EXCLUSIVE: 1990 Jaguar XJS Convertible

Josh MortensenBy Josh Mortensen

Reader Michael H purchased this lovely Jaguar XJS Convertible about a year ago with plans of getting it cleaned up and back on the road, but sadly he has to let it go. He hasn’t ever even had the chance to drive it! He isn’t sure what all it’s going to need to run again, he knows for sure it needs a new ignition switch, but the body is straight and the paint doesn’t look bad. Given the unknowns, he is asking $2,000 or best offer. It’s currently in Lubbock, Texas and has a clean title.

From Michael – I’m putting up my 1990 xjs. Hate to sell but can’t keep it due to divorce. I’ve owned it for about a year but haven’t had the time or money to do much. The electrical looks a mess but the only noticeable missing part is the ignition switch. I honest don’t know for sure. The paint and body are in great condition. I do not know anything as to the condition of the engine or transmission. The previous owner said it ran before he started working on it but I personally have never heard it or even tried.

When it comes to these V12 powered Jaguars, there are a few areas that tend to give people concerns. The first being mechanical issues, working on the V12 looks daunting and it seems like finding parts would be impossible. Truth is, once you get past the mess of hoses, these actually aren’t that difficult to work on and finding parts really isn’t that difficult. Rust and damaged body panels is another area of concern, but this one’s body look to be in great shape, so neither of those should be of major concern.
And the final problem area for these cars is the electrical system. While the wiring definitely looks like a mess, there are some great wiring diagrams out there now that make tracking down electrical gremlins much easier. And there are even a few companies making and selling complete wiring harnesses for them! I have a feeling this car won’t actually need that much work to get running. Clean the fuel system out, change the oil, install a new ignition switch and I bet you could have it up and running again.

Michael has all of the interior panels for the car on shelves in his barn and they come with the car, so you should be able to get it back together once you get it running. There’s no word on the condition of the convertible top, but hopefully it is in good shape. New tops are available though and aren’t terribly expensive as long as the glass is good enough to use.

It definitely needs some work, but this could actually be a really fun drop top driver that shouldn’t break the bank! I would just want to make sure the underside is solid and that the engine turns over, before making Michael an offer. Heck, even if the engine is bad, you could always drop an inline 6 or V8 in it and have a dependable machine! Special thanks to Michael for listing with us! And if you have a project that needs to go, please consider listing it with us!

Asking Price: $2,000 OBO
Location: Lubbock, Texas
Title Status: Clean
Mileage: 139,000

Contact The Seller

Sorry, this one has SOLD!

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  1. Paul

    Great price .. make a great project.

  2. Jay M

    Great deal for someone. Spend some time sorting it out and you will have a great weekend cruiser.

  3. Francisco

    Josh, You make it sound so simple. I know from experience that these automobiles, even in good running condition, and in the best of circumstances, are mechanical and electrical nightmares.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      BTDT and wore the T-shirt. I was crazy enough to pull an 1987 150k mile XJS out of a forest where it had sat for 8 years.

      I was young, naive, and very, very dumb. Stubborn enough, however, that I ended up refurbishing it into a pretty nice car. Heck of a nice car when completed.


      Good luck with the sale!

  4. Sam

    Great project with plenty of options. $2,000 is ok. If the body and underside are solid I would cut to the chase with an sbc, trans, wiring harness, etc and be on the road late summer. Part out the engine or make some man cave furniture or accessories.

  5. Cebo

    Knew someone that had one. Constant trouble until he dropped a 350 Chevrolet in it. Ran like a dream after that. Supposedly the bell housing matches .

  6. Royal Ricci

    This would be a great candidate for EV conversion with a dual motor setup. I am sure the folks out in San Diego at EV West would do a killer job with this. They could hook the motors to their powerglide setup and have one sleek quiet machine.

  7. Bob_S

    Why would you $2k for a non running car with unknown problems when you can get e running car for $6K. The best XJS is very hard to sell at $15K

  8. 71 MKIV

    hellcat motor maybe? Agree the price is too high. Especially from the other side of the country.

  9. Steve R

    If you can get it for less it might make a decent parts car.

    Steve R

  10. Paul

    Looks like they don’t make the money that side of the pond. That would last 5 mins for,sale at that price in the UK.
    This gives some perspective .. it’s the original convertible, a 1987 version in delightful pink. Sold for $3,750
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1987-Jaguar-XJS-C-Convertible-5-3-V12-Barn-Find-Project-Spares-or-Repair-/112294796641?hash=item1a254a9d61%3Ag%3AfqsAAOSwImRYk9Ao&nma=true&si=cmYUcxS39TJ7GON27hoeBRfsu2w%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557 I know which I would prefer.

  11. leiniedude

    Someone save it before it suffers a horrible death from The Blue Tarp Syndrome.

  12. Bill

    A friend of mine bought a new XJS. On the way home from the dealership he went to roll the passenger window down. The moment he hit the switch, the engine stalled and wouldn’t re-start. I have enough stress in my life.

