A car for high days and holidays: Jaguar XJS

January 01 2021
A car for high days and holidays: Jaguar XJS

Second-hand Style, with Richard Cooke

JANUARY is typically a great month to buy a used car, precisely because not many other people are doing so.

A dealer kicking their heels on a freezing forecourt is, the thinking goes, more likely to do you a deal. A private seller will find the phone doesn’t ring as much as it might in high summer.

This January, I suspect, will be no different. Or will it?

There are of course several external forces exerting some unpredictable influences on the market right now. Covid has meant that the government has suspended repossessions on lease-hire cars until the end of January, so supply is maybe artificially lower and prices higher. People are switching from public transport, perceived as riddled with germs, for private cars. Supply and demand then gets further out of whack.

On the other hand, some people are struggling for money as they lose their jobs, but are they yet forced sellers? When they are, this will drive prices down and supply up. I know one thing for certain – even the experts don’t really know.

And my track record on the topic is pretty shaky as well.

I wrote in November '19 about how I thought the classic car market, certainly for cars over 45 years old, would go bust. It had got to dizzy heights that were, in my view, unsustainable. I said that as elderly owners died, offspring would sell the cars and demand would not be there to soak them up.

This year I thought covid would accelerate this trend, sad to say. However the market reports nothing of the sort: instead it seems that wealthy collectors are snapping up the best examples in what is now a fairly flat market (albeit flat at high price levels).

I’m not sure what percentage of my readership is in the market for premium classic Ferraris, so let’s turn for a moment to more everyday buying concerns.

If you need a new (used) car, there’s not much you can do about it. Forced purchases are never comfortable, and this January I reckon the bargains will be fewer and further between. As I said last month, wait for February if you can and in fact, the longer the better. That’s for modern daily drivers.

If you want to buy something for high days and holidays (remember them?), then get on with it. Short term market fluctuations shouldn’t influence the purchase of something that is or will become a classic, especially if you’re going to hold onto it for many years. And let’s be clear, the clock is ticking on the internal combustion engine now – in a little over nine years the sale of new purely petrol-driven cars will be outlawed.

So instead of the Jensen I wrote about previously, which starts at about £40k, what about the still-undervalued Jaguar XJS? This is arguably a better-built, more reliable and better driving car than the Jensen.

Production started in 1976 and ran for twenty years. The last of the line cars even had twin airbags. You can’t pick up a decent XJS for £5k, like you could ten years ago, but £10k will get you into a nice 4.0 6 cylinder coupe. Convertible prices are double that.

By the early 90s, the engine was putting out 240hp and returning maybe 25mpg, all delivered silently through a 4-speed auto box. That’s where my money would go today. The visually identical 6.0 V12 will cost you 50% extra, and for that you get 300hp and 20mpg if you’re lucky.

I think the late model cars from 1993 are really elegant – long, low and wide cruisers. Colour matters with the XJS, and some of the metallic greens and blues offered were stunning.

Like the Jensen, they rust. Unlike the Jensen, they aren’t yet worth restoring (6.0 convertibles being the exception).

The back seats are hopeless for anyone not aged between 4 and 8, rear visibility is woeful and spare parts supply patchy. I once saw a £1k bill for a few minor electrical parts.

But what a wonderful way to start 2021, roaring out of this endless lockdown…

What to pay: £10k - £15k for a 1994 Jaguar XJS 4.0 coupe.