Buying an XJS convertible

You have always wanted a convertible and for various reasons, never purchased one, but every time you see that XJS around town, you try to control your enthusiasm. You always seem to be in a lane in the opposite direction that prevents you from turning around in time to chase this person down. But does that prevent you from trying? heck no! you find your way in the direction that car was going, you look in every parking lot and driveway you pass. You even get on side streets looking, looking, and looking. You ask yourself why is it that this driver always appears to be a phantom? You know you saw it because it is not the first time! You have seen this car with the top up and down and each time, it gets your motor running and all you want to do is talk to the person. Well, you have had enough of this and finally decided you are going to find one and purchase it.

So you say to yourself, I have never owned a convertible not to mention a Jaguar XJS! The very car that so many people get all fuzzy about just at the mention of one. So where do you start? You do not know anything about convertibles and especially the classic ones. Now let me define the convertible that I am addressing here which is the factory model made from 1989 to 1996. There was an earlier coach built convertible XJS that was a Coupe conversion by a company named Hess and Eisenhardt which can be identified by where the top was flush with the body when the top is down and the factory I am advocating in the photo of this article. Okay now that I got that out of the way, let us get back to your search. You search online and many tops look like reclaimed canvas from world war two and the sellers must have all taken a course in the use of, just needs a little TLC. So here are some things you should know beforehand that will keep you from buying that XJS with the very questionable convertible top that just needed a little TLC, then when reality hits, you feel as if you are handed a book of matches and told you must set your own house on fire!

Inspect the canvas for worn areas and holes around and below the rear glass. This will need to be replaced and will easily cost around $2800 for starters. On occasion, we have a respectable gently used one for around $800 but this is extremely rare. In the 89 to 93 in the storage box behind the passenger side seat is the convertible top pump motor unit.

In the 94, 95, and 96 the convertible top pump motor is in the trunk/boot to the right of the spare tire with a color-coded cover matching the floor and inner panel. There should be two turnbuckles on the front of it that fastens it to the battery tray below.


If the cover is missing it will cost around $100 and are rare but we have some. If the turnbuckles are missing they are rare and we sell them for $15 each. The reservoir for the top pump should be 3 ¼ full and the fluid in it should be green, not red. For years so much misinformation has been spread about using transmission or any form of hydraulic fluid. I know some Jaguar dealer parts and service dept. staff who tell customers this. Well here are the facts: the proper oil to use is green in color and it is mineral oil and is the same used in Rolls and Bentley.


I know from owning and servicing these cars. The only differences are the labels on the bottles. We have the proper fluid and are waiting for some more bottles to be made. Transmission and hydraulic fluid cause the seals in the pistons to swell and disintegrate then leak inside the car and when bad, saturate the rear carpet and ruin it. Ask me how I know this? Wow! What a mess! The top pistons/cylinders are located behind the rear side panels where the quarter windows come up and go down. So if the fluid is red and low, then you will want to pull those panels to inspect.


They are held on with plastic clips on the outer top of the panel and a couple on the front of the panel right behind the doors. Even if the fluid is red and to the full mark I would still inspect as someone may have seen it low and filled it not knowing that this was the result of a puddle on the floor under the rear seat where the pistons fluid will end up. Please understand that if the transmission fluid has been in the car long enough, the damage may already be done so no one knows. The replacement of the pistons will cost around $160 each. So my tip is to not buy an XJS that has a bad top thinking it will only cost a few hundred or you may end up feeling like a wounded horse behind the barn as his owner stands there with a shotgun in his hand.

1 comment

  • Thankfully l have the earlier Cabriolet, manual operation , targa top alternatives, much less hadsle

    Michael Crump

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