XJS & XJ from KWE Cars
Classic Spirit Reborn

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Jaguar XJS: ‘A rare combination of style, substance and speed’

As part of a new series of blog posts, we will be inviting a number of XJS owners and Jaguar enthusiasts to contribute to our blog, telling us exactly why they love the XJS.

We spoke to loyal KWE customer, Doug Wilson, about why he’s fond of his XJS, and what makes it better than the modern vehicles in his garage.

About Doug

Born in Lanark, Scotland

Occupation: Company Director, Power Utility Company

Interests: Music, guitar playing and collecting, whisky collecting and drinking, shooting, reading, sports and international travel

What’s in your garage?

Doug's V12 XJS

Doug’s V12 XJS

My wife drives a Land Rover Defender. I use a Mercedes GL350 AMG Sport Bluetech as my daily driver. My V12 Jaguar XJS Coupe (1989) is my classic car choice and I also run a modern sports car. For the last ten years or so this has always been a Mercedes SL500 or new SL 400 variant. However, I have recently traded-in my SL400 for a new Mercedes AMG GTS which is due to arrive in April of this year.

What makes the XJS special to you?

The XJS for me is a very rare combination of style, substance and speed. Delivering on the trilogy with aplomb. An XJS stands out from the crowd in a subtle and classy way, it can be elegant, sporty or rakish – it just depends what mood you are in.

Why did you choose the XJS over other models?

Most people drool over the E-Type and yes, it is a beautiful car to ‘look’ at but from a practical perspective it is cramped and drives like a camel with a sore hoof. The XJS just strikes a chord with me on so many levels. The flying buttresses are divine, the long side profile cool and sophisticated and peering over the long bonnet from behind the wheel is as close as we mere mortals get to piloting our own spitfire.

Doug's Jaguar XJS outside hotel at Lake Lugano, Switzerland

Doug’s Jaguar XJS outside hotel at Lake Lugano, Switzerland

It is a vehicle that delivers on all its promises and more. If there is a better GT of this vintage I have yet to drive it. Inside the cabin you have all the mod-cons, way ahead of its time, great comfort (amazing seats) and the feeling that you are wafting on your very own personal magic carpet.

The engine and gearbox combinations vary from year to year but I like the Borg Warner 3 speed and the 5.3 V12. Okay, from 0-60 it is not as fast as modern GTs but from 60-100 and 100 on up the engine is a sheer delight. You will not burn people off at the lights (well not everybody), but you will catch and fly past them effortlessly in an unhurried and serene manner. You need to try very hard to get an XJS flustered; it has impeccable manners and breeding.

Getting used to a three speed, long geared, automatic box takes a while, but when you master the art of downshift and understand the range of each gear, it is a very relaxing way to drive.

I spent a few months looking for the right car to buy and probably overpaid slightly for the correct provenance and history – one of my better decisions. It was a one-owner car with a genuine 24K miles on the clock. The gentleman who owned the car drove a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow during the week and had the XJS to take him to his golf club at the weekends. A very civilised way to live!

The car was unmolested or modified and came with a history file that would have choked a horse as well as all the original manuals, keys and tools etc. It was obvious that the car had been loved and the original leather was virtually unblemished. I loved the colour too, Arctic Blue with a Saville Grey leather interior. These were the good points.

The drawbacks were that age had taken its toll on the suspension, brakes and steering. It was like driving a burst couch with only a vague idea of where the steering was pointed or would take you. Hence my search for a firm that could modernise and improve the weak points while still retaining and improving on what Jaguar had intended. Enter KWE.

What kind of reception do you receive when driving your XJS?

I’ve been fortunate to own and drive a selection of lovely and desirable modern cars. However, never have I owned a car that people liked to talk about more than the XJS. Younger people want to know what it is. Many people want to talk about the one they had or the car that a friend or boss had that they admired. It is impossible to fill the car up with fuel without having some sort of conversation about the vehicle.

Want an XJS for yourself? Find out more about our full range of services and engineering expertise.

Six of the best classic car shows in 2016

As 2016 has been named World Motoring Heritage Year by FIVA, classic cars are to be celebrated around the world, with the UK being no exception. Planning a year of motoring-based merriments to celebrate this landmark? Look no further than our definitive guide to the best classic car shows in 2016.

