Grand Touring in the purest sense. No, we’re not talking 80’s hatchback where plastic arch extensions apparently were sufficient to validate the “GT” moniker, with a fuel injection system adding an “i” to the equation. We’re in a totally different league here. Big, fast, stylish, bold and luxurious coupés will forever define the traditional GT – and rightly so too.
The past two weeks we’ve had a close look at Grand Touring coupés on a budget of around £ 10,000. We started with the stylish Fiat 130 Coupé and followed up with the übercoupé Mercedes-Benz 380SLC. However, ViaRETRO reader Paul Hill has sent us a link to another option, making the point that no one does brute force combined with style and elegance quite like the British. It’s a fair point too, as I can think of several classic British GT’s that easily live up to that statement. But perhaps none so quite as effortlessly as the charismatic Jaguar XJ-S 5.3 HE.
The XJ-S series was launched in late 1975 as a ’76 model – naturally to replace the by now rather antiquated E-type. It’s amusing to consider that the acclaimed E-type stayed in production for 14 years, while the much criticised XJ-S actually managed a rather impressive 21 years of production. During those years Jaguar produced about 115,000 examples of the XJ-S in various guises. Generally the whole production run can be divided up into three eras. From introduction and up until mid ‘81, the XJ-S was available only with Jaguars legendary 5.3 litre V12 engine mated either with a 3-speed automatic gearbox or initially also with a 5-speed manual, though this option was soon to be discontinued. These XJ-S’s are now typically known as the pre-HE cars, and judging from market values it seems clear that these are now the most collectable. I suppose they are by many considered the purest of the XJ-S.
In mid ’81 the XJ-S received a minor facelift and with it came the introduction of the V12 HE engine, with High Efficiency combustion chambers making the big V12 both more economical but also more powerful. Shortly after for the ’83 model, the XJ-S also became available with a new 3.6 litre straight-6 engine, and Jaguar grabbed the opportunity to also launch the new XJ-SC, which while dubbed a convertible was really more of a targa top construction. This however never really caught the fancy of the buying public, and was duly replaced by a full and proper convertible in ’88 which proved much more popular.
Then in mid ’91 the XJ-S went through its final – and biggest – facelift. Besides sleeker bumpers and vastly redesigned rear lights, the biggest visual change happened around the controversial buttresses. Actually those rear buttresses stayed thoroughly unaltered, but a total redesign of the rear quarter windows being extended further back into the buttresses, changed the overall appearance quite heavily with those buttresses now appearing smaller and less obtrusive. This era of the XJ-S also brought with it the biggest technical changes, as the straight-6 grew to 4.0 litres and the V12 grew with it to a whopping 6.0 litres! The complicated inboard rear brakes were also re-engineered to more conventional outboard rear disc brakes. For the final year of production, the XJ-S was tarted up with a few extra goodies such as diamond turned wheels, Jaguar embossed seats and a wooden steering wheel. This final incarnation was referred to as the Celebration model to celebrate the 60th year of the Jaguar company.
The particular XJ-S which reader Paul Hill has found for us, is a very early HE model from 1981, with its 295hp V12 mated to a 3-speed automatic gearbox. It’s only a 2-owner car with a relatively low 77,000 miles on the clock, and main dealer service history along with old MOT certificates, which I presume will verify the mileage. It wears a fetching metallic red paint, which to my eyes is a very welcome splash of colour among all the silvers and greys, and the interior is equally inviting with biscuit leather. The selling dealer claims the XJ-S was in carcoon storage for ten years, and adds that it’s HPI clear and will come with 12 months MOT. Feast your eyes on this early 80’s XJ-S, and imagine what it must have been like back in the day, when the only others to offer V12 engines were Ferrari and Lamborghini. This is indeed a Grand Tourer which was part of a very small and exclusive club!
With the early pre-HE cars becoming quite collectable and prices subsequently taking a significant hike northbound, it would seem to me that the XJ-S HE is really the version to go for, at least if you’re buying not as an investment, but more to drive and enjoy your Grand Touring coupé. This second series of XJ-S retains the classic shape and look of the rear buttresses and rear quarter window, yet offers excellent value for money. You can see the full sales advert here:
At a mere £ 9,995 it’s not too difficult to argue that this British coupé offers a lot more classic GT for your hard-earned dosh, than does the Italian or German counterparts from the past two weeks. So let me expand on the question I asked you last week, which tempts you the most: Italian flair, German engineering or maybe British elegance?
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to firstname.lastname@example.org