Tropical Cat: 1976 Jaguar XJ12C

Now this is one we don’t see often, a Jaguar XJ V12 Coupe. The vast majority of the V12 XJs were sedans, just 1855 of them were coupes. There is no way to be sure what overall survival rate is, but between rust and mechanical issues, I don’t imagine there are many left. This example is a ’76 (663 were built that year) and while it needs work, it seems like an amazing find. It belongs to reader Mike G’s father and he is helping him find a new home for it. It’s located in Honolulu, Hawaii, so inspecting it might be a challenge, but you could always pack your warm weather gear and make a vacation out of it! They are asking $10,000, so if you are interested in viewing it or making an offer, you can contact them via email here.

Being rare isn’t always a good thing, it typically means parts will be hard to find. Thankfully, Jaguar didn’t change much when they turned the sedan into a coupe. As a matter of fact, the coupe and the sedan ride on the exact same chassis. As an example of the lengths they went to cut costs, they didn’t even stamp out new doors for the coupes. Instead, they simply welded on an extra piece to lengthen the doors. While it might not sound like the best way to do things, it should help keep restoration costs down.

Speaking of restoration work, this Jag is going to need some rust repair. While the exterior looks to be in quite solid shape, there is rust in the floors. That’s too be expected though, given it’s a late ’70s Jaguar that has spent most (if not all) of it’s life in the humid climate of Hawaii. Hopefully the rust isn’t too serious, but you never know what might be hiding under there.

I know the V12 might be intimidating to work on, especially when you compare it to the earlier inline 6, but these are quite smooth engines with loads of power when they are working right. Given how popular the XJs have become over the past few years, finding information and parts for it really shouldn’t be too difficult.

Thankfully this Jag looks to be complete, so you won’t have to go hunting for quite so many pieces. My biggest concern really is what rust might be lurking underneath. If it turns out to only have a few bad spots, I think this could be one cool cat to have! Additional photos can be seen here. So would you take on saving this Tropical Cat? If so, be sure to contact Mike & Sue for more information!

If you have a barn, field or garage find that needs a new home, we would love to help you out! Be sure to take a look at our Submissions page to find out more.


  1. Dan Sitton

    curious as to why you assume working on the V-12 would be intimidating to the reader ? why wouldn’t you assume someone who visits this site and simular sites is a gearhead and probably quite adept at working on practicly any motor for that manner

    Like 1
    • Leylandtr6

      He probably assumes that because most of us who have worked on any British Leyland engine expecially the Jaguar’s V12 know that it’s a giant p.i.t.a to work on, even for the seasoned British car mechanic.

    • DW

      Mechanically it is not a complex engine. The challenge to maintaining it is how tightly everything is wedged into the engine compartment. For example, the AC compressor has to be lifted to change the front 2 plugs and the starter is in there somewhere but I never could get to it. Thankfully it kept working after it developed a slight clunk.

      That said, driving one of these is like driving a turbine powered car – smooth as silk and seems to just keep spooling up as you open the throttle.

    • HeadMaster1

      Dan, I don’t think it was meant as an insult, just a statement that most people don’t have much hands on experience with V-12’s, as you’d fid people familiar with say a small block Chevy……..

    • Bob

      I can think of 2 reasons. The V-12 was problematic when current and it’s crammed into the engine compartment. The straight 6 would be physically easier to work on.
      My boss in the late 70’s had his V-12 replaced by a Chevy V-8. Sacrilegious, yes, but he never walked home again.

    • Dolphin Member

      Probably lots of BF readers are gearheads and can work on engines, but take a look at that engine bay. I like to work on my engines, but that engine bay is really FULL. That’s a Jag V12 in there, and it has large intake plenums, one on each side, plus big air cleaners, lots of tubes, hoses, and other things that could be very difficult to get to, like power steering systems.

      The important thing about this car is that anyone wanting to own it needs to be realistic about how many systems are in that engine bay, and how much effort it can take to R&R some of them.

      Of course, it’s a V12 coupe, and like the description says, there weren’t many of them made, so to some people the tradeoff of a full engine bay for a special Jaguar could be worth it.

    • Josh Staff

      Hi Dan,
      I didn’t mean it as an insult, I just have worked on a couple V12 Jaguars and can attest to how complicated they can seem when you first open the hood. It shouldn’t scare anyone anymore than a V8 or an inline six, but there isn’t a lot of space to work and that’s a lot of hoses and wires running everywhere. At least this one doesn’t have the fuel injection system, talk about a mess of hoses! Sorry if you took that comment as an insult, it really wasn’t meant as one.