The London Classic Car Show – 18-21 February, ExCel London

London Classic Car Show

London Classic Car Show

The London Classic Car Show is the must attend event for any discerning classic car owner, expert or enthusiast. Bringing together an international celebration of the very best dealers, manufacturers, car clubs and products, it’s the perfect day out for all. This year’s event is set to be double the size of the inaugural 2015 show, with more cars than ever being showcased. The show will also feature cars from world’s top six car-producing nations.

http://www.thelondonclassiccarshow.co.uk/the-show.

Practical Classics Restoration & Classic Car Show – 5-6 March, NEC Birmingham

Restoration Classic Car Show

Restoration Classic Car Show

Officially the UK’s fastest growing classic car event, over 19,000 enthusiasts attended last year’s show, bringing together all aspects of classic motoring under one roof. From barn finds and project cars, to restorations and pristine marques, the Restoration Classic Car Show boasts an impressive selection of the finest classic cars in the UK. The NEC will be filled with over 350 specialist exhibitors and around 700 classic cars from clubs up and down the country.

http://www.necrestorationshow.com/.

Donington Historic Festival – 30 April – 2 May, Donington Park Derbyshire

Donington Historic Festival

Donington Historic Festival

The Donington Historic Festival is one of the biggest fixtures on the international historical racing calendar. Join the thousands of spectators as your favourite classic sports cars battle it out on the track, and get up close and personal with free access to the paddock. There will also be huge numbers of classic car club displays, auto jumble and memorabilia stalls.

http://www.doningtonhistoric.com/.

Goodwood Revival – 9-11 September, Chichester

Goodwood Revival

Goodwood Revival

The Goodwood Revival is set to be as popular as ever this year, as this year’s theme will be ‘Full Throttle – The Endless Pursuit of Power’. The Revival features classic cars from 1948-1966, with visitors encouraged to dress up in era-appropriate clothing. This year’s Goodwood Revival will honour the late Sir Jack Brabham, on the 50th anniversary of his becoming the only driver in F1 history to claim the World Championship in a car bearing his own name.

https://grrc.goodwood.com/section/goodwood-revival/.

Footman James Manchester Classic Car Show – 17-18 September, Event City Manchester

Footman James Classic Car Show

Footman James Classic Car Show

The Footman James Classic Car Show is one of the largest in the country. The exhibition space will be crammed full with hundreds of motoring icons ranging right through the ages, from some of the earliest vehicles ever made, through to pre-war cars, 50s, 60s, and 70s classics, as well as modern classics from the 80s and 90s. The classic car show will also include trade stands, auto jumble, restoration demonstrations, and dream rides.

http://www.manchesterclassiccarshow.com/.

Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show – 11-13 November, NEC Birmingham

Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show

Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show

There’s a mouth-watering array of classic cars on display at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show. Whether you’ve a passion for traditional British classics, vintage motors, historic motorsport, European exotica, American muscle, or prefer the more modern retro classics, you won’t be disappointed. Take a nostalgic trip down memory lane and enjoy the cars from years gone by.

http://www.necclassicmotorshow.com/.

Arrive in style in your own classic car

Make a bold impression, as you turn up to events in this year’s most desirable classic car – the Jaguar XJS. At KWE Cars we have many years’ experience restoring and reengineering classic cars to better than new quality. For more information, please contact us on info@KWECars.com.

Like our Facebook page or connect with us on Twitter.

Looking for a list of Jaguar-specific events happening near you? Visit the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club’s website: http://www.jec.org.uk/events.html.

Classic car news round up (December-January)

Happy New Year from all at KWE Cars! To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of the top classic car news stories from the last couple of months… Still good news for classic car owners!

How to invest in classic cars and dodge the pitfalls: From buying at auction to putting money in a fund (This is Money)

Classic cars have been one of the best performing alternative assets in the past year and going back further than that. Investors and enthusiasts have seen returns of up to 487% on classic motors such as Ferraris and Jaguars over the past decade.

The returns can be miles ahead of shares and property, but what are the best ways to invest and how can you make sure your investment doesn’t breakdown?

Classic can vintage cars more desirable than ever (Live Trading News)

Classic and Vintage cars are proving to be excellent investments. Classic cars were the top-performing asset class in property consultancy Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index in Y2015, and they rose by 16% in Y2014.

The index rose overall by 10% last year, growing by a very healthy 205% over the past 10 years. Classic and Vintage cars have been the strongest performer over both the long and short term.

