2015 sees the 40th Anniversary of the Jaguar XJS. Launched on 10th September 1975 with the strapline ‘A black day for Modena, Stuttgart and Turin’ the first incarnation of the XJ-S could likely have hailed a black day for Coventry also, with its thirsty appetite for fuel averaging 12 mpg! In Coupe form only, back then it was dubbed XJ-S GT, the GT standing for ‘Grand Tourer’ – which was something of a disappointment for all those waiting for a pure sportscar to replace the E-type. Another disappointment for all of us was that in 1979 the manual version was deleted, never to return, the V12 XJ-S GT in rare manual form therefore carries a premium.
The GT status was later replaced by HE in 1981 when the original 5.3 V12 was revised with a May fireball head, which increased fuel economy to circa 18 mpg. HE stood for High Efficiency, and was the very beginning of saving the XJ-S from extinction!
In 1983, the XJ-S was further removed from extinction by the arrival of the 3.6 AJ6 which in normal Jaguar tactics was first tested in the XJ-S Coupe and Cabriolet and further refined before being placed in the XJ40. Again, manuals are rare – but fun!
With the decline in popularity of convertibles in the late 1970’s Jaguar had not planned for a convertible, but the tables turned again, and the Cabriolet was a cheaper way to produce a convertible as an interim while the engineers worked on a full convertible option- the targa top helped retain body rigidity, along with a ‘cruciform’ strengthening panel beneath the floorpan.
Introduced first as a 3.6 in 1983, and later joined by the 5.3 V12 in 1985, the Cabriolets were then deleted from the range in February 1988, ready for the introduction of the V12 Convertible in April 1988. The convertible was never offered with the 3.6 engine.
Tom Walkinshaw’s company TWR had been breathing on XJ-S’s since 1984, and in 1988 Jaguar’s success at Le Mans inspired a new venture jointly with his company, named JaguarSport. Starting with the 5.3 in 1988, the engines size had grown to 6 litres by 1991, when the venture was brought to an end by the introduction of Jaguars own in-house 6 litre XJS offering. The JaguarSport cars were all dubbed ‘XJR-S’ and, dressed in performance body kits, stood out from their XJ-S Coupe siblings. Only the Americans were lucky enough to receive a batch of 50 XJR-S Convertibles, and these with their American Coupe counterparts were known as the ‘Asprey’. One pre-production rhd XJR-S Convertible survives in the UK!
After 17 years the XJ-S became the XJS, for the 1992 model year facelift onwards! A subtle restyling of the body, most noticeable in the Coupe, was accompanied by other revisions, and the 4 litre AJ6 replaced the 3.6 engine. The outgoing model then became known retrospectively as the ‘Pre-facelift’, in the same way as the GT cars had become known as ‘Pre-HE’.
In 1993 moulded bumpers (like those on the X300 saloon) replaced the rubber bumpers; the V12 became 6 litres, and was now also offered as a 2+2 convertible. For the first time also, the smaller engine option became available as a convertible (2+2) and a year later the AJ6 version of the 4 litre was replaced by the more refined AJ16, and identified by body coloured headlamp surrounds.
The run-out model for the XJS, introduced in 1995, was the ‘Celebration’, and this was offered as a 4 litre coupe or 2+2 convertible, and the 6 litre cars were by now ‘de-brochured’ and only available by special order!
As has been well documented, when first launched the XJ-S was considered something of an ugly duckling – its futuristic styling did not go down well. Aerodynamicist, the late Malcolm Sayer, had designed a car whose flying buttresses ensured an exceedingly low drag co-efficient for its time, gave strength and aided stability, and the coupes had the lowest statistical fatal accident record of any car of their era.
There are more after-market variations of the XJS than any other Jaguar, some focussing on performance, others on body styling, or a combination of the two: TWR, Lister Le Mans, Lynx Eventer, Arden, Burlet, Dulait Ortoni or Ateliers Reunis, Lynx Spyder, Guy Salmon Jubilee, Railton F28 Fairmile, Hess & Eisenhardt Convertible, Paul Bailey Monaco, Paul Banham, Koenig, Hyper, and probably more!
In-house, there was the Insignia, from 1992 to 1994, a bespoke range built by Jaguars SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) who, for a fee, would personalise your XJS, making it unique – very few were ordered and fewer remain! Other in-house rarities to look out for are: Celebration, Le Mans, Collection Rouge and Asprey, not all of which were available in the UK.
Gradually people began to view the XJS with a new eye, it is the longest running Jaguar model ever, 21 years after production started the last XJS rolled off the production line in 1996 and remains the property of Jaguar Heritage.
This year sees the 40th anniversary of the XJS and interest is rife. If you don’t own one, consider buying now, before prices rise!
