Low-Mileage V12: 1991 Jaguar XJS Convertible

Despite their horrible reputation for reliability, the Jaguar XJS convertible remains one of the most elegant Jaguars ever made. It’s a shame because its design will likely be remembered as iconic as the E-Type but the build quality will always make it an unloved member of the Jaguar family. Regardless, if you’re going to buy one, finding a low-mileage example like this 1991 convertible here on craigslist is a good place to start. 

Mileage is claimed to be a mere 21,600, and the body and interior certainly seem to back that up. The XJS came in a few different flavors in the late 80s, ranging from a convertible to a coupe to an unusual targa-style design. As Jamie recently shared, tuning houses like Lister even got into the mix and churned out a few special editions. You had your choice when it came time to finding an XJS flavor that suited your needs.

I6 or V12 power were your options in the XJS lineup, and most folks seemed to have chosen the 12-cylinder model. This being a 1991 car means it received a few other enhancements, such as smoother bumpers that distilled the visual disruption caused by large safety bumpers. While the interior strived to be a high-zoot affair, the steering wheel always lets it down – along with the wood trim, if it has perished due to sun exposure.

But I don’t think that’s a problem here, as the seats look far too nice. Perhaps they’ve been redone, as the leather seems lighter than the door panels – but that could be a trick of the lighting. While this is listed for $14K, the low desirability factor may mean you can get it for less. Whatever price you pay, the XJS will still look good in almost any environment, all these years later – a testament to the beautiful design that has aged far better than its mechanical components.

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  1. Paul

    Timeless beauty.

  2. Lynn Dockey Member

    Lucas, the man that invented darkness! I once owned a triumph TR-7.

    • Mguar05

      The Jaguar was built with extremely good material let down by poor assembly quality. Countless cars were repaired because the ground wire on something was poorly tightened on the assembly line. Nobody bothered to check because the dealer/ mechanic made a lot more money replacing parts than tightening the black ground wire.
      That and the rubber hoses were poor quality and haven’t been replaced with good quality silicone rubber yet.
      Finally, like any luxury car of the 80’s and 90’s they are complex and did not have the self diagnoses capability of newer cars.
      Shortly after Ford bought Jaguar quality went up dramatically. For a while Jaguar was the most reliable car recorded by JD Powers. Unfortunately that really didn’t start happening until 1993 at the earliest.

      • Miguel

        Mguar05, while that may be, that doesn’t explain all the stories about people having to repair the same thing over and over again, as people here have said.

      • Fiete T.

        1990. A lot of German & Japanese electrical component. Brakes went from vacuum boost to electric.

    • Seth KARPEN

      Also had a 1976 tr7, genuine lucas 12,000 mile alternator. Factory a/c would melt the 50 amp fuse on regular basis. Rebuilt alternator back then cost $125
      when a domestic cost $25


    Indeed…I mod those hideous safety bumpers…and fab a new gauge cluster and steering wheel worthy of this otherwise beautiful sled…if I’m the buyer.

  4. Gordon McGeachy

    I love many of the finds you post and when I saw the letters XJS on the email my focus sharpened, BUT, I am at a complete loss to understand how you come up with “despite there horrible reputation for reliability”. In the UK they have NEVER been known as unreliable and I have owned three – I started with a 3.2, then added a 4ltr and about nine years ago sold both and bought a 1990 V12 Convertible and the car now has 59k miles of faultless smooth running and the other two were reliable as well. If not used a lot like mine, still keep up with basic maintenance and service items and it will look after you.

    • Kevin Harper

      I think it is a cultural thing. In England the corvette does not have a good rep for reliability and Honda is considered an old person car. Here the Vette is pretty much bullet proof and Honda is owned by young hot rodders.
      I don’t know what the issue here with Jags is. Most of it is lack of proper maintenance, and some of that is due to the low value of the used cars and the cost of properly maintaining one. I don’t think Jags are hard to work on but they do take a little time,. I have never had a problem with the engines but the electrics can be a little trying and I don’t care for the BW66 trans in the XJ6. It works, it could just do a better job with gear management.

