Andy’s Coolest Cars

For it’s 60th anniversary, Motor Trend recently came out with its 60 coolest cars of the last 60 years.  Not surprisingly, two of them were Jaguars (the Mark II and the E-type).  But I must admit that a few cars were missing that would have made my own list.  But then again, who am I?

Well, let me answer that questions.  I’m a car salesman who has owned and driven a number of interesting cars over the years.  And I’m a blogger who happens to have time to write an article about his own coolest cars.  So, let Motor Trend have their own ideas … and I’ll express my own.

1. 1982 Jaguar XJ-S V12 HE

This is my favorite car of all that I’ve owned or might have a chance to ever own.  It’s one of those designs that some people love and others can’t stand to see.  But to me, it’s the ultimate car in my budget range.  The beautiful sloping hood and raised headlights along with the V-12 engine make this a car that won’t easily be forgotten.

jag-family

2. 1988 SAAB 900 Turbo 5 speed

After owning two other Classic 900s, I found this one on eBay in the Washington DC area.  The price was right and the performance exhilarating.  What a difference the upgraded suspension and turbo charger made over the model S.  And having found an SPG box in the junk yard also bumped up the horse power and throttle response.  It was quite the car because of it’s classic Swedish styling, powerful kick, comfortable leather seats, and nicely upholstered plaid door inserts.

88saab900t

3. 2008 Volvo C30 2.0 6 speed

Yes, the Volvo S60R should probably be in this spot, but there’s something about the styling of the C30 that bumped the R down a notch.  With a 227 hp turbo charged 5 cylinder mated to a 6 speed manual gearbox, this was one fun car to drive.  I may never own one, but I’ll take every chance to drive one!

08c30206spd

4. 1980 Chevy Monza

I was a poor college student working for the Tradin’ Times in Columbus, Ohio, when a college chum gave this car to me. At the time, it was the coolest car I had ever owned. It had cloth bucket seats, a leaky automatic 3 speed, and the iron duke 2.5 liter four cylinder. It’s nothing compared to the cars above, but at the time, it was “pretty cool.”

80chevymonza

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Walkinshaw’s XJ-S

From what I recall, Tom Walkinshaw was the man responsible for the R series Jaguars. These were beefed up version of the XJ6 and XJ-S. In the following video, you can see what Walkinshaw was able to do with a hopped up XJ-S. Watch for the “up on two wheels” corner. I was holding the sides of my seat just watching it. Yikes!

Pegged!

I drive the speed limit. My dad drilled the importance of that into my head while my mom prayed that I would become a good driver. Their influence and the accident that totalled my first car caused me to see the importance of obeying traffic laws. But as helpful as speed limits are, there are times when you have to do what you have to do. Let me explain.

Tuesday evening I was driving toward home after work. The weather was nice and the car was running well. I was actually cruising at about 5 mph below the posted 60 mph when it happened. I found myself trapped between a closely knit line of cars attempting to enter the freeway and another car pulling up beside me in the fast lane. This is usually not a problem as those entering the freeway are required to yield to those already in the lane. But this wasn’t happening. The cars kept coming closer and closer. I was beginning to get worried and then it happened. I instinctively stomped on the accelerator.

Before I continue the story, you need to know that our Jaguar XJ-S has a three speed GM 400 automatic transmission coupled to a 295 hp V12 engine. Depressing the acclerator at 55 mph kicks the car into first gear. You can probably imagine the crazy feeling, rapid acceleration, and loud exhaust note that accompanies that action. In what seemed like a second, the car leaped forward and the speedometer pegged at 85/90 mph. Here again, you need to realize that at the time my car was built most US speedometers registered no higher than 85 mph. Somebody said it was required by law.(?) I’ve never pegged a speedometer in my life, but now that I have, I can see why so many people are addicted to speeding. Wow!

Lake Jaguar

Even though I see it every day, Lake Erie never ceases to amaze me. During the winter, the ice topped lake reminded me of pictures of the Kerguelen Islands.  Now that the ice is gone, the lake looks like a beautiful ocean.  You can understand why I wanted to take pictures today.

Review: Jaguar XJ40 (1988-1994)

The original Jaguar XJ6/XJ12 went through three revisions during its twenty-five years of production (1968-92). It was a beautiful design, but toward the end of its run became known for its unreliability. Jaguar sought to remedy these concerns by replacing it with the new XJ6, code named XJ40. The new car was almost an instant success. “Motoring Journalists of the time dubbed the XJ40 ‘the best saloon car in the world’ beating regularly in group tests competitors from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Rolls Royce and the ever popular XJ6 Series III that it was designed to replace.” [5] Things went so well that “the XJ40 consistently outsold all its rivals in 1989 becoming the most popular executive car of the late eighties.” [5] What made it such a popular car?

