Tuesday January 23, 2018
Just suppose you were taking a stroll around the 1973 Motor Show at Earls Court, with vague ideas about upgrading your Hillman Hunter. Of course, the automotive temptations were many and various, from the MGB V8 to the Ford Cortina 2000E – but then you arrive at the Jaguar display. Not only had the XJ line-up been facelifted as the Series II, there is a pillarless coupe version of the XJ12 that is so stunning that all mundane thoughts of 'boot space' and 'petrol consumption' immediately vanished. This Movietone newsreel footage gives an idea of the impact the XJ12C, although we’d have been happy with more Jaguars footage and less utter and total cheese - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BFrE4GiSZU
After 45 years the XJ Coupe still has the power to mesmerise, for it is one of those exclusive cars with an appearance that may best be described as ‘effortless grace’. As the story goes, Sir William Lyons had been experimenting with a two-door version of the XJ even before its official debut in 1968 and in the following year he created a prototype from the body of 2.8 litre four-door. Press-on company directors would have to wait another four years for the official launch while production would not commence until the 1975 model year. The Coupe was based on the floorplan of the short wheel base saloon, with elongated front doors that were derived from the standard model. There was also a vinyl roof and, all in all, here was a Jaguar that was ideal to tempt BMW owners from their E9 coupes.
In the wake of the OPEC Fuel Crisis a 4.2 or 5.3 litre grand tourer (there was never a 3.4 litre Coupe) costing £7,280 for the V12 was never going to be a familiar sight on British roads. For those motorists with even more exclusive tastes there were the two-door v Daimler-badged “Sovereign 4.2 Two Door” and the Double Six Two Door”. In early 1976 there was the exciting news of Jaguar’s return to international racing with two Broadspeed converted XJ12 Coupes to compete in the European Championship for Touring Cars. We should also mention the Jaguar “Big Car” that was one of the few redeeming elements of the dire TV series The New Avengers.
To state that the XJ Coupe range enjoyed a trouble-free run is to be parsimonious with the truth; later 5.3 litre versions were fitted with a problematic fuel injector system while all models suffered from leaking windows and poorly sealed doors. The last of 10,426 examples were built in November 1977 in which time they had played a pivotal role in reaffirming the Jaguar marque’s image at a time when British Leyland’s industrial woes were front page news. In the words of Motor Sport ‘But just as the Bentley reflected the best that the British motor industry offered in 1925, so does Jaguar's V12 Coupe today’. Two years later Car magazine went further, stating that ‘In reality the Jaguar XJC 5.3 does not have rivals. Cars of similar concept – some of them cost 60 percent or more – are a pale joke by comparison’ In short, the XJ Coupe was – and is – a car for any manufacturer to be proud of.