      • Louis Q Chen

        It’s all due to the old joke: Why do the Brits like warm beer/stout? Because they have LUCAS refrigerators! For old farts like me-LUCAS was the auto electrical systems supplier in the UK. I “inherited” one (1976, V-12) when I was in college because my rich friend got sick of it sitting in his garage more than on the road! The good thing was that I happened to be decent mechanic and patience to keep the “cat” purring until rusted out! Beautiful and extremely smooth car due to it’s short stroke V-12.

  5. Gordon McGeachy

    Oh! and I should have noted that here in the UK that car would be valued at around £21,000.00 – £23,000.00 today and maybe more as a low miles LHD car.

  6. Fla finn

    If drivetrain is worrying, this one has been said before in other finds….LS swap….Or if you want to be more OEM then Coyote..Ford used to own Jaguar at some point.

    Like the styling, would like it with V12…And hoping the engine would be ok, probably would cost a ton to fix some issues.

    • Don H

      so tired of this dang LS swap man there’s a lot of more engines besides that

      • Fla finn

        Hah, I wasn’t even semi-serious with that LS swap.. I mean it is good engine etc but I for instance would never put one in a Jag…There is certain cars where it would make sense, and many cars were it would be insanity…

    • Louis Q Chen

      Not a ton! A true British MONEY PIT! Been there done that. See my other comment.

  7. Robert S

    I’ll take the Ranchero parked next to it!

    • kenzo

      My thoughts exactly Robert. Way more fun. Maybe a person could go look at the Jag and make a bid on the Falcon.
      As a side note I worked with a guy who had one of these as well as a 4 door. He kept the maintenance up and loved them both.

  8. CanuckCarGuy

    The XJS sits high atop my bucket list of cars that I’m afraid to buy.

  9. Johnfromct

    A few years ago a professional associate asked me to look at his fathers XJS 12 cyl with only 12K miles on it. His father could no longer drive it for medical reasons. It had always been his special car from new, and religiously did all of the annual maintenance required.

    The car drove like new and that engine pulled and sang through all gears. Just an elegant, beautiful car.

  10. Luki

    The XJS design will be remembered as iconic as the XKE?
    Enzo just rolled over in his grave.

  11. Martin

    The reputation I think came from the old British Leyland days. By the time time one rolled out they were fairly well sorted.

  12. Gordon McGeachy

    Martin, yes it could have started as a “collective” negative related to dreadful build quality in the BL days and cars such as the Stag with its well known engine issues (shame for a beautiful car) but the XJS is generally very reliable. That said, my car has just failed to start for the very first time in its life and its pointing towards an ignition module. Dry stored but like all cars they like to be used..!!

  13. Gordon McGeachy

    JohnfromCT they are so so smooth and very quiet, and just the most wonderful car to tour in.

  14. Miguel

    Whenever I see a Jag with low miles I automatically believe it.

    Some cars sit for years awaiting repairs.

    I was told by the first dealer I ever worked for that if I were to buy a Jag, don’t expect it to make it home under its own power.

    As an example, he bought a super low mile XJS in Palm Springs.

    He paid for it, took the title and went outside to drive it away.

    As soon as he started the car, the power steering system opened up and dumped all of its fluid on the ground.

    He was not the last one to experience that.

    When judging reliability of a car, you should take a dealers word for things over a private owner. The dealer has bought and sold many of the same car as the private owner has had one or two cars and they probably got lucky with the ones they had.

  15. Ben T. Spanner

    I have been messing with old Jag’s for decades, and have owned a 1990 XJS Rouge collection (with red piping on the seats) They do not hold a candle to XKE’s in style, performance or collectable value.
    For this money one could buy a more desirable 1995 or 1996 XJS with a straight six, a four speed automatic, and AC which can cool the car. The V12 with a 3 speed TH 400 is underwhelming. Most of these are low milage because the odometer worked intermitantly. Mine did. Mine had Lucas electrics and Marelli ignition. The distributor cap was $200.

