I’m a sucker for big cars. Got nothing against a nice Mini Cooper or anything else along those lines but gosh darn it, I just can resist needless excess…I’m old fashioned that way. So one of the big, endless piles of trouble I’d like to own – for some weird visceral reason I don’t pretend to begin to understand – is a Jaguar XJ40 from the early 90’s. Let me just say that I’m happy about your session of uncontrollable laughter and finger pointing at the screen because of what a colossal idiot I am, and “imma” let you finish (is that refference still relevant or funny? I’m guessing neither), but I have to say that when it comes to cars I’d like to own, this is one of my most deeply rooted ideas.
First of all, why a Jaguar and why these in particular? Well, it all started way back when I was a kid. In those medieval days, there were car stickers available pretty much everywhere and I, of course, had the good habit of covering every smooth surface in the house with them. It was in one of those redecoration sprees, when opening a new sticker pack, that I first saw an early 90’s XJ; from pretty much that moment on I was hooked. Over the years I saw a few on the road, usually driven by either gold covered shady characters à la Valley XXX industry style or by impossibly old, bald, tiny men that just disappear behind the steering wheel. Still, the Jag’s severely depressing owner club hasn’t put me off getting one.
I do like all of the XJ family, and AV has recently advised the purchase of an X308 XJR, something which I love and which is fairly reliable, unlike what we’re talking about today…However, these XJ40s…there’s just something about them. Jaguar somehow got the proportions exactly right for these. Pictures don’t do them justice, you really have to be around one to fully appreciate the shape of the thing. Yes it’s huge and it’s boxy, but it’s also special and people don’t often see that because of the reputation they carry around, well deserved in some aspects and unfair in others.
So, why is it the stupidest idea in the history of stupid ideas to spend 3 or 4 grand and get one of these? Some aspects are pretty obvious, namely maintenance. These aren’t really something you can fix by hitting repeatedly with a hammer and calling it names like you do with a Chevy or a Ford, nor does your neighborhood mechanic usually has the slightest idea of what to do with one. To run one of these you need patience and money, make that bucket loads of money actually, depending on what year it was made. Personally, I wouldn’t dream of buying one from before 1992, 93 being a much safer bet. Why? Because until the early 90’s Jaguar was, well, Jaguar…not much quality going on there…pre Ford Jaguars (Ford bought the company in 1989) are a nightmare 100 times worst than post Ford ones. By 93 you can really tell that Ford has made an effort to straighten out these things and that shows in the added reliability (as much as possible). This being said, parts for an XJs are still pretty much what you’d expect, a bundle and maintenance is required,even when you think it isn’t. This is the problem with the overwhelming majority of XJs from this period out there, they just didn’t get the proper maintenance and that won’t end well.
And why is it the greatest idea ever to get one of these? These early 90’s XJ’s are severely underappreciated outside their owner’s clubs; it will take a few years until people actually recognize their style as great, same thing happened to me with the XJS, I always thought it was the most hideous thing imaginable until I woke up one day thinking it was the prettiest car on earth. Besides the straight, no nonsense looks, it can do perfectly well as a family car and daily driver if you’re the President of Exxon.
I’ll come clean and admit that I haven’t actually had the chance to drive one of these, although I have been told by a few of those shady characters I mentioned before that that the comfort is excellent and that handling is great, no matter what…coming from those guys, I try not to think of what the “no matter what” implies. Another great feature it’s the name “Sovereign”, the designation of a trim level on the XJ40s. I assume it just makes you feel important while driving a 20 something year old (possibly busted up) Jag; sure there were other trim levels other than the Sovereign, better ones, but this one just sounds special. I know I’m giving you 0 facts here, but those would pretty much be beside the point.
Now, I can’t afford one of these today or tomorrow, but one day I’ll go for it and in those 5 minutes it runs without breaking down into a million tiny pieces or without sucking up the full tank of gas, I’ll be a happy man. There were a few different engines available for the 1986-1994 XJ40, the basic being the 2.9, but there was also a 3.2, a 3.6 (the one you see in the pictures – by the way, there must be some sort of law against photographing these because it took me forever to find decent ones – you can catch some technical details for it here) and a 4.0, my personal favorite because it’s the nicest configuration before the gigantic V12/double six ones which even for me are downright unrealistically and ridiculously unreliable.
I was hoping to add a “part II” to this little chronicle because I’ve been frequently taunted by one of these Jags in the past…A while back I was taking my internship with City Hall in a little town nearby and smack in the middle of my path from the parking lot to the office there’s a small parking just outside an old building and guess what’s filling that space? Exactly, a big old Sovereign – the one in these pictures by yours truly.
White, busted headlight and grill, slightly deflated tires…a thing of beauty. All throughout my internship I walked past it every day and since then (now more than a year ago), once in a while I’d stop by to visit and there it would be, gloriously dirty and waiting for a new chance in life. This car had been unlocked for at least since I first checked it out and the interior still looked brand new, nothing missing or damaged (what a town huh?). I always wanted to know more of its history, why it was there, what was wrong with it, who owned it…but my detective skills have not made Hercule Poirot proud and recently, the big ol’ Sovereign disappeared. If it was rescued of junked I’ll probably never know but I sincerely hope for the first scenario.
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