No engine configuration catches people’s attention as much as a V-12. The sounds these engines make, their smooth power delivery, and even just the sight of a “V-12” badge will get an enthusiast’s heart racing like little else. Unfortunately, that many cylinders come at a price, often a huge one. There are a few exceptions, however, and some neat 12-cylinder automobiles out there are still attainable for those of us without Ferrari money. “Attainable” just means purchase price in this case. Maintenance is a different matter, but that’s for another article.
Hagerty Price Guide: $6,500-$28,100
Many Jaguars of old used the legendary straight-six XK unit, but in 1971 the Series III E-Type received a new 5.3-liter V-12. The following year, that motor was crammed into the XJ sedan to create the XJ-12 (also sold as the Daimler Double-Six). Unlike the six-cylinder XJ-6, the XJ-12 was only available with an automatic. Fuel injection boosted power from 244 to 285 in 1975, and that same year a two-door version was introduced. Today, the coupes command a slight premium over the sedans. Most sensible people would buy a six-cylinder car, which looks just as good but isn’t nearly as complex. A V-12 Jag in good tune, though, is silky smooth and offers 140-mph performance combined with old school English luxury for boring economy car money.
Hagerty Price Guide: $18,000-$34,000
It’s not exactly breaking news, but the Ferrari market has shot way up in recent years. Even some of the less interesting cars to wear the Prancing Horse badge have been pulled up, though there are still a few stragglers. One of them is the four-seater 400/400i, which had all the right Ferrari ingredients, including a Pininfarina body (admittedly not their best work) and a big V-12 up front. About 500 examples of the 400 were built before Bosch fuel injection replaced the Weber carburetors, making it the 400i. About 1,300 of these were made before the 400i was replaced by the 412. The 400 has the somewhat unfortunate distinction of being the first Ferrari offered with an automatic transmission — a GM Turbo-Hydramatic. Prices have stayed low due to the fact that about two-thirds were fitted with automatics, combined with the fairly dated styling. That said, nobody does a V-12 quite like Ferrari, and here is one that mere mortals can afford.
Hagerty Price Guide: $6,500-$14,600
The 600SEC weighs almost 5,000 pounds and cost nearly $150,000 new in 1993. A classic example of Mercedes over-engineering, it had power everything and was incredibly complex from top to bottom, including under the hood with its 6.0-liter, 400-horsepower V-12. It offered commendable performance with 0-60 in 6.5 seconds and a top speed limited to 155 mph, but was also as luxurious as its exorbitant purchase price would suggest. When it came out, Jeremy Clarkson claimed that with the 600SEC, “You can do 1,000 miles and feel like you’ve just popped to the shops.” In the past 20 years, the 600SEC has depreciated like few other cars have, and its four-door stablemate, the 600SEL, can be had for even cheaper.
First Generation Lincoln Continental
Hagerty Price Guide: $16,000-$53,800
Lincoln’s first generation Continental was a prewar design that was revamped for production from 1946 to 1948. These hand-built cars featured Lincoln’s smooth, powerful V-12, and though they sold rather well for what they were, they are quite rare compared to other American cars of the day, with production numbers from year to year in the hundreds rather than the thousands. Today, one of the bigger appeals of the V-12 Continental is its status as a CCCA Full Classic ™, one of the newest and cheapest cars to have that distinction.
Aston Martin DB7
Hagerty Price Guide: $29,200-$44,900
Blessed with a gorgeous shape penned by Ian Callum, the DB7 was introduced in 1993 with a 3.2-liter supercharged I-6, but by 2000 the engine had grown to a 5.9-liter 48-valve V-12 and the car became known as the DB7 Vantage. Its 420 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque could get the DB7 to over 180 mph and to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. It was built during the Ford era, so there are switches and a few other things from the Ford parts bin, but the performance, sound and build quality were all solid, and a comfortable V-12 GT car at this price is pretty appealing.