A Jaguar for Sunday

V12. I had to check that. Really. V12. 

Any care to date this car? 1983?
Any care to date this car? 1983?

Some astonishing things get taken for granted. Mere existence justifies some wild ideas, which a priori, you’d not expect. Maybe it’s because Jaguars aren’t my core area of expertise I felt like I needed to be certain. Surely, I thought, I must be making a mistake. V12s are too complex and huge. V8 it must be… but that seems wrong, too American. 

Surely this is inspired by Douglas Land-Windermere?
Surely this is inspired by Douglas Land-Windermere?

The point here is that you’d never expect such a strange car in advance. Its existence deflects me from noticing that the V12/ridiculous package combination is Mercury far-out. If you were explaining to a visitor from a world where only trains exist you’d find your general outline of carology needed an exception or qualification so as to accomodate the V12 Jaguar 2+2 concept. “But I thought you said cars should be efficiently packaged,” says the alien. “I thought you said only expensive sportscars had V-12s – this cost little of your Earth pounds compared to that Ferrari car…” And so on.

Yet the XJ-S exerts a relentless fascination, demanding I reinforce my arguments on design and how we look at complex objects. The exception tests the rule, as they say. Here’s a great big fat exception. Put that in your pipe.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

10 thoughts on “A Jaguar for Sunday”

  1. I own a 1992 XJR-S 6.0 and for me 75% of the appeal of the car is how objectively terrible it is in so many ways. That people in Jaguar looked at it’s hideous, hideous face and thought “we’re onto a winner here boys” brings me endless joy.

    FWIW the engine is a work of art, and the later ones without the lucas ignition system and it’s rats nest of vacuum pipes are easy enough to keep going.

  2. It’s a pity your “post of the day” award has only one competitor, Sean’s post about the Trevi.
    There are so many objectively better cars than the XJ-S too yet few can match its general appeal. Mystifying. It’s up against a V8 Bentley (Arnage or Mulsanne) or perhaps a BMW 840 or perhaps an S600? Maybe a Bristol Brigand. Aston Martin Virage? And none offer a truly comparable package, do they?

    1. Interesting post. I think the V12 itself adds something, it’s always going to have something over a V8 of equal or even superior power output. A V8, no matter how large and potent, it ultimately just another example of what must be the 2nd most common engine configuration in the world. Personally I think cross plane V8s are massively overrated anyway, I’d just as soon have an I6.

      I think the XJS appeals because it makes no concessions whatsoever to practical concerns. It does absolutely nothing a series XJ12 cannot do just as well, except for the looks. It’s the ultimate statement of selfishness overindulgence in a car, to a much greater extent than any of the others you mentioned which are all far more sensible and rational than the XJS. Even the fact that it was hopelessly out of date for half the production run adds to it. I think this is why the I6 examples are relatively unappealing, as soon as you make any compromise to good sense the whole package falls apart. Why bother getting a car so ridiculous and then have half the engine removed to save 5mpg? If practicality matters even a jot why are you looking at an XJS?

  3. David: the XJ-S seems like the embodiment of a cartain type of wrong-headed, flamboyant conservatism one only finds in England. It’s saved by sheer charm.

  4. I’m not really into Jaguars (the E-Type is amongst the ugliest cars I can think of), but this XJS is something I’d love to try for a bit. If you’re ever in Amsterdam, visit Theo Koelman’s garage, one of the few inner city garages left in town: http://www.theokoelman.nl/ When I lived in his street I popped in from time to time to have a peek at what he had in and have a chat about engines that would never even fit my humble Saabs if you chopped them in half.

  5. By the way: interesting you spotted this in Denmark, where anything less mundane than a Toyota Auris is considered extravagant.

  6. You ask how old the car is? The fitment of the ‘lattice’ alloy wheels and more deeply bolstered front seats date it between 1988-1990. The XJ-S didn’t change much externally for the first fifteen years of its life.

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