Former Movie Star? 1988 Jaguar XJ-S Convertible

Usually, when one mentions Hess & Eisenhardt, thoughts go to Presidential limousines and other such heavily modified, and often armored, vehicles.  As for convertible converters, the name American Sunroof Corporation (ASC), a former OEM contractor, immediately comes to mind. But, deep in those recesses that are so clogged with minutiae, I recall E&H’s involvement in converting Jaguar XJ-S coupes, like this 1988 example, into convertibles. Listed as a 40K mile example, this Jag is located in Van Nuys (L.A.), California and is available, here on craigslist for $13,750. Thanks to T.J. for this tip!

E&H converted Jaguar XJ-S models for the ’86-’88 model years, at least, though there has been some back and forth as to when Jaguar initiated the task themselves. Most research points to the ’89 model year but any clarification on this point will be appreciated. The total production run of E&H conversions is supposedly unknown due to lost records but one source encountered puts the volume at approximately 2,100 copies. As for the XJ-S (also later referred to as an XJS), in general, it was a long-termer, spanning the model years from ’76 through ’96. Generally, XJ-S meant 12 cylinder power wrapped in svelte grand touring sheet metal but that wasn’t always the case as there were six-cylinder variants as well. Total XJ-S/XJS output was north of 110K units.

Not much is said about this example though mention of a replacement top is made. It certainly shows well and there are no visual indications of damage, tarnish, or rust. Garaged? Not stated but likely. Supposedly, one of the biggest differences between an H&E XJ-S convertible and an actual Jaguar-produced convertible is the stack height of the folding top when it’s in the down position. The H&E version will fold more compactly though that’s not revealed in this listing.

The interior, sans back seat due to its drop-top status, looks to be in good nick. The buckskin leather upholstery and wood dash trim are about what one would expect for a car of this bearing. Interestingly, the seller mentions, “Fake manual shifter because used in movie“. I’m not sure that I follow that thought completely, but hey, OK! The seller also adds, “Everything works, but the blower motor for the heater. Rear windows work intermittently“.

Under that elongated hood is a 262 HP, 5.3-liter V12 engine coupled to a GM Turbo-Hydramatic 400, three-speed automatic transmission (the one that looks like it’s shifted with a manual gear shifter). Nothing is really said about this car’s operating prowess other than, “Fun to drive and a great cruiser!“. Assuming that the mileage is accurate, this XJ-S should have plenty of fun-to-drive and great cruising adventures ahead of it.

I knew a gentleman who once owned a Jaguar XJ, not an  XJ-S, and he used to say that he really needed to own two so he could drive one while the other was being repaired. And that’s the sort of thing one often reads about Jags in the pre-Ford ownership days – though I have no actual experience and care not to spread, or perpetuate, a rumor. So, I’ll throw it out to you, are there any current or former XJ-S owners in our readership, and if so, what has your experience been?


  1. Bill D

    Looks like this was maybe the one used in Birds of Prey: although the IMCDB entry has it flagged as an ’87.

    Like 3
  2. Cam W.

    Back in 1985, I bought a crashed XJS convertible from a body shop after the driver/owner skipped town. He had been involved in a hit and run, and was facing a number of charges. Not only was it a convertible conversion, it had also had the V12 replaced with a warmed over Chevy 350. All the bodywork from the firewall forward was basically ruined, and most considered the car was not worth fixing. I had been fooling around with Jaguars, and had lots of connections for used parts, so I took a chance on it.
    At the time, many owners were converting their XJSs to look like like TWR cars with the body-coloured bumpers and spoilers, so complete, original bumpers and trim were cheap and plentiful. There were also a number of parts-cars around, so I was able to get the car back together at a reasonable price. I used parts from about a dozen cars to do it, and it came out looking great. I even got a set of Dayton wire wheels from one that burned (near where mine had crashed).
    I was never able to confirm who did the top conversion on my car, although it closely resembled the H & E cars. It was very well engineered, and even kept the (small) back seat. The power top worked well, and folded flat. Some people from Jaguar Cars saw it and asked to examine it further. They took photos, measurements, and notes and gave me new wood veneer for the dash and shifter as thanks.
    There were no XJS convertibles around my area at the time, and the car grabbed lots of attention. I had recently got involved in the picture-car business, and the car ended up being used in a number of films including “Hostage for a Day” with the late John Candy. John liked the car, and decided to drive it home after filming one day, and ran out of gas. The gas tank was smaller than original (so the top would fold flat), and Empty meant Empty.
    I really liked the car, and kept it 14 years.
    There were a number of companies and small shops doing these conversions back in the 80s. Some were really nice, others were poor in looks and engineering. I think the H & E cars were well done, and actually looked better than Jaguar’s first two factory attempts.

