RE: Jaguar XJ12 Coupe: PH Heroes

RE: Jaguar XJ12 Coupe: PH Heroes

Tuesday 7th August 2018

Jaguar XJ12 Coupe: PH Heroes

The XJ Coupe was short-lived, softly spoken and special. PH pays tribute...



There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but in general the label of PH Hero tends to be reserved for cars which engage and excite their drivers; machines with heady power to weight ratios, slick manual transmissions and responsive accelerators. They say not all heroes wear capes though, and so it is with our admiration: not every hero need be the sportiest, sharpest or fastest car of their era.

Which brings us to the Jaguar XJ12 Coupe. On a balmy afternoon the week before Goodwood FoS - back when the mercury's height was cause for celebration and not yet a national ordeal - we were invited to drive a selection of noteworthy XJs in the idyllic surrounds of rural Surrey. Among them was Sir William Lyons' own car, the Queen Mother's Vanden Plas, a modern XJ 575 and various firsts and lasts of their kind off the Browns Lane production line. But it was the coupe that caught PH's eye.


The notion of creating a pillarless two-door variant of the XJ saloon was particularly attractive to Jaguar in the 1970s, thanks in no small part to the growing demand for such cars on the US market. Early XJ6 styling models were exclusively two-door cars, in fact, but it wasn't until the launch of the Series 2 XJ at the 1973 London Motor Show that the Coupe made its first public appearance.

The model was mechanically very similar to its saloon counterpart, making use as it did of the short wheelbase floorpan from the original Series 1 saloon, with an initial choice of either a 4.2-litre 185hp straight-six or 5.3-litre 256hp V12 engine - though fuel injection soon raised the power output of the twelve-cylinder to 290hp. Nonetheless, production was delayed due to the difficulty of constructing and sealing the signature pillarless roof. The absence of door frames and B-pillars were distinguishing features of the design, however, and by 1975 Jaguar was comfortable enough with its progress for the model to hit showrooms.


Daimler versions of both cars, sold under the Sovereign and Double Six names, were also available and the Coupe even became the basis for the Leyland Broadspeed XJ12C driven by Derek Bell in the European Touring Car Championship. It got about then, as much as a car which was only produced for three years can, at any rate. With reliability, and sales, still lagging, Jaguar soon called time on the XJ Coupe. A total of just 10,426 examples were produced across the Jaguar and Daimler brands with this car, XRW 119S, registered on February 15th 1978, being the last of the lot.

The first thing to strike you, situating yourself within the Squadron Blue car, behind the beautifully thin, sculpted metal wheel, and sinking into the cushy leather seat, is just what a lovely place to be it is. Visibility is excellent, the controls are all just so and the sonorous V12 is a treat as it rumbles to life. Slide the shifter into Drive and glide out of the carpark and, oh wow, it takes a lot of steering. The combination of a slow rack and gigantic old wheel providing a rate of response that Steamboat Willie would find lacking.


Give it a few minutes, though, and the realisation soon dawns on you that in this case less is definitely more. Driven sedately, the XJ Coupe is so relaxing to drive as to bring a smile to your face, wafting along B-roads at 50mph with the windows down and the V12 thrumming away. It's comfort isn't restricted to the seat, either. Jaguar insisted on using softer suspension and rubber mounts than the competition, meaning more compliance but less durability - the mounts need replacing every 35,000 miles or so.

In the end decisions like that - plus the leaky roof and finicky engine - may have meant that the XJ just couldn't match the Germans for reliability or practicality, but when it was on song it still provided the best comfort and luxury of the era for the money. It irons out bumps and potholes without ever feeling too detached; the steering may be slow but, once you're used to it, it remains feelsome. And when the road opens up a gentle squeeze of the right pedal unleashes a long, lazy surge of V12 power. It's not just a barge - far from it - but rather the kind of engagingly relaxing driving experience which just doesn't exist anymore.


By the end of the afternoon the XJ Coupe is, of course, misfiring, while the Queen Mum's Vanden Plas is in all kinds of trouble, juddering along and refusing to go into gear. A further reminder of exactly why this generation of Jaguars gained the reputation it did. That does nothing to ruin the XJC's magic, though.

In today's fast-paced world, stiff chassis, firm suspension and eager, turbocharged engines have become the norm, getting us from A to B as quickly and characterlessly as possible. The tried and tested PH remedy is a Caterham or a Lotus or the like - an A to A car meant purely for its own sake. But the Jaguar offers a different sort of antidote: it inspires a sense of calm that modern cars have utterly failed to replicate. You'll get there when you get there, and that'll be fine. It's a better way to travel, and a much nicer way to live.






[Photos: Anthony Cullen]

Author
Discussion

Earl of Petrol

Original Poster:

105 posts

61 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
Always loved these, especially the one Steed drove in the New Avengers, with flared arches. I think that car was sold at auction in the last 2-3 years in need of restoration. Icon.

AlecT

102 posts

148 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
I had one of these, but the Daimler version, when it was only a few years old, Signal Red with biscuit leather, but alas no air con.
I bought it from Jim Marland who at the time was raising funds for putting his C Type replica into production, bought sight unseen and collected from Oulton Park one Saturday.
A memorable and very fast drive home to Kent down the M6.....
What a lovely car, eventually rust took a hold but I had a body shop in Dover fit two new sills and give it a respray, mechanically it was OK I used it as my daily and apart from service items it only needed a water pump,two new bolts that the bonnet hinged on, oh and a rear window regulator.
Sold it for twice what I paid a few years later to a chap in Capel le Ferne near Folkestone LRN 720 T where are you know?
The six cylinder version was a straight six XK engine of course not a V6.