  13. ClassicCarFan

    I understand why some folks put a SBC in them, cheap way to make them usable again…. but can’t help feeling that is totally missing the point. It’s one of the few classic V12s (well, of the ones that most of us could actually afford. When running properly these are quiet, turbine smooth and powerful.

  14. MrF

    I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but “lovely”??

  15. Jubjub

    Makes the Barn Finds TVR Tasmin seem so risk free!

  16. Francisco

    There is an urban legend that members of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) covertly infiltrated the Jaguar plant as workers in order to sabotage the production of British products. This is supposedly how Smith’s gauges got their bad reputation. Remember the three position Smith’s switch: Off, Dim, and Flicker.

  17. charlie

    They are at the bottom of their market, as are Allantes, Riatas, and other gems of the late 80’s and early ’90’s. No, it is not a Toyota, and it will need repairs, but you are not going to drive it 60 miles to work each day on the Interstate, you are going to take it to the grocery store with the top down on nice days, and to the beach, and out to dinner on a nice evening. And if you have to wait two weeks for a part, well, OK, it is a toy, and, an inexpensive one to boot. For many times the money you could buy a 1990 Ferrari, but it would be no more reliable and even more expensive to fix.

  18. Bruce Best

    I have seen a conversion of a stock Jag V-12 with different cams, and with Webbers. On a rolling road he was putting out nearly 500 HP. The Chevy motor might be cheaper but massage one of these V-12’s and you will have more power than you can use.

    As for reliability there are a few web sites both here and in England that will help you solve most problems. Electrical problems were the worst of it. Plan on replacing the harness and that will solve more troubles then you might think.

  19. Fiete T.

    Was given a ’90 VDP with the 4L. Except for the airflow meter, almost everything electronic in it is German or Japanese-’89 & ’88…not so lucky for those owners. XJS? No idea when they got the upgrade
    Funny thing? The car always starts, everything works

  20. Kevin

    Smiths guages, Lucas electrical and British people with bad teeth, all American urban ledgends. From an English point of view I read the numerous negatives about these things and I have to do a double take and think WTF.

    Re XJS V12. Back in the day I worked at a franchised Jag u ar dealer in London. The opperative phrase here is Franchised Jag u ar Dealer. We had ALL the specialist tools and diagnostic equipment supplied by Jag u ar, things not available to back street garages and do it your selfers. You have to have the correct equipment to work on these cars otherwise you will always have issues.

  21. Keith

    I have had 2 of these, an 85 XJS and a beautiful British Racing Green with tan leather convertible 1990 XJS. The “myth” of bad electrical components is not a myth in my experience. My 1990 had about 60k miles on the clock, and was well cared for by the previous 1 owner. It had a very nasty habit of locking the doors whenever it felt like it. Sometimes, it would graciously unlock them, too. “click-click! click-click!” The radio….don’t even bother turning it on unless you like the sound of bees on a very amplified level. The power top worked like a millionaire’s wife (meaning only when it felt like it, and that wasn’t often). The power driver’s seat simply refused to work altogether.
    Having said all that, it was one of my favorite cars that I’ve ever driven. As a highway cruiser it couldn’t be matched for comfort. While not quick off the line, from 50mph-80mph it was nimble, especially considering its curb weight. I ended up selling it because no matter how hard we tried, we could not get the V-12 to pass New Jersey emissions. Would I buy another one? Yes, but only one that was completely mechanically sorted, believe me it’s worth the extra money you are going to pay.

    • Eric_10cars Eric_10cars Member

      I’ve been lax in commenting recently due to my work on a house and property I’ve purchased for myself. However, this one triggered me to respond. I too have a 1990 XJS convertible. The engine runs great and I can appreciate the SBC sentiments, but I think that the 12 cylinder is a great engine with immense potential for those with patience and technical expertise. I can say the same for the 4.0 straight dohc 6 in my XJ4.0. These are wonderful engines…both of them…but you have to know what you’re doing. The 6 is essentially the engine that has powered Jags since the 3.8. Toyota copied it in their 80’s Supra. The 12 is quiet, smooth, powerful.

      The electrics continue to be the bete noir of Jags. My XJS convertible top has me ready to replace all of the circuitry with straight-forward 2-way switches (the electronic controller is too clever by half, particularly with respect to the quarter windows). The door locks behave exactly as Keith claims for no clear reason. My XJ4.0 continues to have ‘limp home’ issues after every item has been checked and rechecked. One Jaguar mechanic (an older experienced person) suggested that I may never find the cause. I remain undaunted.

      They are some of the most beautiful vehicles ever created by humans I’ll be damned if I’ll be defeated by them!

  22. Greg Stegall

    Sort of a beautiful car. My boss wanted to trade me for my RR Silver Shadow, as it was costing him a lot more to keep it on the road than my car. I graciously declined.


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