You can’t get away any longer with dismissing the XJ-S as a future classic. They’re getting older, but they’re not getting cheaper. This is a car on the cusp and now is the time to buy. It’s amazing, considering the XJ-S’s lukewarm reception in 1975, that it endured 20 years. What happened is that it grew into its skin once we all stopped making bogus comparisons with the E-type.
The XJ-S has always been a car out of its time: a glamorous Riviera Grand Tourer for an age of leisure thrust into a grasping GTi world that had no time for lunch. Yet it endured, and over time it has become recognised as one of the great Jaguars; with production totalling 115,000, the XJ-S outsold all earlier sporting Jags.
So which one? V12, straight-six, coupe, cabriolet or convertible? Unlike the E-type, it developed stutteringly and where opinion is polarised between first and last, the XJ-S evolved and grew more progressively. Go for first-generation time-capsule authenticity if you must, an early coupe for affordability but intense ownership experience; cabriolets are an aficionado’s choice.
In general, last is best, six is thriftiest and it’s got to be a convertible.
Convertibles most desirable but tin-tops are bargains
• 2000-2005: Tired old coupes are selling for £1500 to £3000; they couldn’t get any cheaper; very few late-model convertibles on the open market.
• 2005-2009: Cabriolets and earlier convertibles now coming through; £6000 gives you a world of choice among these models in 2005, but steady appreciation since. One example: a 25,000-mile 1994 XJ-S 4.0 convertible sells at auction in 2008 for £9750. An older £4000 coupe should be very nice.
• Today: a 1995 4.0 convertible that cost £39,000 new is a £10,000 proposition; exceptional cars go for £12,000 or more. Good six-cylinder and V12 coupes still rarely make over £6500 at auction. What value!