Billed as the car to take over ‘big cat’ duties from the legendary E Type, the XJ-S has some seriously big shoes to fill. Jaguar knew what it was doing though. The XJ-S, as the name would allude, was based on the XJ platform of the time, which meant wonderful handling of fully independent suspension and clever touches like inboard rear brakes to help better distribute weight. Jaguar also pulled out all the stops when it came to the look of the thing. The XJ platform was a big one, and this gave designers the chance to build a car that was long, low and wide.
The main bulk of the design was by Malcolm Sayer, who had form, having been part of the design of cars like the E Type, the D Type, the XK120-C and the XJ13. A forward thinker, he was keen to let air once again play a big part in the final aesthetic of the XJ-S. It featured an impossibly long bonnet, wide headlights, and a short cabin which was backed with the now famous ‘flying buttress’ C-pillars. It was and still is a deeply handsome thing, and one that was quick to turn heads when it was launched in 1975.
Of course, if you’re going to build a big, sporty Jaguar, the rule of automotive law dictates that you need to also offer a version with no roof. And Jaguar had no intention of breaking that law. So, in 1983, a convertible model – this time with just two seats – was introduced. In 1985, Jaguar gave us what we really wanted, which was of course a V12 version of the convertible. The coupe had given us a thirst for a twelve-cylinder XJ-S, but we wanted the wind in our hair while we enjoyed it.
Of course, the years after were not as kind to the XJ-S as they were to the E Type. They were big shoes to fill, and rather than find favour from E Type enthusiasts, the XJ-S instead fell by the wayside. It found a following, of course, but on the used market prices started to drop, as did the maintenance afforded to them. In the ‘90s, XJ-S models were an all too familiar sight in the bargain section of the local rag, and sadly, also in breakers yards. But don’t fret, because all was not lost. As cars like the magnificent 1988 model presented to you here go to show.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the XJ-S and later XJS (the hyphen is important, as final models of the XJS were built while Jaguar was under Ford’s ownership). Specialists have appeared to service, maintain and restore them, and as such, values are on the rise. It’s never been a better time to buy one. While it’s still unclear as to whether or not the XJ-S will reach the values of the E Type, there is no denying that they are worth more now than they were five years ago. The XJ-S has done very, very well for itself.
One person who never lost faith in the XJ-S is the owner of the car you’re looking at here. Arguably one of the best V12 convertibles in existence, this 1988 model has been with the same owner from new, it has lived in a heated garage and it has covered a hair over 8,500 miles. It is an XJ-S unlike any other on the market. The condition is, as you would expect for a car so beautifully cared for, exceptional.
There is zero rust, nor any wear to the light cream leather interior. The roof is near perfect, the alloy wheels have never seen a curb and the chrome glistens today as keenly and as brightly as it did in 1988. It’s a true time warp car, unlike anything we have ever seen before. But it’s also the perfect XJ-S in many respects.
People in heavy-knit jumpers at car shows will tell you that the pre-HE cars are the ones to have. And we won’t argue about them being lovely – there is a charm to slightly more simple early models. However, for actual driving, the HE, which stands for ‘high efficiency’ is where it’s at. The engine was more refined, it was (though this is all relative) better on fuel and it was more powerful. To the tune of nearly 300bhp in fact. Pace to match the ‘100mpg while standing still’ looks.
Most XJ-S models on the market have been restored. There is of course, nothing wrong with that. There is a bustling industry centred around the restoration and preservation of these cars. And rightly so. However, they exist because so few XJ-Ss were looked after during their middle years. To find one that has been looked after from dealership to today is a rare, rare find. But that’s exactly what we have here. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, truly. There won’t be another one this original, with miles this low. If you’ve always wanted an XJ-S V12 convertible – and really, who hasn’t – this is, without a shadow of a doubt, the one. What a staggering find.
This 1988 Jaguar XJ-S V12 Convertible is available to bid on via Car & Classic Auctions