Advice on buying a Jaguar XJS

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argatoga

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My Dad will be retiring in a year or two and has decided to reward himself with a fancy new used roadster. After looking around for a bit he finally gravitated toward the XJS, mainly due to the big v12.
Can anyone offer any advice on purchasing such a beast? Mainly what problems to look out for, but if possible perhaps some first hand experience with it.
 

ruuman

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I'm sure spectre with have a wealth of information, but my first tip would be look for rust everywhere. Next would be buy the absolute best one you can afford, I still remember how much my head hurt first time I saw that V12 engine. So many parts and pipes!!
Apart from that they are lovely cars, he should have a lot of fun.
 

Spectre

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Random thoughts on the matter:

For me, the answer is mostly "don't buy a V12 XJS" because they do have a *lot* of problems. The 5.3L V12 had several problems involving dropped valve seats (which immediately wreck the engine and require a rebuild) if they're run the least bit hot. Another endearing feature was the 90-92 cars' tendency to have catalytic converter fires because the Italian ignition system would temporarily fail on one bank, then start back up after the cat was full of gas. Earlier cars can have engine fires due to the fuel injector hoses getting brittle and leaking due to the heat in the Vee of the engine. ALL of them can have distributor explosions due to how they're arranged.

The 6.0L V12 introduced in 1993 is the best of the lot. They fixed most of the problems, and if you find a 96 (last year for it - though technically the last ones are leftover 95s) it *may* have a Ford distributorless ignition (or you can steal one from a dead 96 XJ12). The 6.0L cars also have the very latest equipment and electronics fitments for the XJS, and those are very reliable. In addition, they also got the 4L80E transmission (4 speed overdrive unit from GM) so they get a little better gas mileage. They also have conventional outboard brakes, so maintenance is easier.

So, if you MUST get a V12, get a 93-96.

That said, you will find that the XJS is more of a handful to own compared to the Jaguar sedans. The heat of the engine tends to mean more regular hose, belt, and component changes in the engine bay. Since the XJS was constantly revised over its entire lifespan, body parts often do not interchange across model years and therefore are more expensive. Electronics are usually shared with the same year or close to same year sedans; there is a tiny but dedicated aftermarket, and you can even get a Tremec 3550 or TKO manual transmission conversion (US XJS was never offered with a stick.)

There are also a few things you can do to get a little more power out of the beasts without too much money - the big one is fitting free-flow cats, removing a couple of restrictions in the exhaust, and going from four mufflers to two. This is typically good for 20hp or so over the original 322hp (in 6L cars).

As is the case with any Jaguar, you want to look for one with a FULL documented service history. As someone noted above, you want one with NO rust, so check under carpets, in the trunk, and under the car for rust spots. The only point where rust is actually *fatal* to the car is the radius arm mount points in the rear (assuming that you have full rust-through in spots), but rust *anywhere* can be expensive to fix and would need to be remedied immediately.

If your father is willing to pull much of his own work, the XJS is relatively easy to work on. There is a lot of good documentation out there; if you pull your own maintenance, the cost of ownership is surprisingly low. There are also a large number of mail order parts vendors out there with *great* discounts on parts. And, unless you have a really bad dealer, most parts for these cars are usually less than comparable parts for a Mercedes, BMW, etc., etc.

Finally, and I know this seems counterintuitive, don't automatically go for the car with the lowest miles. Jaguars like to be driven; ones that are driven regularly have a lot less problems with seal leakage and parts just dying for no apparent reason. Ones that sit around and then are sold as "low mileage" examples tend to end up being giant money pits. A properly maintained, regularly driven Jag is a marvel, a wonderful car that will serve with few problems for many, many years. A rarely driven, sporadically maintained Jag will be an unforgiving bitch that will eat all the money you have and ask for more.


If you would like, I'll see if I can get my XJS expert friend in here - he's more likely to be able to give you an in-depth run-down by year, if you want.
 

Steve Levin

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Unless the old XJS was your Dad's dream car, I'd stay far away from them.

You can get very nice and clean XK8's for well south of $25,000 and you'll have a much better experience.

Stev
 

argatoga

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If you would like, I'll see if I can get my XJS expert friend in here - he's more likely to be able to give you an in-depth run-down by year, if you want.
That would be great, he is looking at the later 6L models.

He is aware that there will be issues, in the past he has owned a couple BL cars and a at one point a Mark V. For him the allure of a big v12 and a Jaguar roadster is hard to ignore.
 