    Like 13
  3. Steveo

    The faux manual shifter will make a fine theft deterrent.

    Like 4
  4. wizzy

    Purchased an ’88 XJ12 coupe new and kept it for three years until we moved to the Land of Enchantment (and all gravel roads). When the car was brand new, I could park it and watch the outside rear-view mirrors do the hootchy- kootchy without the benefit of power. We’d sit and watch for about 3-4 minutes then they would stop. Laughed our asses off. The dealer had the car for two weeks trying to figure out the problem. Pulled out the entire dashboard and finally saw that a wire was crushed by a screw on the back of the glovebox at the factory. Other than that, that car was perfect, and I had a lot of great miles with it. This example looks fairly good and I’m very tempted.

    Like 3
  5. Ian Grant

    Owned a 95 Facelift XJS convertible with the 6 cylinder for many years. A lovely and largely trouble free car, great driver and very comfortable. I kept wishing for a manual rather than the 4 speed auto transmission though.

  6. Tompdx Member

    I owned a ‘76 coupe many years ago. Fantastic car, very comfortable at outrageous speeds. These convertibles are so appealing because they eliminate the one glaring design flaw in the KJS: the flying buttress B-pillars.

    Like 2
  7. ChingaTrailer

    The only Jag I had with any sort of reliability was a 1938 SS100. The others? Never drive further than you care to walk back from . . .

  8. Bob “The ICEMAN”

    Nice looking car. I bought a 1988 XJS V-12 in 1990 for $6,250.00. Basically 10 cents on the dollar of it’s original purchase price. The bargain buy was based on the original owner not having regular maintenance performed. So at the price of two new engine cooling thermostats, one water pump, Rodding out the radiator, repairing the vacuum advance on the distributor, replacing the nylon drive gear for the TH-400 automatic transmission and a 4 wheel brake job, including replacing the rotors. That car drove as smooth as a Rolls Royce, folks stopped to stare at it. One last thing to finish was to get the A.C. System up and running. Unfortunately my daughter got rear ended by a Ford F-150 pick up truck, while she waited at a stop light. Total loss, I sold it to a Jaguar lover for $1,500. Great automobile, but takes a lot of care to ensure it stays in top shape. Never let the V-12 scare me, great engine with Bosch electronics management. Although the Lucas electrical systems needed a close eye to detail.

    Like 1
    • Scott L.

      So, a 2-year-old XJS V-12 had lost 90% of its value, and needed two new engine cooling thermostats, one water pump, rodding out the radiator, repairing the vacuum advance on the distributor, replacing the nylon drive gear for the TH-400 automatic transmission, a 4 wheel brake job, including replacing the rotors, and work on the A/C?

      Like 2
      • Bob “THE ICEMAN”

        Scott L.
        Absolutely, I still have all the receipts for my work on the car. I came to realize there are car owners who manage to abuse costly cars, with no regard for maintenance and operation. Those folks have a lot more money than most of us. In this case the original owner simply parked the Jag and drove her 500 series Mercedes’ . Her husband hated Jaguars and swore by his Bentley, “as the best car ever”. By the way they owned a very large home in Newport Beach Ca.. Got the picture? Money was not a problem for them. It appeared when the Jaguar was running hot and occasionally the transmission would get stuck in first gear (the TH-400 Governor Problem), they parked it and wanted it gone from their garage.

        Like 1
      • Chinga-Trailer

        As a one-time owner of multiple Jaguars I can fully understand his assertion that the Bentley was better … because it is! It was always my experience that a Jaguar should never be driven further than you care to walk back from, but if you want to both arrive at your destination and return with no drama, then a Bentley, Toyota, Honda etc. is the way to go! True then, true today.

  9. Bufcle

    I have a 95 coupe with the 6 cylinder. It is a pure pleasure to drive and has such a great presence to it. They do not make cars with these proportions anymore. I have four classic cars and the the XJS is by far the lowest maintenance and least problematic. My car has 135k on it and runs beautifully. Such a great grand tourer. These are way better and more reliable than people give them credit for.

    Like 2
  10. douglas hunt

    as a car guy turning 60 in September, while not a fan of the color, I could def see myself taking this out on the weekends meting friends for dinner and the occasional weekend trip …..

    Like 1
  11. jagcarman

    I have a 1990 XJS. It is a fun car, gets lousy mileage, and is easy to work on if you have Kirby Palms free 700 page handbook, lots of experience, gumption and a couple of engineering degrees. Many reliability issues can be traced to Jag using cheap PVC wire (good to 80 degC) on an engine that runs at 95 degC. The fuel injection harnesses crack and break like dried spaghetti.

    Like 1
    • douglas hunt

      sounds like my mk4 GTI, and mk1 TT, the coil wiring harness does the same thing, along with every piece of the interior plastic cracks if you look at it……

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