Front bottom

5,461 posts

129 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
School boy error PH towers wink. The 4.2 was a straight six, not a V.

AdeTuono

5,980 posts

166 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
Front bottom said:
School boy error PH towers wink. The 4.2 was a straight six, not a V.
The one in the article is the 5.3 V12.

irocfan

18,569 posts

129 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
gorgeous!
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Front bottom

5,461 posts

129 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
AdeTuono said:
Front bottom said:
School boy error PH towers wink. The 4.2 was a straight six, not a V.
The one in the article is the 5.3 V12.
Yes, I know.

I saw one park up at a festival the other weekend actually. Lovely to see.

Neil E 99

83 posts

54 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
With the two cars sitting side by side the original knocks spots off its younger brother. (or grand son come to think of it)! laugh

s m

17,224 posts

142 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
Good Harry's Garage episodes on his one
Nice they did some manuals with the V12

https://youtu.be/vy5t8ttmC1o

DBSnappa

76 posts

170 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
Always thought this was gorgeous. Would love to have the money to restomod one, or better still, got to Jag and say build me a modern iteration of it

s m

17,224 posts

142 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
s m said:
Good Harry's Garage episodes on his one
Nice they did some manuals with the V12

https://youtu.be/vy5t8ttmC1o
This was part one of the Harry's Garage review of his V12 Coupe in case you've not seen it

https://youtu.be/7TMgIkx40tI

This is the same Harry Metcalfe that started off EVO mag after Performance Car died a death

urquattroGus

985 posts

129 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
I'm often drawn to these, love the looks outside, although I wonder if I would prefer the S1 XJ6 nose on it, and most of all somehow the interior puts me off a little, there's something about 70's interiors that I often don't enjoy. I think mid to late 60's interiors are some of the best!

ducnick

892 posts

182 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
The 5.3 v12’s are common as muck compared to the v6 mentioned in this article. It was only yesterday when reading the RUF CTR article that I saw mention of the jag xj220 being v12. Seems like PH towers have next to no idea about jaguar engine history. I doubt PH would make the same mistake with Porsche telling us that the 356 was powered by an in-line 4 , or the 959 had a V8

rtz62

1,607 posts

94 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
First-ever girlfriends father had one, silver (with red cloth interior iirc?)
Seemed a monster car montes to my dads Ford Consul 3.0 GT of the time.
I always remember girlfriends dad telling me that the gearbox was the worst thing about the car and wished it were a manual.
Some years later I saw one being restored (at a time when they were only fetching £5k) and the restorers had spent hours trying to get the cable and pulley system that operated the rear 1/4 windows to work and align properly.
It came o we as a ‘Heath Robinson’ affair but showed to me how determined the original designers were to get hem to work and to seal properly.
Anyone else heard the stories of how an engine rebuild on a 5.3 is mahoosive money (I was thinking of £20k+ but may be £15k as my memory is like a sieve...)?

loose cannon

5,338 posts

180 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
I love series xj’s but my dream car is an imaculate xjc it would be a great pleasure to open that door and go for a waft around the South Downs at my beconing call
And a little picture of an Xk engine which isn’t a v6 ph laugh


rtz62

1,607 posts

94 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
s m said:
Good Harry's Garage episodes on his one
Nice they did some manuals with the V12

https://youtu.be/vy5t8ttmC1o
I may be wrong but being a 14–15 year old at the time these came out, my memory is that the V12 only came with an auto box and anything else was either done aftermarket or was a 4.2C
I believe Harry Metcalfes is a conversion, and has subtle alterations to the engine etc...

Matt Bird

1,037 posts

144 months

PH Reportery Lad

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
Front bottom said:
School boy error PH towers wink. The 4.2 was a straight six, not a V.
Isn't it just?! smashbangheadboxedin Apologies all, what a clanger. Dafydd (and Nic, who checked this before it went live) will be relearning their Jag history for the rest of today.

Should be sorted now...

Cheers!


Matt

belleair302

6,024 posts

146 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
My Father has a V12 Daimler but the four door version. So poorly put together and to replace belts half of the engine needed to come out. Lovely interior but in the 70's Jag and anything British was just a joke, from electrics, to parts, to construction. Beautifully smooth when working and quick but he gave his back to HR Owen after a rainy night broken down in Bishopsgate (City of London) and bought a Ford Granada!!!

greenarrow

1,549 posts

56 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
As a child in the 1970s, my favourite toy car was a Corgi XJC Series 2 in red. That and my Saint edition Jaguar XJS. I'm sure its why I grew up loving Jags, this of course being during an era when a large BMW or Merc was quite rare on British roads and a large Audi, well you never saw one of those.

The current range of saloons largely leaves me cold, except ironically the XJ mentioned above by a poster. I actually think that 30 years from now people will look at those nostalgically like they do the series 1,2 and 3 XJs now.

macdeb

7,259 posts

194 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
Lovely car, the proportions are just right. In the last picture the car on the right looks like a 'Jag' the one on the left however looks like an Audi and pales by comparison in the looks department.

Wolvesboy

348 posts

80 months

Tuesday 7th August 2018
quotequote all
Lovely cars in the flesh. The journey in my sister's boyfriend's V12 4 door - 20 minutes of wafting I never forgot about as an impressionable 11 year old. Hankered after one since but having sat in one I found the front cockpit quite small and narrow.
The final photo just shows how big modern day cars are - is it me as the XJ looks small in comparison?