FordCrusherGT

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Spectre, if you're going to make comments like that, it would help if you had some experience with the cars you're talking about. :D

I'm Spectre's V12-loving friend. To give you an idea, I have owned 6 XJSs myself (two '82s, and '83, two '85s, and presently a '92). First off, I feel it is necessary to point out that there are many people out there who are still driving these cars as reliable daily drivers. I am one of them. It is not my only car (primarily because I need a truck with 4x4 as well), but when I was in college, my '82 was my only car. I drove 35,000 miles my first year of college with it. It never once let me down, and this was on a car starting out with 130,000 miles on it, ending with 165,000. Calling these cars unreliable and having a lot of problems is due to either not having any experience with them, or having experience with an idiot mechanic. I've worked on over 75 of these cars as well when I was a Jaguar mechanic., and probably a total of 150 differen Jaguars of all kinds made from '79 onward. Some earlier ones, but I don't deal with those as often.

To make a few corrections to Spectre's comments: The V12 is notorious for its dropped valve seat problem. This is not nearly as likely to happen as people say it is. I have severely overheated V12s, and have never dropped a valve seat. I am honestly not sure what exactly causes people to drop valve seats with these cars, but as far as I can tell you really have to overheat the thing very, very badly. Also, when it does happen, it requires removal of the cylinder head but usually you can get away with just having the head repaired and putting it back on, if you find a machine shop experienced with such repairs. The biggest problem I have noticed in terms of items getting cooked is the rear o-rings on the GM A6 AC compressor, however on the 6.0L cars that was replaced with a Sanden. The cars made '91 and earlier had fuel hoses connecting each injector to the fuel rail. Those hoses have been known to crack and have fuel leaks, causing a fire. This is mostly due to idiot owners who don't change the fuel hoses. 15 years later, they catch fire. Gee, what a concept. If you don't replace your fuel hoses and they get very dry and brittle after 15 years, they may leak. Starting in '92 this was resolved with a better design in which the injectors clipped right into the fuel rail, much like most other cars. I have not noticed a need to change belts or hoses any more frequently than I would on any other car.

The biggest issue that Spectre (almost) correctly identified is what was known as the "Marelli failure." '89.5 was when the first Marelli cars came out. Then through '95, the V12s were cursed with this ignition system that actually divided the engine up into two banks. The problem with this design is that the ignition cap and rotor are not that great. The rotor specifically will fail in such a way that half of the engine doesn't get spark. This is fine, except that the (now hot) catalytic converter is getting pumped full of combustible air and unburnt fuel. If you don't catch it quickly enough, it can set the car on fire. I had this failure happen to me about 2 months back. It is very obvious when it happens, the car loses power completely. To not have to call a tow truck, simply keep a spare cap and rotor (with appropriate tools) in your trunk, so you can change it yourself when it happens and be on your way. Sometimes one of the ignition coils fails, as well (there are two), but that is rarer.

It should be noted, though, that in the 1 year and 10,000 miles I've driven my '92 XJS since I bought it, this was the ONLY problem I've had with it, period, and if I was more diligent I would have changed them early. I am looking at dumping the whole system for a MegaSquirt & EDIS setup anyway, but that's another story.

The 6.0L cars are better. They seem to have a better cooling system, they have a Sanden AC compressor and more modern accessories in general, and they seem to get up to operating temperature faster. The big thing, though, is that they make a lot more power and torque. However, the 6.0L cars still had the same Marelli system except for the last year of production. The XJ12 had this distributorless system, but as far as I know the XJSs did not. Retrofitting it is not as simple as Spectre suggests, especially given how hard it is to find. Stick with the Marelli. Just change your cap and rotor yearly.

To be sure, the 6-cylinder cars are less maintenance and easier to work on. They also get (slightly) better gas mileage. The biggest expense in a V12 is maintenance if you need to pay someone else to work on it. Finding a good mechanic on these cars is difficult to do. However if you are willing to learn and do the work yourself, then you'll be fine. Most people I know who own these cars take that route, and it works out very well for them. The saying goes "There's nothing like a 12," and the Jaguar V12 is not only the most reliable production V12 ever made, it is actually just a reliable engine and probably the most streetable V12 available. The only reason I would suggest anyone to shy away from a V12 would be if they didn't have a good mechanic or couldn't find one. Any Jaguar has its eccentricities, though, and you'll need a good mechanic no matter which one you get.

