Vintage Views: Jaguar XJS

Out of the thousands upon thousands of Readers’ Rides on our webpage, a Jaguar XJS is the sixth-highest-rated car. Okay, so it’s a full-race example prepared and campaigned by the championship-winning Group 44 team, but we still know what you’re thinking: Is this British classic worth a serious look?

“For anyone old enough to remember leg warmers and big hair, the term ‘icon’ meant more than symbols on your tablet or smartphone,” says Michael Marter of Jaguar parts house XKs Unlimited. “Mickey Mantle, Miles Davis and James Dean were icons. So was the Jaguar E-Type. Drop-dead gorgeous, it was the first volume-produced sports car to offer such a sophisticated and potent package at a comparatively low price.

“Replacing the E-Type was well-nigh impossible and the XJS didn’t exactly cause the automotive world to spontaneously combust, but the all-alloy 5.3-liter V12 returned–now sporting fuel injection–as did Jaguar’s excellent and innovative independent rear suspension. Styling was at least handsome and interior dimensions were patterned after someone taller than the average Formula One driver.”

His take-home point: “Today the XJS is a fantastic bargain with many variations from which to choose.”

How much of a bargain is it? Bring a Trailer recently sold a very clean 1983 coupe for $8100. According to the receipts, some $35,000–yes, 35 really big ones–had recently been spent on a full mechanical and body restoration. Hagerty says that good cars should cost somewhere south of $10,000.

Not only is the XJS today’s value buy, it also allows for some choices. The model line debuted for 1976 as a V12-powered coupe. Targa and convertible models were added during the 1980s. XJS production ran all the way though 1996.

While all of the V12-powered cars came with automatic transmissions, the drivetrains evolved, too. Jaguar moved to the H.E.(high efficiency) V12 engine for the 1982 model year, and a 4-liter, six-cylinder engine became an option starting in 1993. “While the V12 has instant cachet, don’t discount the later six-cylinder cars,” Marter adds. “The second-generation AJ-16 4.0 six-cylinder is dead-reliable, and there is a chance you’ll find one with a manual transmission.”

Is the XJS going to replace your WRX or Miata? Maybe not. But if you’re looking for a comfortable grand touring car that offers some panache, then the XJS could be worth a look.

Practical Guidance

Michael Marter of Jaguar parts house XKs Unlimited offers up some helpful XJS advice.

“I won’t attempt a chronology here, but a search should probably start with the H.E. models of 1982. Earlier cars with their black bumpers were not as attractive, and some of the first-generation fuel injection components are no longer available.

“If a convertible is on your list, the stopgap Hess & Eisenhardt conversions are probably best avoided–the later factory version was much improved and most parts are actually available.

“With few exceptions, there is not a dog in the entire XJ-S production run. Jaguar later dropped the hyphen. “Problem areas are few and are generally shared with any vehicle that’s anywhere from 20 to 40 years old. Expect and accept some surprises, and a pre-purchase check by a marque expert would be money well spent.

“Pay particular attention to the health of a V12; they’re complex and frightfully expensive to rebuild. Other parts of the car, however, are old-school simple and repairable by mere mortals.

“Upon purchase, your to-do list should include replacement of all cooling and heating hoses plus both thermostats.

“The three most important things to remember with a Jaguar V12 are: don’t let it overheat, don’t let it overheat, and don’t let it overheat. When things get hot, valve seats tend to part ways with the cylinder heads. Mechanical mayhem ensues.

“You might also consider dropping the I.R.S. for a thorough cleaning, replacement of the I.R.S. mounts and trailing arm bushings, plus a brake caliper inspection–all of which are eminently easier with the assembly removed.

“Enjoy the search, take pride in your purchase, and give XKs Unlimited a call when you need help.”

This article is from an old issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Get all the latest how-tos and stories for just $20 a year. Subscribe now.

Parts & Service

British Motor Trade Association
(616) 355-2850

Tsikuris Classics
(863) 858-7981

Welsh Enterprises
(800) 875-5247

XKs Unlimited
(800) 444-5247


Jaguar Clubs of North America

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