Posted: April 24, 2011 02:39PM
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The Jaguar XJ-S (later the Jaguar XJS) is a luxury grand tourer produced by the British manufacturer Jaguar from 1975 to 1996. The XJ-S replaced the legendary E-Type (or XK-E) in September 1975, and was based on the XJ saloon. It had been developed as the XK-F, though it was very different in character from its predecessor. Although it never had quite the same sporting image, the XJ-S was a competent grand tourer, and more aerodynamic than the E-Type. The last XJS was produced on 4 April 1996, by then 115,413 had been produced during a 21-year production life. The model was replaced by the XK8.
The first XJ-S appeared in 1975 as a 1976 model. Power came from the Jaguar V-12 petrol engine with a choice of a manual or automatic transmission, but the manual was soon dropped. V-12 automobiles were unusual at the time, with notable others coming from Italian luxury sports car makers Lamborghini and Ferrari. The specifications of the XJ-S compared well with both Italian cars; it was able to accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.2 seconds and reach 142 mph (229 km/h). The first series of XJ-S cars had a Borg-Warner Model 12 transmission with a cast iron case and a bolt-on bell-housing. In 1979 GM Turbo-Hydromatic 400 transmissions were fitted. The TH400 transmission was an all aluminium alloy case with an integrated non-detachable bell-housing.
Jaguar's timing was not good; the car was launched in the wake of a fuel crisis, and the market for a 5.3 litre V12 grand tourer was very small. The styling was also the subject of criticism, including the buttresses behind the windows. German authorities feared these would restrict rearward vision, and refused to give the model (along with a similarly adorned contemporary Lancia model) type approval: it was for a time necessary instead for German XJS buyers to obtain type approval for each individual car when registering it. Such fears were ill founded, since in reality the rear visibility was very reasonable, with only the frontmost top edges of the buttresses being visible, when looking rearward.
Jaguar did seize promotional opportunities with the television series The New Avengers and Return of the Saint. The New Avengers featured Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt) who drove an XJ-S. Return of the Saint saw Simon Templar (played by Ian Ogilvy) driving an early XJ-S with the number plate "ST 1". Miniature versions were made by Corgi and proved popular. A decade and a half before, Jaguar had turned down the producers of the earlier Saint series when approached about the E-type; the producers had instead used a Volvo P1800.
Responding to criticisms that the XJ-S was not a worthy E-type successor, Pininfarina revealed a sporty show car in 1978 based on XJ-S mechanicals and called Jaguar XJSpider. The car never went into production.
From July 1981, XJ-S received the new High-Efficiency engine for much better economy; as a by-product, power was increased to 220 kW (295 hp) or 196 kW (263 hp) in North America. At the same time, the XJ-S received changes to its exterior and interior (new five-spoke alloy wheels, chrome inserts on the upper part of the bumpers, wood inserts on dashboard and door cappings). In 1982, the new V12 XJ-S won first and second at the RAC Tourist Trophy race at Silverstone.
In 1983, a new 3.6 litre engine débuted Jaguar AJ6 engine I6, as well as a new cabriolet version. In the XJ-SC, the (rather small) rear seats were eliminated making it only a 2-seat car. The XJ-SC was not a full convertible but had a non-removable centre targa-type structure and fixed cant rails above the doors. The rear quarter windows remained as well. Between 1983 and 1987 the 6 cylinder engined cars were only available with a 5 speed manual transmission (Getrag 265), with a 4-speed automatic (ZF 4HP22) offered from 1987 onwards (along with improved fuel injection as used on the XJ40). The earlier, manual models were not imported by Jaguar into the United States. (The US had to wait until the facelift manual 4 litre XJS coupe and convertible were available and even then they were bought only in very low numbers). A limited number of earlier 5-speed AJ6 cars did enter the US as grey market personal imports however. A V12 XJ-SC did not emerge until 1985. The two-seat XJ-SC targa-type model was replaced with a two-seat full convertible in 1988. Prior to that there was a special full convertible version called a Hess & Eisenhardt XJS offered through dealers starting in 1986. The Hess & Eisenhardt coachbuilding firm was located in Ohio and built about 893 of these cars under contract from Jaguar before the official Jaguar-built XJS convertible appeared in 1988 to be offered as a 1989 model.
The Hess & Eisenhardt convertible differed from the later Jaguar convertible XJS as its unpadded top folded down deeper into the body structure of the car resulting in a cleaner rear profile when the roof was lowered. In order to accommodate this design element, the Hess & Eisenhardt convertibles have two separate fuel tanks, positioned to allow for the roof to fully retract. The process of converting the stock Jaguar XJS coupe into the H&E Convertible included the post-production removal of the roof, cutting the body in several sections, the addition of steel reinforcements behind the driver's seat, and 20 lb (9.1 kg) weights placed just behind the headlights to eliminate harmonic resonance caused by the significant modifications to the car. H&E XJS convertibles are easily identified by the lower folding top, as well as two small badges located just behind the front wheels. The later Jaguar full convertible had a heavier padded top that did not fold into as small a bundle when in the lowered position, but retained nearly all of the original components of the coupe.
The true number of H&E Jaguar XJSes is unknown, partly because a fire at the Hess & Eisenhardt factory destroyed most of the records pertaining to the Jaguar XJS conversions.
