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Bargains in Classic Jaguars
by Wayne Estrada

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If you are considering buying your first Jaguar, a second Jaguar--or your tenth Jag, following are some buying tips that may help you to more wisely choose your next classic car. With foresight and forearmed, you will hopefully land a future collectible Jaguar--and do so at a good price.

One thing about Jaguars, is that you basically can not go wrong in buying one. Often admired by even the non-enthusiast, Jaguars are beautiful to look at, drive, and own. Like any car, some models are more desirable than others. However, the primary goal is to spend your money wisely on a model(s) that will either give you the most pleasure both now and in the future, while also being a pleasure to share with other enthusiasts as time goes on.

This article describes some tips in buying a possible future 'collectible' Jaguar. It is written not only for the first time Jaguar owner, but also for those that looking to add to their collection. Whether these cars are to be used as transportation, for displaying at car shows, or as a fun weekend car for an occasional Sunday drive, this article was written to help you make the best, most informed choice on deciding on that perfect car. For the sake of brevity, I'll forego the obvious classics like the SS 100, aluminum bodied XK120s early E-types, etc. These are expensive cars and beyond any hope of getting at a reasonable price.

First and foremost--with only a few exceptions--most 'classic' cars are not really an investment, but rather, a hobby. Therefore, do not try justifying to your spouse that your reason for purchase of another Jaguar is financial gain!! Only unless you bought a particular classic model at a rock bottom price years ago, your chance of realizing a sizable financial appreciation on a car are not as great as popular misperceptions--or endless rationalizations to yourself or your mate--may indicate. Those of us that have been in the car hobby (of all types) have come to realize that it is not the price, but the pride of ownership that means the most. Owning a car that you like and want is more important than its current, or even future value.

Obviously capital outlay is usually the primary variable in determining what 'classic' Jaguar you may be able to buy. This means that in addition to the initial purchase cost, that one must also consider the maintenance, and future repair or restoration costs, along with storage and insurance. However it is also wise to consider another sizable but often-unseen expense. Namely, the time it will take to get your new classic to the point you want it.

Those of us that have been actively involved in this hobby understand and have experienced the unusually large time commitment that is (and will be required) to the care and feeding of your classic kitty. This is especially true if you are purchasing a car that needs replacement and/or original parts. It can take literally months of looking, asking, and searching to find that perfect part. And even on cars that are Concours or excellent drivers, there is always the time to clean and maintain the car so that it is reliable and enjoyable.

Having these things in first in mind are important consideration before making that purchase, but there are additional simple guidelines in selecting that perfect Jaguar for your growing stable of cars.

The first rule is the 4/12-14 rule of automobile depreciation. That is, most new automobiles hit their first low price plateau when they are four years old. For example, I bought a 1989 Vanden Plas in like new condition in 1993 for $20,000--significantly less then the new price of over $50,000. It was an easy way to get into the prestige of a Jaguar without either high initial outlay, or the worry that I was buying a questionable 'used car'. Of course, four years is not a hard and fast cut off line. The deals get better as the years from new increase, however your chance of finding a pristine, one owner, dealer serviced car start to greatly decrease after the first four years.

The second part of this equation is the twelve to fourteen year mark. Cars of substance, like Jaguars, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, etc., usually tend to hit their low price point at this time. Then, prices for collectible models of particular marques have a tendency to rise gradually. Knowing what car (Jaguar) and what model to consider as prime collectibles is therefore important element that can be timed to your advantage.

Therefore, the next guiding rule is doing your homework! Reading up on a particular car(s), can help you locate the most desirable year Jaguar models. Knowing the differences, strengths--and weaknesses--of a particular model is an important step in selecting your car wisely. For the extremely well prepared, being able to identify unusual or rare production characteristics can give you a big advantage in identifying a car that can possibly have a higher future financial or historical value.

There are several excellent Jaguar history books that can help you to this end. "The Jaguar File" is a superb book that describes in keen detail every automobile produced by William Lyons and his company to present. It was first published in 1998 and written by Eric Dymock and printed by Dove Publishing (UK). Another exhaustive reference is "Jaguar--The Definitive History of a great British Car", by Andrew Whyte, published by Patrick Stephens Ltd., also a subsidiary of Haynes publishing. These and other books will provide excellent commentary and production statistics, discrepancies, and model spotting tips to help differentiate the characteristics of certain models. Many 'coffee table' Jaguar picture car books can visually give you an idea of what cars you may want to consider. Your local bookstore should have several examples in stock.

Of course, emotion, feelings, or memories also can play a big part in tugging at your heart strings (and your wallet) in buying that car! All of us make emotional decisions, and a car is one of the biggest emotional purchases that we make. And while certain model Jags may be more collectible than others, the real decision comes down to what you like, and what you want out of your next car. Making a 'logical' selection is fine, but after all--you have to like the car too!

Keeping the 4/12-14 rule in mind, as well as brief overview of Jaguar history, following are some models that are prime targets for immediate consideration for avid Jaguar enthusiasts.

Witness the current prices for XJ-S convertibles. These cars, widely considered to be both the most beautiful and collectible of the venerable XJ-S run, are at all time low price levels. It is possible to find a decent 1989 XJ-S for $12,000-$16,000. While it is too early to see an appreciation of "S" convertibles, their collectibility is not in question. Many recent magazine articles are showing interest and excitement about the XJ-S in general and convertibles in particular for good reason. The XJ-S is the last twelve-cylinder model that Jaguar sold--and may possibly sell again. The V12 is a magnificent engine in and of itself, and the feeling of smoothness and power of a twelve-cylinder car is not a common experience for most people. Combine this with the somewhat limited run of factory XJ-S convertibles of only six years over an entire production run of twenty-one years, and the formula is ripe for a future collectible car.

