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Jaguar SIII XJ / XJS - a much maligned classic?

andy_jordanandy_jordan Posts: 765
edited March 2014 in Jaguar
In recently shopping for a car from the 'old
country' my attention turned to Jaguars, and in
particular the amazingly low prices of the Series
III sedans and the XJS. I couldn't help feeling
sorry for these cars that I grew up with, and the
fact that they are now virtually worthless. I am
in the process of negotiating a price for a low
mileage 88 XJS Coupe that will probably end up
around $10,000 Canadian.

Much of the market discounts these for reliability
reasons, but I genuinely think that these are over
emphasized - don't get me wrong I know Jags have
had problems historically, but cars that are still
around now have been looked after - and that is
half the battle.

So what do you think - is the Series III / XJS
going to be the next Jaguar classic, or is it
destined to be yet another pile of metal?


  • If I were you I would go for the 6 cylinder XJ Sedans rather than the V-12 XJS. According to me is the best recent Jaguar was the 6 cylinder XJS HE Spyder.
  • The V6 was a nice engine - but you can't compete with the big V12 for fun. I know the newer V6s can outperform the old 5.3l V12s (later 6.0l), but they are much more fun. Incidentally you can get a 6 in the XJS.

    The V12 is a good case in point for my argument though - prices are less than for the V6 because reliability is seen as a problem. I just don't buy it. Now that is easy for me to say because I know a tame factory trained Jaguar mechanic, but even so, they are not that complicated - although they can be awkward to service. I think that the good V12s are going to appreciate noticeably because they are becoming rarer and rarer - the result of so many people ripping out the 12 and putting in a small block Chevy 350.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    I think the main reason for the depressed prices on these cars is a) most are 4-door sedans, which almost never become "classics", and b) parts and maintenance costs are punishing to an extreme.

    Prices are dictated by supply and demand, and the demand is low because people are, justifiably, scared off by the likelihood of having repair bills matching the price of the car itself in a short time.

    I would agree that the straight 6 is a better bet than the V-12, but both are historically troublesome cars, and I'd expect you'll come to a certain amount of grief with them. Of course, like you say, the odds are much better with a car that's been cared for.

    Sooner or later, these cars will bust you, it's just a matter of luck and time. If you think you're going to be luckier than all the people running away from them, well...welcome to Las Vegas, and I genuinely hope you ARE lucky!

    Buy a Benz 420 SEL and be happy, that's my two cents, or save and get a mid 90s Jaguar if you must have one.

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  • I agree with you on much of what you say, both here and in previous comments in Jaguar related topics, and you are right on some of the factors that make a classic. That is one reason I am looking at an XJS over one of its 4 door cousins.

    I do not delude myself into thinking that a Jag is an investment, I will buy for the driving pleasure, as a throw back to my youth and as a comfortable means of high speed, luxury transportation. It won't ever be my only vehicle.

    All that said, I really believe that, if looked after, it will cost me less than many other cars as it will depreciate less than a more modern car of the same value, and may even appreciate if not driven much (not that that will happen). I need to offset the increased costs of maintaining it, but in my case that is reduced through work that I can do myself or have help with from my factory trained friend.

    In my case I believe that the cost in terms of time and money that a Jaguar will inevitably involve is more than offset by the pleasure of ownership.

    And a 420SEL vs. an XJS, that is a no contest for me.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    Well, as you say, most important with an old car is to buy what you like, and b) to buy the very best car in the very best condition you can afford. Right there you're starting on the right foot, because it's important to really like the old car you're in. Otherwise, you won't have any tolerance for its eccentricities.

    So in essence I agree with your logic. I would myself not be at all hopeful for any strong appreciation in value of the XJS either; however, it is not dropping into the basement like the sedans, and seems stronger than the XJ6C, so there is some hope there. Naturally, the ragtops are always the best bet for appreciation.

    My main complaint about the XJS, aside from its size and fuel mileage (which is just MY problem), is the headroom issue, which for a person over 5' 10" is quite annoying and not easily solvable. But you can't beat the ride and the smoothness, the only two things IMO that are really noticeably better than the Benz. It's a pleasant way to eat up miles, no question!