From 1988, a special XJR-S version of the V12 5.3 litre car was produced by JaguarSport, a separate company owned 50:50 by Jaguar and TWR. This car had a distinctive body kit, special alloy wheels and suspension and handling improvements. the first 100 of these cars were termed "Celebartion Le Mans" to commemorate Jaguar's 1988 win at Le Mans. Between 1988 and 1989 a total of 350 XJR-S cars were produced with the 5.3 litre engine. After September 1989 the change was made to a special 6.0-litre engine with a Zytec engine management system (234 kW (314 hp), later 245 kW (329 hp)). This was different from the standard 6.0 litre engine used in the late XJS models. The XJR-S stayed in the line until 1993; a total of 1,130 cars were built.
Jaguar did consider a luxury Daimler version tentatively called Daimler-S, without the buttresses, but this vehicle was not put into production, although one prototype was made in 1986. Paul Banham did produce some custom notch back coupes without the buttresses, larger rear side windows, and a narrow C-pillar. In the mid-nineties, Banham also made a re-worked version called the XJSS based on the XJS. This set of front and rear styling modifications was also available for a while as a DIY kit.
Throughout the life of the XJS, British company Lynx sold a high-quality four-seat full convertible conversion. Lynx also produced 67 hand-built two-door estate/shooting brake/station wagon versions of the XJS marketed under the name of "Lynx Eventer". The Eventer was a very elegant model, which succeeded in the overall design because it removed the buttresses, incorporating them into the estate design. Jaguar were urged to market their own version but never did. Most Eventers are believed to still exist although build quality, especially on the early versions, was at best variable.
The car was re-engineered in 1991 and renamed XJS. All XJSs from this time are referred to as "facelift" models. The rear side windows appeared enlarged (although the body glass aperture was actually the same size as the earlier car), and the buttresses stayed, as designer Geoff Lawson argued that they were part of the car's character. The car got a new 4 litre version of the AJ6. In 1992 a 4 litre convertible was added to the range. The V12 was upped to 6 litre in May 1993 (227 kW (304 hp)). At the same time the car benefited from a revision to the rear brakes, they were now fitted with outboard rear disc brakes, instead of the more complicated inboard items on previous models. With the introduction of the 6.0 litre V12, the transmission was also updated to a GM 4L80E with a 4th gear overdrive, whilst the automatic 4 litre models continued with the electronic ZF4HP24E transmission. A 2+2 convertible was also introduced, as was a customised insignia line. At the same time the car received more aerodynamic front and rear bumpers. Cars from this period are oft referred to as "Big-Bumper" cars. 1992 thru 1994 were the only years the 6-cylinder with 5-speed manual transmission XJS was exported to the United States. Exact production figures are unknown, though it is likely there are fewer than ten.
In April 1994 substantial revisions were made to the 4 litre AJ6 engine which became the 4.0 litre AJ16 with coil on plug ignition being amongst the most noticeable of the changes. In 1995, the final specification changes were made and the car was referred to as the Celebration model to celebrate the 60th year of the Jaguar company. Celebration cars are easily identifiable by the diamond turned wheels, Jaguar embossed seats and distinctive wooden steering wheel. These latest cars are the most desirable of all the later XJSs, especially the convertibles. The 6 litre V12 had all but disappeared by this time and was only available during the last year of production by special order. The car was discontinued in 1996, after 21 years in production. It was replaced by the XK8.
For 1977, the "Group44" racing team had a very successful season in Trans Am with a race car based on the actual production XJ-S chassis and running gear. The team won the series' 1977 drivers' championship cup for Bob Tullius but missed winning the manufacturer's title by two points (only one Jaguar was competing in the Trans-Am series compared to many more Porsche entrants). In 1978, a purpose-built tube-frame "silhouette" style XJS race car was constructed which greatly reduced the weight compared to the full production chassis car campaigned in 1977. This silhouette car had only the production car's roof panel as the sole piece of factory XJS sheetmetal on the car. Group 44 succeeded in again capturing the driver's championship for Bob Tullius and also captured the manufacturer's title as well, by entering Brian Fuerstenau driving the 1977 car at some venues to gain additional manufacturer's point for Jaguar. The silhouette car survived and has surfaced recently in the SVRA historic sports race series. The 1977 factory chassis race car is believed to still be in the hands of Group 44's Bob Tullius.
In April 1979 a Jaguar XJS driven by Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough was entered into Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, widely known simply as the Cannonball Run. They completed the 2,863 miles (4,608 km) from New York to Los Angeles in a record time of 32 hours and 51 minutes, a record that stood for 4 years, until it was beaten by David Diem and Doug Turner in a Ferrari 308. Diem and Turner covered the same distance in 32 hours and 7 minutes on the US Express, an unofficial successor to the Cannonball Run.
In 1984 Tom Walkinshaw captured the Drivers’ title of the European Touring Car Championship with a Group A version of the XJ-S, entered by TWR. During the championship season the TWR team had also won the Spa 24 Hours race with an XJ-S driven by Tom Walkinshaw, Hans Heyer and Win Percy.
In 1985, XJ-S drivers John Goss and Armin Hahne won the James-Hardie 1000 for Group A Touring Cars at Bathurst, New South Wales in Australia. This car was the third of a trio of XJS's entered for the race by TWR. Walkinshaw and Percy finished third in the lead Jag after oil line problems late in the race.
Today the XJS continues to be extensively campaigned in club level motorsport both in the United Kingdom and overseas. Best known of the race series is probably the Jaguar Enthusiasts' Club XJS championship, currently in association with Toyo Tires. Their championship has now been running for over a decade, offering an affordable entry into club motorsport in the UK, and continuing to attract large grids of this unlikely racing car. Cars compete in various states of modification, from barely modified road cars through to full race-specification cars built in homage to the great TWR specials.