The 6.0L cars came with a 4L80-E GM automatic 4-speed transmission behind it. The 5.3L V12s came with a TH400 GM 3-speed transmission. "The Driven Man" offers 5-speed conversions. I am on my second one (had one in the '82 and now one in the '92) and it is a fabulous upgrade that completely transforms the car.

I would go for the car that was taken best care of that you can find. When I bought my '92, it had 48,500 miles on it and was taken excellent care of by an older gentleman who had a lot of moeny he liked to throw at his car. So, the car basically lived at the mechanic's and came home on weekends for visits with the owner. What that means is that today I have an XJS with 58,500 miles on it that I have had only the one problem of a Marelli failure with. You want lower miles because it means that there is less overall wear on the car, but you also want one with a detailed service history that involves a lot of service. This means that you will then be able to drive it without having to service it frequently. If you drive it a lot (which is what I do) it will give you lots of reliable service. Don't drive it like grandpa - put your foot to the floor and let that V12 scream up to redline! It's good for it, I'm not joking. These engines do carbon up, and the "Italian tune-up" is the only way to keep that engine clean and running great.

Try not to drive it less than 20 miles. Highway driving (and backroad driving) is best. Spirited highway/backroad driving is better still. I am fortunate to have a 20 mile commute on highways and backroads, so my car gets this kind of use every time I leave my house.

Now, for the general synopsis of years:

'76-'81: Pre-HE. Fuel consumpion is measured in gallons per mile. OPUS (very old) ignition system
'82-'89: HE. Significantly improved fuel consumption with a redesigned cylinder head. Some interior improvements. Rear differential changed from 3.31 to 2.88 ratio. '85 introduced a trip computer. Lucas ignition system (best and most reliable)
'89.5-'91: Marelli HE. Marelli ignition system. Significant interior improvements, plus a minor change in doorhandles. Heated seats with lumbar introduced
Early '92: "Facelift." This was the first exterior redesign to the XJS since its introduction. All 92s had the 5.3L Marelli HE engine, same as the '89.5-'91s. The exterior and interior had major redesigns, however, which included a much different instrument cluster and trip computer. Power seats for the first time. Early 92s still had the older style suspension (which most view as better, including me) with the '89.5-'91 door handles. I have an early '92, and I view it as the best of all worlds, except I do wish I had a 6.0L (but I'm working on that...)
Late '92: Changed to the "XJ40-style" suspension, and door handles changed to a standard flapping type that people can actually figure out how to use. If you buy an early '92 or earlier, be prepared to explain to people "No, you push the door handle UP... no, don't pull on it... no, UP!!!"
'93: First year of the 6-cylinder XJS. Only 6-cylinders available in '93
'94-'96: 6.0L V12! Accompanied change in differential to a 3.54, with a 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission. Exterior, interior, and suspension the same as the late '92 onward.

As for me? I have an early '92 (by choice) with a 5.3L V12 and a 5-speed manual transmission conversion. It will be getting wheels from a '95-'97 XJR and a 6.0L V12 out of a '94 XJ12 parts car that I acquired hopefully over the winter with a MegaSquirt & EDIS to control it.

Hope this helps, let me (or Spectre, who will relay to me) know if you have any other questions.

-Ted
 

Aston Martin

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Stay away for the quad headlight models... they look terrible. :p
 

Spectre

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Spectre, if you're going to make comments like that, it would help if you had some experience with the cars you're talking about. :D
I do have experience (as you well know, dammit), just not nearly as much as you do with the bloody things. :) Why do you think I sent for you?

To clarify, FordCrusher here is the XJS/V12 guy in our little circle, and I'll gladly cede primacy in the subject (though my experiences with the V12 differ from his). I'm the sedan/inline six guy. :)

Calling these cars unreliable and having a lot of problems is due to either not having any experience with them, or having experience with an idiot mechanic.
I didn't say they were unreliable. I just said they had a lot of problems. :D More than the sixes, that's for sure. On the other hand, you XJS guys *do* currently have issues with parts availability from Jaguar with regards to body parts - was just talking to the dealer parts guy and he'd mentioned that.

