41K Original Miles: 1988 Jaguar XJ-S Convertible

Refinement on wheels is how I would define this beautiful, 41K mile, 1988 Jaguar XJ-S convertible. This convertible is one of approximately 2,100 that was converted to a drop-top by coachbuilder Hess and Eisenhardt and it appears as new. Located in Ventura, California, this convertible is available, here on craigslist, for $14,777. Thanks to Ikey H. for this tip!

The Jaguar XJ-S was produced between 1975 and 1996 at Jaguar’s Coventry, England assembly plant. In 1983, a Targa-type open car was offered but it never became the sales success anticipated. Enter Hess and Eisenhardt, an American coachwork company better known for executive armored vehicles and perhaps best known for its work on the 1961 Lincoln Continental presidential limousine, aka “SS-100-X”. H&E went to work on the XJ-S and produced a fully open convertible which offered very clean lines as a result of the top which descended well into the body in the lowered position. Converting an XJ-S coupe too a convertible proved to be a pretty extensive undertaking by virtue of removing the steel roof, sectioning of the body in places, additional reinforcements, and the inclusion of strategically located weights that were designed to eliminate annoying harmonics. Additionally, dual fuel tanks were added to either side of the rear portion of the car to allow for a convertible top well, deep enough to fully accommodate the lowered top. Talk about a makeover! In late 1988, Jaguar took on convertible design and construction on their own but their version lacks the fluidity of the H&E converted examples.

First up is power and this Jag isn’t lacking with its 5.3 liter, V12 “HE” engine, good for 263 net HP, and driving through a three-speed,  GM sourced, Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission. There is no included image of the powerplant, so the fuel cap seems appropriate as it is likely the new owner will become very familiar with it. The seller claims, “This car’s original 5.3 liter V12 engine provides the kind of effortless performance that you’d expect from Coventry’s biggest cat. It has a smooth and torquey feeling that makes it effortlessly luxurious around town. But when it’s time to have a little fun, it makes a wonderful howl and pulls like a freight train.”  And with such low mileage, this type of operation is to be expected. The seller has documentation attesting to this XJ-S’ maintenance history.

The exterior of this life-long Arizona convertible is arrow straight and the original charcoal gray metallic finish presents this Jaguar as a serious and refined automobile. Top up or down, the lines of this XJ-S are perfect. I would say this car’s symmetry is better in convertible top-up form than its corresponding coupe version. H&E, with Jaguar’s approval, really got his one right. No worries about the fabric top, which is erroneously referred to as tan in the listing, it is in fine nick and includes a heated, glass rear window. Capping off the presentation are chromed Jaguar “Starfish” wheels in place to the normally found, argent finished variety. While the exterior of this XJ-S needs nothing, I’m a bit on the fence over the chrome wheel arches; they don’t appear as original and their removal would, in my estimation, improve this Jaguar’s appearance.

Channeling the perfect exterior is the magnificently appointed, soft gray leather interior. Besides showing as barely used, it is capped off with a sharp-looking Nardi steering wheel. There are many images of the interior included in the listing and they are worth perusing, the instrument panel in particular. With its “roller” gauges for temp., oil pressure, voltage, and fuel, the design sets this instrument panel far away from more typically found, non-communicative lights or simple analog gauges. As with the exterior, the interior shows as complete and lacking nothing.

Most automobile reviews here on Barn Finds are an exercise in weighing the good vs. the bad of a particular automobile with generally some aspect of the good tilting the verdict in that direction. True, this Jaguar is not a barn find per se but it is a wonderful example of British, top-end motoring, and considering its 32 years of age, coupled with its low mileage, this XJ-S is worthy of consideration. This is a pre-Ford owned model, so I don’t know about reliability matters but it would be great to hear from readers who have some experience in that aspect of Jaguar ownership. The listing is excellently constructed and it can tell you more about this XJ-S than I can in the confines of this article. I encourage you to review it in detail. As for the good vs. bad consideration? The good has it, completely, don’t you think?


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  1. Marauder

    A not so pretty car paired with reliability issues, especially with the V12. It is not a cheap car to keep running correctly!

    Like 1
  2. JBD

    Great car in great shape. The H7E verts got a bad rap probably well deserved compared to factory top fit but they are rare!

  3. Ikey Heyman

    Don’t know anything about the reliability of these but this is one sharp looking car.

    Like 3
  4. PL Windish

    This is a good looking car! A Studebaker friend is currently doing a Chevy conversion into a Jag 4 door sedan after doing a ‘38 Studebaker and a ‘55 Studebaker resto-modding to Chevy power plants in past years.

  5. Steve

    I had an 84 coupe back in the mid 90’s. I bought it with 44k miles. While it was extremely quiet and comfortable inside even at high speeds it was a massive money pit. I even had to have the automatic transmission rebuilt around 50k! I was so glad to see it finally go but it was the first car I had that sparked an interest in cars that I still have today so I’m not going to fault it to much.

    Like 2
  6. Brakeservo


  7. Rich

    I’m on my 3rd XJS V12 (and I’ve owned other V12 XKE & sedans) – without any major reliability issues at all. I’m pretty sure that most folk who think these are money pits have either never owned one, or if they have – they never maintained it. Sure Jaguar had some build problems – but didn’t Ford back in the ’70’s….

    Like 1
  8. Jaker76

    Rare car but good luck on certain parts as many parts, unobtanium!!!

    Like 1
  9. Ken

    My heart says, “Yes!”, but my head says, “NO!’

    Like 1
  10. JimZ

    Nice car, have owned several. Sadly, it’s not gonna reach the almost $15k ask. These cars remain unusually low in their resale, I think a lot of folks are scared of the V12. Those that scoff have never been romanced by a Jaguar. Totally worth the time/effort/expense…hope it finds a new home with a grateful buyer!
    Here’s a picture of my past fleet…

    Like 1

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