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  • I really noticed the headroom when I first drove one - I am 6'2" and my head was bulging the roof. However I have found that by sitting down in the seat a bit more the problem goes away - obviously this is only for me. I was concerned that this would be uncomfortable on long journeys, but having driven one for 2 1/2 hours in a session, I was pleasantly surprised.

    Gas mileage is pretty horrible, but no worse than the truck I drive.

    Incidentally, if you want to have a look at the car I am considering it can be found at
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    Is that $CDN or US? If US, a bit high I think, if CDN, just about right.

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  • It's Canadian dollars, actually just rolled over 94,000km now - 59,000 miles. I agree that the price is about right for that model / mileage. I think I am getting a better deal because without doubt it is a very fine example of the marque. It has a full history (from the place that is selling it), has never been winter driven - a key thing here and is in almost immaculate condition.

    The only faults I could find were a need to replace / rechrome the left headlight surround and a tiny amount of bubbling under the paint at the bottom right of the windscreen and the bottom left of the rear window - common rust points. Both are no big deal to attend to.

    The original steering wheel has been replaced with the later one that has the little thumb buttons for the horn, but I am sure I can pick up an 88 steering wheel fairly easily.
  • I have a beautiful 1983 XJ6 which my father drove, but not too often (only 90K miles!). I recently saw a listing of approx. $2600.00 US for a comparable model, and I am wondering if it is worth holding on to, without consideration of its sentimental value (my father passed on, and left me the car). Granted, the ride and handling are SUPERB and I don't think I could ever drive anything else except possibly a Rover, but that's another story. Any thoughts out there? Some experienced advice would be very welcome.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    When you say "worth holding on to", I'm not sure if you mean a) will it increase in value as a collectible or b) would it be wise to make it one's everyday car?

    The answer to a is no, definitely not.

    To b...well, you're dad did get 90K out of it, and I presume it wasn't too burdensome financially to keep it going...on the other hand, 90K is just about the mileage when all kinds of things are ready to wear out. So if the car hasn't had its steering box worked on, its power steering replaced, and suspension work done, all these things could come up for you.

    I do feel, though, that if the car is really nice, you should be able to get more for it than $2,600 US, unless it's dinged up and needing work.

    If I were looking for an older hobby car, this is not the one I would pick myself...had you considered selling it and perhaps buying an MGB or Midget to fix up?

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  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    I am considering getting a SIII XJ-6 after college for a "project car" (I thought my old mercury fit that bill. Am I just crazy?) Mainly, I like the style. I've found that the best car to look for would be an 85 or an 86 (the last years for the SIII), with the I-6 engine. Transmissions on these cars are light duty jobs on 2-ton cars with racing motors. (?) Go figure. Alternators are worse than those on modern GM's. Paint issues on pre-1984 models (Important if you want a collectable w/original paint). Problems with having steel tappet guides in aluminum engines. All in all, andwherefrom 5-8grand for the car, and (over time) about that much more to replace all the finicky components, plus whatever goes out on a regular basis.(Probably about that much more a year :-) Definately not a toyota, and should not be relied upon as sole transportation. If you're looking for a car to make money on, this one ain't it. If you're looking for a car to cruise around in on the weekends and look cool, go for it.
  • Thank you for your kind response.

    I had not considered selling the car (the terms of my father's will do not allow this). You're right - 90K is about the time when all sorts of fun things start to happen, and I can well believe that I will probably spend a great deal of money getting things fixed.
    I will say, however, that the car is in really good shape for its age. It does need some very minimal body work (minor rust spots in about 5 places) and I know the engine needs more work than I can afford to give it right now. My main goal right now is to do what I can as I can afford to, and I do try to drive it every day (for some inexplicable reason it does run better when I do). Other than that, I must say:


    I still am amazed, after 2 years of ownership. It still turns heads when I drive down the street. The best part is pulling up next to a newer (read: Ford) model Jaguar and watching them stare. It really is an amazing car.

