If your ideal car combines twelve-cylinder power with sporting style and luxury, here are three potential V12 classics with good investment potential.
Jaguar XJ-S V12 (1975-1996)
The 1975-on XJ-S was available solely with Jaguar’s famous 5.3-litre V12 at launch, although six-cylinder versions finally arrived eight years later. For many XJ-S aficionados, the V12 is still the ultimate choice – and as a sporting grand tourer, it’s surely one of today’s top British-built classics.
The V12 was updated to HE spec for ’83, which meant an output of 295bhp and greater economy thanks to its modified cylinder heads and new fuel injection system. The XJS Cabriolet arrived during the same year, usurped by the long-awaited fully-open XJS Convertible in 1988. The V12 then received a major upgrade in ’92 thanks to an increase in stroke to create a displacement of 5993cc – and an output of 318bhp.
With production running through to 1996, there’s no shortage of surviving XJ-S V12s – and the last five years have seen an increase in values of the best. The days of being able to buy an MoT’d example for a couple of thousand pounds are long gone, and ultra-low mileage examples (particularly if they’re late cars) carry a premium. XJ-S specialist Clarkes Jaguar usually has late-model cars available for £30-40,000 in exceptional condition, though cheaper alternatives are available.
Presentable coupes can still be bought privately for £8-10,000, though budgeting £15-20,000 should get you an extremely well-preserved car that’s likely to hold its value. You can expect to pay slightly more for a convertible. Values have stabilised over the last 12 months, which is good news for potential buyers wanting to take their time choosing.
BMW 850 (1990-1999)
An oft-overlooked coupe that’s quite a rare sight on British roads but has seen plenty of upward movement value-wise over the last couple of years is the E31-series BMW 8-series, with the V12-engined 850 being of particular interest here.
Launched for the 1990 model year but not available in the UK until the following year, the 850i was renamed the 850Ci once the even more powerful 850CSi came on the scene. The 5-litre 850i was a quick car thanks to its 296bhp output, but the 5.6-litre (375bhp) CSi was in a completely different league. The 850Ci was then upgraded to a 5.4-litre version of the V12 in 1994.
These days there’s a big difference in price between an 850i/Ci and a CSi, thanks to the latter’s extra power as well as the added sophistication of rear-wheel steering, traction control, electronic dampers and adaptive gearbox. Irrespective of which model tempts you, however, you’re going to need deeper pockets than you would have done until relatively recently.
A CSi in show-worthy condition that might have set you back £30,000 three or four years ago can now command as much as £50,000, aided by its rarity appeal. By comparison, an 850i or Ci in similar condition can be found for ‘just’ £25-30,000 – although that’s a 30%-plus increase on three years ago. An 850i that’s presentable and mechanically sound might be found for £12-16,000, but once the price drops to around the £10,000 mark you can expect a car with potential problems ahead.
Mercedes-Benz SL600 (1992-2001)
When the R129-generation Mercedes SL arrived in 1989 to replace the long-running R107, the newcomer had a lot to live up to. Happily, however, it was a worthy successor thanks to its handsome styling, a generous specification and impressive power and performance. It really came into its own, however, once the range-topping SL600 arrived for the 1993 model year, boasting Mercedes’ 5987cc V12 in a 389bhp state of tune.
While certain versions of the R129 can still offer impressive value for money, this V12-engined flagship is now highly revered – and sale prices have increased significantly as a result. Finding the right SL600 won’t necessarily be easy, as this was always one of the rarest members of the R129 family. For your patience to pay off, however, you’ll need to budget anything up to £30,000 for a low-mileage SL600 in superb condition, while one that’s seen more life but is still presentable should top out at £18-20,000. Pay much less than that and you run the risk of entering ‘money pit’ territory, although the V12 powerplant can take a high mileage as long as it’s impeccably maintained.
Following the price trends of a machine as scarce as the SL600 isn’t always easy, but with R129 values in general having seen an increase of late, it’s estimated that a V12 version is up to 40% more expensive than it was just three years ago.