  2. Mike

    OK, so how much to get it shipped to the States?

    • audifan

      I always thought Hawaii was part of the states too.
      If you meant shipping to the mainland, it’s about 1.000.– to Seattle, Los Angeles or San Diego on Matson.

  3. Jersey Joe

    Dan I’m with you, nothing intimidating there… all of those vacuum lines, the relay wiring, etc., reminds me of my grandmothers spaghetti. Just dig in and enjoy. Now for the insides of that V-12… it’s not going to be brojol, believe me!
    At least she’s not fuel injected, that wouldn’t be much fun?

    • Francisco


  4. nessy

    This rare Cat was only offered in 75,76 and 77. They were offered in both the 6 and 12 on the short wheelbase XJ body. There was also an XJ6L/XJ12L sedan. The XJS as most of us know came out for the 76 model year. Very beautiful cars. I had a gold 76-6 coupe and a green 77-12 coupe. The 6 was easy to work on, the 12 was a bear, no room to move. I sold both due to rust issues. Watch out for underbody rust on this era Jaguar. To this day, I have never seen a Jaguar from this time period rust free, including this example. Great color combo too. He is not going to get 10k but I’m sure he could get 5k or 6k in a minute from a buyer who knows how special this car really is..

  5. hhaleblian

    I had the 6 cylinder version of this. I could here the thing rust at night. One of the biggest pieces of junk I’ve ever owned and I’ve had way more than my share.

    • Woodie Man

      Oh no! On my bucket list is an XJC 6 with a sunroof!. We had a ’73 XJ sedan.quietest car I ever owned. Blew a head gasket on the I5 in LA back in the early eighties…that was a pita!

  6. Horse Radish

    Hawaii is probably not a good place to keep a car like this outside, even if it is covered up.

  7. JK

    Always was a dream of mine to take one of these coupes and make a convertible out of it.

  8. Scot Carr

    ~ I’ve had a 6cyl XJ coupe, blue & black, and a 350 SBC XJ coupe, green & black, as well as a SBC XJS. A common joke once was Jaguar is the only car that increases in value without an engine. The V8 cars are faster out of the hole, but not nearly as long-legged as the V12. I would love to find another two door that I can afford but you’re not going to see one of these in the back row at the typical buy-here, pay-here.

  9. Rustytech Member

    I love the big Cats, this one though needs a lot of help! That leather upholstery alone will cost a fortune. The V12 was not all that difficult to work on, especially compared to some of what’s out there today. I had a 62 E-Type years ago and found it quite easy to work on, of course any time the fenders move out of the way with the hood it’s going to be easier. I’d leave this one alone and look for a better example. Too easy to get upside down on this.

  10. edh

    Best candidate for a LS swap

  11. David Miraglia

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But that old saying that Jags are animals when it came to maintenance.

  12. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    I own one of these.
    I also concur this one has some rust issues that my New England car didn’t have.
    The V12 is a great engine but far too complicated. Example, that distributor cap, looks like a dinner plate, has to be that big to keep from cross arcing between cylinders. Turn 5000 rpm and you have a distributor needing 60,000 sparks a minute, to me that’s mind boggling.
    It’s also somewhat vexing for the cap manufacturers as the QC on those things is spotty. When the cap started getting made out of unobtanium and pricey a crank trigger and Subaru coil packs, they are compact and in multiples of 4.
    When I bought mine, I knew it needed some work, the doors were a surprise! These cars were the last of the coach built due to their small numbers. When the driver’s door panel was removed it was clear that the door was pieced together with part of the rear door that came on the 4-door. The outer skin one piece.
    I figured it was an accident repair. When I opened up the passenger door, same thing. The two door version has longer doors and rather than new stampings for such a small amount of cars, they pieced and welded these.
    Being a pillarless Coupe with no frames around the window the window lift and sealing system is overly complicated trying to minimize wind noise. The regulator system that controls this are underbuilt. I replaced mine with a system name for hot rods, far stronger.
    As far as I know, these were all vinyl roofed cars as the roof, again pillarless, contained a lot of lead at the seams which tended to flex, and crack the paint, hence the vinyl.
    The V12 needs to watched for overheating. This era has a veritable multi bank of relays that as time goes by are harder to obtain.
    I like the older bigger ones sedans and own a MkVIIM and a MKIX, but the XJ12C is more of a Tourer, prefer it to the XJS and the lines are distinctive.
    There was a time I preferred the six, but if you own one of these the V12 is the way to go. The electric smoothness is almost worth the cramped engine bay, and of course, this like other Jaguars, suffers from that rear end that will need regular attention. Two courses of action either piecemeal, which will bite you in the butt on the side of the road or do it all at once which will bite you in the wallet and in the butt. The difference is piece of mind.

