1994 Jaguar XJ12

How would you like four-doors and 12 cylinders for $1,999?

The code-name XJ40 body was nearly 15 years in the making. Jaguar had intended it to replace the XJ Series II, but production was delayed for one reason or another. Styling, however, continued at an even pace over the years, culminating in a debut at the British International Motor Show in 1986. The Series II XJ, meanwhile, was sold alongside the XJ40 until 1992.

Below is a development photo.

So what does 15 years of continuous styling yield? Sadly, not a shape everyone loved. Purists scoffed at the squared off edges and single-piece rectangular headlights that replaced the iconic quad round lamps. The instrument cluster was digital. The car was more modern than gothic the way Jaguars of the 1950s, 60s and 70s had been. But if the goal was to modernize the XJ, Jaguar succeeded. In a lot of ways, it was actually a very carefully crafted and good looking car. It still retained the classic long and low profile, and the rectangular headlights actually looked better on the boxy shape than the round units they later added did. It was offered in a bunch of rich colors and it looked good in every one of them, too. Jaguar had to move forward and they did so in the most appropriate way possible.

If most people were eventually won over by the styling, the XJ40 gained no fans for reliability and build quality. Sure, it's a solid car, but it just wasn't designed or made the way Mercedes-Benz were. The problem is that the XJ40 was intended to compete against the Benz, but it fell short yet again. By the end of the 1980s, when the Japanese had jumped into the ring with the Lexus LS400 and Infiniti Q45, both of which were faster, cheaper, far better made and arguably better looking, Jaguar was lagging far behind. They've never really recovered, either.

However, Jaguar still had one card up their sleeve their Japanese competitors didn't: the V12 in a four-door sedan. Jaguar had pioneered this setup, and had offered it before Mercedes and BMW jumped into the game. But Jaguar hadn't offered the V12 in the U.S. since 1979, and the XJ40 series only gained the 12-cylinder in 1993, just a year away from the whole car's demise entirely. By then, however, it made sense, as BMW had the 750iL and Mercedes the 600SEL. Could Jaguar keep up? Would it matter?

Jaguar's engine was a 6.0-litre HE version of their long-running V12 engine that dated back to 1971. More than 140 inner body parts had to be re-designed to accommodate the new V12. It was the same V12 used in the XJS during the same period, and produced a very healthy 318 horsepower powering the rear-wheels.

Only a total of 2,991 were ever made, and just 1,325 were exported around the world. By the time this powerful car debuted, the XJ40's reputation was too damaged to ever recover, and sales reflected that. If you thought the 6-cylinder XJ might be problematic,12-cylinder reliability and upkeep could be an absolute nightmare.

Fortunately, if you want to find one, they are available at inexpensive entry prices. This example is being offered up by the owner who says it runs great and has a functioning tachometer, speedometer and odometer. They state the mileage as 137,000, and wears new tires and a new battery.

I'd ask about any maintenance history available. But if you're looking for cheap and fast transportation, this could easily fit the bill and provide more than enough entertainment as well.

Find it here on craigslist in Tucson, Arizona.

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, $2K isn't a huge outlay for even a highly questionable car...fortunately, it's REALLY far away, so I don't even have to wonder if it would be worth taking a chance. Realistically, mileage is scary as hell - particularly for a spectacularly expensive car to maintain. Still, if you could maintain it for cheap for a year or so...