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Silver Spirit Vs XJ40

Fanfare For The Common Man Published: 2nd Mar 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Silver Spirit Vs XJ40

What The Experts Say...

Our contributor Paul Bussey has run a Bentley Turbo for many years and regular readers will have read his experiences. His car is essentially reliable but has cost a few bob to keep sweet – and it’s an excellent example! Reader Frank Mills went the other route a few years back and bought a £4000 Silver Spirit of 1988 vintage. Solid but hardly concours, Frank says it’s been fairly low cost to run – not much more than an XJs he’s had – but he is good at DIY. Frank’s advice is to look at many examples and go for one with a solid service history rather than glossy paint. He’s on the lookout for a cheap Bentley S next.

Silver Spirit Vs XJ40
Silver Spirit Vs XJ40
Silver Spirit Vs XJ40
Silver Spirit Vs XJ40
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Fancy owning a classic that was hailed as ‘The best car in the world’? Well before Mercedes got in on the act, that accolade belonged to the Brits, first with Rolls-Royce and then – thought many -– Jaguar with the XJ6.

But the Silver Shadow and the original S1 XJ hung around for too many years which, allowed their rivals to catch up. Both Brits were replaced by much superior and lauded designs, the Silver Spirit and the XJ40. Yet both models now languish almost in the banger end of the classic market, for varying reasons, not least percieved quality and image. What this means is that values are on the fl oor for the best of the best - so why not snap up fi rst class travel at economy class prices?

Which Model to buy?

Coventry vs Crewe

We pitched the old MkX against the Shadow back in our October 2011 issue (back issues still available) and little had changed in terms of character with their replacements. The Rolls is still the car for those who want upper crust luxury and status above all else, while the Jag panders to the sportier driver at the same time. Note that we emphasise ‘Rolls’ here because it’s a different matter when Bentleys enter the equation. The Mulsanne marked a resurgence in Bentley fortunes because the badge then started to appeal to a younger less stuffy type of owner, especially when the sportier models such as the Turbo were launched. 

The Jaguar XJ40 took almost 20 years to reach the showrooms and while reliability wasn’t great, few people would deny that this square-cut XJ was streets ahead of previous models – and about time too, many said.

The problem with the XJ40s long gestation period was that fashions came and went over the two decades and the boxy look didn’t appeal to traditionalists. Enter the X300, which although was an XJ40 under the skin, those more rounded lines gave it an appearance similar to the old XJs. Looks are only skin deep but thankfully the X300 also was a much improved car all round.

If it’s luxury you’re after then there’s little in it between a top Jaguar or Daimler Sovereign and the Rolls, but in terms of spaciousness then Crewes’ fi nest has the edge alright. What about image? Well both designs are caught between a rock and hard place, lacking the aura of earlier models and falling into the trap of being just glorifi ed ‘superbangers’, particularly in the Jag’s case. They’re great value as a result – but classical rather than classic. 

What's the best to drive?

Speedy or serene

That’s the beauty of both of these models because, depending upon the version selected, you can choose a Rolls, Bentley or Jag to suit your driving style. In absolute terms the Jaguar has the best blend of speed and serenity; the XJ40 was streets ahead of the old yet much acclaimed S3 which made it one of the world’s very best cars indeed. In contrast the Rolls is much softer sprung and wallows far more but of course it’s ideal for cruising. Opt for a Bentley, especially the Turbo, and it’s a different matter entirely although the fi rmness of the chassis and the accompanying noise and groans from the underpinnings are most un-Crewe like. If you don’t need straight line pace but appreciate a tauter feel then the Bentley S and the Brooklands models are better, easier to own and more subtle looking bets. 

The XJ40 had many faults, but driver appeal was never one of them. It really put Jaguar back to the top of the class while the AJ6 engines are extremely good performers; the 4.0 is as quick as a V12, for example plus the manual gearbox is a joy to use. When the XJ40 morphed into the X300 it also gained the magnificent V8 power plants where even the base 3.2 has more than enough poke for many drivers. The real scaled cats are the XJRs – a supercharged straight-six initially before going the V8 route. This sports saloon must rank as one of the best performance bargains in the classic world and this modern day ‘Coombs’ is a nailed on future classic that’s worth nabbing now while they remain so affordable and are no dearer to maintain.

In short, for those who prefer to saunter then the Rolls and the base Bentley Mulsannes are the best choices. But if you like a certain sporting edge then the Jaguar will appeal more and yet still match the Crewe couple for overall ride comfort. If it’s a sense of occasion you’re after then it has to be a Rolls – doesn’t it?

Owning and running

Surprisngly affordable…

You know the old saying, it’s not the buying of the car that costs, but the running of it’… Yet it’s no exaggeration to say that by dint of using the right specialists, this pair can be run on a typical modern repmobile budget. The Jaguar is the easiest and cheapest to own and this is helped by rough XJ40s selling for a few hundred quid; a great source for future cheap spares if you have the space and inclination to strip one down. It’s a fairly easy car to repair by the kerb – certainly simpler than the Crewe pair which thanks its advanced hydraulics and electrical systems is still a complex car to work on. The good news is that there’s an army of specialists (many ex-dealer trained) to care and repair them, plus there’s dedicated dismantlers (try Montague of Surrey). That said, you probably need to look at spending £500 minimum to keep the car in good order. As we said, buying prices aren’t an issue and you can buy a lot of prestige for £4000 or even less. The danger of the latter course is ending up with a real dog and there’s a lot around to catch out the unwary. 

In many ways the biggest off putter could be down to image. The Rolls/ Bentley duo are suffering the same way Shadows did before they evolved into an ‘old money’ classic, while XJ40 and the later X300 Jaguars reside in the ‘superbanger’ category and will do for some time yet. Interestingly a few specialists have reported to us a signifi cant rise in sales of early XJs…

And The Winner Is...

It’s a difficult one and the fi nal choice may boil down to personal preference but there’s no doubt that, if you get a good example, a Silver Spirit/Mulsanne or an XJ40/X300 Jag are all fantastic value for money; you could be buying a fine £100K car for pocket money. The danger is landing a duffer which will financially bleed you dry. The bottom line is that the majority of car enthusiasts dream of owning a Rolls or Bentley one day and with prices so low, there’s never been a better time. Just remember that quality comes at a price and with these cars it’s one that’s worth paying for.

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