    • Louis Q Chen

      Two bad Electrical Systems suppliers, that’s why Bosch took up the challenge! Too bad Ford didn’t buy BL back then. it would probably made it more reliable like when Ford owned the brand and made it a better brand but Ford dumped it after a few years.

  16. Eric_13cars Eric_10cars Member

    These cars are a mixed bag. The prices I see being asked for nice versions are crazy and I doubt that anyone gets close to their asking price. I have a 1990 XJS convertible that I bought from a guy about 4 years ago. It was entirely rust free. BRG color, tan top, biscuit interior (pretty good, but drivers seat usual issues). It had 70K miles and I paid $4K for it. The engine is strong and tranny works fine, albeit stately in performance. And don’t knock that V-12…it’s a great engine when treated correctly and given its head. Apropos a prior comment, I had to have the steering rack and PS pump rebuilt (Maval in Ohio…strong recommendation, very honest and great customer focus) and then the PS hoses too. I put urethane bushings on the front end and new tires. It rides like a dream on the highway at high speed. However there are all sorts of electrical gremlins that I’m constantly chasing down. In particular the power top and 1/4 windows are a complete nuisance (I’ve rebuilt the 1/4 window motors several times), as is the cruise control and some of the interior courtesy lights. The power window switches are finicky and the power door locks are always a thrilling question mark (will I be able to get back into the car or not). I love the look of the car and get continual stares, positive comments, and stalkers following me down the road at speed. That said, my E-type is still the most gorgeous car ever put into production (IMO).

  17. Maestro1

    In a moment of classic stupidity I sold my ’67 E Type roadster for a large number. The profit doesn’t matter. The car was extraordinary. I’m telling the story for a reason: I bought a 12 cylinder very like this one for sale here and as has been said above, kept up with the maintenance and had some issues with the electronics. The car otherwise was reliable, given its head it was smooth and elegant
    similar to its four legged origins. When I lost the lease on one of my storage facilities the car among others had to go. Someone buy this.

  18. Jim Z Member

    Very nice example of classy XJS ride. However no pics of car with top up, so hope interested buyers will insist on one. (Roughly $2k p&l for a quality top)

    Have owned several XJS’s, and yes, the late 70’s versions were electrically buggy as mentioned (Lucas, father of darkness!). But later V12 models from mid-late 80’s up through mid 90’s were relatively bug-free, assuming the regular maintenance was performed.

    Sad that many were ‘lumped’ with a SBC motor due to owner ignorance and/or inaccurate perpetuate myths. I’d own this one in a heartbeat!

  19. Luki

    Lucas was way ahead of their peers on the automotive electrical system curve.
    They invented the intermittent wipers.
    Not on purpose.

  20. Loadstar

    My bucket list dream car. Yes fussy . Yes sexy. Yes yes yes. Let’s not forget in 1979 it was an XJS-V12 Coupe that won the final Cannonball challenge . Sea to shining sea in 35 hours and change. LS swap? How about an FI all alumnium Keith Black 426 HEMI? :) IIRC the first convertibles were all coach built from coupes and Hess & Eisenhart (presidential limo builders) built a bunch and of course the coach work was impeccable. If I recall some of the early coach built verts didn’t have a rear side passenger window and had blind spots . Later cars almost all incorporated a side window. I’ve always loved Jags . My heart wants one like it wants a Maserati Quattroport of any kind or a Biturbo .. but then logic sets in…

  21. theGasHole

    Wow have the prices gone up that much on these? I had a 1990 XJS ‘vert I bought about 5 years ago for $6400 and sold 4 years ago for $6500. I do spot these for sale from time to time, and the prices seem to be all over the map.
    As to the electrical Gremlins: I can say mine did not like the power top to go up and down, it just worked when it felt like it. Power door locks would lock/unlock themselves whenever they felt like doing so. Radio never worked well. But outside of that it worked well. One of the nicest driving cars I’ve ever had (and I have had 60+ in the last few years).

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