The Historic Automobile Group (HAGI) known for its classic car indexes, has shown that the market for the very rarest of classic cars has risen by 487% over the past 10 years, and grew 16% last year, following the index’s 47% rise the year before.

Looking for a classic car? How about a Jaguar XJS?

Looking for a classic car? How about a Jaguar XJS?

10 classic car events not to be missed in 2016 (Classic Driver)

As we enter a new year, our thoughts turn to the 2016 events season. So grab that calendar, and prepare to note down the ‘must-attend’ meetings this year…

‘Passion investing’ in classic cars is gaining speed (CNBC)

So-called passion investing — allocating wealth toward high-value collectibles — has been around for about 10 years and is now expanding into the classic car arena.

Classic cars are gaining attention due to their nearly 500% returns over the past decade, outpacing art and wine by more than 100%, as reported by the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index.

Auction highlights 2015 – this is what $161.8m worth of classic cars looks like (Classic Driver)

It’s been a year seemingly crammed with auctions and, while some trends are in line with those from last year, overall it’s a fairly different picture. Have a look at the top 10 most expensive cars sold at auction in 2015…

This ex-Juan Manuel Fangio 1956 Ferrari 290 MM sold for $28,050,000

This ex-Juan Manuel Fangio 1956 Ferrari 290 MM sold for $28,050,000

New year, new classic car?

If you’re looking to get your 2016 off to a flyer, get in touch with the classic car engineering experts at KWE Cars. We’re experts in restoring Jaguar XJ-based models back to ‘better than new’ quality. Call us on 01635 30030, ‘like’ us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Which classic cars make the best investments?

Classic cars have excelled as an investment asset class, with the value of the Historic Automobile Group International index rising by 16% in 2014. Yet it is more ‘modern’ vehicles that are able to grow in value and are attracting investors’ attention. Managing director, Chris Knowles spoke to the editor of Investment Week about which classic cars are best to invest in.

The full article can also be viewed here.

The classic car market is now worth more than £6bn in the UK, employing thousands across the country as demand increases. This growing market falls in line with the fact that more motorists are turning to classic cars as their vehicle of choice.

Owning a modern car can be frustrating, as its value depreciates rapidly within the first 12 months of ownership. Comparatively, a classic car is more likely to retain its value – it may actually increase if restored and maintained to a high standard. For some, the decision is driven by nostalgia, while for others it may be the desire to stand out from the crowd.

The Knight Frank Luxury Investment index recently noted that classic cars have beaten everything from art, watches, gold and coins over the past one, five, and 10 years (see chart, below).

classic cars investment

The group noted that the value of the Historic Automobile Group International index has risen by an astounding 487% over the past 10 years and grew by 16% in 2014.

These strong returns have pricked the ears of many eager investors looking to benefit, but which classics are leading the way?

Stand out from the crowd

Choosing which classic car to invest in can prove costly – particularly as the market is becoming increasingly lucrative. Big name Ferraris and Lamborghinis are likely to set you back a hefty sum. Last year, for example, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold for $34.65m at auction – making it the most expensive car in history.

Owning such a pricey vehicle takes the fun out of classic car ownership, as there is no way you can take this million dollar supercar for a quick spin without instantly depreciating its value.

Yet classic car investment need not be so costly, as current market trends point favourably in the direction of more affordable ‘modern classics’.

Cars from the 1970s to the 1990s are beginning to make up ground on their predecessors, with classic Aston Martins, Ferraris and Porsches inevitably holding their own. If you are looking for a solid, long-term investment, however, one marque stands out among the sea of its competitors: Jaguar (see table, below).

classic cars investment

When thinking of a classic Jaguar, we arguably think of the iconic E-Type, which continues to set investors back a large sum, without much of a return on investment. Its somewhat lesser known, younger siblings – the XJ-based models of the 1970s-1990s – are making a well-deserved resurgence, as their value begins to increase in line with growing demand.

The stand out investment of the moment would have to be the Jaguar XJS, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Throughout its life, the XJS was a car that confounded critics, but won over enthusiasts and succeeded in returning its investment to the company.

Considered by many as an unworthy successor to the E-Type, it proved its worth by achieving a longer production run and outselling its predecessor by 43,000 cars. In recent times, the XJS has arguably become more desirable than ever, and even at 40, its price continues to soar.