To make a few corrections to Spectre's comments: The V12 is notorious for its dropped valve seat problem. This is not nearly as likely to happen as people say it is. I have severely overheated V12s, and have never dropped a valve seat. I am honestly not sure what exactly causes people to drop valve seats with these cars, but as far as I can tell you really have to overheat the thing very, very badly. /snip/ I have not noticed a need to change belts or hoses any more frequently than I would on any other car.
Or, overheating it by having a hose burst while flogging it hard on a hot Texas day - as our mutual acquaintance in Austin did - remember? He dropped three valve seats, IIRC.

And you V12 guys are the one with the TSB that says "change fuel hoses every 5 years", not us I6 guys. :p:lol:

However, the 6.0L cars still had the same Marelli system except for the last year of production. The XJ12 had this distributorless system, but as far as I know the XJSs did not. Retrofitting it is not as simple as Spectre suggests, especially given how hard it is to find.
Wasn't sure about that - that's why I said "may have". There are two late production 95 6.0L XJS at the local dealership (owned by, well, the dealership owner) - one actually came with the DIS system on it, and it was dead stock. That one, IIRC, came at the very tail end of production and Ford *may* have just said the heck with it and fitted it instead.

Anyway, I say again that FordCrusher here is the go-to guy on the V12s and XJS, and if he doesn't answer any questions posted here, I'll forward them to him. :)
 

Labcoatguy

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Spectre and FordCrusher, which years, if any, of Jags from these years had noteworthy body or chassis rust problems?
 

FordCrusherGT

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Spectre and FordCrusher, which years, if any, of Jags from these years had noteworthy body or chassis rust problems?
Answer: ALL! :)

Obviously the older ones have more corrosion issues as they're older. Basically, what it comes down to is if you want to find a car that lasts and will not rust out from under you, buy one that has lived in Texas, Arizona, So-Cal, or some similarly dry state in which salt is not used. Buying one from a salted area (or an area with very salty air) means you will most likely have rust issues. If not today, then tomorrow.

I bought my '82 out of Long Island. It had rust holes in the floorboards when I got it, not to mention the fact that both radius arm mounts rusted out and I had to have new ones welded in. By the time I'd had the thing 2 years, the rust was bad enough that I took it off the road because I didn't want to rip the subframe out. But, that car had been driven as a daily driver, including in New York salt. Then I drove it as a daily driver, including in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania salt.

Hope this helps.

-Ted
 

Labcoatguy

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Wow, sounds just as bad as 80s Japanese cars; it's hard finding a Mk1 MR2 with a clean body. I'll keep looking for post-Ford XJ6s, 8s, and Rs instead; I don't have the sentimental attachment to the XJS needed to put my heart into finding one.
 

tigger

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Wow, sounds just as bad as 80s Japanese cars ...
:yes: I've never been able to rust free fenders for my Celica, not even after maybe a dozen trips to the junkyard and looking at 20 or so of these cars.

Thanks Spectre and FordCrusherGT, I just learned more about the XJS than I ever wanted to know! :lol:
 

argatoga

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I'd like to thank Spectre and FordCrusherGT for the information. If any more questions arise I'll post them here.
 

Spectre

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FordCrusher, can you tell me the interchangeability of V12 engines from xj12 to xjs?
Thanks
All of them will interchange. All the blocks are the same external dimensions, and the 6L in the 94-96 XJ12s will swap right over to an XJS. The differences are all heads/pistons/cams/intakes, and in the case of the 6L, the crankshaft. And, of course, the intake manifolds for the various fuel injection systems.

Did you have a V12 go kaboom?
 
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justsoup

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Hey spectre and fordcrusher, Im pretty sure I already know the answer to my question but I'm going to ask it anyway. I'm 18 and I have some experience with cars fixing up my 1976 skylark. I love the xjs and I found a really nice and clean 1990 v12 xjs in SD for 3000 with only 30k miles on it. It runs fine but I was wondering if it would be completely out of the question for me to buy this car and use it close to a daily driver. Thanks
 

_HighVoltage_

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justsoup, first of all - welcome to FinalGear!

Second, I'm sure you've read this thread thoroughly so I'm gonna go straight for the question that matters - what is your budget? An XJS can be run as a daily driver, but don't expect a maintenance-free vehicle. If the car costs just $3000 and your total amount in your bank account is $4000 - forget it! Get something boring and Japanese. Yous imply can't afford maintaining these beasts.

One thing you have to understand about cars - Jaguars were never meant to be purchased by poor college kids, who just need "a car". You need money, mechanical skills, free time, and passion for these cars. I know the purchase price seems tempting, but there is a lot more to owning a car...especially a Jag.
 
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