The 200,000 mile XJS

At the end of 2019 I finally managed to pass the 200,000 mile mark in J258. I use the car as a daily driver and have been trying to use it more on longer runs as my commute is really rather short. Longer runs are a little more palatable now that the fuel economy is practically double what it was earlier in the year thanks to a new lambda sensor. 200,000 miles is a figure that a lot of cars won’t reach, and especially cars of this age and type which are now often being mollycoddled and only driven on the driest of days.  The 200,000 figure does somewhat help to dispel the idea that an XJS is inherently unreliable, too, although that doesn’t mean it is a car you should try and run on a shoe string budget.

I thought that reaching this milestone might be a good chance to write about J258’s history, and also why if you’re looking to purchase a classic car, you shouldn’t necessarily be put off by a high mileage example. J258 having high mileage is one of the reasons that I like it so much. It isn’t a garage queen, and I can drive it as much as I like without worrying about any impact on the value. The car’s history file is very good and shows that it has been cared for, and the general condition is as good as most XJS you will see (although it could use some cosmetic tidying in places). Most classics and modern classics are known quantities in terms of general faults and issues, and its easy enough to find evidence of roughly how long you can expect components to last without major surgery. When I purchased J258 I expected that it could need some engine work around the 200,000 mile mark, so when the head gasket failed at 193,000 miles I wasn’t totally surprised (though I’ll admit I was hoping to avoid it a little longer). Buying a high mileage car isn’t especially different to buying a low mileage car,  as condition and history are just as important for the average motorist. It is still important to do your research,  and try and speak to someone with good knowledge of the model you’re looking at, as they will be able to give you a list of items to check when viewing a car. I’m a firm believer that classic cars that are used regularly present less issues than those that are used rarely. It is lovely to own a stunning example of a classic car that has low mileage and has been polished lovingly to within an inch of its life every weekend, but for me it is much more enjoyable to own a car which I can truly use and enjoy whenever and wherever I please. For me, knowing the character and foibles of a car is much more fun than admiring how lovely it looks in the garage (besides, have you seen how fantastic an XJS looks covered in mud and road grime??).

J258 was originally delivered on the 24th July 1992, and covered just over 17,000 miles in the first two years of its life. The service book carries on all the way to May 2002 when the car had covered 164,000 miles, which isn’t at all bad for a 10 year old car. It also shows that the car covered the bulk of its mileage in those first 10 years, and took the next 15 years for it to cover another 25,000 miles before it came into my possession. At one point someone had covered over 12,000 miles in just over 6 months, and I’m slightly curious to know what they were doing with it at the time.

Thanks to the DVLA I also know where the car has lived throughout its life. Sadly it is a service that the DVLA no longer offer (and with good reason). It would appear that J258 was originally registered to Jaguar cars, so it was probably used as a management car (although there could be other explanations,  of course). The car was then registered to a company before being acquired by a private buyer in 1994 who kept the car for less than a year. The third and fourth owners kept the car from 1995-2002 and 2002-2015 respectively, and then the car was sold to Kelsey publishing and the car’s history improves from there as it was featured in Classics Monthly over a number of months, and was also featured in Jaguar World.

When the car was purchased by Kelsey Publishing it had been owned by a farmer and had been for sale for quite a while, with an original listing price of £5,000. The mileage of 181,000 probably didn’t help matters as a lot of buyers can be put off by it, especially when that mileage is on a car that is marred with the rumour of unreliability. The car had previously been the recipient of a fair amount of welding to the jacking points, seatbelt and suspension mounts, and proved to be solid upon inspection (fortunately the farmer had an inspection pit in one of his barns). Combined with this fact and that the car’s engine appeared to be strong and healthy with no untoward signs, Kelsey Publishing bought the car for £2,500, and set about completing a list of minor jobs that needed doing.

Fortunately the car came with copies of the magazine articles the car was featured in, so I have a history of the problems that were (often) encountered during the car’s time with Kelsey Publishing. One part that did make for interesting reading was Paul Walton’s twin test with J258 against his XK8. Both cars have their pros and cons and though the XK8 is obviously the more advanced car, Paul loved the XJS’ bigger character and roguish air. I’ll also add in a quote, as perhaps some people are more inclined to believe a less biased source than myself: ‘Although it has often been said – by me as much as anyone – that the XJS is more grand tourer than sports car, this 4.0 feels surprisingly agile for such a big machine’. I actually had the chance to chat with Paul about this car late last year when I offered it up to be a part of a photoshoot for Jaguar World, and it was nice to hear that he was a fan of the car too.

I’ve now set myself the challenge of covering 10,000+ miles before the next MOT, which is in mid-October. The previous MOT was passed at 198,194 miles and at the time I’m writing this, the mileage is just under 201,000 miles, so 208,194 should be perfectly achievable in the next 9 or so months.

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