Having featured this 1973 Mercedes 450 SLC a couple of weeks back as one of the few affordable GTs left from the pre-emissions/safety era, and dismissed the Jaguar XJS as too complex, the fact still remains that among V12 GTs that could give Ferrari and Lamborghini 2+2s a run for their money, this is the only affordable one left. So if you’re hung up on the feeling you can only get from driving a car with a ridiculous number of cylinders, particularly right now when oil is at $30/barrel, it’s worth another look at the XJS. The XJS had dual misfortunes, debuting in the shadow of the pleasantly plump Series 3 E-type, and in the 1970s when high oil prices (or the complete lack of oil) took out other great GTs like the Citroen SM. As such, it’s rare to find an early XJS, much less one in good condition. So let’s check out a real unicorn, this 1976 Jaguar XJS for sale for $3000 in Bremerton, WA, or on the dealer’s website for $5800.
Which listing would you respond to first? There’s quite a shortage of detail in both listings, and no engine shots, always hard to understand in any enthusiast car listing. At any rate, this car seems to have made it through 40 years of existence (yes, that’s right, 40 years!) seemingly free of rust, tasteless repairs, scorched paint and interior, or any other kind of significant damage. What’s more is, it retains its original Jaguar alloy wheels, instead of the common spoke wheels that never looked right on this modern design. It’s crazy to think that for $5000 you could pick up this and the Mercedes and have an admirable pair of GT cars.
The only odd touches on the car are a tail panel in grey – perhaps this was once black – and chrome tailpipes that look a little too long. To be honest, the black plastics look a little faded too, but that’s just a reminder this car is 40 years old. Your primary concern should be the V12 engine’s health, and what maintenance has been done. The car is said to show 82,000 miles, which is consistent with the condition – perhaps it spent a long time in storage? The dealer does recommend stopping for a test drive, so it must at least run.
Okay, so you can’t see key parts like the driver’s outboard seat bolster, but most comparable cars seem to have no end of rips and splits in the seats. Evidently, cars equipped with the common automatic transmission could pull off 0-60 runs in 7.6 seconds and go on to 143mph. With a car this age being test-exempt in many states, it’s fun to contemplate what you could do with the V12 to improve performance and reliability. On that note, it’s nice to see the V12 was not replaced by the all-too-ubiquitous Chevy 350 – a fine engine in its own right, but not comparable in feel to the 5.3-liter V12.
All visible carpeting, interior trim, and even the dash look surprisingly good. Build quality was no doubt impacted by British labor unrest, but this car somehow escaped that. And how many cars nowadays have dual ashtrays either side of the shifter? Yes, this car will always be in the shadow of the E-type, and its V12 does have maintenance challenges, but seen on its own merits, it’s a handsome V12 GT, a class in which beggars (who don’t wish to appear as beggars) can’t be choosers.