Junkyard Find: 1983 Jaguar XJ-S HE

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

When the time came to design a successor to the beautiful Jaguar E-Type, British Leyland gave the world a much different V12-powered coupe. This was the XJ-S, and it stayed in production for more than 20 years. This week's Junkyard Find is an early High Efficiency model, found in a self-service yard near Reno, Nevada last fall.

The XJ-S first appeared in North America as a 1976 model, and that timing was unfortunate for a gas-swilling monster 12-banger fed by fuel injection crafted by the Prince of Darkness Himself: Sandwiched exactly between the 1973 and 1979 Oil Crises.

Fuel economy for the 1976-1981 XJ-S barely squeaked into the double digits, which was a problem for flashy car shoppers who might have had income from intermittent sources (if you know what I mean and I think you do).

Then British Leyland finally invested in better combustion chambers plus modern electronic fuel injection for the V12, resulting in the High Efficiency engine. Mileage and power went up, fuel prices began to inch downward, and XJ-S sales got a lot stronger.

This engine displaced 326 cubic inches (5.3 liters) and was rated at 262 horsepower and 290 lb-feet of torque.

A three-speed automatic was the mandatory transmission in US-market XJ-Ss all the way through 1990 (the Ford-era 1991-1996 XJSs got four-speed slushboxes here).

Ford also deleted the hyphen from the model name for 1991.

The list price on this car was an even $34,000, which comes to about $103,180 in 2023 dollars.

That was much cheaper than the $53,570 Mercedes-Benz 380 SEC coupe ($162,570 now), and the Benz had just 155 horses from its V8.

BMW charged $39,120 for the 1983 633CSi ($118,720 today), but its 181 horses also fell short of the XJS's power.

There was no 1983 Corvette to compete with this car for sales, but the 1984 model listed at just $23,360 ($68,040 in 2023 dollars) and had 205 horsepower—still not as much as the XJS, but the Corvette had the better suspension.

This car's interior has been torn up by junkyard shoppers, so it's tough to determine what it looked like upon arrival at this place.

I still find V12-powered Jaguars in car graveyards from time to time, so enough long-stalled project cars still remain for them to be dragged out of yards and driveways and brought to The Crusher's waiting room.

Take it from the McMansion right to the race track!

First observed in London, then in Paris.

[Images: The author]

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Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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2 of 14 comments
  • Johnster Johnster on Feb 27, 2023

    I always imagined that these would be owned and driven by celebrities and other beautiful people. I recall once, many years ago, probably in the 1990s, seeing a dark blue XJ-S Coupe being driven west on the Ventura Freeway in the early evening, just after sunset. I sped up in my CRX and passed the car on its right side and glanced into the window on the passenger side of the car expecting to see, well I'm not sure what or whom I was expecting to see, but sitting in the front passenger seat was... a pot-belly pig! Definitely not what I was expecting to see.

  • China China on Mar 06, 2023

    I may not have a Brazilian beauty but my car is the bomb lol.

  • 1995 SC How bout those steel tariffs. Wonder if everyone falls into the same camp with respect to supporting/opposing them as they did on the auto tariffs a few weeks ago. Doubt it. Wonder Why that would be?
  • Lorenzo Nice going! They eliminated the "5" numbers on the speedometer so they could get it to read up to 180 mph. The speed limit is 65? You have to guess one quarter of the needle distance between 60 and 80. Virtually every state has 55, 65, and 75 mph speed limits, not to mention urban areas where 25, 35, and 45 mph limits are common. All that guesswork to display a maximum speed the driver will never reach.
  • Norman Stansfield Automation will make this irrelevant.
  • Lorenzo Motor sports is dead. It was killed by greed.
  • Ravenuer Sorry, I just don't like the new Corvettes. But then I'm an old guy, so get off my lawn!😆