    • Dolphin Member

      Interesting, your comments about the single large Jag V12 distributor, Ross, which had to be large to keep the conductors inside far enough apart to keep them from arcing.

      I owned a Ferrari 330 GTC that had a 4-liter V12. Ferrari’s solution was one distributor at the rear of each bank. Problem solved, since it was no different from a 6-cylinder engine, except there was the equivalent of two straight-sixes running on a common crankshaft, common oiling and cooling systems, etc.

      But with ’60s technology that Ferrari V12 and its systems were pretty basic and easy to work on.

      • Ross W. Lovell

        Greetings All,

        Dolphin, I noticed the twin distributors that eventually showed up on Enzo’s fare. When Jaguar stopped using that pie plate, they too used Twin distributors, there were some, er, how to put it, problems.
        Remember those XJS engine fires….well, those are linked to the twin Marelli system that Enzo used. Somehow, a whole distributor would cease to fire, leaving the other one to continue on its own. V12’s being inherently smooth, this wasn’t by always immediately noticeable by the driver.
        What was noticeable, was the fire that started once enough gasoline, made it through to light, using the previously very hot cat converter. The fire usually was quite noticeable.
        Just like the Brits to save money. Why add another idiot light, when the blistering paint on their bonnet will tell them something is amiss.
        There was a time the dealers had a special number that contained the parts needed to fix the damage, incorporated into a kit.
        I swear it makes me wonder in Lumenition and Petronix haven’t taken over making distributor caps and rotors and then making them crappy just to sell their product.
        Yes, I know it’s not true but with the advent of so many poor ignition parts it does make me wonder.

    • The One

      The voltage required to ignite one cylinder in a nitro fueled dragster is equivalent of 3 arc welders, just sayin’

      • Ross W. Lovell

        Greetings All,

        The One, voltage and amperage 2 different animals. Ignition coils normally put out 12-15,000 volts but less than a third of an amp. A third of an amp can kill you, AC or D.C. My Miller 300 TIG welder, runs on 230V, far less than the standard coil. Fluorescent ballasts, also known as transformers put out around 20,000 volts, still low amps. I been bit by both.,

        Jaguar V12’s use a twin coil system, one coil hooked to distributor, the othevcoil used as storage to improve the recovery time, remember that 5000 rpm/60,000 sparks a minute.

        For you motorcycle guys, especially two strokes, Delco coils put out far more than a stock coil, you just have to be more creative when finding a space to mount them.

      • Pete

        The V12 used three versions of ignition systems. The original OPUS with one coil, then the Lucas system with twin coils and finally the Marelli system. The weakness of the OPUS was the amplifier. The Marelli had a bad design in the rotor/cap that shorted to chassis.

        They are all old now and weakened by age. My V12 coupe runs reOPUS which is new electronics in the old wrapper. No problems. Oh and NGK Iiridium plugs so no plug changes for the next 20 years.

  13. Glen

    I just want to go to Hawaii ! It was -12F here this morning. (Carnarvon,Ontario)

  14. Allgonquin

    I think the long wheelbase cars look better proportioned than the coupes. 75 was the first year of injected 12 cylinder cars, while the pre-75 carbureted cars were less complex. I had 2 successive ’74 XJ12L’s, and found the engines relatively easy to work on. Had to change one head, as it dropped a valve seat, which I have heard was not uncommon, but the job was not difficult. I think $10K is way overpriced for that car. Maybe for an immaculate specimen, but not that one! I always loved the Tom Walkinshaw XJ’s before the XJS program.

    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      Algonquin, you probably overheated it, but you didn’t know it.

      Jaguar had the coolant sensor on the first bank being supplied water from the water pump. By the time that sensor reacted, the other side already had damage, The UK cars didn’t have that issue as the steering column being moved for the US version moved the sensor.

      You would have never known.

      Which side did your valve seat fail?

    • Pete

      The coupes were Broadspeed, not Walkinshaw.

  15. Allgonquin

    Poor memory on my part. Those XJ race cars were from Leyland, not Walkinshaw.

  16. The One

    The early Ferrari V12z are wicked, My buddy would grab each distributor, one in each hand, stick his head close to the engine and time it by ear. That guy always built the fastest cars. One of a kind person. We were all sad to see him go. One of the most humble gear-heads I have ever met. We called him the “Walking Chiltons” He would recite part numbers..

