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Cruising in a 1990 Jaguar XJ-S is sublime


#1

You have to climb down into a Jaguar XJ-S. This surprised me. Jaguar’s big coupe, a follow-up to the famed E-Type but not true successor, is a grand touring two-plus-two built on the same underpinnings as the XJ sedan. Its roof is nearly six inches lower than a contemporary competitor like the Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC. (It is even four inches lower than the current Ferrari GTC4Lusso.) You crouch down to pull up on the chrome door handle, and then you fold yourself through the pendulous door, and into the posh biscuit-colored interior.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/12/24/cruising-a-jaguar-xj-s

#2

Good review of a much under-appreciated car. I have had several and currently own a '94 AJ6 (I6) with 5-speed manual, which is the best of the lot, IMO. The V12 is truly turbine smooth but the early 3-speed A/T doesn’t do it justice. Ford did not screw this car up, and my advice would be to not limit one’s search to the pre-Ford years, although many prefer the earlier tail-light style. The AJ6 doesn’t have a lot of low-end torque, but one can still really make it go when mated to the rare manual 5-speed. My second choice would be a late 6L V12 with the 4-speed A/T. The V12 is bullet proof as long as it’s not overheated, but maintenance on the V12 is much higher than on AJ6/16. CATS in engine bay really cook the rubber components, such as the short hoses that connect the fuel rail to the 12 injectors – a leak in one is a guaranteed engine fire! A V12 owner should be capable of doing some of their own work, even if it’s just parts sourcing, and/or have a good shop that knows the tricks to make operating a V12 XJS more affordable.


#3

Great review. I have owned a couple of these too. I had a 87 Hess & Esenhart (Not sure the spelling anymore) convertible. I bought it off my godmother in 96 when my wife was pregnant with our first kid. At the time she asked me what I was thinking “We are too young to own a car like this”. I was only 32 years old at the time, It only had 40k on it. I made it my daily driver. I had a lot of fun with it and I always thought these cars are vey miss understood. I think in time they will come back up in value but I might not live long enough to see it. We no longer have any XJS’s in the house but for my wife’s 55th birthday I bought her a 2000 XKR and I have a 59 XK150 DHC. She not longer thinks I’m crazy and she loves her Jag. We must be old enough to drive Jags now.


#4

Our first venture into Jaguar, a couple years ago, is a ‘92 XJS Convertible V12 that only had 1,800 miles (not a typo) on it when we purchased it from a friend. We have doubled that now! The style, British Racing Green and Barley color and comfort are outstanding. It was quite a departure for me, having restored and driven only GM classics for 50 years - primarily C1 and C2 Corvettes. The car is a luxury touring time capsule and completely different from the sports car power and feel of our Corvettes. When I want power and some danger with a not so happy look on my wife’s face we take one of them. When we want a nice cruise through the countryside with a smile on her face, behind the wheel, the XJS is perfect. I am actually happy with Ford’s intervention, since I am the in house mechanic, and you have to be if you are going to own a Classic Jaguar. If you get one, make sure you get the 5 volume service manual and a British to American conversion dictionary with it and enjoy!


#5

Good review, all Jaguar model are under-appreciated car. I had many Jag since 1971 and I had problem with only one (1985). I am very happy with Ford’s improvement. I own presently 5 Jags and they are all fun to drive for different reason. At this time of winter in Quebec, my X-Type is the Best !!
Happy NewYear all Jag lover !
Bernard.


#6

One of my all time favorite car memories is the time a Jaguar owner said to me "This isn’t a car for someone who has to be somewhere at a certain time. Every morning when I put the key in the ignition I get a little shiver of excitement as I think ‘what will happen today?’ "


#8

I bought a new one in 1987. It was black with a grey interior and made me feel like The Batman. It was the coolest looking car on the road, and I live in Detroit, so that’s saying something. It was described as a “real Lady”. And before people react by saying that was a sexist description, what it meant (in 1987 language) was that it was beautiful and full of grace. When that 12 woke-up it was glorious. Unfortunately, it died on me after midnight in a rainstorm…the result of poor electronics when the auto world was crossing-over. I finally got rid of it when I noticed a pretty big wet trail following me, stopped and found the gas tank had come unstrapped and it was spilling fuel like an over-filled bowl of soup. At a time when Miami Vice suits and cocaine ruled the nightlife, it was glorious. But unless it was well sorted, I’d be afraid to go through that again.


#9

I bought a 23,000 mile 1989 XJS in 1991 and kept it for 16 years and 146,000 miles. It was about as reliable as a typical American car of the day, I was “lucky” that my car had a Lucas ignition. (It used a GM ignition module, so that was not a problem.) In mid 1989, Jaguar switched from Lucas to a Marelli ignition. This system used a dual rotor, with one arm supplying the left bank and one arm supplying the right bank. What would happen is, if the owner did not keep up with maintenance, the rotor would burn out the top contact, shutting off the right bank of cylinders, while the left bank continued running. While the driver wondered why the car seemed slower, the system would run fuel through the non-firing cylinders and dump raw fuel into the hot catalytic converter, which then caught fire, destroying the car.

When buying one, watch for rust around the windshield and rear window.


#10

These are wonderful cars; I’ve had two, both 1989. The key is finding the right person to work on it. Although I live distant from a large city, I was lucky enough to find an ex-Jaguar Canada master mechanic. Karl is retired but still works on the V12 just for the love of it. Three days with my coupe and it came back a different car. Not only was it properly tuned but he tweaked the suspension too. Unfortunately, there are many XJS (and XJ12) cars out there that have not been properly looked after because they are cheap to get into. But I guarantee a well serviced car is strong and reliable and a joy to own!


#11

I have virtually the same car for sale here in upstate Ny. My fathers since new, never seen winter or smoking. Albeit a few months older, a 91. A few more miles 80K. Send me a message for more info.


#12

20 years ago I had a 78 S that when I got it had only 32k on it. Gave $500 to the shop to keep to from being parted out. Someone had put the disk in the distributor in upside down. That was it. Drove it for 5 years and 10k miles. Sold it during a move for $3,000. other than chasing fuel leaks (finally replaced all the injector lines with Porsche injection fuel line hose) it was a pleasure to drive. Step on the gas and as the needle went up, the gas gauge went down.
Currently have a 95 S with 198k on it. Still running, had a few relay glitches but nothing serious. Not sure how much longer I’ll keep this one as its showing its mileage/age in just cosmetic wear/tear. Not sure I want to be the one to do the full restoration. I have a 69 E thats calling me to restore it first…


#13

I currently own a 91 XJS V12 Classic Collection Convertible. I’ve also owned a 87 coupe and 85 cabriolet. There is nothing more thrilling when driving these V12 cars. Once you learn their quirks, and know parts resources as the dealer can’t help you, maintaining them isn’t difficult. The engines and transmissions are bombproof. The myriad of electronic switches, relays, early computer modules and emission controls are what gives this Jaguar a reputation. They are affordable and increasing rapidly in value. I’ve owned every British car out there from Lotus to Austin Healy, Triumph, MG, Sunbeam too, as well as Maserati and Alfa Romeo…These Jaguar “Big Cats” are superior to all!