You’re looking for a fast 70’s coupe with bags of power, a large boot and rear seats that will actually accommodate your average size human. You want it to be rare and exclusive and yet well proven and reliable. It would also be good if it was still at the affordable end of the market. Ideally the value would be poised to rocket off into the stratosphere of ridiculousness (looking at you Aston V8).
Step forward the Jaguar XJ5.3C. A beautifully proportioned, low-slung pillarless coupe with an ultra smooth and powerful fuel injected V12 engine.
In 1975 this car was good for 150mph and would surge (and that is definitely the word for it) to 60mph in 7.5 seconds. In my opinion this car is up there with some of the all time great grand tourers, out performing many of them.
The total worldwide production run was only 1,855 units. To put that into perspective over 38,000 Series 1 E-types were produced so it is a rare beast indeed. Only 24 are currently licensed in the UK (source – How Many Left) so it is pretty unlikely you are going to bump into one coming the other way.
The XJC is based on the short wheelbase series two Jaguar XJ. The B pillar was pushed back, the doors were extended by four inches and frameless windows were employed to give the car an amazingly light and airy feel. It came in two forms (actually four if you count the Daimler equivalents); a straight six 4.2 litre and the far more rare 5.3 litre fuel injected V12.
As you would expect from a Jaguar the car handles as well as it looks and you can easily imagine crossing Europe, maybe in hot pursuit of a (only fractionally faster) Lamborghini Espada. If you need any further convincing John Steed drove one in The Avengers.
I picked up RTF 53S (the ‘53S’ bit of the number plate is just a happy coincidence) around thirteen years ago. I was visiting Edinburgh with a friend and checked out the local classifieds for anything interesting (well you do, don’t you?) and found this primrose beauty.
The car got most of its mileage under its belt in the first nine years of its life, registering 53,004 by October 1986. Then between ’86 and ‘02 it only covered 1,336 miles, most of which seems to have been to and from the MOT centre. It was nice and solid but it was getting a little bit scabby. It also had quite a pronounced misfire, which wasn’t surprising given the lack of use. After about half an hour of haggling the deal was done and I headed down to the bank to withdraw the required amount of dosh.
Now bearing in mind the car had hardly been used for about sixteen years and it had a misfire the idea of driving back to London was ill advised to say the least. Naturally we decided to go for it. A quick check of the vital fluids and pressures and we headed south.
Around Newcastle on the A1 it let out a god almighty backfire accompanied by a huge plume of black smoke and promptly took off like a rocket. I guess a sticky injector must have freed up suddenly sparking up all twelve cylinders and the best part of 300 bhp. We spent the rest of the journey surfing on a huge wave of mid-range power, grinning like a pair of sleep deprived idiots.
Back in London I had it completely stripped, re-sprayed and fitted with a set of new front wings. The old ones weren’t too bad but there were a couple of dents and the new panels were pretty reasonable. The old vinyl roof was taken off and replaced with a new one as I prefer the original period look (a lot of owners remove the vinyl and paint the roof body colour).
I dealt with a handful of mechanical niggles and sourced a set of new ‘old stock’ optional Kent Alloys from Norman Motors (cheers Ken). The restoration has lasted well mainly because it was a good base to start from but I have been also guilty of not using the car enough. She now has a tad over 67,000 miles on the clock.
Five years ago the Case household got a baggy little puppy called Nelson. Within a year he grew into an eight stone mud loving behemoth of a Ridgeback (who knew that was going to happen?). He goes pretty much everywhere with us, which means the XJC, ’65 Buick Riviera and Citroen SM (the original UK press car but more of that later), hardly ever get used. Something has to give and as is virtually always the case, it is the cars.
So, if you are in the market for a fast, stylish and rare classic sports coupe for a fraction of the price of an Italian V12 GT, drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org to talk turkey!