Needs just a little TLC

Okay, so you really did it this time! You saw that add that stated the words that most sellers resort to, “just needs a little TLC” Yes, you acquired an old V12 and ask now what to do next? You know you had no business buying this car with its peeling paint, torn carpet, worn seats, fuel smells terrible, rotten tires and wheels that are covered with very old dry mud, will not start and the seller could not even tell you where the engine is located. But the price was so cheap you say. And to top it off! His little secret is that he copied the same add he saw when he bought the car! Ok, we all have a locked box in the closet of similar ventures we explored but will never admit to. I mean so secret that if someone ever attempted to open that box, it will self-destruct. Therefore, there is no need to make a one-way trip to the tallest nearby bridge. And perhaps you do not have to resort to the solution for a fatally wounded horse. Let us first have a very, very, stiff drink and then go over a few things that may help you save another XJS You may begin by conducting a cost analysis of the car. If it has service history/service records, this makes your quest much easier but of course no luck of this one.

Depending on its condition and your level of restoration, there are somethings that you must do for these cars. If it has not run in years, you should pull the plugs and shoot a couple of shots of lube that is available in your local parts store such as Marvel mystery oil. Then perform a compression test and if all is good then you may try to start it with some fresh fuel in a side container with your fuel lines in it. Alternatively, If the fuel smells rotten from sitting more than a few years, then you may want to clean the tank by using a long small hose into the tank and with a suction pump, pull it out and place some fresh fuel in the tank. If the car starts then I would not run it for long, maybe a few minutes.  You must change out all the fuel lines including and especially the ones on the injectors even if they look good. This is the reason the V12 is known to catch fire. I bought my 87 XJSC from a guy who maintained it fairly well but most of the car was all original and it spent its entire life in a climate-controlled garage and had 33,000 original miles and the car looked new everywhere in and out. But as soon as I began the one-hour drive home, the tire treads separated, and all rubber components needed replacing soon thereafter. If you can service this car yourself you can start by downloading a full set of factory service manuals we have posted here on the home page under manuals, then prepare for buying everything that has rubber on it including the ball joints and all suspension seals as they will fall apart and if not replaced right away, will cause much more damage to the car and other parts. The rubber on mine being original was hard and broke off like pieces of plastic. If you are not or cannot perform the work, then prepare to pay out several thousand for starters. Then you have all the stitching on the seats that will most likely be dry rot and as soon as you start using the car, it will separate and the foam on the seats will start disintegrating and you will see the pieces on the floor and the seat will collapse. If there is a good amount of rust to deal with, this can very easily become a full restoration for sure. If you try to skimp, you will soon hate yourself and the car and head for the tallest bridge. These cars were high maintenance when they were new and the worst thing anyone can do is leave a car sitting for years unless you do a full restoration. Prepare to dish out at least another $15,000 plus to make it a safe and proper Jag as a full paint respray can cost several thousand alone. I hear people so many times stating that they can restore these cars on the cheap by doing it themselves. It adds up fast especially now that many parts are no longer available new or used in good long-lasting conditions. For the reason, we restore most of the used parts we sell. If it can be sanded and painted to look new, we do it. I am more than happy to answer any questions to help along but please understand this, no one can intelligently place a value on the car or guess at anything from a distance without really inspecting the car, and the mechanics that had shops that knew these cars are retired for the most part or passed on. So there may hope, however, the better option is to buy an XJS in much better condition.

Many parts may have to be rebuilt or fabricated as you will find that many parts are no longer available new and very, very rare in good working condition. We are planning to create a full XJS restoration center in Palatka, FL. I have recently bought several parts cars. Give yourself some time and I do mean plenty to sort out an XJS acquisition. Most parts on old cars may have seized up from sitting so plan to pull all moving parts and replace or rebuild. And if you are thinking as many do about these cars, that you will get it running and fix as you drive it around, I can tell you that we get calls all the time from people who started out thinking this way then offer these cars to us. It happens all the time and they are offered to us cheap just to get rid of the car. I love to see people save the V12's but remember there is a right and wrong way to go about it. Money at one time was the main issue but now finding someone who knows what they are doing is a big problem! Here in Jacksonville is one of the finest Jaguar Mechanics alive! as he was an apprentice at Jaguar growing up in England, but now at 87 he is now fully retired. All the best saving one of the finest automobiles ever made and remember that there is a large number of knowledgeable people on the forums that are willing to help. And remember, there is no such thing as a cheap XJS.


  • OMG…..Loved the pic. I once had to dispatch an old chevy pickup, like a horse with a broken leg. But that was in another life.

  • I’ve owned two xjs cars. Both needed TLC when I bought them and I have it to them. I did the fix as one drives model and that actually worked out good for me. I do most of my own work, however, so labor cost to me was spare time.

    They are wonderful cars, but they can be finicky. The 94 6cyl is far better at being a daily driver than the 90 V12. So anyone thinking of buying one with little mechanical inclination should likely steer clear of the Pre Ford models.

    The V12s are very sexy, however, and once you hear that cat roar in the passing lane, you will never suffer from erectile issues again.

    Tony carson

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