Jaguar XJS

Jaguar XJS is now seen as one of the finest classic cars around

Taking into account data collected from Classic Car Buyer, many XJS models in A1 condition have increased in value by up to five times since 2013, as seen below, and the XJS continues to be named as one of the hottest modern classics to invest in right now.

How to source a top quality classic

It is firstly important to consider that sellers – in particular garages and dealers – will have gone to some trouble to make the car look pristine on the outside. A perfect-looking car is often in much worse condition than one with visible rust, which has not yet been ‘tarted-up’.

As with all cars made of steel, the most important area to consider is rust, both the less visible painted areas and, more importantly, the hard-to-see underside and hidden cavities. The most expensive part of a restoration is usually the stripped re-spray. If you are careful in selecting a low-rust car, you could save around £10,000.

City cars are often in worse condition, as they are usually only used for shorter journeys. A seemingly low mileage vehicle may have completed a lot of shorter journeys, which can lead to worn out brakes, door hinges, leather and carpets.

Speak to the classic car experts

If you need help sourcing a classic car or Jaguar XJS, or would like expert engineering advice, feel free to give us a call on 01635 30030. We have many years of experience restoring classic cars back to ‘better than new’ quality.

Seven myths about classic cars busted

There are certain myths and stigmas attached to classic car ownership; however, we believe these assumptions are uncalled for, with no real evidence to back them up. In this post, we aim to dispel some of these niggling doubts, and hope to show you what makes classic cars so great – better than modern vehicles in many cases…

1.    “Classic cars are bad for the environment”

Driving a classic car can be perceived negatively – particularly when it comes to the environment. Environmentalists sometimes view classic cars as being gas guzzling planet destroyers, due to their poor fuel efficiency. In reality, salvaging a classic car is in fact an excellent example of recycling – maximising the use of something rather than just disposing of it.

Keeping an old motor running, rather than just replacing it at the nearest opportunity, is sustainable and limits the amount of waste in our scrapheaps.

V12 XJS engine

Re-engineering a motor, such as this V12 XJS engine, saves parts going to the scrapyard

2.    “Regularly driving my classic car will depreciate its value”

Some prospective classic car owners are put off by the thought of their car’s value rapidly depreciating – especially if driven regularly. In some cases this may be true, as with the ‘flashier’ marques, such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis, which don’t fare that well off the racetrack – particularly on uneven road surfaces and when confronted with speed bumps. These cars are more of an investment than a usable vehicle.

This needn’t be the case, however. Vehicles labelled as ‘modern classics’ are more driveable, and can indeed prove excellent vehicles for modern, day-to-day life. Classic cars like the Jaguar XJS are versatile, practical and, best of all, fun to drive. They’re also proving excellent investments, as this article by Yahoo Autos recently pointed out.

Find out more about the XJS and its investment potential.

3.    “Altering the appearance or performance of my classic car will depreciate its value”

In some cases this can most certainly be the case, as shoddy workmanship will no doubt markedly decrease your vehicle’s value. Distasteful or bad quality restoration is likely to be frowned upon by those within the classic car community, who favour in keeping, high quality restoration.

At KWE we have many years’ experience restoring classic Jaguars while keeping the appearance and ride characteristics as factory-new and wholeheartedly believe that high quality re-engineering can actually increase your car’s value. We can also of course make further improvements – both cosmetic and mechanical – to the client’s requirements.

We have worked on a number of bespoke projects: Manual gearbox conversions, power enhancement, modernised engine management, custom sound systems, revised electronics and even wine racks for James May and making room for our client’s dog, Pops!

Pops the Labrador loves his customised XJS!

Pops the Labrador loves his customised XJS!

4.    “All classic cars are prone to rust”

This is one of the biggest fears associated with classic car ownership, and puts doubt in the minds of many potential owners. Rust can indeed cause a lot of damage, and make your vehicle unfit to drive. With some TLC and expert engineering advice, rust can be avoided and kept at bay.

To ensure that you aren’t leaving the rusting of your classic car to chance, why not speak to the experts? KWE are experienced in preventing and remedying rust, and have developed techniques which make our cars last a lot longer than average. We know where to look for rust, and offer both cavity wax injection for box sections, and full under body sealant renewal.

