Jaguar Cars and Sir William have always been innovators and style setters. The SS 100 of the 1930’s was the beginning of what was to become one of the most revered automobile marques in modern automobile history. After WW2, the SS Sidecar Company created the JAGUAR MOTOR for a totally new automobile, a sports car that would set a standard in performance, handling, and luxury, the XK-120. At this moment in time Jaguar Cars was born and became the performance standard of the 1950’s. Many great racing drivers learned their skills racing and rallying Jaguars.
Innovation was the common thread in those days and Jaguar offered many innovative improvements including chain driven camshafts, hemi-heads, rack and pinion steering, full leather interiors, and of course, disc brakes on its’ sports cars and sedans. Racing innovations brought Jaguar to the forefront and these ideas were integrated into their production cars. In 1961, Jaguar set the standard once again with the iconic E-Type roadster and coupe. Here was a car that could cruise all day at 100MPH+ in comfort and style, take on those alpine corners, or glide down the motorways with little effort thanks to that XK Jaguar motor. The E-Type owner was the envy of many folks who wanted to be a part of the “hip generation”, it would be used in countless movies, driven by movie stars, and even Enzo Ferrari said it was the “most beautiful car in the world”.
During this time, those innovative Jaguar engineers were planning their next big innovation, a V12 engine for everyday use. The idea was an engine that could compete with those big block American V8 engines that were becoming common on modern cars. Also, people were asking for more horsepower for power steering pumps, air conditioning compressors, and more electric options. All this came to a pause when in 1968 the USA established the EPA and SAFETY Regulations for automobiles. Gasoline was now unleaded, octane was lowered, and safety was the most important guiding rule in automobile design and performance. This requirement put every car manufacturer into a tailspin including Jaguar. Air pumps, catalytic converters, fuel injection, 5 MPH crash bumpers, mandatory seatbelts, rollover reinforcing, and more became the new standard. Style and performance gave way to lower engine emissions, crash worthy body design, side impact, and passenger safety.
The days of the performance car looked like they were at an end but automotive engineers are a plucky bunch and they set about creating engines and automobiles that would comply to the new standards of environmental emissions, safety, and emerging technologies. The 1975 Jaguar XJS 5.3-liter coupe was just such an answer, yes it was large and thirsty, but it was the basis for what was to become a development engine for the future. The car integrated all the mandatory safety features of crash testing, passenger safety, and satisfied the evolving environmental emissions requirements.
The car looked like no other Jaguar before or since. It was the last car designed by Sir William and Malcolm Sayer, C-Type, D-Type, and XJ13 designers. It was fast, 150MPH top speed, full crash worthy, protection for the driver/passenger, emissions compliant, luxurious with full leather and wool appointments, automatic climate control, massive disc brakes, power assisted rack and pinion steering, electronic fuel injection, catalytic converters, centered fuel tank, and a 2+2 configuration with a large boot capacity and full-size spare wheel. The styling was controversial because many Jaguar owners were anticipating an E-Type replacement rather than a Grand Touring Coupe. Market research was becoming a science and the trends were indicating that the days of two seat sports cars was coming to an end and people wanted more luxury, performance, safety, and options.
The XJS was an evolving model for Jaguar and in 1980 the clever engineers upgraded the engine and made it more fuel efficient but more importantly it exceeded the emissions standards for many years to come. The Lucas-BOSCH Fuel Injection system was going through upgrades and finally the old Lucas Ignition system was replaced by the Marrelli Ignition system which further improved performance, gas mileage, simplified maintenance, and gave a more accurate emissions profile. The 1981 XJS H.E. became the standard for the model right through 1996 when production stopped. Here was a car that would provide comfort, reliability, performance, meet emissions, safety features, luxury for its passengers, and look like no other automobile on the road. The long low profile of this car simply adds to its performance and “sex appeal” to those who see it for the first time. The XJS was Sir Williams favorite Jaguar.
It is for many a dream car to lust after, and in its old age is becoming a future classic car to purchase and restore. In Europe, the prices for these automobiles has been dramatically climbing and here in the USA, similar increases in value are starting to show signs of potential value and collectability. Buying one of these cars can be challenging, but look for one that has been maintained regularly, driven consistently, and the owner has documented the cars history. The V12 engine if maintained properly will last into the 100’s of thousands of miles, my first XJS had over 250,000 miles on the original motor and 150,000 on the GMC Turbo 400 transmission before I sold the car, it’s still running today with over 300,000 miles on the engine. My current XJS ROUGE has 118,000 original miles with no major issues, I did have to replace the catalytic converters as they were getting tired, my last SMOG CHECK showed 1% emissions overall, with a standard of 56% MAX. Are these cars hard to maintain, yes and no, if you change the oil regularly (conventional oil only 20/50 GTX), change the belts, fuel filter, and cooling hoses every 30,000 miles, use good gas, drive it often and hard, this car will give you much enjoyment and good service.
The “Facelift” cars of the 1990’s are even better but they don’t have the sleek look of the 1980’s cars, they do have more creature comfort items and a convertible option. Your choice of a 6 cylinder or V12 engine is available, some cars even have a manual transmission (1994 6 cylinders), the automatic transmission was upgraded to a ZF 4 speed with SPORT mode. Which ever car you purchase, you will be investing in a piece of Jaguar History and lots of tradition. Look at the XJS once more, it has a contemporary look even today, 45 years after it was introduced. It still looks distinctive and modern, sleek, and swift, luxurious, and elegant.
Consider buying a future Classic Jaguar!
Cheers, Mark Mayuga