any female who would drive this car is probably more a femme fatale.
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