Advice on buying a Jaguar XJS

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afterburner1

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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
 

afterburner1

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sorry I Offendead yyyyou wIth use Of capootal leters. Sinv I am 87tears old I have

trouble using th key boad.

this will b m last post
 

jetlag700

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I have to refute Spectre's claims that the XJ-S is an unreliable car. I've mine since 2009, and it now has nearly 131,000 miles on it and still has has good compression and lots of power. And I was one of the unfortunate ones to have IDIOT MECHANICS working on my car. NEVER again, now I have a Mechanic who is also a Mechanical Engineer who specializes in Jaguar cars.

My car is modified somewhat, I removed ALL four mufflers, and ALL four catalytic converters, put a straight through rock wool glass pack on, exchanged the restrictive air intakes for an K&N intake, with the added double layer canvas sleeve over the air filter, and upgraded the exhaust pipes from 1 7/8 " pipe to a 2.5 inch SIDE EXIT exhaust, and the car is amazing, have you ever heard a V12 with just a glass pack? I love the sound. With the new all aluminum radiator the car remains only 2/3 of normal temperature, and only on the hottest days does the temperature go up to Normal. And when I run the car hard, I pop the hood and allow the heat to escape the engine bay, and I run at low speed for 7 or 8 minutes before parking it, and I throw open the hood after shut down.....Any grief cause by my car has always been stupid little things like relays, and broken brittle wires...but as far as the GM400 transmission, it shifts nice, and the engine still hot to trot....
 

COLDSTEELE

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Hello I had traded my 99 Honda shadow 750 for a 86 XJS V12 with the idea of the Chevy engine swap. Id been aware of there being another here wich had this done. Im know lineing up a trailor to get my baby home. I stopped by the house of the other XJ to ask about his. Wow this car was done very well and the power plant is a beast The man bought a crate blue printed 383 stroker with the best parts money could buy and a trans to match. He showed me the dyno chart made last summer 501hp. 559tq The large cowl should of gave it away. Here is the kicker. He wanted to sell or trade it for Goldwing trike. I went and showed my father the pictures I took he fell in love with it, charged the batt. On his 88 Goldwing trike with trailor made the trade and today I replaced the throttle diafram that was leaking on the Holly 850cfm Double pumper started it and drove it home.It has a throaty exhaust note drives sraight and true.Yes I know, Will pass everything but a gas station. But his trike was a toy so the car will be drove when we get the towable fuel tank hooked to it lol. We now have a small Pride of Jaguars
 

DMaC756

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Hi Spectre, I'm currently looking at a XJS and actually live pretty close to FordCrusher (I'm 20 minutes away from Williamsport). I was wondering if you could have him Email me or something so I could ask him some pointers.
 

Spectre

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Hi Spectre, I'm currently looking at a XJS and actually live pretty close to FordCrusher (I'm 20 minutes away from Williamsport). I was wondering if you could have him Email me or something so I could ask him some pointers.
Sadly, since this thread was created, FordCrusher has relocated to the Ohio area - he won't be able to help if you're looking for local aid.
 

BlaRo

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This is the most bizarre thread in the history of Finalgear.
 

Stormchaser905

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Spectre or FordCrusherGT, Just bought a 87 Jaguar XJS V12, no rust and the engine and Tranny are great, interior is rough as well as paint. Questions I have are one what a good site/place to buy interior parts or just parts in general, and also whats should I immediately look at/replace besides fuel hoses and a general tune up?
 