Exterior

The new design admittedly was not as striking as the series III designed by Pininfarina, but “important Jaguar elements were maintained, such as a low roofline and sweeping curves” [8]. Two major difference involved the headlamps and fuel tanks. The previous XJ6 had incorporated four, round sealed headlights. While the new XJ40 continued this in the base model, the upscale models used the new one piece headlamps, which caused a bit of controversy within the Jaguar fold. The new fuel system incorporated a single upright tank which actually sat inside the trunk — a welcome change from the dual tanks offered by its predecessor.

Engine

Jaguar used a variety of engines in the XJ40. In the beginning Europe received undersized 2.9 slant six engines producing an abysmal 165 horsepower. Over time, these were replaced with larger engines, including the DOHC 4.0 liter six making 235 horsepower (pictured below). But what about a V8 or V12? “Originally, the XJ40 engine bay was designed not to accept any Vee engine, something the designers did to ensure that then owner British Leyland wouldn’t be tempted to use a Rover V8 to power the new XJ40.” [1] But things didn’t stay that way for long. After Ford took over the company, revisions were made to the engine bay to allow the use of a 318 hp V-12.

Transmission

“The XJ40 was also the first Jaguar to feature what would become a Jaguar trademark, the J-Gate gear selector which offers better control of the automatic transmission.” [1] The pattern for shifting included normal selections, but placed second and third on the left side of the J channel. This allowed for “manual” shifting without the probability of accidentally placing the car in reverse. The electronically controlled transmission also included a “sport mode” option which made better use of the engine’s power when the driver desired a bit more of a peppy ride.

Reliability

Although, “Jaguar’s developments in the area of occupant protection earned the XJ6 the title of ‘The Safest Car In Britain'” [11], “the earlier versions of the XJ40, still under the influence of Jaguar’s dark days, had their shares of problems” [1]. “The early 1987/ 88 XJ40 models were the least reliable, with electrical problems such as erratic gauges, starter and fuel pump failures being very common. … The 1990-93 years were ideal years for reliability. Improvements were made to the power seat motors, improved sealing of the trunk (less leaks) and more improvements in the electrical system. … Overall though these cars have a very good record for keeping going with most faults being annoying and easily fixed.” [6] “In the end, the XJ40 proved a success for the company – but its true potential was probably unlocked after Ford took over the Jaguar and began to build in a considerable amount of extra quality into the product. As one Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust (JDHT) employee recently commented: ‘The XJ40 only really reached full maturity after it became the XJ12 in 1993 – and that was because Ford scrapped the original XJ12 (it was planned for launch in 1990) project and started it again from scratch, making sure the quality was right at every stage…” [8].

Replacement

“After a production run of eight years and 208,706 units the XJ40’s production came to an end in June 1994.” [5] “With an all-new replacement still years away, … Ford ordered the XJ40 to be facelifted and ‘retrolutionized’, reintroducing some of the style of the popular Series III. The X300, as it was known, was redesigned by head designer Geoff Lawson and was launched as the XJ6 for the 1995 model year” [9]. Viewed from the side, the X300 still carried the basic shape of the XJ40, but included a newer front end with round headlights reminiscent of the original XJ6.

Current Value

Jaguar XJ40’s are currently underappreciated in the auto market. According to Kelly Blue Book, a base 1990 model advertised by a private party should sell for $2200 to $3000. However, good models can be had for as little as $1800 with a little searching. Despite the reliability issues of the early models, the Jaguar XJ40 is a nice car which is still appreciated by those with both a desire for sporty performance and enough room for a family of five.

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References:

[1] Model Overview by Jag-Lovers.org
[2] 1990 Jaguar XJ6 brochure
[3] 1993 Jaguar XJ6 brochure
[4] 1993 Jaguar XJ12 brochure
[5] Jaguar XJ40 by Minder Jaguar
[6] The Jaguar XJ40: Tips and Tricks from the Internet by Richard Hyde
[7] Retrospective: Jaguar XJ by Channel 4
[8] Back to the Future by Keith Adams
[9] Wikipedia’s “Jaguar AJ6 engine
[10] “1994 Jaguar XJ12 Sedan” by Bill Russ
[11] “The Years 1989 to 1996” at Jaguar.com

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