    Do you know, or have you heard, of problems with the engine cutting out suddenly while driving? IT seems to do this when I am driving, and all of a sudden the engine will simply die. This is, needless to say, not a pleasant situation at 65mph.
  • boffoboffo Posts: 1
    I am considering the Jag xj6 as my next vehicle. However, having been an MGB owner in the late 1970's I have some residual fears of the reliability issues I may face by owning an English product again. That unique handling and style still beckons me. Has Jaguar resolved the long list of problems that have plagued its history by the 1994 model year ?
  • I am looking at a 1990 Sovereign. I wondered if anyone could educate me on the reliability of the model. It has 104k miles on it and is gorgeous.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    I think by 1994 the XJ would be reasonably reliable, but I'd be less inclined to voice assurance for a 1990, especially with that mileage.

    Like with all high-maintenance, exotic cars, you need to look at each one individually. If the car has excellent service records and you know its entire history, you have a much better chance of a successful ownership. But if it's been cobbled together or neglected, it's going to be hell. These cars are EXPENSIVE to repair, so you don't want to have to restore any major componentry, or overlook the smallest problem when you buy one. Don't assume that "it just needs a tune-up" or that "brake squeek is nothing". Have the car carefully checked out nose to tail and take it for a long test drive. Buy the best car you can afford, not the cheaper one you think you're going to'll end up fixing you, but good!

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  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    Don't take it to a "We fix anything" shop to get it checked out. Take it to a certified Jag mechanic. Yeah, it's expensive, but a jack-of-all-trades shop won't know what to look for on a jag. They're british cars, remember, and they have problem areas all their own that only Jag mechanics will know to look for. It'll cost you in the short run, but may save your tail in the long haul.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    I think that's good advice. If there's something I can't fix myself, or don't want to, I go to the ver best Alfa shop...sure, it's $80/hr out here in California, but a) he knows what he's doing, and b) he does it quickly and correctly. This shop has proven to be, in fact the "cheapest". I get the car back washed inside and out, running beautifully, without excuses and without fingerprints all over the fender.

    Of course, there are plenty of shops that LOOK good but aren't, so don't be fooled by a smooth line of talk and snappy little uniforms.

    There is only one resume for a good mechanic, and that resides on the end of his wrench. All else is just puffery and of dubious value.

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  • The newer sedans are VERY reliable!

    My 105,000 mile 1995 Vanden Plas is testament to that. The 95+ Sedans are really quite something!

    As far as the 90 Sovereign goes.. could be good.. could be bad. At the risk of self-promotion.. I have a technical webpage for those cars. Avoid 88s and 89s tho!

    Also join the e-mail list.. worth it's weight in gold!

    Who has had a 1991 Sovereign and it was a great car!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    Well, thanks for that info!

    I don't think we are in you suggest, it's a hit and miss thing with 90s Jags.

    Also, you are (like me) a knowledgable person about cars, and this no doubt has contributed to both our success with all types of cars. But giving a Jaguar to someone who knows nothing about cars may not be a good idea. I would contend that if a person drove and maintained a 95 Jaguar as if it were a Toyota Camry (as many try to do), it wouldn't be so likely to work out as well for them as for you.

    Also, if I may say in a lighthearted way, these days 105,000 miles isn't exactly grounds for bragging like it used to be. It would be shameful if an expensive car couldn't go that distance without major expense.

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  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    I think that last statement is very true. WHile this may not translate directly to a Jag, I have a bit of personal experience that shows the difference in 100,000 miles today and 20 years ago. I have a 1978 Mercury with about 124,000 miles on it, and that car is about used up. (Given good preventative maintainence.) If it weren't for the cars sentamental value, she'd be in a junkyard. I also have a 95 T-Bird with 149,000 miles. (Bought used). I will be disappointed in that car if I can't get her to at least 300,000 before something major screws up. Still, I do beleive Jags have gotten a lot more reliable in the last few years, mainly because they are getting to be more and more like a Ford. (Quick, what's the difference between a S-Type and an LS?)
    Just my .02$
  • ramshotramshot Posts: 1
    I own a 1991 Sovereign that has been an absolutely problem free with the exception of the security system that had a mind of it's own. However this car has about 26,000 miles on it now. I am in the market for a 1999 Vaden Plas and might sell the 91 The only problem is that the typical resale is so low that I would just as soon keep the car in storage. However, if brianwgld would like an absolutely perfect 91 Sovereign, contact me at But, I don't think I would part with it for less than $20,000. It's just too nice.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    Well, I don't think storing it is a good idea...not only won't the car like it very much, the value will continue to go down, as 4-door cars do not often achieve any collectibility worth noting. I think such a nice, low mileage car in this strong economy could sell for $11K-12K, but if you just store it you'll lose $1,000-1500 every year, plus you have to pay storage fees.

