1975-1996 Jaguar XJS
The Jaguar XJ-S (later XJS), a luxury grand tourer, was produced by the British manufacturer Jaguar from 1975 to 1996. The XJ-S superseded the E-Type (also known as XK-E) in September 1975, and was based on the XJ saloon. It had been developed as the XK-F, though it was very different in character from its predecessor. Although it never had quite the same sporting image, the XJ-S was a competent grand tourer, and more aerodynamic than the E-Type. The last XJS was produced on 4 April 1996; by then 115,413 had been produced during a 21-year production life. The model was replaced by the XK8.
The XJ-S was launched on 10 September 1975. The development of the car had begun in the late 1960s as project XJ27, with an initial shape set by Malcolm Sayer, but after his death in 1970 it was completed by the in-house Jaguar design team, headed by Doug Thorpe. Power came from the Jaguar V12 petrol engine with a choice of a manual or automatic transmission, but the manual was soon dropped as they were left over from V12 E Type production. V12 automobiles were unusual at the time; Italian luxury sports car makers Lamborghini and Ferrari produced such models. The specifications of the XJ-S compared well with both Italian cars; it was able to accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.6 seconds (automatic) and had a top speed of 143 mph (230 km/h). The first series of XJ-S cars had a Borg-Warner Model 12 transmission with a cast-iron case and a bolt-on bell-housing. In 1977 GM Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmissions were fitted. The TH400 transmission was an all-aluminium alloy case with an integrated non-detachable bell-housing. The XJ-S was originally supplied with Dunlop SP Super E205/70VR tires on 15 × 6K alloy wheels; British police upgraded their Jaguars to a higher-performing 205/70VR15 Michelin XWX .
Jaguar’s manufacturing timing was not good; the car was launched in the wake of a fuel crisis, and the market for a 5.3-litre V12 grand tourer was very small. The styling was also criticized, including the buttresses behind the windows. German authorities feared these would restrict rearward vision, and refused to give the XJ-S, and the similarly adorned Lancia Montecarlo, type approval: it was for a time necessary instead for German XJS buyers to obtain type approval for each individual car when registering it. Such fears were ill-founded, since in reality the rear visibility was very reasonable, with only the frontmost top edges of the buttresses being visible when looking rearward.
Jaguar did seize promotional opportunities with the television series The New Avengers and Return of the Saint. The New Avengers featured Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt) who drove an XJ-S. Return of the Saint saw Simon Templar (played by Ian Ogilvy) driving an early XJ-S with the number plate “ST 1”. Miniature toy versions were made by Corgi and proved popular. In the early 1960s, Jaguar had turned down the producers of the earlier Saint series when approached about the E-type; a Volvo P1800 had been used instead.
Responding to criticisms that the XJ-S was not a worthy E-type successor, Pininfarina revealed a sporty show car in 1978 based on XJ-S mechanicals and called Jaguar XJSpider; it never went into production.
From July 1981 the XJ-S became the XJ-S HE and received the new High-Efficiency engine for much better economy. With the Fire Ball combustion chamber designed by Swiss Engineer Michael May, as a by-product power was increased to 220 kW (295 hp) or 196 kW (263 hp) in North America. At the same time, the XJ-S HE received changes to its exterior and interior (body-colored trunk plinth in place of the standard previous black, new five-spoke (starfish) alloy wheels, chrome inserts on the upper part of the bumpers, burled elm inserts on dashboard and door cappings). In 1982, the new V12 XJ-S HE won first and second at the RAC Tourist Trophy race at Silverstone.
Six-cylinder version and a convertible
1986 Jaguar XJ-SC targa convertible (US spec, with twin headlights)
In 1983 the new 3.6-litre Jaguar AJ6 straight-six (I6) engine was introduced, and a new cabriolet version, the XJ-SC produced, with the coupé’s rather small rear seats dropped, making it a 2-seat car. The XJ-SC was not a full convertible but had a non-removable centre targa-type structure and fixed cant rails above the doors. The rear quarter windows remained as well. The six-cylinder cars can be identified by a slightly raised “power bulge”, running along the longitudinal centre section of the bonnet.