As a consequence of the 40th anniversary of the XJS, the JEC wished to create an XJS Timeline to celebrate 40 years of this remarkable and longstanding Jaguar model, as close to the original launch date as was practicable, and as a member of the JEC Events team I was asked if I would consider organizing the XJS Timeline. The brief was to find ‘As many variants, and different XJS varieties as you might be able to find, the odder the better!! So Lynx’s, Ardens, Listers, TWR’s ….. along with the display of the various types of Jaguar XJS to represent the full years of production.’
So, to everyone who brought their XJS’s to North Wales for the Timeline – thankyou so much!!
The Timeline was as near as possible in chronological order for the factory built cars, but as we rely on our members to offer their cars, there are inevitably bound to be gaps where a particular variant is not to hand, so I had to feed in the nearest match to eliminate any gaps in the line-up. With a couple of exceptions to fill in those gaps, the modified cars were at the far end of the Timeline to make a distinction between factory built and after-market.
The reverse situation is where more than 2 cars (Primary and Reserve) of a particular variant are offered, and it is heart-breaking having to turn enthusiastic people away. My sincere apologies go to all those who were turned away, and a special thank you to all of those on the reserve list. I was very conscious of the fact that you all had to make the same effort as those who were chosen for the Timeline, in full knowledge of the fact that you would probably be rejected, and in the event, only one reserve was needed, which actually gives credit to the loyalty of those who were given the privilege of a primary place in the 40th Anniversary Timeline!
I enjoyed the opportunity of finding the cars and making new acquaintances via the internet and it was lovely to finally meet all of you at the event, if only briefly as you drove your cars in to the show! I wish I had been able to go round and speak to everyone personally, but the day passed very quickly!
Jaguar Heritage kindly provided four cars of my choice which were positioned alongside the main line-up, and featured; a Pre-HE show car, the prototype Daimler XJS which never went into production, Princess Diana’s V12 Cabriolet, and the last XJS off the production line. (The Daimler XJS is in my opinion a very special car, and I hope to follow up with more pictures and details in due course.)
I now have a picture of every car in the line-up and these you will see below. Hopefully in time, they will link in to an XJS Model Directory on the Xclusively Jaguar website.
The weather played an important role in the success of the event, and the XJS Timeline was a small part of a wonderful event that was down to the hard work and organization of the JEC Events team and committee who provided the back-up for Keith Hurlock’s equally hard working committee and members of the North Wales Region.
A special thanks from me to Rob Jenner (JEC Chairman) who made a brilliant job of marshalling all the XJS’s into position single-handedly!
As Nigel Thorley put it in his report on the event:
With a total of 158 XJS’s, the turnout for this anniversary event was excellent, and beat the previous total of 120 XJS’s at the 25th XJS anniversary at Donington some years ago!
More photos of the event can be found HERE
More photos of the lhd XJ-S HE Cabriolet from Holland can be found HERE
Peter Happer’s video of JEC Western Day, Bodelwydden, 27th September 2015 https://youtu.be/UqL1na_sM3A
The many thanks received below are testament to success of the day, and although these are addressed to me, they include all the team who worked to create the event – the JEC Events team and Keith Hurlock’s team in North Wales.
Thanks and acknowledgements
Brilliant organisation, great selection of various XJSs and fab weather.
Jean Facon (XJS Timeline: TWR Lynx Eventer)
Thanks, it was a brilliant day out! – Best meeting I have been too
Just a quick note of thanks to you and your team for all the hard work that must have gone into making the weekend at Bodelwyddan such a success. Great venue, lots of activities to watch and do and an entertaining Jaguar show. My wife and I both had a great time, in spite of having some battery problems with our car!
Well done and thanks again.
Trevor and Marcie Battersby (XJS Timeline: Second facelift 6.0 2+2 Convertible)
Good to meet you again at Bodelwyddan and congrats on the XJS timeline , I enjoyed looking at them all, my personnel favourites were the late model convertibles
Steve Hunt (Bodelwydden Pride & Joy Winner – Pacific X350 Super V8)
Dear Letitia, Thanks again to you and all the team around you for that great Sunday that will stay for me a fantastic memory forever, not only because it was the first (European trip) I did with my XJ-S. Magnificent place, superb weather, warm and efficient organisation, and best of all my newly acquired pre-HE parked just in front of the Jaguar Heritage Trust one. Best regards, Alexandre Bonnyns (XJS Timeline: XJS-GT (Pre HE) 5.3 Coupe – lhd auto)
Nice of you to send out this thankyou Letitia. I think the weekend was exceptional and well organised, you even managed to book a full days sunshine – amazing! It was really good to meet up with you and find time to have a quick brew and chat.
Take care, Jim Clayton (XJS Timeline: Lister Le Mans Coupe LYS 73R)
It was our pleasure – and a pleasure to meet you! I am looking forward very much to seeing the pics on your website!
The M56 and M6 were both solid on our way back so it took six and a half hours to get home but we had a lovely day, thank you, and met some lovely people.
