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Triumph Stag VS Jaguar XJS

Triumph Stag VS Jaguar XJS Published: 15th May 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

What The Experts Say...

John Ward set up Stag specialist EJ Ward back in 1981; he’s now handed over the reins to his son. Warns Mick: “The Stag makes a superb long-distance tourer… but because you’re likely to be buying a restoration project if you buy a £6000 Stag, you could be better off buying a £1500 car instead, as both will probably need a complete rebuild anyway.” According to Mick, Stag buyers generally don’t worry too much about road tax exemption, and currently the most popular colours seem to be a patriotic red, white and blue.

What decides a Stag’s value is how original it is. “While sympathetic upgrades will boost a Stag’s worth, if it doesn’t have the original 3.0-litre V8 its value will be decimated. A good Stag is cheap to own, cheap to run and will be reliable in service – the key is to buy a car that really is good, rather than one which just appears to be”, contends Mick.

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In the wild, a Jag would murder a Stag! But in the urban jungle? We pitch these old smoothies together to see what GentsGT makes

ANIMAL INSTINCT

At one point during the mid 1970s, the Triumph Stag and Jaguar’s XJ-S shared the same showroom space and a well-heeled, middle class semi-detached suburban Mr James after a suave GT, with cash burning a large hole in his wallet during those inflation hit times, had a choice of sorts; spend £9000 on the all new V12 Jaguar or half that on a sporty V8 Triumph that, after promising so much, was coming to the end of a rather disappointing and troubled life.

Fast forward some 40 years and it’s the Stag that’s enjoying classic car stardom rather than that E-type replacement that still can’t make the same leap, even though it was one of Browns Lane’s most successful models in terms of sales.

Let’s face it, this pair are a couple of old middle-aged smoothies still up for a bit of pulling and ideal for owners of a similar nature who want to go touring rather than tearing around.

WHICH ONE TO BUY? MORE CHOICE WITH THE JAG

Both are entirely orthodox designs dating back to the 1960s, relying on saloon car underpinnings; with the Stag it’s the 2000/2.5Pi while the XJ-S used a cut-down XJ6 platform. Both can be had in closed coupé or cabrio form – the difference being that the Stag is both, care of a classy if cumbersome hard top which is so heavy that many owners simply left them in the garage or employed them as capacious cold frames for the garden. The Stag only came in a singleton V8 form although as we all know, a variety of engines – from the Ford V4 and V6 to the Rover V8 – were gainfully employed during the car’s formative years due to spectacular failures of that power unit.

In contrast, Jaguar has used a cluster of engines over the years. Initially it was a V12 ( although why the XK 4.2 was never offered as an option to satisfy a broader audience we’ll never know) before a brace of straight sixes came on stream rather late in the day 30 years ago. Apart from a Mk2 Stag for 1973, Triumph did as little as it could get away with once the lucrative US market said “No thanks!”.

Jaguar nearly killed off the XJ-S in the early 1980s due to dire sales but stuck with it and the big cat progressively got better and better, especially after a substantial facelift in 1991 plus the advent of, first a curious-looking cabriolet, before the proper convertible was produced.

Both cars were mainly sold as automatics, which suits their character well. Jaguar did provide a five-speed manual for the six-cylinder versions while Triumph offered an optional overdrive which was effectively a six-speed gearbox.

What’s best? Well in terms of stature, the Stag wins hands down and has gone from zero to hero thanks to a brilliant army of specialists and owners clubs that combined have made it a better car than it’s ever been and what Triumph should have churned out in the first place!

The XJ-S has been fighting a rearguard battle for 40 years, blighted by the fact it wasn’t ‘the new E-type’ plus also those odd looks hardly helping. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that… but we can’t help but think that the Jag’s shape, while never in fashion, has never gone out either and has mellowed well. The Triumph, on the other hand, has always been a head turner; understated but stylish, if slightly ‘nose heavy’? That unique roof T bar adds rigidity and to the looks, we reckon, although many still don’t like the Stag’s scaffolding.

WHAT’S THE BEST TO DRIVE?

XJ-S WAS BEST IN THE WORLD Even the Jag’s biggest critics have to admit that the XJ-S drives much better than it looks and being a Jag, it’s no surprise to learn that this coupé-bodied XJ saloon was hailed as the greatest GT in the world on more than one occasion during 20 year lifespan. Handling and ride still impress if the suspension is still in good order (many aren’t) and performance from the AJ6 engines is excellent; the 4-litre is almost as fast as the magnificent V12 and a lot easier to run.

Stags are pleasing performers but hardly set the pulse racing. That wonderful-sounding V8 promises much yet with only 145bhp at its disposal, can only provide moderate pace (0-60 around 10 seconds) although the V8 can be coaxed to give up to 175bhp, reliably, if needed.

We wouldn’t bother because to our minds, these pair of smoothies are better suited for quiet, relaxed cruising. They’re a couple of softies too with the accent on comfort rather than GTi cornering prowess although it’s here that the Stag fares considerably worse. Both suffer from power steering that’s too light although at least it tempers over enthusiastic cornering.

As tourers, they all fare well with the Stag providing genuine 2+2 accommodation – the Jag’s rear seats are for small kids only who even then may feel claustrophobic.

Where the XJ-S scores heavily

is overall refinement – it’s a Jag after all. Stags are pretty civilised but wind noise is always a bit high and downright intrusive with the hardtop in place – another reason why many are left off. But at least Triumph cured the Stag’s predictable scuttle shake very well with its novel T-bar roof. In contrast rag top XJ-S’s can feel a bit floppy despite all that internal bracing. They look what they became: boulevard cruisers.

OWNING AND RUNNING TWO OF THE VERY BEST

There’s no worries here for potential owners as both marques are well served by specialists and owners clubs. Only the likes of the MGB bests the Stag for such support and you couldn’t wish for an easier prestigious classic sportster to maintain or a more enthusiastic band of fans like the Stag Owners Club. Apart from maintaining and repairing Stags, specialists have developed the car far better than the factory ever did and the problems that blighted the design – chiefly the engine – are now well and truly eradicated, to the point where Stags which were converted to other power plants are being switched back to Triumph power. The XJ-S is also well catered for and an increasing number of owners are now spending large sums on them. But that’s still the minority and the car’s low values deter big time restorations. Neither of these beleaguered BL products boasted Merc levels of build quality when new so many will be tired. While you see the truly top cats on sale for £20-30,000, generally the XJ-S sit comfortably under the £10,000 barrier, a price that buys a nice Stag but not the best; you need another £5000-10,000 to do that.

And The Winner Is...

Of the two, we’d opt for the Triumph Stag. It’s always been a good, well received GT since it was new and it was only poor development and durability which gave rise to the nickname ‘Snag’ and killed the car. Best
of all, it has evolved into a top drawer classic that’s full of class and quite rightly is hailed as a viable alternative to a Mercedes SL. The XJ-S beats the pants off the Triumph in terms of ability, speed and sophistication yet it still struggles to get the recognition it certainly deserves as a classic. However, some experts now reckon that it’s missed its ‘slot’ and may never achieve that status – ever. That’s unjust but shows just how illogical this market can be. The XJ-S is the better car full stop. But the Stag is the better classic car.



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