Jaguar XJS

Jaguar XJS 4litre Celebration lrJaguar XJS 4litre Celebration engine lr
L-R: A policeman admires Johnny Morant’s Jaguar XJS and Johnny Morant’s Jaguar has a more economical 4-litre engine
By Tim Saunders
“The Jaguar XJS I drove in Return of The Saint often had to be pushed on to set because it was forever breaking down.”
So said Ian Ogilvy during my interview with him for The Daily Telegraph a few years ago. Despite its unreliability the XJS also appeared in The New Avengers.
The replacement to the much loved E-type was in production from 1976 to 1996 and over 115,000 XJS two door coupes were manufactured. Launched in the fuel crisis of the ‘70s and with typically questionable British Leyland electrics buyers were urged to “never buy a Jag made on a Friday” by motoring journalists. Why? Because the factory staff would go to the pub on a Friday lunch time and return with their inebriated minds on other things!
It wasn’t until the ‘80s when the fortunes of the XJS improved. I recall the splendid brand new 1987 E registered British Racing Green example owned by Peter Allsebrook, Chairman of TNT (UK) Ltd, the global transport company. As High Sheriff of Dorset and Deputy Lord Lieutenant he presented my sister Rebecca to Princess Diana when she opened a new wing at Poole General Hospital. When Peter and his wife Elizabeth drove up our driveway there was something special about the XJS that set it apart from the more staid XJ saloon. Yes, both had chrome wing mirrors and chrome inserts on the upper part of the bumpers but the XJS had a far greater presence thanks to it being low to the ground and sporty. His example, the XJS-HE, with a 5.3-litre V12 engine and a four speed automatic gearbox, was also fast. It is true that my mother, father and I lusted after that car and in truth I still do. With its cream upholstery and plethora of luxuries it represented a bygone age when Britain was at the height of car manufacturing; the great British brands were still owned by British manufacturers.
Of course, this was sadly not to last and in 1989 in a $2.89bn deal Ford acquired Jaguar. Over the next decade Ford lost $1.74bn selling it to Tata in 2008 for just £1.15bn.
During its period of ownership Ford deemed it necessary to inject new life into the flagship XJS by introducing a face-lifted version in 1991.
Artist Johnny Morant bought one of these; one of the last XJS models to be manufactured in fact. It is a 1996 N-registered 4-litre straight six Celebration. He bought it in February 2014 for £7,000. “My girlfriend was hassling me to ditch the Peugeot and get a grown up car,” says Johnny. “It won over a Volvo P1800 or a Datsun 240/260. I would recommend it without a doubt - very comfortable ride, lines that are starting to age nicely, easy to get parts. I had the starter motor fail once when the whole family was checking it out for the first time and then it happened again and I tried hard not to stop the engine. When it got towed to the garage the mechanics were surprised to hear all the spare parts they were going to need (including a new manifold) were in the boot. I told them I had loosened the engine studs so their job was very straight forward and therefore would cost me very little. They were impressed and asked how I knew so much about cars - was I a mechanic? I shrugged and said you need to know a thing or two when running these old cars. What I didn't reveal was the parts were the result of two minutes on Google and I'd tried and failed miserably to fit them myself with scribbled down instructions from the internet!”
Facts at a glance for the XJS-HE 5.3-litre V12
Used price: £2,000 upwards
New price: £8,900 (1976)
0-60mph: 6.9secs
Top speed: 152mph
Power: 299bhp
Economy: 20mpg if you’re lucky


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