We recommend repeating this inspection and proofing process every second year. This regime vastly reduces the chance of further rusting. If the customer specifies a bare metal re-spray it is then possible to inspect any previous topside problems and rectify them if necessary.

Read our post on rust prevention for more information.

5.    “The rarer the classic car, the more it will be worth”

Perceived rarity isn’t everything when it comes to classic cars. It’s not all about initial value, but rate of growth. The XJS is growing in esteem and sales value in leaps and bounds – more in percentage terms than Italian exotics. Cars dubbed ‘modern classics’ are reaching new heights, and proving affordable investments for those looking not only to achieve excellent returns, but also to enjoy their investment in real-life situations.

Highly desirable cars are not necessarily rare. The Jaguar XJS is a fine example of this, and as it becomes increasingly popular, its investment potential is growing also. Now’s the time to invest before prices sky rocket!

6.    “It’s best to buy a classic car with fewer miles on the clock”

If well maintained, higher mileage classic cars are more likely to be reliable, simply because they are driven more regularly. Parts that may have been faulty have long since been replaced with new ones. Cars that have lower-mileage, on the other hand, may look good on paper, but in reality can be riddled with issues that haven’t been resolved.

A driven car is a car that has been known and understood by someone.

7.    “You can’t drive a classic car in the winter”

Winter can be a difficult time for any car owner, as the cold weather and icy conditions put an extra strain on the vehicle. And this links to the earlier point about rust, as salty roads speed up the dreaded rusting process. Again, this needn’t be the case, as with appropriate care and attention, your classic car can be just as comfortable in the winter months as any other modern vehicle. Check out our top tips for running your classic car in the winter.

Classic cars winter

Classic cars shouldn’t be hidden away over Winter!

Speak to the classic car engineering experts

If you have any other myths you’d like us to dispel, feel free to give us a call on +44 1635 30030 or visit our showroom at Greenham Business Park in Newbury.

Guest blog vol.2: Why choose the Jaguar XJ-S over other classic cars?

In our second instalment in the guest blog series, we ask classic car enthusiast, Rhett Redelings why he chose the Jaguar XJ-S over other available models. Here’s what he had to say:

Honestly, it feels more like the Jaguar XJ-S chose me, rather than the other way around.

I was the only child of a single parent. My mother worked in the classic car business, which exposed me to many high-end collectable cars, Jaguars among them. And Jags were always a favourite in our household. But as the only child of a single parent, I was somewhat in need of a male role model and, rightly or wrongly, I looked to film and television to show me the options.

In the summer vacation of 1982, between my first and second year of high school, while most of my friends were away for the summer, one of the local stations began running Return of the Saint early every evening. Ian Ogilvy was intense and electrifying in a way Roger Moore had never seemed to me and, filmed against all those exotic Italian and French locations with his white Jaguar XJ-S, he looked every inch the man I’d hoped to become, wide open shirt and regrettable 70’s fashions be damned.

Simon Templar and his Jaguar XJ-S in Return of the Saint

Simon Templar and his Jaguar XJ-S in Return of the Saint

By 1982, the Jaguar XJ-S had barely made it to US shores, so my first thought when I saw one tearing across my television with a stick-man at the wheel was “What is THAT?” The XJ-S looked unlike anything else on the road (a condition which is still true, 40 years later).

Ogilvy’s Simon Templar was smooth, well mannered and sophisticated. He rarely resorted to punch-ups but, and at 15, I believed he absolutely had the ferocity to do so successfully. His car reflected the same sophistication, power and graceful restraint. It looked rich, it looked fast but it was neither gaudy like an Italian wedge of a car, nor was it big and clumsy like an American muscle car.

Nowhere is it truer that we are what we drive than in California, and the Saint’s Jaguar XJ-S looked like the car the man I hoped I’d grow up to be would someday drive.

Then Return of the Saint was gone. My friends returned from vacation, school resumed and I only ever met one other person who had seen it. It never came out on video tape, never ran in syndication again and it became kind of mythical, hugely important to me at a very formative time, but not something I could share.

Flash forward to 2013 and my wife and I are having cocktails and reminiscing about all the cars we fantasised about in our youth. Having grown up in the collector car business, I’d had a chance to drive most of my dream cars and, sadly, found most of them looked much better than they actually drove. The one exception was the Jaguar XJ-S. A quick Internet search later and purchase prices for a Jaguar XJ-S looked surprisingly, and somewhat deceptively, accessible.

