V12 Cars You Can Afford!

DB7 GT 1 photo
Photo: Aston Martin
Oh, how great the automotive industry is. From a single-cylinder engine, we’ve evolved these wheeled machines into becoming objects of fantasy, of myth and fiction. Obviously, I think, there are cars out there that deserve their place on you computer’s desktop, but after a few years even these models are forgotten, which means you can actually afford them… maybe.

I’m talking about used cars with V12 engines! Everybody knows what are the best used hot hatchbacks with four-cylinder engines. I can tell you half a dozen six-cylinder sportscars that you should own at least once in your life. And even those mighty V8s supercars will seem agricultural and rough after they’ve aged. So what I thought I’d do is tell you about a few V12-powered machines that could become your next dream weekend toy.

Obviously, the whole point of a Sunday car is that it sits in the garage all week, gathering dust and waiting for that one hour drive when the misses needs eggs to make a pie. But, it’s a far better way to spend your money than buying new lawn furniture or upgrading your kitchen.

Obviously, the cost of developing a new V12 engine is quite high, so only prestige marks or brands who have billions to spend can afford to make them. These V12 GTs and supercars are ludicrously expensive to fix in some cases, so do your homework and be prepared to get your hands dirty.

Our first stop would have to be a Jaguar. There are other V12 cats on the market, but the coolest one to look at would have to be the XJS, and though it’s probably the least reliable on this list, it’s also the cheapest to put right, since it’s a simple old thing. When it was launched, the XJS was supposed to be an E-Type replacement, something that it failed at miserably. In 1975 when it was launched, this 2-door coupe looked to brash, to sporty to be liked by the stuffy Jaguar owners. Also, there was another problem: it was launched during the fuel crisis of the 70’s and as you can imagine, people really didn’t need a 5.3-liter Jaguar V12.

But the its performance was excellent for the time, as with its 280 or so horsepower and 400 Nm (300 lb-ft) of torque, it could get to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds and a top speed 143 mph (230 km/h). The car was re-engineered in 1991 and emerged from the darkness with a new 6-liter V12 engine which was claimed to produce 304 horsepower. A convertible version is available as well, if you’re really into hearing the engine.

The bad news is that the XJS has all kinds of crazy equipment that’s bound to go wrong: electric leather seats, wood interior, dodgy electric seats, electric mirrors and even cruise control. Old cars like these will rust standing still, but the good news is tens of thousands were sold and you can source second hand parts. You should have a rummage for yourself on a used car site. We found they were as cheap as €2,000 but you had to pay three times that if you wanted something decent.

When you think of Jaguar, the mind naturally wonders towards… Aston Martin, of course. The simple fact of the matter is that if you like Astons, you can just pick up the old Vanquish and enjoy that stunning body designed by current Jaguar man Ian Callum. You get a wonderful 5,935cc V12 engine with 456 horsepower and 540 N·m (400 lb·ft) of torque. However, the kindest thing we can say about this car is that it’s pretty, and that might be enough for you.

But, if you’re only interested in style and engine noise you’re interested in, than how about Ian Cullum’s first masterpiece, the DB7 (Vantage) It comes with the same sort of engine, made up of Ford V6 blocks, and the good news is you can have it with a 6-speed manual!

The DB7 V12 Vantage of that era was introduced in 1999 at the Geneva Motor Show and it came with a 426 PS (420 hp) engine. Zero to 60 came in 5 seconds and the needle pushed 186 mph (299 km/h). The DB7 was the most successful model Aston made (7,000 sold), but V12 versions are rare. Sometimes, one pops up cheaper, but prices hover around €30,000, which is VW Golf money if you think about it.

Ask a 10-year old who makes the sweetest V12 saloon, and he’ll surely say “Mercedes”. After all, their AMG engines go into racing cars and even the mighty Zondas. In the 90’s, we had V12 S-Class and SL-Class incarnations, but we think the most obvious buying choice would be a car that came with the 6-liter from its first incarnation, the CL-Class. In 1992, the 600 SEC was the first V12 coupe offered by Mercedes Benz. Two years later, it was renamed the S600 Coupe, and the CL name we know today was taken in 1996. Whatever, you call it, it’s powered by a 48-valve monster called the M120, which produces just under 400 hp and 570 Nm (420 lb-ft) of torque.

Looking at how cheap you can find them online, you’d be tempted to buy the CL600 in a heartbeat, but there’s tons of things that can go wrong with it, so choose carefully. Alway go for the sound model with good service history over the cheaper examples!

Obviously, owning a V12 Lamborghini would be seriously cool, they never sold that many, they are sought after, and frankly they’re rubbish to drive. You couldn’t even get a carton of eggs for the wife because they’d be cooked before you got home, provided that is you could get home. No, if it’s about the most heads turned for the buck, it has to be a Ferrari.

Ferrari’s second hand listing of cars is filled with incremental numbers that steadily got bigger, from the 208 to about 600, since production car engines got steadily bigger to make more power. There’s lots of 12-cylinder old Ferraris to consider, depending on your budget. There’s the flat-engined Testarossa, or the more modern 550 Maranello.
If you want a cheap car, you could look at a 442 horsepower 456, produced from 1992 until 2003. The 5.5-liter 65 degree V12 engine this car came with was derived from the Dino V6 block and gives you a zero to 62 mph time of about 5.2 seconds. It is essentially a detuned version of the engine that appears in the 550 and 575. You can pick one up for about €40,000 with very low milage.

If you’re reading this last paragraph and don’t have at least a million in the bank, please look away. It’s been nice having you here! Good, now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you about a more expensive kind of bargain.

If you’re into Ferrari’s trick systems and fancy electronics, you can pick up a 599 GTB Fiorano for about €100,000. Think about it, that’s what you’d pay for an average luxury SUV, be that German or British, and you get 620 horsepower, which is more than most supercars still offer today.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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