Also, another model to seriously look at in the XJ-S family is the rare and unusual Cabriolet. Imported to the US for only two years from 1986-1987, these were made in very limited numbers. While not a true convertible, this removable hard top model had the benefits of open air motoring with a fairly stiff body structure. Not attractive to some, but beautiful to others, the Cabriolet is on track to being a future star. Bridging the gap between Cabriolet and the factory convertibles of late 1988 are the Hess & Einhart ''factory authorized' convertible conversions of 1987-1988. These are considered by certain Jag enthusiasts to be rare and desirable due to their rarity of numbers and cleaner styling lines over the later factory convertibles. Be forewarned that they are not true" Brown's Lane" products, suffer known mechanical and build quality problems, and lack the rigidity of the later factory convertibles. None the less, the H&E cars seem to be attracting a small but dedicated group of fans.

Recent history has also given us a couple of other under appreciated Jaguars. The supercharged six cylinder AJ16 XJR of 1996 is another example of a future collectible. Both admired at the time for its brilliant performance, it was quickly overshadowed by the introduction of the all new XJ8, Jaguar's first eight cylinder engine, the successful S-Type, and it's immediate successor, the supercharged eight cylinder XJR. Prices continue to drop for this fantastic car, and hindsight is always 20/20! Especially be mindful of looking out for the brilliant metallic turquoise color XJRs. While ugly to most, this is the rarest XJR color of all, and to some, the most handsome.

Other neglected kitties are the 1994-1995 XJ12 sedans. In the same "boxy" body style as their XJ40 sisters, the V12 adds an extra bit of Jaguarness and exclusivity to a generally unloved body style. Again, Jaguar Cars are no longer producing the V12, so a future rarity factor enters in. With such a short production run, and the added refinement Jaguar had added at this point to the maturing XJ40, these big powerful sedans are just coming close to hitting that twelve year low. Finding a good, clean, low mileage car is paramount, as the mighty twelve is expensive to rebuild. The cost to do so can in some cases exceed the cost of the whole car into which to place it! Several excellent examples are currently available if you are patient and look around. Prices around $10,000 to $15,000 are not uncommon--if you can find one.

Although well beyond twelve years old, Series 3 XJ6s are still readily available. This model was made well known on "The Equalizer" TV show in the early 1980's, and is immediately identifiable to even the non enthusiast as a Jaguar. While some older model years may have been restored, many are in original condition, and it is not uncommon to find a one owner, "little old lady owned" special in your local want ads. Prices vary wildly from just over a thousand dollars up to almost $10,000. It is not uncommon to find a clean, solid, relatively rust free XJ6 for around $5,000. The last years of production (up to 1987) are the best built, with the nicest amenities, and are the most reliable of the series.

Often neglected, and surprisingly still under priced are the XJ6C and XJ12C coupes of the mid to late 1970's. These cars have everything going for them as far as collectibility goes, and if you take the plunge, you could snap up what may be the next great Jaguar collectible. With unique, beautiful styling (the only coupe Jaguar has offered since before W.W.II!!), a very limited production run (and with the magnificent V12 engine in the XJ12C) these coupes are, in this writer's opinion, the most under appreciated of future Jaguar classics. Prices again vary wildly, but 100 point JCNA cars have been known to go for less than $20,000.

After this, prices for affordable Jaguars start to diminish, however, there are a few bargains available. While V12 E-types have continued a steady and strong price increase, Series 2 E-types are still available at prices that are not out or reach--at least not yet. Unlike the "flat floor" early 3.8 Series 1 coupes (and especially convertibles) that are fetching ever higher prices, 1968-1970 E-types are still relatively inexpensive compared to the later V12 and early 3.8 cars. A non Concours solid 'Sunday driver' car in presentable shape can be had in the high teens to 20's. While ungainly to some, the 2+2 with automatic transmissions are available, often for far less than $20,000. As a bonus, many of these cars are available for general sale, even outside of Jaguar enthusiast circles. Your local newspaper or Hemmings are two excellent places to start. Often times, a better price can be had from a non-rabid Jaguar owner that is not selling a piece of his life and soul! Look around, as great buys are still available on these models.

Keep in mind too that Jaguar ownership does not have to cost a tremendous amount of money. Comparing an $18,000 '69 E-type to a new Honda Civic of equal value is easy and obvious. The Honda will never be collectible or rise in value, but the Jaguar will bring years of pleasure and pride, if chosen wisely. For the price of a new minivan, you could own a classy collectible Jaguar sports convertible!

Naturally, your final purchase decision ultimately will be an emotional one. Perhaps years ago you saw, or even owned , a particular Jaguar in a certain color, and you long for another. Or you admired at a distance that once new car with your nose pressed coyly against the dealership window. In any case, indulge yourself! Enjoying life is what it is all about, and if you have the time, money, energy, and enthusiasm, another future classic Jaguar can be yours more easily than you may think.


About the author - Wayne Estrada is President of the Virginia Jaguar Club and President and founder of HostYou.com, a national Internet web site company. Wayne is a former AT&T software engineer and also teaches UNIX, Java, HTML, and CGI scripting to major U.S. corporations.

Posted: 4/2001

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