Rhett's Jaguar XJ-S

Rhett’s Jaguar XJ-S

Of course, there are no cheap Jaguars, nor should there be. We found an XJ-S worth saving, in white with mulberry interior, not unlike the old Return of The Saint Corgi XJ-S. But, other than a straight body and strong engine, it had little to recommend it. The car needed almost everything an XJ-S could possibly need. And I absolutely had to have it.

Rather than hire a trailer to bring it the 125-miles home, I bought a fire extinguisher and case of oil and decided to drive it home, thinking “I’ve driven cars in dodgy shape before. How bad could it be?”

When we were about halfway home, well after the sun had gone down, I hit a small pothole on the highway and the headlights went out. Thankfully, there was another pothole right behind it because that one knocked the lights back on again. A jolt of fear ran through my body, and I had the answer to my question: It could be really freaking bad, actually.

How many cars had I pushed off the road in my time? And how many cars had I seen wrecked and burned? I put my hand on the shifter and said to the car with all the solemnity a godless man could muster and whispered: “Just get me home. Take care of me and I’ll take care of you. You’ll see, we’re going to be great together.” I wasn’t praying to a god or to the heavens, I was praying to the car.

It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen on four wheels

I pulled into our driveway an hour later and, with a buzz of excitement and a sigh of relief shut the car off. The next morning, I came out to the drive with a cup of coffee to review what, at that point (and for some time later), felt like my latest folly and I could not believe the drop-dead gorgeous car that was in my driveway. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen on four wheels, and it was mine!

Honestly, there have been some rough points getting the car back together that have tested the strength of my convictions. If the car were not so beautiful, I probably would have given up on it. But it is beautiful and it has incredible presence. And, while the original owner cared for it somewhat indiscriminately, he did at least have the presence of mind to garage the car, so the original paint still looks fresh and the interior still smells of sweet Connolly leather and wood.

Rhett's 1988 Jaguar XJS coupé in Glacier White

Rhett’s 1988 Jaguar XJ-S coupé in Glacier White

Sometimes, I’ll come out in the evenings with a glass of wine and just look at it or sit in the driver’s seat without starting the engine and enjoy just being with the car in silence.

Follow Rhett on Instagram or Twitter.

Guest blog post vol. 1: What makes the Jaguar XJ-S special?

As part of a new series of blog posts, we will be inviting a number of XJS owners and Jaguar enthusiasts to contribute to our blog, telling us exactly why they love the XJS. This week, we’ve gone across the pond and asked California-based, Rhett Redelings what makes the car so special to him.

About Rhett

Location: San Francisco Bay area, California, U.S.A.
Occupation: IT Manager, City of Sausalito

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 09.39.36

Which cars do you currently own?

  • 1988 Jaguar XJ-S coupe in Glacier White with a Mulberry interior, an HE V12 engine with the stock GM Turbo 400 3-speed automatic transmission, and a very early ABS braking system. This was our first Jaguar, and easily the one we’ve invested the most time, money and love in.
  • 1984 Jaguar XJ6 series 3 with the Vanden Plas trim in Maraschino Black with tan interior. The “series 3” is my daily driver.
  • 1995 Jaguar X300 (XJ6), also with the Vanden Plas trim. This magnificent beast of a car is what my wife drives when she doesn’t need the Subaru for errands not befitting a Jag.

What makes the Jaguar XJ-S special to you?

I would argue that the Jaguar XJ-S is a work of modern art. Just standing still, before you know anything about the car, the lines of the bonnet, that subtle hint of a power bulge and those flying buttresses make the XJ-S look like it’s already moving so fast that it’s pulling ahead of itself and stretching out of its own skin. As onlookers, we are about to witness a transformation or climax and, like the car, we are forever suspended, right at the edge of that forever-unresolved moment.

There is a subtle tension in the design that seems also to reflect the times in which the car was created. Everything works, visually, ergonomically and technically, but only just. Depending which angle you view it from, the XJ-S either looks old and elegant or oddly modern and vital. Sharing the XJ platform is wonderful of ride and handling but makes the car, viewed from the profile, seem slightly too long, and yet perfect when viewed from any other angle.

Rhett's 1988 Jaguar XJ-S coupé in Glacier White

Rhett’s 1988 Jaguar XJ-S coupé in Glacier White

Released in the mid 1970’s, but with a design language from the 1960’s, the XJ-S probably looked old fashioned the day it was revealed, but it’s this very quality that makes the car look timeless today.