zephyr_66

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Hi, guys?I'm new to the board and joined in an effort to get some information on a '95 XJS I'm looking at. I admit that I'm a complete novice. With several friends who have owned various Jaguars, I'm aware that a Jaguar, and the XJS in particular, is somewhat of an attention whore, mainly from mechanics. Fortunately one of those friends is a long-standing Jag club member and a decent mechanic to boot, so having a well-versed mechanic is done. I've gotten his viewpoints on the car I'm looking at, but I'm interested to hear other voices. Here are some of the particulars: It's an I6 with an oil leakage issue from (I think) the cylinder heads, a repaint (although I haven't as yet learned how recent), and no rust that I could detect from a visual inspection. Even the floorpans and kick panels are solid. It is a southern car, purchased in Georgia new and spent most of its life in GA and Florida. It was bought at auction and transported to New Jersey, and it has been north since 2007. According to the sparse service records from CarFax, it had the EGR valve replaced at 112,503 miles (yeah, it's high mileage; currently has a touch over 177,000) and the engine/powertrain computer module reprogrammed at the same time, but the rest of the log is stuffed with title and registration changes. Oh, and a couple of emissions inspections mentions, all passed. The convertible top looks relatively new, and there are some aesthetic issues, such as a couple of missing emblems, a turn indicator on the rear quarter panel, driver's side, that's unattached and pushed into the fender a bit, weatherstripping on the rear window that must be fixed, and some odd tears in the upholstery on either side of the back seat facing the rear window. It also has a chunk taken out of the grill. I'm pretty sure these body issues can be taken care of, but I do wonder how much trouble I'm getting into with the engine. I'd also be curious about how to make a fair offer to counter what I'm sure will be a highly-marked up asking price from the used-car dealer at which it currently sits. It's been there for a while, so I'm sure there are other issues of which I'm unaware. I have yet to drive it, but that will be taken care of either today or tomorrow. Advice anyone can give me would be greatly appreciated. Also, if there are other questions I should be asking, that would be helpful as well. Thanks.
 
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Labcoatguy

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As the other folks have described earlier in the thread, the engine is mostly bulletproof with routine maintenance, but the cam/valve cover is magnesium and thus can corrode over time, leading to an oil leak of the type you're likely seeing. Barring abuse like overheating or overlong oil change intervals, the engine should be fundamentally fine, though look into dealing with that oil leak with resources like this one (this is for the contemporary XJ6, but the engine is exactly the same). Body work is pricey, and XJS body parts are harder to find in junkyards than XJ6s, but they are possible. Nowadays dealers (and owners) selling XJSs seem to have a very inflated idea of how much their cars are worth, so I wouldn't be above lowballing and waiting for the car to sit longer on the lot until the dealer caves.
 

zephyr_66

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Thanks for the info. Yeah, I'm preparing myself for a sizable investment when all is said and done, but that will depend on a decent purchase price. I know this guy is going to stick it to me, and I have no problem waiting it out. I guess it's like any other car purchase: stick to your guns and don't be afraid to walk away.
 

GRtak

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Talk to Spectre and he will convince you it is a bad idea while trying to convince it won't be so bad. :lol:
 

zephyr_66

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LOL Secretly, I was hoping he would chime in without prompting. In the meantime I found an XJ6 on Craigslist that I also like; only has 30,000+ miles on it and is garage-kept, but despite that it will need a lot bodywork, mainly for rust. I can't shake the XJS, though?it's such a good-looking design. So, Spectre, what say you?
 

jim in Oregon

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Afterburner1..others..
I am considering buying a 1987 XJ-S V12 sedan with 70k original miles.(from 2nd owner)New Michelin tires, tan leather interior..gm thm400 3 speed auto trans. Car is immaculate inside-out..Starts runs and stops very nicely..
Last Jaguar I drove was a '72 XK v12..but didn't own it..
With wife, five children..we never had any car or truck in 50+ yrs that wasn't practical..:)UNTIL we bought and totally refurbished our '78 Corvette Silver Anniversary t top sedan..It is a fine car in perfect condition..but not much space for much of anything but a couple of overnite bags..
The Jaguar XJ-S V12 sedan has small rear seats, and a trunk..as well as very comfortable seats..SOOO.. my questions are many..but for starters..IS the '87 XJ-S V12 a well designed reliable year and drive train..?I am a decent mechanic and know how to take care of vehicles so they are safe, dependable and right! I have some friends who have lifts, garages, tools and expertise on about any vehicle..ESP older ones.. ANY help, advice or suggestions of what I should look at closely if I decide to buy the car for 5k would be greatly appreciated..Best regards, Jim in Oregon..
 
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