Between 1983 and 1987 the six-cylinder-engined cars were only available with a five-speed manual transmission (Getrag 265), with a four-speed automatic (ZF 4HP22) offered from 1987 onwards (along with improved fuel injection as used on the XJ40). The earlier, manual models were not imported by Jaguar into the United States, which had to wait until the facelift manual 4-litre XJS coupé and convertible became available.
A V12 powered XJ-SC was introduced in 1985.
1989 (pre-facelift) XJ-S Convertible
The two-seat XJ-SC targa-type model, never a great success in the marketplace, was replaced by a two-seat full convertible in 1988 which proved to be a great hit.
1988 pre-facelift XJ-S coupé; note new ‘crosslace’ road wheels
Rear seats of a 1982 Jaguar XJ-S HE coupe, showing the 2+2 seating layout.
Coach Builders limited (1983–1988)
Coach Builders limited converted XJS from coupe. It has 4 seats compared to factory convertible. The number produced is not known.
Hess & Eisenhardt convertible
From 1986 a full convertible version was available through some dealers, modified by Hess & Eisenhardt in the USA. The Hess & Eisenhardt coachbuilding firm was located in Ohio, USA, and built about 893 of these cars under contract from Jaguar before the official Jaguar-built XJS full convertible appeared in 1988.
The Hess & Eisenhardt convertible differed from the later Jaguar convertible XJS as its unpadded top folded down deeper into the body structure of the car resulting in a cleaner rear profile when the roof was lowered. To accommodate this design element, the Hess & Eisenhardt convertibles have two separate fuel tanks, positioned to allow for the roof to fully retract. The process of converting the stock Jaguar XJS coupé into the H&E Convertible included the post-production removal of the roof, cutting the body in several sections, the addition of steel reinforcements behind the driver’s seat, and 20 lb (9.1 kg) weights placed just behind the headlights to eliminate harmonic resonance caused by the significant modifications to the car. H&E XJS convertibles are easily identified by the lower folding top, as well as two small badges located just behind the front wheels. The later Jaguar full convertible had a heavier padded top that did not fold into as small a bundle when in the lowered position, but retained nearly all of the original components of the coupé.
The number of H&E Jaguar XJS produced is unknown, partly because a fire at the Hess & Eisenhardt factory destroyed most of the records pertaining to the Jaguar XJS conversions.
From 1988, a special high performance XJR-S version of the V12 5.3-litre car was produced by JaguarSport, a separate company owned 50:50 by Jaguar and TWR. This car had a distinctive body kit, special alloy wheels and suspension and handling improvements. The first 100 of these cars were termed “Celebration Le Mans” to commemorate Jaguar’s 1988 win at Le Mans and only sold in the UK. Between 1988 and 1989 a total of 326 XJR-S cars were produced with the 5.3-litre engine. After September 1989 the change was made to a special 6.0-litre engine with a Zytek engine management system, which had a top speed of 158 mph. This was different from the standard 6.0-litre engine used in the late XJS models. The XJR-S stayed in the line until 1993; a total of 787 coupes and 50 convertible cars were built for the world market. In the United States, to commemorate the spectacular XJ220 launch in 1992, a limited number of 100 XJRS coupes and convertibles were produced for the American market only. These included 22 Signal Red coupes, 22 Signal Red convertibles, 22 Jet Black coupes, 27 Jet Black convertibles, 2 Flamenco Red coupes, and the Silver Frost ‘Press Cars’ of 4 coupes and 1 convertible.
Daimler XJS prototype
Jaguar considered a luxury Daimler version tentatively called Daimler-S, without the buttresses. One prototype was made in 1986, but the vehicle was not put into production. Paul Banham did produce some custom notch back coupés without the buttresses, larger rear side windows, and a narrow C-pillar. In the mid-nineties, Banham also made a re-worked version called the XJSS based on the XJS.