Both Colin and I thought it was a fantastic day and a spectacular display of XJSs. I particularly enjoyed seeing an Eventer or two; very rare to see one, never mind three, in the ‘flesh’!
And what wonderful weather!
Thank you for all your work in organising a great day.
Graham Michelli (XJS Timeline: XJ-S GT (Pre HE) 5.3 Coupe – Press Car RDU 921W)
Please note this car is now for sale – add link
It is us who are thanking you and all the others involved in organising the day – even the weather – it stands out as one of the best I have ever attended, and even my wife stayed all day and thoroughly enjoyed it
I have no complaints or suggestions for any improvement of the event, so all-in-all a very good job done.
John Hills (XJS Timeline: JaguarSport XJR-S 6.0 Coupe – rhd)
Thank you for all your efforts which I appreciated and I hope everyone else did.
Michael Driver (XJS Timeline: 4.0 Celebration Coupe)
Really enjoyed ourselves and met some good people
Thanks again for the great organisation
Until the next event
Barry O’Brien and Margaet (XJS Timeline Reserve: 4.0 Celebration Coupe)
Thanks for all your work a great job and one of the most enjoyable JEC events I have attended.
Kind Regards John P. Brewster (XJS Timeline: 3.6 XJ-S Cabriolet – late example)
Thanks for your email, we just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed National Western Day, despite remaining on the reserve line! The venue was great, the event was just the right size with a great atmosphere, and the additional attractions, bands and catering provision were just right in our books. Especially the dressage display, which made Jayne’s day. The icing on the cake was the extraordinary collection of XJS’s, which overall must have been the largest display for a very long time, if ever. Even the weather decided to cooperate! We extended our stay in North Wales for another couple of days, an area we did not know at all well, and were very taken with it. We will definitely be going back.
All in all a great success, and our thanks to all who were involved in the organisation of the event, which must have taken a huge amount of work.
Chris and Jayne Sidle (XJS Timeline Reserve: first facelift 5.3 Convertible)
Many thanks for organising a wonderful weekend.
Our XJS’s certainly enjoyed it.
Please convey thanks to all your colleagues in JEC.
David Belford (XJS Timeline: second facelift 4.0 Coupe)
Hello and good morning Letitia,
Thanks for the recent e.message regarding the Timeline event at Bodelwyddan.
We both enjoyed the day and the event very much indeed thank you. We’re not really “Car show” people, though speaking personally I felt it was worth the “effort” to pay due respect to the Jaguar XJS in its 40th year.
I concur absolutely your remarks concerning Mr Rob Jenner, I observed him at one time pushing a car into its “slot” as the driving wheels of that particular car were having difficulty maintaining traction, on the damp grass bank/slope. That’s a kind of “the show must go on dedication” that Rob seems to be well known for (without a moment’s thought for his own well being).
To conclude thanks to you and all at the J.E.C. in letting us attend with our car.
Kindest regards to you and all the organisers,
Tony and Lynn Webster (XJS Timeline: 3.6 Coupe)
Good morning Letitia
Was a great event and the weather was perfect all weekend.
Great to see all the cars, thanks for the chance to be in the timeline.
Nicely organized and hopefully a potential return venue.
David Walton (XJS Timeline: first facelift 4.0 Coupe)
Thank you for your recent email and THANK YOU for all your hard work before and on the day!
We had a really lovely weekend and the superb weather was just the icing-on-the-cake.
We think this drive was the longest journey my Insignia has ever done and it was faultless – thank goodness, as we were a little anxious! She is so comfortable and did turn a number of heads along the way.
Having never ventured into this part of Wales before, the scenery was just spectacular and we broke our journey home on the Monday with a trip on the LLanberris Mountain Railway to the top of Snowdon. Wow – definitely something for everybody’s ‘bucket-list’.
The Castle was such a lovely location for the show and following its recent refurbishment – definitely recommended for a future show in this area. Although we were unable to book Castle accommodation, we managed to find a superb Farm House B&B, just 10 minutes away; so with Sunday lunch at the Castle, we were very well catered for.
We were so pleased to have taken part and really chuffed to have been invited into the ‘Time Line’ – I think I was the only female owner in this line-up. It was just lovely to meet fellow XJS enthusiasts and see so many beautiful cars – obviously lovingly cared for and their owners ‘pride and joy’. All of which is very encouraging for the marque and as Nigel Thorley said at one point – “… all worth hanging-on to, as these will be the E-Types of the future”. I couldn’t agree more!
Thank you once again and we look forward to meeting you at some future JEC event – may be in Scotland, as we are there quite frequently.
Lesley and Stuart King – JEC Kent South (XJS Timeline: Guy Salmon Insignia 4.0 Coupe)
Editors note: The 5.3 rhd XJ-S Cabriolet was owned by Cynthia Easton, so two ladies in the line-up!