Everything is held in a delicate balance and, depending who you are, all that tension and unresolvable anticipation makes the car either uncomfortable to behold or infinitely captivating. In my case, I find the XJ-S irresistibly and enduringly desirable in all its forms but never more so than in the original, pre-facelift coupé body style.

Beyond the styling of the car, a well-sorted XJ-S is just an incredibly capable Grand Tourer. The performance, road manners, ride, and comfort are all excellent, even by modern standards.

While the underpinnings are shared with the XJ saloons, and the transmission made by GM, much of the car is bespoke. The door handles, for instance, are somewhat unintuitive but beautiful in their own way and feel very satisfying and sophisticated when, with a slight squeeze, they click the doors open. The headlamp surrounds, the grille, the steering wheel, seats and so forth, are exclusive to the Jaguar XJ-S. The level of trim exceeds that on my ’84 XJ6 Vanden Plas.

Upon opening the car door, a gentle squeezing motion and the sweet, sophisticated aroma of Connolly leather greets me. When I get in the car, I am insulated in what feels like a very exclusive space; the Recaro-style seat firmly cradling me with exactly the right lumbar support and firmness.

Everything about the car inspires confidence, from the feel of the seats to the sound of the ignition, the power of the acceleration and the way the car can take a fast corner without ever breaking traction. When I do sometimes take a corner too fast, the independent rear suspension has a kind of magical way of bearing down, keeping the car on the surface of the road, defying physics.

I have driven faster cars but never a car so smoothly, consistently powerful. For instance, 80 mph in second gear, the engine is at 3500 rpm and feels like it would let me take it over the red line before it would run out of available power. And then there’s 3rd gear…

Driving it is exhilarating but not effortless, not mindless. It absolutely rewards the skilled driver but it is not forgiving. Almost like a living thing, the XJ-S needs me to drive it as much as I need it. In a way, this is part of what I love about it and, in my opinion, part of its ‘Jag-ness’. Driving it demands that I be fully present in the moment, not absently thinking about projects I left unfinished at work or the pressures that lie ahead.

Driving my XJ-S is a kind of meditation. I feel rejuvenated after driving it, never exhausted. I have never ended a day with it without wishing I could get back in the car and just keep going.

The Legacy

The XJ-S is a car crying out to be understood. For the owner of one, it is essential. But it’s impossible to understand the XJ-S without having at least passing awareness of what came before and what came after. To love the XJ-S is to love all Jaguars, to some degree, but mostly it is to know the XJ-S in its context.

In part, I think the Jaguar XJ-S is special to me because it’s a bit of an underdog. Plenty of other cars in its class, Ferraris, Astons, the beloved E-Type etc., require more than average upkeep, suffer reliability issues, inconsistent build quality and so forth, but the XJ-S seems uniquely dogged by these criticisms.

Despite some initially poorly conceived engineering choices, the XJ-S is, at its core, a brilliant example of automotive craftsmanship. Faster than the MBZ 450 SL, more comfortable than a Porsche 911, and considerably more refined than the Ferrari 308 GTB and very nearly as fast, the Jaguar XJ-S, built under better circumstances, would have been the world-beater it was meant to be.

The XJS is a hugely important car. Not only is it magnificent to drive, sumptuously refined and strikingly beautiful, if somewhat unconventionally so, it’s arguable that we wouldn’t still have either Jaguar or Aston Martin without it.

Jaguar XJ-S

V12 1988 XJ-S – Rhett’s very first Jaguar

Both companies, then essentially divisions of the Ford Motor Company, leveraged the XJS as a shortcut to developing both the Aston Martin DB7 and the Jaguar XK8, two Grand Tourers credited with saving their respective companies. In fact, I’d go even further to say that the Aston Martin DB9 and Jaguar F-Type both drive and feel very much like modern interpretations of the XJS.

The technologies and underpinnings have certainly evolved but our fundamental expectation of what a premier Grand Tourer is, how it should handle, how to blend the luxurious character with its sporting nature, is all built on the example of the XJ-S; a Grand Tourer that was so good at being just that, that it lives on, at least in spirit, in two of the most desirable British car marques today.

Not bad for a car initially regarded as a poor follow up to the E-Type.