    The newer Jags will hold resale value better I think, at least through their warranty, but until the new cars demonstrate 150,000+ mile durability, the stain of the past is going to take some time to wear off. But Audi beat the rap, Saab is trying to beat it, so there's a chance Jaguar will some day have a good reputation again. But still, this won't much help 4-door values. The low resale is not due so much to reputation as to the body style in general. Even the high resale of say a '91 Bmemz 300E 3.0 4-door (cost about the same as your Sovereign in 1991) is about $16K.

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  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Posts: 765
    Have to agree with Mr. S (of course) on the storage issue. The XJ-S I just bought was stored for in excess of 5 years for the very same reason that ramshot suggests - the original owner was not offered much for it in trade in. That was in November '94 (on an 88 model). I bought it for $10,500 Canadian from a dealer who was selling it on consignment - take his fee out and the owner got practically nothing compared to what he must have been offered in 94.

    Storage can also damage cars if not done properly.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    It's rarely a good idea. Unlike a stock certificate, a car deteriorates with lack of use, and so any possible increase in value is often offset by inflation and the need for repairs. It is the exceptional and rare car that gains value in storage.

    I know that no owner likes to see the resale value of their car plummet. My Alfas are great cars, but ridiculously undervalued--can you imagine that my nearly pristine, bright red '88 Spyder convertible might struggle to bring $5,000? It's too bad that owners have to pay for years in the future for the sins of the factory in the past, but we do. The buying public doesn't easily forget when it's been tormented by an automaker's products.

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  • I am interested of purchasing my friend's 91 XJ6. The body and interior are in good condition. The odometer reads 94,354. However it has a blown gasket. How much would it cost to get it fixed. Also, how much is a reasonable price i should pay for this car. Thanks in advance.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    Oh, I'd be extremely careful. I'd have to say, in all honestly, that the car only has salvage value, since if the engine is severly damaged, the cost of repair will approach or exceed the value of the entire car in good condition.

    The risk is that you can't evaluate what has happened to the engine until you take it apart. Let's say the head is warped from then, are you going to put a brand new rebuilt head on an engine with almost 100,000 miles on bearings, rods and pistons? Not a great idea, and probably $3500 worth of work right there, if not more. You may get lucky or you may blow out the bottom end in 10,000 miles, or burn oil like crazy from worn piston rings.

    The Jaguar 6 is a good engine and very strong; nonetheless I would pay no more for this car than a wrecker would. Why go through all the expense and risk when you could buy a perfect car for not all that much money? (probably under $10,000).

    How much of a gambling man are you? My feeling is that you pay a little, and if the diagnosis is bad, just button the car up and bail out for what you can. Otherwise, I'd pass. This is neither a rare or particularly valuable car, so there's no real reason to run a high risk to have it.

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  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Posts: 765
    I wouldn't rely on the mileage unless it has full history. Jaguar used a tranny mounted transducer and not a cable for the speedo / odometer. They were well known for breaking down resulting in no mileage accumulating.

    Also, Jaguar dealers were advised by the factory to use a product called Barrs Leaks in the cooling system when servicing it. This stuff was supposed to plug any pinholes in the system, and it did - but it also built up in the rad causing a severe tendency to overheat with fairly dire results - an overheated bi-metal engine isn't fun.
  • Thanks guys! By the way, my friend wanted $2,000 for it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,360
    Well, I'd offer him whatever you think you could sell it for yourself with the cylinder head in the trunk and the mechanic shaking his head and looking very worried. $2,000 would be pushing it IMO.

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  • rea98drea98d Posts: 982
    My advice is if you can afford a better car, you'd be much better off in the long run. Don't get drawn in by the pretty lines and leather & walnut, and buy the first car you see, even if the seller is your friend and tells you all the car's warts. Save your money & buy one a Jag tech tells you is in good shape to begin with. Oh, sure, it starts out a 2 grand, then the head needs replaceing, then you find out the pistons are shot, the the block needs machining, then.....

    Unless of course you like spending large amounts of time & money fixing old cars :-)
This discussion has been closed.