Grace, Space and Pace | 50 Years of the Jaguar XJ

In 1968, Jaguar launched the Series I XJ at the Paris Motor Show, it was the last saloon car from Jaguar that Sir William Lyons had any involvement with, it was advertised under the mantra of “Grace, Space and Pace”.

With 245 horsepower on tap, and a top speed of 124 mph, it’s easy to see the ‘pace’, but the grace part came from what can only be described as ‘wafty’ handling; you didn’t so much drive anywhere in the XJ, but waft along elegantly, your stringback gloves giving you a firm hold on the wheel, cravat adding that final touch of style … this was motoring at its finest.​

Generation IIX

50 years later, we’re on the eighth generation of the XJ, and you can trace the lineage all the way back to Sir William Lyons’ days, and to an extent, the same characteristics still apply – today’s XJ has all the pace you’ll ever need, has a generous amount of space, and as for grace … does anything really match a Jaguar for grace? We don’t think so.

The key to the success of the Series I wasn’t entirely down to styling or dynamic driving feel; competition came in the form of the BMW 2800 and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, both retailing for around the £2,700 - £3,600 mark, the Jaguar came in at a lightweight £1,797 for the 2.8 litre model and £2,398 for the 4.2 litre engined variant. The big cat was taking the fight to the Germans, and winning.

Understanding the nomenclature of the XJ is something that only true enthusiasts are capable of, because it can get quite … complicated.

XJ is Jaguar’s code for a number of models and variants, it’s derived from the “eXperimental Jaguar”, but then we have the XJ6 & 12, XJ40, XJ Series (I, II, III), XJ X300 / 308 / 350 / 351 and the latest XJ50. Just to add a little confusion, we also have the XJ3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 16, 22, 23, 27, 41, 42, 57, 58, 81 & 220, which isn’t necessarily the supercar – it’s no wonder that people just call them an XJ.​

Celebrate Good Times  

To celebrate the momentous occasion of a fifty-year production cycle, Jaguar decided to take one model of each generation to the Paris Motor Show, on a road trip that encompassed some of the more iconic heritage motoring sites, including glorious Goodwood, Jaguar Classic and Le Mans.

The 521-mile drive took the cars from their manufacturing home in Castle Bromwich, all the way back to 1968, where the legend was revealed at the Paris Motor Show.

The line-up included:Jaguar XJ Series I (1968)

  • Jaguar XJ Series II (1973)
  • Jaguar XJ Series II Coupé (1973)
  • Jaguar XJ Series III (1979)
  • Jaguar XJ40 (1986)
  • Jaguar XJ X300 (1994)
  • Jaguar XJ X308 (1997)
  • Jaguar XJ X350 (2003)
  • Jaguar XJ X351 (2009)
  • Jaguar XJR575 (2017)
  • Jaguar XJ50 (2018)

​The car leading the way was PHP 42G – Sir William Lyons’ personal company car, the 370th 4.2 litre XJ6 ever built, which now belongs to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, who were responsible for carrying out a full nut and bolt restoration of this priceless heirloom in 1994.

Looking to the Future

In many ways, the new generation of XJ Jaguar’s are far removed from their ancestors, but you could say that about any model with such a long production history – with so many new innovations in the automotive industry, science-fiction is becoming science fact.

But look more closely and you’ll see everything that Sir William held dear incorporated even in to the very latest XJ50 model; rakish good looks, a sophisticated elegance, power in abundance and a ride quality that other manufacturers struggle to replicate – the 2018 Jaguar XJ50 has all of that and more.

But don’t take our word for it – watch Jaguar’s official video as to how the 1968 Series I morphs almost seamlessly in to the current model, it clearly shows the traditions being carried over throughout the life of the model.

Now that we’ve whetted your appetite, why not come and see for yourself just what the new Jaguar is all about? Our friendly professionals will do their very best to answer any questions you may have, even if that’s about the origins of the Series I (although we can’t promise to be quite as knowledgeable on Sir William Lyons himself!).

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