Time and again, if you’re into LeMons as much as I am, you’ll be entertaining the prospect of racing road cars that can be considered un-raceable. Examples abound of such cars coming to race in LeMons, such as the Austin America, Sunbeam Imp, Simca GLS1000, and many, many more cars you never knew were sold in the United States.
The 1995-1997 Jaguar XJ (or the X300 body style, for those compelled to speak in chassis codes) is one of those cars. You know the body style. It was the Jaguar that tried to compete with the S-Class but was actually more comparable in size to the E-Class of the 1990s. It was among the Jaguars that furthered the joke “If you want to drive a Jaguar every day, buy two.”
I’m actually a fan of the 1990s XJ design with the four circular headlamps in front and what I think was an understated look compared to the massive German sedans of the time like the E38 7-Series and the W140 S-Class. Inside was the typical British take on luxury, with lots of wood and high-grade leather. You could never fault the materials or how they were shaped.
The Jaguar V-12 in this car wasn’t novel by any means. The engine dated from the 1970s, when it was under the hood of the Series III E-Type, the selling point being one could have a V-12 performance car provided they could overlook the rust and constant electrical problems down the line. In the 1995-1997 XJ12, it measured 6 liters and made 318 horsepower, which was considered a lot for the 1990s. (For comparison, a V12 7-Series made about 322 hp.) The Jaguar has been modified for racing, and even went to LeMans in a 7.0-liter form, so there’s enough knowhow about the nuances of the engine, which helps my cause.
Sadly, I couldn’t find any car magazine reviews of the XJ12, so I have absolutely no idea of how it handles. I have driven a straight-six supercharged XJR from the same frame (which made more power than the V12), and it drove pretty nicely. So I am left with absolutely no idea how the XJ12 would fare in a race handling-wise. Reliability-wise, on the other hand, I’m sure I’d receive plenty of information from owners who probably put their mechanic’s children through college.
What makes the XJ12 even more exclusive is the fact they were sold for only two years, 1995 and 1996, because the on-board diagnostics system couldn’t meet the OBD-II specifications for 1997. That probably means that less than 1000 of these XJ12s are in America. In fact, that’s substantially less than the number of Ferrari F355s sold in the United States during the same period. As a result, the XJ12 is difficult to locate, unless you’re willing to drive thousands of miles for one. In fact, nobody had bothered listing a 1990s XJ12 on eBay Motors or any XJ12 on Craigslist.
After plenty more searching around (more like constantly changing the search radius on Autotempest until I found something), I somehow managed to find four of them for sale. Surprisingly, all of them were listed on Autotrader. Three of them were over 2,000 miles from me, while one was within 500 miles. All of them were premium listings and were 1996 models, so they’re the long-wheelbase versions.
So here are the three XJ12s I’ve chosen to be viable, V-12-powered, race cars:
Option A: I’m only considering this XJ12 because it’s the closest car to where I live. It has under 50,000 miles on it and is listed for $8,500. The low mileage brings problems over time, since many problems probably haven’t been solved yet. There unfortunately isn’t much more information, but the photos show that the stereo has been replaced. Fortunately, since the owner wants cash and the car has been viewed over 500 times, by flashing enough money, the buyer can probably get the car for less.
Option B: Sometimes, dealers are forced to hold a car in inventory for such a long time, mainly because they can’t find anyone foolish to buy it. Such is the case with this XJ12 sitting at a Jaguar dealer in Knoxville. When I looked at the Carfax, it turned out the car has been offered for sale since April 2012. This is despite having less than 30,000 miles on it, and being available for $11,980, though I’m sure if you really want the car, you can buy it for substantially less. Additionally, the car has apparently had a recent major service performed to sweeten the deal. But that’ll probably offer piece of mind for only the next 3,000 miles after buying it.
Option C: This car is all the way in Gainesville, Georgia, in the used inventory lot. It has over 99,000 miles on the odometer. To me, such a high amount of mileage means someone replaced a lot of parts to keep it running, saving quite a bit of money compared to Option B. It furthermore is the cheapest car available at $6,500. However, the car has fake portholes and a silly spoiler on the trunk. Furthermore, in the ad, the dealer advertises the car as “Motor Trend certified,” though I’m not sure what that means, but what really seals the deal for me is the available extended warranty, which will be perfect since the engine will go bad during LeMons weekend.
Just try getting an extended warranty on an Austin America at any price.