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Telescope Transportation Device – Jaguar XJS

Posted by Ed Moreno   06/07/2005 10:59AM

This is a review of the Jaguar XJS telescope transportation device….

I acquired the XJS to do routine telescope transport duties, and knowing that the amateur community likes to hear reviews of all kinds of important telescope equipment and accessories, I though I would take a moment to share my thoughts regarding this purchase.

The primary reason that I purchased the Jaguar XJS is that being an SCT user, I appreciated the fine ride qualities of this vehicle in question. Preserving critical collimation is greatly aided by employing a sophisticated suspension to quickly dampen road irregularities. In this regard, I think that the Jaguar totally lives up to my expectations. Dampening time is very quick, usually fully dampening from a severe jolt in less than 2 seconds… Note that this is not as good as dampening time for my Ci700 for example, but the overall quality of the ride probably is difficult to match with lesser telescope transport devices.

Space for transporting observers is tight. The appointments are luxurious, and the chief astronomer and primary assistant enjoy particularly comfortable seating. Consider bringing one skilled observer along and leaving the smaller observers at home, though, as auxiliary astronomer seating is, ahem, quite limited.

Space is generous for SCT owners, because the trunk is wide and deep. A NexStar 11 can easily be accommodated within its confines, and the trunk trim in my sample is graphite gray, which nicely compliments the graphite tube of the NexStar 11. I know it is a little thing, but you know how anal some of us telescope geeks can be.

Even a fairly large truss dob would fit into the trunk. It is huge… You could fit a couple of dead bodies back there (these are British cars, wink wink nudge nudge), so holding a truss dob on the order of 13 or 14 inches is not out of the question.

My observers chair will even fit whole along the bulkhead at the front. This is a VERY nice touch, because to me, good observing is facilitated by having a good chair, and the fact that the manufacturers design accommodated this need should be applauded. Golfers would probably like it too…

Power is adequate. There is a centralized 12v DC receptacle that receives power even when the main switch is off. I would have liked to see an additional receptacle, but I purchased a 3 outlet splitter from Radio Shack, and this has proven to be a useful addition.

Fit and finish on this example are quite high, making it suitable for transporting even the bluest-blood APO. I promise you that no high end refractor would be embarrassed to emerge from such an elegant transport. In fact, I think this is perhaps the target demographic that the manufacturer had in mind when they conceived this vehicle. Now oddly, I don’t have a small APO, but if I did, I would feel quite good about nestling it in the rich, aromatic (non-outgassing) hides that cover the rear OTA holder shelf.

Shortcomings? Few, but serious…

First, there is no night-preserving instrument lighting. The analog dials are lit by small incandescent bulbs which provide a yellow light. Not my first choice. Even the small lights behind the flip-down solar eye guards are yellow/white.

Also, some of these lights cannot be manually switched off. They are wired into the electrical system in such a way that opening a door will result in lights coming on. This is a pretty serious shortcoming for such a specialty vehicle, and I am surprised by the builder’s clear miss here.

The other serious problem is that this design is not acceptable for large refractors. There simply isn’t enough room to store a long OTA. My Meade 152ED simply won’t fit ANYWHERE in the vehicle…. A pass through rear seat to the boot would have helped. But this is an unusually large OTA, so one can’t judge too harshly. I don’t think the original designers could have envisioned that such really large refractors would enter into the market so many years ago when the handsome lines were first penned….

Finally, there is NO auxillary eyepiece holder. In front of the passenger’s seat where the auxiliary eyepiece holder is normally found, there is an airbag!... I have to remind myself that this is an old design, and that the manufacturer couldn’t have anticipated the need to transport eyepieces weighing up to two pounds and costing hundreds of dollars…. Still…

In all though, and in spite of the more serious problem with the lighting, the Jaguar XJS is indeed a most commendable telescope transport device. Mine has transported my 8” SCT on many long trips, and the OTAs have always come out of the boot fresh, relaxed, and collimated.

But I think that the REAL benefit of this vehicle would be best realized by transporting top quality 4” APOs. I am not all that concerned with the snickering of the upscale crowd when I step out with my SCT, but some might feel self-conscious… So I am under-utilizing this vehicle, but I got it at an incredible bargain…

Now you all know the old argument, some telescopes are like Porsches, and others are like Mini-vans… Well, telescope transportation is most assuredly the same, and this telescope transportation is clearly in the former category, offering upscale and refined telescope transport, suitable for even the most glitzy 4” refractor.

And the good news is that on Astro-bay, these often come up at really great prices… Being terminally anal, many Astro-bay buyers won’t even touch a used one if it has the SLIGHTEST imperfection, nick, or scratch, so a careful budget minded observer can pick one up for a song!