Capsule Review: Jaguar XJ-S V-12 “HE”

Posted on 10. Nov, 2010 by in Auto News

Why do we have an eleven year old, scratch-and-dent, no maintenance-records, twelve-cylinder Jaguar on our lot? Blame our naive sales manager who always pay top dollar for trades. In his haste, the way people bought and sold luxury cars in Dublin, Ohio revolutionize "Steve" rather ignore the established car-sales playbook. At the time I thought he was brave, I now realize it was stupid.

It once said that the SCCA road race will rule book "written in blood." Every rule in the book is a lesson learned from a tragic incident. For the same reason each rule in the auto sales posted biz, not in blood, but in red ink. There is a rule that is written especially bled in so much ink that it is through the side, and that is: Do not take the cars of customers houses for test drives. If you look closely, you will see an asterisk to this rule, added by me, and at the bottom of the metaphorical page, I wrote: * This goes double for Jags.

The history of the Jaguar XJ-S could fill a book, and in fact it is a filled few Books. Dawned in the seventies, has been widely believed that the sports car era was about to come to a permanent halt. The affordable race-on-Sunday ragtop was an early victim of the Arab oil prices, American Safety and California emission controls. Jaguar believed that a move would require elevated to the business (the more things change …) and the XJ-S was created to the aging process remain XKE (E-Type to us USians) replace.

Surely 15 years depressing, anxious, default-retro Jags have taught us to appreciate this car for what it is know that a unique and stunningly proportioned Gran Turismo. It has never been quicker off the line, to the six-liter XJR-S was in the nineties, it was impossible for one of the elegant cats 60 mph in under seven seconds push. Top speed, however, was 145 or better fought at a time when most family sedans on the continent in order to break the "barrel".

The original 5.3L V12 was smog choked to just over 240 hp in the U.S., but again, this was at a time when the American five-liter V8 engines often claims 120 hp or less. The "HE" revisions debuted in 1981 and significantly increased fuel economy bump, performance by about ten percent as well.

Seventies-era Jaguar twelves are, to say the least, to have nightmares. Mechanically fragile and they can access services under the long bonnet is difficult. There are miles of wiring just make the XJ-S early and run necessary with some that burn the wiring in places seemingly designed to damage or removed. On a whim, I downloaded a community-generated service manual for the XJ-S off USENET in 1996 and printed it out, it was more than 200 pages, and in many places there was simply a kind word and a few exhortations not to give in the face of adversity. Do not expect to use all XJ-S built before 1991 as a daily driver. It's so easy.

Of course I did not investigate the above-mentioned limitations of the Ohio State adjunct faculty member at the dealer many arrived early on a Saturday morning to our pale blue '83. Even with a somewhat-reasonable $ 7995, the Jag had not attracted a single "up" in months. This guy looked like a solid candidate. Not unlike the car in question, Mr. Prospect was pale, sad looking and clearly far. On his best days, despite only being in his early thirties I took the booster cart during our incandescently sexy assistant manager directs the guy with a coffee and a flip of her skirt. Wonder of wonders, it fired right and I went for a test drive …

… Only to find that the customer had left his license at home. No tickee, no drive-ee, as they say. Lose in a panic at the thought of the only warm body always make one bewalleted the car derriere cracking left front seat, promised the assistant coach that I bring the car tomorrow for a private test drive. She then told me that I would pay the dealership a flat spiff of $ 500 if I could move the car. Count me in.

I took the keys at noon on Sunday, pointing to Route 71, to the not-quite-a professor at home in the precious little suburb of Clintonville. I've never had an XJ-S driven before and was eager to take the ride, actually. First impressions: it was surprising, as my father, the old '86 Vanden Plas, but it had even more weight through the steering and drive train. As already mentioned, it was not fast, but not out of steam on the highway as my VW Fox run did. I was well over 1-20 and simply banging the left lane, sweeping movement from my path with an authoritative flash the quad headlights, enjoy the outrageously footing and almost complete lack of aerodynamic instability when all fell on the instrument needles on the pegs and the engine easily. Funking. Stop.

It took a moment to really believe that I was sailing down the road on inertia, the V-12 was quiet and smooth enough that at three-digit speeds, the relatively low wind noise enough to drown out the mechanics. I slotted the transmission to "N" and began to think. It was an exit perhaps half a mile in front, so I relaxed the big coupe with four relatively empty lanes, gradually falling 1-10 or so up to 50-ish. A Chevrolet Celebrity "Euro Sport" refused to let me merge into the turn lane with so I had to clean the brakes and kill some of my precious momentum.

I came to a stop maybe five car lengths from the traffic lights at the top of the ramp. For a few long minutes, I sat with my head in my hands. I'd killed the car, I had to be dragged back, I would lose my sale, and I would lose my job, and Somehow, everyone would find out I wayyyy just driving too fast. A worn-out brass cat seemed to me from the key growl in his hand. With eyes closed, I again inserted and turned the key.

There was silence, then a single crank of the starter. The tachometer jumped. Although I continue to the precious little house on Fallis Road, I knew it was not a sale at all. Call it luck call it grace, call it the perfectly understandable scientific operation of Lucas electrics, but whatever you call it, I would run out there.

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