  17. Skloon

    I did some bodywork on a few of these and I am sure this has some horrors lurking inside, the vinyl roofs were to cover up the bad seams and as someone else mentioned the doors are of interesting construction, one cline brought his in with seven extra doors none of which were useable, ended up making a door out of some sedan doors, bUT I find them beautiful and when the engine works they are smooth as silk the new owner should replace all rubber bits under the hood asap

  18. John

    The XJ12C profile is one of my favourites. I love these but I would replace the engine with something Chevrolet

  19. Chris In Australia

    My first thought is LS 1, though I wonder if you could adapt modern
    throttle body EFI and a distributorless ignition system to the V12.

  20. CanAm

    Great car
    Beautiful styling
    I had the MkX/420G which was the test bed for the v12
    Very reliable engine and gearbox, in fact overall mechanically they were great.
    Some aspects of Lucas were not the greatest, but, like any luxury car, once the original owner moved it on they pass into less caring owners that don’t maintain them – that’s when problems arose.
    Still have a MxIX which is a great cruiser getting many thumbs up.

  21. Mephistopheles

    The majority of these comments are why I stopped using this site. Bunch of amateurs with likely no actual experience on the car in question repeating hearsay and old wives tales.
    There is nothing intimidating about working on a Jag, even a v12, for anyone with enough intelligence to use a manual and LEARN the systems BEFORE you tear into it and screw it up by treating it like your mommy’s Impala. And for those who listen to half-assed mechanics telling them they need to yank the v12 and install a chevy, you need a new mechanic not a new engine.
    I only came here this time because the XJ12C is a beauty and rare beast, this one however, is seriously over priced. Bye again, please feel free to proceed with the thumbs downing…

    • DW

      Hear, hear!

      The challenge of the V12 is purely workspace and access as it is a tight fit in there but I have never understood swapping it for a US V8. Totally de-Jaguarizes the car. If the V12 intimidates a buyer, they should get the XJ6. Cars which get V8s because the owner trashed the V12 through poor care are, I suppose, better than crushing the rare body.

    • Woodie Man

      Well my devilish friend, like most of whats posted on the internet, where you combine opinion with the click of a mouse, some of it is wrong, wrongheaded and just plain out to lunch. I think you miss the point , imho, of BF. Of all the web sites dedicated to old cars, I find the majority of folks who visit here to actually have something constructive to say.and I always learn something. Those that don’t know and spout off are often corrected. But I find the camaraderie here as to old cars to be second to none.

      I’d give it another chance and contribute what you know to inform those of us who don’t know. :)

    • Horse Radish

      You’re right on the money for the most part.
      Though I would hope that the Chevy swap only happens when the V12 were no longer working or driving the car.

    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      The V12 has its shortcomings. The opus ignition is one of them. Trying to get certain relays close to impossible. Still amazed Jaguar got this one done and out under British Leyland’s watch.

      It used to be, when it came to rebuilding, it was easier to find another engine, they were plentiful, especially with the XJS around and you had the benefit of later technology. Those days are dwindling.

      Rebuild costs are astronomical, both parts and machining. Some reason it’s not the same as doing 2 sixes? Part of this may be the limited number of choices for aftermarket parts.

      I’ve seen the V8 conversions, understand the reason why and no doubt frustration initially plays a part in the decision to undertake. Saw one done in ’80 which was on a coupe, then 4-5 years old. Dealer expertise or lack of seem to be the contributing factor in that one.

      Good engine let down by ancillary systems.

      To the gentleman with the MKX equipped with a V12. I knew of the car’s existence, did they make more than one that way?

  22. Horse Radish

    As coincidence has it, one of these Coupes (V12 originally) was coming up at a local auction at the time of this post.
    I could not pass it up knowing how rare it is.
    It has a Chevy 350 conversion, but I have XJ12L (also a 1976) project awaiting resurrection, which may have to become the engine donor.
    Strangely enough this car has rust, but only under the vinyl roof, where-as the bottom is solid….go figure

  23. Patrick

    My dad has one of these but it is in waaay better shape. No rush, engine and engine compartment is clean. It needs new skins on the fron seats and a new headliner. The fuel lines/system need to be rebuilt and that awful Borg-Warner transmission should be as well. Other than that, his ‘76 XJ12C is a sexy cat. I am seriously considering taking it off of his hands and doing all of the upgrades. Love that car!

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