If you read our earlier piece on the Fiat 124/2000, you’ll remember we strongly advised that if you’re considering one, best to jump into the market now while they’re still affordable. It’s only been a few weeks so we’re not here to test that statement.  But we are here to add to it.  There’s another market sleeper out there lurking…one with all the variables needed for classic collector car success.  It’s the successor to one of the most revered automobiles in the collector market, a grand tourer with a heart-pounding 5.3L V12 and optional manual transmission and the British pedigree to get your salivary glands excited.

If you know just the slightest bit about classic cars (and if you paid any attention to the feature photo) you know we’re talking about the XJ-S V12 from Jaguar. Initial design concepts came from Malcom Sayer, the same hands responsible for the ever-popular E-type.  Jaguar ushered in the XJ-S in 1975 (as a 1976 model) in an effort to restore glory to its brand, as it desperately needed to make restitution to their fan base for killing off said E-type the very same year.

1977 Jaguar XJ-S V12. Photo credits to Pendine Historic Cars 

The XJ-S V12 was designed as a grand tourer, hence the big boot, automatic tranny option, large cabin and 2+2 offering.  It would see mostly displacement increases but very few styling cue changes over the 21 years of production. The most signature characteristic, and ironically received the most criticism at the time, are the rear B-pillar buttresses connecting the roof line and side panels to the rear.  In 1991 when the hyphen (“-“) was dropped from ‘XJ-S’, the buttresses too were on the chopping block.  Thankfully, then Jaguar designer Geoff Lawson, who incidentally was also responsible for the XJ220 super car, demanded they stay as it was a staple design feature to the XJ class.

 Buttress on a 1977 XJ-S. Photo credits to Pendine Historic Cars 


Buttress on a face-lifted XJS V12 remain the same.  

So how is it as a daily? The XJ-S’s are not for tall drivers as some owners often report.  We caught up with long-term V12 owner Richard Jarvis who reports, “The engine should be quiet, use no oil and maintain steady temperatures, as well as good oil pressure as you would expect. As long as the car has regular oil changes and is not damaged by overheating, the V12 power plant is excellent and through my experience very reliable, although not that economical. I had a 2005 BMW M6 with >500 horsepower which averaged a better MPG than the XJS 5.3 V12. The auto gearbox should be smooth and kick down freely when the accelerator is floored.”

Photo credits to Richard Jarvis.

What to look for? Rust. They rust from the inside out, much more of an issue in the earlier cars however.  Later cars had galvanized frames so rust was comparatively less an issue.  Sub-frames can corrode as well as the normal areas of rust in the body work.  Pay particular attention to the areas around the windscreen, rear wheel arches and sills.  Battery drainage can be a problem, check the electric antennae for draw.  The ‘88-‘91 models reportedly have the nicest interior of all XJ-S’s but overall, interiors are reportedly improved over time throughout the model years.  The paint quality is said to be highest in the 89-90 MY as well, as earlier years are known to lose clear-coating and later years experiencing hidden rust concerns.

Photo credits to Richard Jarvis.

Due to current market prices, some run the risk of poor servicing or complete lack of maintenance so be sure you get one with records. As these cars age, many of the parts (cooling, electrics, bushings) need replacing irrespective of prior care. Currently they’re an absolute bargain to buy, with prices ranging from $5000-$15000 in the U.S.  Don’t be fooled though, a bargain to buy doesn’t necessitate a bargain to drive.  Shop repair bills can be high given the nature of it simply being a Jaguar and labor hours are longer than average given it is time consuming to access most anything within the car.  They made 115,413 of them so be patient, the right one will come along.  If you really want a collectible, hunt down one of the 100 XJR-S TWR collaboration models from 1993.

Perhaps because I don’t have one in the garage rotation I can say this with fervor, but if I were classic car bargain hunting, this would be near first on my list. We will one day look back and kick ourselves at shying away from that $10000 V12 British classic.

Photo credits to Richard Jarvis.

Second Daily Report Card

Repair Costs: C-
Collectability: C (and one day rising fast)
Avg. Cost: $10000 (condition dependent)
Overall Daily’ness: B+


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