Jaguar XJS – The Car’s The Star

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By Chris Pollitt

When the Jaguar XJS burst onto the scene in 1975, the Doug Thorpe-designed GT car had the world’s press talking. It was long, it was low and it was wide. It was offered with a V12, which in turn could be paired with a manual or an automatic transmission. It was a proper, well-specified follow up to the legendary E Type. It wasn’t as pretty, of course, but we let that slide because at its heart, the XJS was pure to the ethos and idea behind the E Type. And while it wasn’t quite the sales winning force that the E Type was, the XJS did well. So well in fact that it was a feature in Jaguar showrooms right up until 1996. 

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The XJS was handsome in a strange way, and it was unlike anything else on the roads. This of course meant it piqued the interest of many a TV production company. It was a car that was so bold in its looks that it had potential to steal whatever scene it was in. It could be a character in its own right, as there was no way it could be mistaken for any other car in the shot. With that in mind, the XJS found its way into many iconic scenes. Here are five of our favourites: 

1) Speed

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1994’s Speed was a film with a strange concept – a bus that, if it dropped below 50mph, would explode. Standard stuff. On paper it was silly and probably shouldn’t have worked. However, it seems it was the summer blockbuster we needed, as we flocked to the cinemas to see a young Keanu Reeves command the situation. It was silly, but it was also fast-paced and packed with action. Some of which was supplied by a, you guessed it, Jaguar XJS. 

 

Jack Travern (Reeves) needs to get on the bus, which by this point is already above fifty. What better vehicle to leap from than a convertible XJS. The metallic green U.S-spec car unfortunately loses a door to the front bumper of the bus, before crashing into water barrels after Jack has leapt from it. Interestingly though, the damage wasn’t too bad. The car now lives on in Buffalo, New York with a private owner.  

 

2) Scent of a Woman

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“HOO-WAAHH!” You can’t talk about 1992’s Scent of a Woman without doing your best Al Pacino impersonation. However, the Jaguar XJS Coupe used in the film is nothing to do with Al. We’d like to say that this is because his character is blind, and thus can’t drive, but if you’ve seen the film you’ll know that’s far from true, as he takes to the road in a Ferrari Mondial while Chris O’Donnell shouts instructions! 

 

Anyway, back to the Jaguar. It becomes the unfortunate victim of a college prank, in which a group of students lambast the Jag’s owner, Mr. Trask, for his questionable wealth and position. While he listens to the PA system a balloon above him inflates, which he in turn sees and bursts. Sadly though, it’s full of paint and then both he and the Jag get a new coat of yellow. Ouch. 

 

3) Death Race

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2008’s Death Race was, let’s not beat around the bush, a silly film. However, it was also entertaining so we can sort of give it a pass. The premise is painfully simple – imprisoned felons race to the, um, death. Does what it says on the tin. This race, set on a forgotten, derelict industrial island brings with it a whole host of cars. There’s a Mustang, a Buick Rivera, a Porsche 911, a BMW 7 Series and of course, a Jaguar XJS Coupe, complete with masses of body armour and a whopping great gun on the bonnet. 

 

Being as the Jag didn’t belong to what movie types would call a ‘principle’ character, its time on screen is limited. And it also meets a fiery end after ploughing into a metal post. However, the Jag is worth noting because it comes back from the dead and appears in the second film (they made four, amazingly). Proof that you can’t kill an old Jag. 

 

4) Curfew

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Sky One’s Curfew was, in essence, a British version of Death Race as mentioned above. However, rather than heavily featuring American muscle cars, Curfew took a more… British approach. As such, there was a Volvo 240 estate, and an ice cream van. Erm, okay then. Happily, there was also a Jaguar XJS Coupe. Sitting on big, deep split-rim alloy wheels, with a body widened with massive arches front and rear, and of course, big old sidepipes, it was arguably the star of the show. 

 

Driven by Sean ‘dies in everything’ Bean, the Jag is interesting because it’s not just a generic TV car. The production had some fun with it, and painted it white over green, which is a clear homage to the Group 44 Racing Team cars of old. One of which, driven by Bob Tullius, was a drivers’ championship winning car. The Jag used in Curfew now lives in private hands – you can find out more through the feature we did last year. 

 

5) The Return of the Saint 

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We know what you’re thinking. The Saint drove a Volvo P1800. And you’re right to think that, as Roger Moore’s interpretation of Simon Templar did indeed drive Swedish. However, the follow-up show, The Return of the Saint featured a Jag, namely an early XJS Coupe in white, obviously.

 

What’s interesting is the reasoning behind the wealthy Templar driving a Jag. As it happens, the production company offered Jaguar the position for Roger Moore’s version in return for an E Type. Jaguar, somewhat foolishly, declined the offer. However, after seeing the success of the show, Jaguar execs jumped at the opportunity to get the XJS in front of viewers care of the new show. While arguably not as popular as the first show, it was still a fruitful and worthwhile marketing opportunity for Jag.

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